“Hell’s Angels love to fistfight. There’s never a shortage of drunks or foolhardy motherfuckers willing to take us on, and a lot of times we’ll take on each other. Armond Bletcher stood 6″8″ and weighed 350 lbs. He was so strong he could pick up a couple motorcycles and put them on the back of a pickup truck. In the early ’70s Armond could bench 705 lbs., but he had to arch his back to do it. He was never in competition, but he took steroids and was unbelievably big.”
–Ralph “Sonny” Barger
Jesus-H-Christ this was a big ass dude. Depending on who’s telling it, Armond Bletcher was somewhere between 6′ 3″ – 6′ 8″, and tipped the scales around 300 – 350 lbs. A friend of the Fresno Hells Angel, and a feature favorite with the staff at Easyriders magazine, Armond was literally a giant among men and a controversial figure to this day. There are many colorful tales– It’s reported that as a doorman he got away with shooting a man to death, that he was a known hitman, also Frank Sinatra’s bodyguard, and that he took horse steroids to achieve and maintain his enoromous size.
A few weeks back, Dan Daughenbaugh’s 1951 BSA Star Twin custom bike generated a ton of buzz and picked up the 1st Place People’s Choice Award at the Triumph National Rally in Oley, PA. To hear the story of how the charred engine was literally plucked from the ashes of a garage fire in Philly to be reborn as the Greasy Gringo is pretty cool. In Dan’s words, “They had a Fire Sale, and there it was blackened and charred. All the pot metal parts had melted off but the cases were still good!” He took it home and dedicated himself to machining it into a land speed record bike in his barn, and mostly on a mill dating back to the 1940s.
Then fate struck– driving with his family in the Pennsylvania countryside, Dan stopped when he noticed a motorcycle that had wrecked. He thought nothing of taking the guys and their bike back to his barn where he kindly fixed them up. He also showed them his BSA barn build bike and shared his humble story which amazed them– and led to a joining of forces to make it to Bonneville together and document the Greasy Gringo’s attempt at setting a new land speed record. Obviously this takes money, and so they’ve started a campaign on INDIEGOGO to raise funds to get them to Bonneville and make a film on Dan’s inspiring story.
Denim Style — Participant at the 1st Annual Pendine Sands Hot Rod Races wearing Lee jeans. Photography © Horst Friedrichs
Horst A. Friedrichs’ thoughtful photographic curation of British style continues with his latest release Denim Style. The foreword written by Kelly Dawson, co-founder of Dawson Denim, traces the origin of denim (one of the world’s most honest, durable, and coveted fabrics) back over a thousand years ago to the dye houses of Japan, where the art of Aizome (dyeing with the fermented leaves of the indigo plant) began. The Japanese later learned to grow cotton and began weaving by hand. From there she traces the lineage of denim across France, Italy, and Britain. We so often think of denim as the quintessential American fabric, which for us it is, but many countries and cultures shared in the evolution and passion that gave us the fabric that has touched all of our lives. I mean really, who doesn’t have a favorite pair of jeans?
Leave a comment here about your favorite pair of jeans and I’ll select one submission that will receive a copy of Denim Style signed by Horst A. Friedrichs himself.
“Before Michael Jordan, Jackie Robinson, or Jesse Owens, there was Marshall “Major” Taylor. The greatest athlete the world ever forgot.”
In 1896, 18-year-old “Major” Taylor dominated the competitive cycling scene as “the most formidable racer in America,” earning up to $15,000 per race. In 1898, at age 20, he set seven world records. In 1899, at age 21, he was the first black World Champion in Montreal, and the American Sprint Champion that year and the next year, 1900.
Major Taylor was undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes of his time, but cycling soon declined thanks to the new found fascination with the automobile. The Great Depression, personal trials, and health woes took their toll on Taylor and he soon slipped away into the fog of forgotten memories. Sadly, in 1932 he died a lonely pauper in a Chicago YMCA. In 1948, Taylor was re-buried in Glenview Cemetery, Chicago thanks to the rallying support of Frank Schwinn of the Schwinn Bicycle Company. via Check out that amazing Fearnhead bevel-wheel gear shaft-drive bicycle he’s on!
RHINEBECK GRAND NATIONAL SUPER MEET, RHINEBECK, NY by Chris Logsdon
I first heard of The Rhinebeck Grand National Super Meet on a cold February day from a silver-haired New Yorker in a west side deli, “…Great bike show, small town just north of Hyde Park. You gotta go,” he said. Four months later I would experience it for myself on the back of my Triumph Legend. After three hours of riding picturesque Route 9 in Upstate New York, I turned into the open fields of the Dutchess County Fairgrounds where the weekend-long meet has taken place each year since 2007.
Among the hundreds of antique motorcycle parts vendors, motorcycles and collectibles for sale, previous years highlights included the Antique Motorcycle Timeline which displayed extremely rare motorcycles from the turn of the century all the way to up 1972, The Wall of Death Motorcycle Show, The Evel Knievel Traveling Exhibit, as well as The Antique Machinery, Tractor and Truck show.
“After losing his wife (and mother of their 3 boys) in 1958, John Penton went on an absolute tear on the enduro circuit trying to outrun his grief. Family members cared for his boys while Penton dismissed the winter cold and rode off for Daytona on his 175cc NSU motorcycle. Stopping in Atlanta, Penton won the Stone Mountain Enduro, then rode the NSU to Florida winning the Alligator Enduro, and racked up a few more wins across the Midwest– including his first victory at the Jack Pine.
Penton closed out 1958 with a road trip to Mexico. Upon hitting California on the way up the Pacific Coast, he decided it was time to return home to Ohio and did so non-stop– inspiring his brother Ted to challenge him to break the New York to Los Angeles transcontinental record.”
“On June 8th, 1959 John Penton recorded his time and location with Western Union in New York City and set off for California on a BMW R69S outfitted with an oversized gas tank. On June 10th, just Fifty-two hours and eleven minutes later, Penton rolled into Los Angeles. His record was heavily advertised by BMW, and newspapers all over the world covered the record run. Penton was now a legend in motorcycling.” via
But the story of John Penton’s awe-inspiring career does not end there. Find a screening of “Penton: The John Penton Story” near you by going to http://pentonmovie.com/see-the-film/ and reserving your tickets. I’m also proud to announce that the film will be entered in the 2nd Annual Motorcycle Film Festival in Brooklyn, NY held Sept. 24th – 27th.
Betty Brosmer was the highest paid supermodel of the 1950s – winning more than 50 beauty contests before the age of 20 yrs old, posing for more than 300 magazine covers, and stunning men and women alike with her insane hourglass figure (38″-18″-36″)! You litereally could not go anywhere without seeing her image in a magazine, on a record album, or store window display. She married the fitness icon Joe Weider in 1961, and joined his fitness lifestyle empire. Together they co-authored several books on bodybuilding, and founded the International Federation of BodyBuilders. Check out this trove of photos of Betty Brosmer in her stunning prime.
“The Catalina Grand Prix was one of the biggest races In the country at the time. It was a 100-mile event held on Santa Catalina Island of the coast of Los Angeles. The 10-mile course was a mixture of road, dirt fire trails, singletrack, and even went through a golf course. Cycle Magazine noted that many of the big AMA national riders skipped Catalina so as not to suffer embarrassment at the hands of Southern California scrambles riders who dominated the event.” –AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame
It was a time and energy completely unrivaled in all of motorcycle racing history. Many of the AMA’s best motorcycle racers, local SoCal riders, shop owners, and colorful MC’s (The Checkers, Shamrocks, Rough Riders, Dirt Diggers, and more) mixing with Hollywood actors, stunt riders, and thrill-seekers– all converging on the tiny vacation island from 1951 – 1958 for an event like no other. Actors Keenan Wynn avidly raced, Steve McQueen famously attended, and Lee Marvin infamously raised holy hell. In fact, Dave Ekins went so far as crediting Lee Marvin for being partially responible for the Catalina GP’s demise in 1958–
Irish McCalla, the towering beauty who posed for Vargas, and then found fame as “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle” was tough to measure-up against. She grew up humbly, forever the athletic tomboy, and even did her own vine-swinging and tree-climbing with her pet chimp, Chim, on “Sheena” until the day she misjudged a vine swing and crashed into it tree, smashing her knee. After that, the producers did the only thing they could do (due to her size), they hired male stunt men, and dressed them in leopard skins and blond wigs.
5’10” beauty, Irish McCalla, posing for famed Peruvian pinup artist Alberto Vargas. Since she was born on Christmas Day, McCalla posed nude for the December page in a Vargas calendar. McCalla’s attention-getting measurements were reported as 39-24-38 in her heyday.
A young Patti Waggin presenting 1950 AMA Grand National Champion, Larry Headrick, with a trophy. His career prematurely ended in 1950 when he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle on the street. The accident shattered Headrick’s left leg, making it impossible for him to race again on the dirt ovals. The rider from San Jose, California, was tragically forced into retirement just has his career was taking off. via
“If there’s one word to describe shapely Patti Brownell, it’s excitement. The young lass lives by it–and for it. Into her existence, Patti packs a triple life: During the day, she’s a student at California’s Chico State College: at night she draws tremendous crowds into the cafe where she presents her whiz bang strip act: and on her off moments, Patti is a death-defying motorcyclist. As far as our luscious blue-eyed blonde is concerned, there’s nothing unusual about her life. Patti’s been winning trophies for motorcycle riding since she was 14. She loves the sport.
Show business is also old hat for Patti. Her mother and father were adagio dancers in vaudeville, and it was only natural that they should teach their little girl the art. Patti wanted a college education, and she was able to pay her way with her show business savvy. As for the future, Patti wants a home in the country, four kids–and lots of motorcycles.”
“Bumps are nothing new to luscious Patti–either on a motorcycle or in the strip tease profession.” Born Patricia Hardwick in 1926, she also used the stage name Patti Waggin. Her 2nd marriage was to Chico, CA local legend, Bill Brownell, a well-loved motorcycle racer. Not sure who her 1st husband was…