THE LEATHER BOYS, 1964 | THE ACE CAFE, LOVE TRIANGLE, MOTORCYCLES, MORRISSEY & MORE

It was great being a part of 1st Annual NYC Motorcycle Film Festival in Brooklyn last week. Lots of great films and filmmakers were exposed to fresh eyes hungry for inspiring motorcycle art, culture, and history on the screen. An interesting after-film Q & A brought up a seminal motorcycle film of the 1960s, “The Leather Boys”, not just necessarily for the striking “Ton-Up Boys” and bikes– actually more for it’s place in history for being the first British film to be rated ‘X’ for having homosexual themes than actual nudity of a graphic nature,  per se.

I was first exposed to “The Leather Boys” as a teenage fan of The Smiths (it was a very influential and transforming film for Morrissey, and many young gay men in England). Clips and images of the film and it’s stars were used in The Smiths’ video “Girlfriend in a Coma” and their single, “William, It Was Really Nothing.” In a 1988 NME interview at the Cadogan Hotel (where Oscar Wilde was arrested), Morrissey even said, “I’m almost quite speechless now, it’s a very historic place and obviously it means a great deal to me… to be sitting here staring at Oscar’s television and the very video that Oscar watched “The Leather Boys on.” (The ‘Oscar’s television’ comment, obviously an impossibility, is Moz being snarky and insulting the intelligence of the NME  reporter…) Hearing “The Leather Boys” being referenced all these years later by filmmaker Eric Tretbar (Girl Meets Bike), and Paul d’Orleans of The Vintagent made me want to take a closer look at the historical influence of “The Leather Boys”, of which there is several layers.

THE LEATHER BOYS MOVIE FILM 1964

Rita Tushingham and Colin Campbell in the iconic British film, “The Leather Boys”, 1964.

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FRANCE’S FAIREST EXPORT– FRANCOISE HARDY | IMMORTAL BELOVED STYLE & MUSIC MUSE

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Francoise Hardy on the ‘Grand Prix’ film set seen wearing co-star James Garner’s helmet, 1966.

Francoise Hardy was a wistful breath of fresh air during the sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll of the 1960s. Mysterious, sweetly naive, and utterly desirable. She was adored by Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, and more. The incredible enduring images of Hardy, particularly those by famed photographer Jean-Marie Perier (who shot her donned in Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Andre Courréges, and Paco Rabanne), made her an instant and timeless style icon. With her faraway gaze and lazy smile, Francoise Hardy is like a melancholy dream that you simply don’t want to wake up from. Her unease with fame and adoration is at times clearly evident in her photos– serving only to make her even more alluring.

Francoise Hardy on the ‘Grand Prix’ film set

Francoise Hardy resting in a Formula One race car during the filming of Grand Prix, 1966.

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Francoise Hardy Playing In The Film 'Grand Prix'

Francoise Hardy sitting on a Formula One race car during the filming of Grand Prix, 1966. –Photo by Francois Gragnon

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francoise hardy honda motorcycle

Francoise Hardy perched atop a Honda motorcycle is an all-time internet #babesonbikes favorite.

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HELL ON TWO KRAZY WHEELS | VINTAGE EVEL KNIEVEL IN HIS HARLEY HEYDAY

Evel Knievel shared a long and colorful history with Harley-Davidson– professing that his very first motorcycle was a Harley that he stole when he was just 13 yrs old. Legend has it in 1960, Evel Knievel strapped his day-old son Kelly to his back for the boy’s first motorcycle ride. The 22-year-old Robert (not yet the larger-than-life Evel) Knievel fishtailed the brand new Harley on their maiden ride home from the maternity ward to the family trailer in Butte, Montana. He was so shaken by almost wrecking with his newborn baby in-tow that he promptly sold the bike.

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A great shot of Evel Knievel showcasing the beauty of his white leathers with navy and red trim. Knievel was buried in a leather jacket like the one you see here when he passed away in 2007. Pal Matthew McConaughey offered this eulogy– “He’s forever in flight now. He doesn’t have to come back down. He doesn’t have to land.” And yes, McConaughey was probably stoned. A bit of an odd pairing if ever there was one, but I ask you– Who doesn’t love Evel Knievel? 

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THE SIX DEGREES OF SHARON TATE | MAO, McQUEEN, MANSON & MAD MEN…

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1967– Sharon Tate for a spread in Esquire Magazine, 1967, in a t-shirt printed with the Vietnam Star. –Photo by William Helburn

So this is what the internets are recently abuzz about– The Mad Men costume designer channeling the essence of Sharon Tate, circa Esquire magazine 1969, by placing the same Vietnam Star T-shirt on Megan Draper. Which, mind you– was probably not for sale at your local Hot Topic, head shop, or Amazon.com back then, so kinda random and creepy. It’s a pretty good ploy to generate some buzz– made me look twice, and I haven’t watched the show in a few years now. Probably exactly what they were going for. I will say, for the record, that the original photography by William Helburn is amazing– downright titillating, even.

But if you find this kind of stuff remotely interesting, the real tingler is how Steve McQueen himself almost ended up a part of the Manson massacre, and could have shared in Sharon Tate and the other’s gruesome fate…

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NORM GRABOWSKI’S HARLEY-DAVIDSON PANHEAD | THE TRICYCLE FOR BIG BOYS

You can never have enough Norm Grabowski! From the grainy pages of Modern Cycle magazine, ca. 1965 (a follow-up piece  published after covering Norm’s epic Corvair-powered “Six Pack” motorcycle), by way of Nostalgia on Wheels. Below is Norm on the Harley before the sidecar, and following along after you’ll see it fitted with the Steib sidecar as it appeared in Modern Cycle.

norm grabowski harley panhead

Norm Grabowski on his custom ’54 Panhead Harley with special high-torque cams on a ’38 H-D rigid frame. This was later equipped with a Steib sidecar frame adapted by Mike Parti. –pic via Irish Rich

“Norm on his red metalflaked Pan chopper with the jugs and heads painted white, at the drags. Check out the sissy bar – it’s a combination beer can holder / “church key” beer can opener….too fucking much!” 

–Irish Rich  

norm grabowski harley sidecar

Norm Grabowski is the kind of guy who goes nuts over things mechanical. If you read the Modern Cycle issue of May 1965, you’ll remember the story we did on his Six Pack, the ultra-smooth power monster consisting mainly of an Indian motorcycle frame housing a Chevrolet Corvair engine. Norm’s latest creation is certainly as far out as the last one, but at least this time he stuck mostly to motorcycle parts in creating it. Completed last Fall, the three wheeler was seen several times on television on the short lived series, My Mother The Car, in which the actor was a regular. Grabowski drove the melodramatic villain, Captain Mancini, around in the strange looking chair.  –Modern Cycle magazine, ca. 1965    

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NORM GRABOWSKI’S CUSTOM CORVAIR BIKE | SICK-AS-HELL SIX-PACK ON 2 WHEELS

norm grabowski

“Norm Grabowski”s monster– the Corvair-powered “Six Pack”. Neil East (another rodding icon), owned AutoBooks in Burbank, CA, and Colorado Carbooks here in Denver told me that Norm used to come to L.A. Roadster club meetings on the Six Pack, and he said Norm had no problem kick starting this bike, when it was time to leave. It had no electric starter!” –Irish Rich 

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norm grabowski corvair motorcycle

Norm Grabowski’s epic “Six Pack” — an air-cooled, flat-six Corvair engine mounted on the frame of a ’41 Indian shaft drive with no transmission, just a clutch. Another future Kustom Kulture legend pin-striped the bike– Dean Jeffries. Irish Rich (whose website is the authority on old school builders, and is due a ton of respect for his own incredible work) saw this impressive bike himself back in ’65, and has chronicled it well. Norm actually built 2 Corvair-powered “SIx Packs” — the other mated with H-D tranny called “PP ‘n’ Vinegar.”

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1966 BARRED OUTLAW MOTORCYCLE MAGAZINE | BRUTAL! FRANK! VIOLENT!

barred outlaw magazine

From the archives of Nostalgia on Wheels comes this lil’ peek at Barred Outlaw Motorcycle magazine– a biker exploitation rag written not for riders, but for voyeurs looking for what makes those bad boys tick. Think of it as a primer for squares on bikers. There’s just enough laughable, inaccurate and hyperbolic writing that when they do actually mention the true 1%’er  MC’s it kinda lacks any sting. Hell, they can’t even get the year right for when The Wild One (the Godfather of all biker exploitation flicks) was filmed… ca. 1960??? What I do love about the magazine is the use of images, the layouts, fonts, etc. It is pure gold for the design-minded among us. It’s kinda refreshing compared to all the stripped-down aesthetic out there right now.

barred outlaw motorcycle magazine

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BARRED OUTLAW MOTORCYCLE SPECIAL– ANGELS FROM HELL! Today’s rebels on wheels, living a legend of violence and excitement. Their love is hate…for everything and everyone– but each other!

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PULP FICTION | VISUALLY GRIPPING PAPERBACK ART OF THE ’50s & ’60s

In case you missed it over on the TSY facebook page I’ve been obsessed with the below piece of work for quite some time, and finally posted it up and asked the beloved The Selvedge Yard clan for help in identifying the artist. It took about all of 2 seconds.

As a kid, my healthy diet of Happy Days, Sha Na Na, and flicks like The Lords of Flatbush deeply engrained a love of greaser culture and style that will surely remain until I die. “Bad Girls” by James Alfred Meese slays me with every viewing. Obviously the cover art was intentionally as lurid and enticing as possible to get you to part with your money and buy the “pulp” paperbacks that were named after the cheaply produced paper they were printed on. Here are a few other fine examples of pulp art, which really peaked in the ’50s & ’60s, in my humble opinion.

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James Alfred Meese Bad Girls 900

Bad Girls — paperback cover art by  James Alfred Meese, 1958

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bad girls james alfred meese pulp fiction art

Bad Girls– They prowl the fringe of the underworld for kicks — cover art by  James Alfred Meese, 1958

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EVEL KNIEVEL | TRIUMPH OVER THE FOUNTAINS AT CAESARS PALACE

Evel Knievel rode several brands of bikes during his career. He started-off on a 350cc Honda, switched to a 750cc Norton in 1966, then Triumph from 1966-1968, Laverda 750cc American Eagle from December 1969 to April 1970, and in December 1970 Harley-Davidson became Knievel’s sponsor and he began riding an XR-750– the bike he is most commonly associated with. Knievel has often said that his Triumph was by far the best bike he ever jumped with– “The Harley’s got a little too much torque when it comes to jumping,” according to him.

San Francisco, 1967–  Evel Knievel’s ’67  Triumph Bonneville 650 T120 TT Special jump bike– love the “Color Me Lucky” paint job.

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VINTAGE MENSWEAR | A COLLECTION FROM THE VINTAGE SHOWROOM’S BOOK

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I was pretty stoked when Doug Gunn sent me a copy of — Vintage Menswear — A Collection from the Vintage Showroom — as I’ve long been an admirer. Being in the menswear trade myself, London has always been a favorite stop for inspiration, and there’s no better place to be inspired than The Vintage Showroom. The collection is insane and beautifully presented, covering everything from academia, sporting, hunting, motoring, military wear, workwear, denim– it’s no surprise that they are one of the most complete and prestigious vintage dealers in the world. Of special interest to me are all things related to motoring as you see below including vintage leathers, Barbour, Belstaff, etc., and all the great snippets of the history, construction, and function behind the pieces.

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CHAMPION CAR CLUB JACKET, 1950s– “This is a simple, zip-up cotton jacket with fish-eye buttons at the cuffs and a short collar. What it signifies, however, is so much more. The hand-embroidered, chain-stitched imagery on its back places it squarely in the 1950s, at the height of the hot-rodding craze in the US. Hot-rodding was said to have been driven by young men returning from service abroad after World War II who had technical knowledge, time on their hands, and the habit of spending long days in male, if not macho, company. Rebuilding and boosting cars for feats of both spectacle and speed — often 1930s Ford Model Ts, As and Bs, stripped of extraneous parts, engines tuned or replaced, tires beefed up for better traction, and a show-stopping paint job as the final touch — became an issue of social status among hot-rodding’s participants. This status was expressed through clothing too. There were the ‘hot-rodders’ of the 1930s, when car modification for racing across dry lakes in California was more an innovative sport than a subculture, complete with the Southern California Timing Association of 1937 providing ‘official’ sanction. But by the 1950s, hot-rodding was a style too.  decade later it was, as many niche tastes are, commercialized and mainstream, with car design showing hot-rod traits.”  –Vintage Menswear, Douglas Gunn, Roy Luckett& Josh Sims

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