CRY BABY | JOHNNY DEPP IN JOHN WATERS’ ’50S HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS CULT CLASSIC

johnny depp cry baby harley-davidson motorcycle

“John Waters’ musical ode to the teen rebel genre is infectious and gleefully camp, providing star Johnny Depp with the perfect vehicle in which to lampoon his pin-up image.” –Roger Ebert. Well said. Depp has always deftly embraced ironic roles to deflect the trappings of his undeniable handsome-as-hell looks. 21 Jump Street definitely had the potential to pigeon-hole his career, had he been a lesser actor.

Cry Baby would go on to become a cult classic, due largely to the pouty lipped, chiseled face of a young Johnny Depp in his physical prime, and on a Harley to boot. (They used a Sportster and K model, both red, that they swapped a few times in the film apparently with the thought that it would go mostly unnoticed.) For me the enduring 1950s aesthetic is always a draw, and Waters’ witty one-liners are priceless. And let’s not forget the interest that was stirred up back then by the young and sultry Traci Lords. It was her first non-nude screen role following her controversial (not to mention highly illegal) underage porn career that was still hot on everyone’s tongues and minds.

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BORN FREE 5 | UNITING ALL THOSE WITH A LOVE OF VINTAGE BIKES

Cool short filmed by Scott Pommier for the Born Free 5 Show about “man, machine, and man’s best friend” ~ starring Pobbs & Shawn Donahue of Bronsonville Custom Cycles. Get ready for the show coming up June 29th, more details below…

BORN-FREE SHOW MISSION STATEMENT

The Born-Free 5 Show is about the love of old motorcycles and like minded individuals having a good time together and enjoying these bikes of the past. It is also a family event, young and old a-like are welcome to come out and enjoy the show. This show is meant to unite people from all walks of life by bringing the passion that we all have of these old machines together for one special day.

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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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HARLEY-DAVIDSON | AMERICAN IRON, INGENUITY & PERSEVERANCE

The folks at Harley-Davidson were kind enough to invite me down to Milwaukee, WI for a tour of the museum, and their storied archives. This trip had deep, personal significance for me, as I grew up on the rumble and roar of Harley. There is no other sound or feel like it. It quickens the pulse, raises the hair on your arms, and brings a pie-eating grin to one’s face. The distinctive “potato-potato” idle of the v-twin is iconic to the brand, and resonates deeply within many loyal riders who have made their lives one with Harley-Davidson. It’s the personal stories of these cultural icons who forged their destiny with Harley-Davidson, evolving together through the decades, that I love– and that are a source of inspiration and pride to this day.

In my mind, there is no other brand that better epitomizes the American spirit of Independence, ingenuity, and perseverance than Harley-Davidson. Hands-down. The cultural impact they’ve had on America (and around the world) is undeniable and evident all around us. It didn’t start with Easy Rider either, it goes back much further in time.

My mind immediately races back to the early days and the numerous innovations H-D had on franchising and branding. The following success of their notorious and ballsy “Wrecking Crew” racing team (that risked life & limb for victory on hostile dirt tracks and battered, oil-soaked wooden board tracks with dubious, improvised safety gear) further cemented Harley as the one to follow. I think of the soldiers returning from WWI & WWII–  maybe they rode a motorcycle in wartime, or were pilots looking to replace the thrill of flying, and coming home they bought a Harley-Davidson because they yearned for an intense, physical experience of freedom and speed that only a Harley could give them. A lot of those same servicemen who fell between the cracks of what society or themselves deemed “normal” formed the first motorcycle clubs that would inspire Hollywood films, fashion, music, art and attitude to this day. And yes, 1969′s Easy Rider which became the iconic counter-culture biker film that drove the chopper / Harley customization craze for decades to come, and created a look and lifestyle that many would influence for generations to come. Hell, my stepdad was nicknamed “Hopper” after his character “Billy” in the film because of his dark looks, and that suede vest with fringe that would whip in the wind as he roared down the road on his ’79 Low Rider. Two things he impressed upon me– never ride a Sportster (chick bike), and never use your electric start (for pussies).

The point is, Harley-Davidson and those who ride them are a breed apart. There is a profound connection between man and machine that is beyond words. It’s more than a motorcycle— a Harley has a soul. A mighty soul born in a crude wooden shed over 100 years ago.

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ca. 1903 —  William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson built their first motorcycles in this simple structure. Harley-Davidson’s very first “factory” (if you can call it that)– a wooden 10′ x 15′ shed that sat in the back yard of the Davidson family home. In 1907 Harley-Davidson was incorporated and the company was valued at $14,200. (Rewind– Harley-Davidson was started in a freaking 10′ x 15′ shed?! That’s the American “can-do” spirit in a nutshell, people. When I first heard that, I realized there are no excuses for anyone to not get out there and make it happen.) — Image by © Harley-Davidson Archives
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1939 — The original shed was later transplanted to the new Juneau Avenue factory (built in 1906, and still the site of  Harley-Davidson’s corporate headquarters) as a symbolic reminder of the company’s humble beginnings. (The lesson– Never get so big that you don’t remember where you came from, folks. And never start acting like a big company– especially when you are one.) Tragically, the original shed was accidentally destroyed in the early ’70s by a careless crew doing clean-up at the H-D factory. — Image by © Harley-Davidson Archives
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THE ART OF THE CLASSIC AMERICAN HAIRCUT | TOMCATS BARBERSHOP

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Our friends over at  R E L I C  put together a nice little short on the guys that run Greenpoint, Brooklyn’s own Tomcats Barbershop. It’s a place where you can roll up on your Harley, and step in for a period-perfect ’40s or ’50s barbershop haircut by a guy who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk.

The film was produced in collaboration with the Harley-Davidson Ridebook and pays tribute to the great American brand that, “…impacted the early identity of American culture in everything from the way people began to dress to how they wore their hair…” Amen.

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JACK NICHOLSON | EASY RIDER, 1969

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Jack Nicholson Easyrider

Jack Nicholson

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To mention the 1969 film Easy Rider is beyond cliche anymore– but I remember growing up with a lot of Easy Rider references around the house as a kid. The old man fancied himself as “Hopper”, a nickname given to him by his biker buddies for his resemblance to Dennis Hopper’s Billy in the pivotal biker flick. He milked that one for all it was worth. I also remember a certain amount of disdain from the biker crowd towards Peter Fonda starring as Captain America. Sure, they loved the iconic chopper (the real star of the film)– but Peter Fonda was considered by real bikers to be a Hollywood punk that grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth (read: pussy) who had no business on a Harley.

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Evel Knievel | Childhood Hero

Motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel poised on his Harley-Davidson.  1971

 

Daredevil motorcyclist Evil Knievel in mid jump over a row of cars.  March 1971

Pictured above is daredevil Robert “Evel” Knievel on his Harley davidson, 1971.

If you were a boy growing up in the 70s, then this guy was probably at the top of your hero list.  Man, one of the best Christmas gifts I ever got as a kid was the Evel Knievel action figure and motorcycle that I’d launch across the room- off ramps- down the stairs- off the porch- wherever.  I completely idolized him.  And how great was the white leather stars-and-stripes stunt suit?  He was like an awesome combination of The Fonz and Captain America.  

The other cool thing about him is that Evel Knievel never backed out of a jump, never made excuses, and never showed any fear.  He had to know some jumps were going to end badly- didn’t matter.  If he said he’d do it, he did it.  He had 433 broken bones during the course of his career to show for it.  

Sadly he passed away on November 30, 2007, but his legend will definitely live on for a long time to come.  

I found his classic jumps on YouTube today and introduced him to my boys.  The verdict was– Whoa, awesome!