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

Sharon Tate esquire mao

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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STEVE McQUEEN AKA HARVEY MUSHMAN RIDES AGAIN | VINTAGE SI

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A great article from 1971 unearthed from the Sports Illustrated archives– Steve McQueen discussing desert bike riding with Bud Ekins & Malcolm Smith, Racing in the 12 Hours of Sebring with Pete Revson, The Great Escape, his son Chad, and much more.

McQueen even recalls exactly when he was bitten by the off-road bug– “Well, I was riding along Sepulveda with Dennis Hopper when we saw these guys bopping and bumping through the weeds near there, off the road. It was Keenan Wynn and another guy on these strange machines, dirt bikes they called them. We asked Keenan if he could climb that cliff. ‘Watch this,’ he says. Varoom! Right up to the top. Dennis and I were standing there with our eyes out to here. The very next day I went out and bought me a 500-cc Triumph dirt bike.”

Read on friends, read on.

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Steve McQueen riding his Husqvarna 400 motorcycle. Below is an article from SI magazine, 1971.

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HARVEY ON THE LAM

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By Robert F. Jones

By any name, Steve McQueen gets all revved up over dirt bikes.

Slamming one across the California Desert is now his Great Escape.

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The opening scene: California’s Mojave Desert at high noon. Dead silence. Through the shimmering heat waves, Mount San Jacinto seems to writhe on the horizon like a dying brontosaurus. The spines of the cactus at foreground right are in sharp focus, the gleaming spearpoints of a vegetable army. In the shadow of a boulder, sudden movement. A Gila monster raises its beadwork head and flicks its tongue, alert to the distant sound that is just beginning to insinuate itself into the desert’s quiet. A sudden, ululating whine, the invading noise rapidly gains strength as four distorted dots on the horizon weave closer. The dots take on color and shape s they approach: a quartet of red and chrome motorcycles, stunting and racketing through the puckerbushes, their riders vaulting the ridges and slaloming through the cactus at 70 mph. Their ominous, mechanical verve sends the Gila monster– descendant of the dinosaurs– scuttling for shelter. The camers zooms in on the lead rider’s face, sun-blackened and jut-jawed under his helmet. Up music and credits: hold onto your popcorn, folks–

Harvey Mushman rides again!

That scenario, or one like it, takes place nearly every weekend in the desert surrounding Palm Springs. Harvey Mushman is the ocassional pseudonym of Steve McQueen, movie actor and motor sportsman, when he goes a-racing. His companions on those fast, racking transits of the wasteland often include the best of the desert-riding breed: Bud Ekins or Roger Riddell, Mert Lawwill or Malcolm Smith. Now and then a smaller figure on a smaller bike trails behind, slower but only a touch less skillful in his handling of the desert’s harsh nuance– Chad McQueen, the actor’s 10-year-old son.

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June 13th, 1971 – Steve McQueen riding his Husqvarna 400 motorcycle in the Mojave Desert — Photo by Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

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THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF KIRK WEST | ICONIC IMAGES OF MUSIC LEGENDS — THE BLUES

Kirk West is probably best known as the long-time tour manager, archivist, and photographer for the Allman Brothers Band– but before that he spent many years shooting many other musical legends while living in Chicago. Many of those images laid dormant for decades, and now with time on his hands since his 2010 retirement from ABB, the amazing images have now come to light– and many of them are stunning in their honest, fly-on-the-wall, honest energy. Being a lover of the Blues, I was instantly strike by many of his images of legends in a bygone time that I’d love to step back into.

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1978 — Blues guitar great, Johnny Winter at Chicago’s Park West theatre –Image by © Kirk West There’s a famous story about a time in 1962 when Johnny and his brother went to see B.B. King at a Beaumont club called the Raven. The only whites in the crowd, they no doubt stood out. But Johnny already had his chops down and wanted to play with the revered B.B.”I was about 17,” Johnny remembers, “and B.B. didn’t want to let me on stage at first. He asked me for a union card, and I had one. Also, I kept sending people over to ask him to let me play. Finally, he decided that there enough people who wanted to hear me that, no matter if I was good or not, it would be worth it to let me on stage. He gave me his guitar and let me play. I got a standing ovation, and he took his guitar back!” via

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1985 — Late guitar great, Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Chicago Blues Fest –Image by © Kirk West     From Guitar World Magazine ’85 — “Vaughan remembered something that came from Johnny Winter, the first white Texas blues guitar hero, who’d preceded him down the long path. ‘He said something to me when the first record was doing so well,’ Stevie Ray recalled. ‘It made me feel a lot of respect for what we did, for the music. He said that he wanted me to know that people like Muddy Waters and the cats who started it all really had respect for what we’re doing, because it made people respect them. We’re not taking credit for the music. We’re trying to give it back.'” I dig that attitude– doing what you love, and doing it well– to give back to those who cam before you– and the music as a whole. You don’t hear  enough talk like that these days. That’s real heart and soul right there.

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1978– Johnny Winter, Bob Margolin, & Muddy Waters at Harry Hope’s, Cary IL where they recorded Muddy “Mississippi” Waters – Live  –Image by © Kirk West. During early live performances, Johnny Winter would often recount about how, as a child, it was dream of his to one day play with the great blues guitarist Muddy Waters. In 1977 Winter’s his manager creating Blue Sky Records to be distributed through Columbia,  Winter now had the opportunity to bring Waters into the studio for Hard Again. The album became a best-seller, with Winter producing and playing back-up guitar on the set that included Waters, and  the legendary James Cotton on harmonica. Winter produced two more studio albums for Muddy Waters – I’m Ready (this time featuring Walter Horton on harmonica) and King Bee. The partnership produced Grammy Awards, a best-selling live album (Muddy “Mississippi” Waters Live), and Winter’s own Nothin’ But the Blues, on which he was backed by members of Muddy Waters’ band.

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STEVE MCQUEEN REMEMBERED | FORMER LOVER, FELLOW RACER

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1960 Lime Rock Nationals– Denise McCluggage sits on the grid  while SCCA gets things straight.

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Back in 1955 or so, a young Denise McCluggage had a chance encounter with a then unknown Steve McQueen which led to a brief affair and a long-lasting friendship. They would be separated by their own career ambitions, and the many demands and erratic schedules that come with the territory. That said, McCluggage managed to stay in touch over the years. She herself would go on to become a legend in the world of auto racing– a renowned driver, writer, and photographer for over 50 yrs. McCluggage has won trophies around the world and raced for Porsche, Jaguar, Lotus, Mini Cooper, Alfa, Elva, OSCA, Volvo, among others. In 1961 she won the grand touring category at Sebring in a Ferrari 250 GT, and in 1964 McCluggage scored a class win in the Rallye de Monte Carlo for Ford. She shared her remembrances of McQueen and their relationship years after his passing, published in AutoWeek magazine back in 1981. She recalls a young, lean McQueen who was already obsessed with cars and racing, who swept her off her feet with his searing looks, charm and well… incongruity, as she puts it.

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1955, Steve McQueen as he looked back in the day, running around the Village w/ Denise McCluggage – Image by © Roy Schatt

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Shortly after our reunion he had sidled up next to me and whispered in my ear: “I’m falling in love all over again,” and given me the full brunt of the smile. My response had been an instantaneous hoot of laughter. –Denise McCluggage

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