As Irish Rich correctly said, “Bill Ray wasn’t the Lone Ranger…” meaning he wasn’t the only dude photographing the ’60s bikers/hippies/counterculture in a meaningful way – share the love. That being said, he did capture some really stunning images of the original Hells Angels of Berdoo and their striking “Old Ladies” for LIFE back in 1965. It is the Old Ladies (actually quite young), who in fact steal the show with their melancholy beauty and faraway stares. They hold me mesmerized as I search in vain for silent clues to who they were, where they came from, what brought them here. Truth is that their beauty is long gone by now, and they may have even left this world – yet somehow looking at these images they seem like ghostly beauties frozen forever in a place in my mind where time feels irrelevant. If I could only find a way back there. Truth is these Old Ladies are no longer available on the menu. Thank God (oh, and Bill Ray) for these images.

I love the personal commentary Ray shares regarding some of his favorite shots, and the behind-the-scenes escapades while out on assignment with writer Joe Bride covering the San Bernardino Hells Angels. The story for LIFE would never see print as it turns out, but the shots have become legendary despite that and are available in the book Hells Angels of San Berdoo ’65 | Inside the Mother Charter which is definitely worth a look. But don’t stare at the old ladies too long. They will lure you into the deep, dark waters and drown you.

Two of the women riding with the Hells Angels hang out at a bar. According to LIFE writer Joe Bride’s notes– “The girl kneeling by the jukebox is Ruthie and she’s the ‘Old Lady’ of Harvey, a Diablos member from San Bernardino. Harvey attends Angels’ meetings and rides with them but is not a member. It’s only two in the afternoon but Ruthie has already ‘crashed’ from beer and bennies [benzedrine].” Bill Ray has a real liking for this particular photograph. “This is one of my favorites from the whole shoot. There’s something kind of sad and at the same time defiant about the atmosphere. Ruthie is probably playing the same 45 over and over and over again. A real music lover.”  —photograph by Bill Ray © Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

“Outside the Blackboard in Bakersfield, Hells Angels, hangers-on, and their old ladies conduct a seminar in advanced loafing.” –photograph by Bill Ray © Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

“I remember seeing some of the women take a razor blade and trim their eyebrows, and a lot of them managed to achieve this very hard, distinctive look. It’s a look that’s difficult to recreate, I think, and one that, when you look at these pictures, is really of its time. This look says mid-1960s. That’s what I see here, without a doubt.” –photograph by Bill Ray © Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

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Friend and photographer Scott Pommier has recently created a tumblr consisting of newer images, old favorites and some cool outtakes– sort of a rolling edit of his epic work that you can check out here. Get over, enjoy, and if you like what you see, follow!

— Image by © Scott Pommier

— Image by © Scott Pommier

— Image by © Scott Pommier

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Honda CL350 motorcycle built by GLORY Motor Works for the film, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” –Image by © COOP, see more here

In case you missed it– Bike EXIF ran a great piece on the bike build by Justin Kell and crew at his GLORY Motor Works in LA for the highly anticipated David Fincher film, The Girl with the Dragon TattooAfter seeing the 2009 original, I’ve been going nuts waiting for Fincher’s release– as he’s bound to take Stieg Larsson’s riveting novel to cinematic greatness. He obviously picked the right guy to bring Lisbeth Slander’s bike alive– it will no doubt become a prime object of obsession in itself. Justin chose the humble Honda CL-350 (an unlikely hero, much like Lisbeth herself), whose classic, clean lines don’t need much finessing to quickly blossom into the ultimate bare-bones damaged bastard that packs more punch than meets the eye.

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I was chatting with my friend Don about epic car films, and Two-Lane Blacktop quickly came up. He’s a major car and quickly segued to American Graffiti– correctly stating that it was the same ’55 Chevy (built by Richard Ruth of Competition Engineering of Sunland, CA) for Blacktop that Falfa drove in George Lucas’ classic American Graffiti. Well there were actually two ’55 Chevy hot rods from Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) that were used in American Graffiti (1973). Both were built using Richard Ruth’s own ’55 Chevy as the blueprint. Producer Gary Kurtz (Two-Lane Blacktop & American Graffiti) had visited Ruth who took him for a pulse-quickening ride in his big-block hot rod. That same evening Kurtz promptly ordered three cars from Richard Ruth– two exactly like Ruth’s, and one stunt car.

Two original cars would survive to live another day in George Lucas’ American Graffiti: 

Main Car 1– Equipped with a 427 crate motor, M-22 Muncie, 4.88 Olds rear, fiberglass front end, doors, and trunk lid, straight axle front suspension when built and later modified and used in American Graffiti.

Stunt Car– All steel-bodied car equipped with a 454 crate motor, TH 400 automatic, Olds rear of unknown gearing, modified for American Graffiti. It was used for interior shots as it was equipped with an auto tranny and drove smoother than a stick.

Shot of Mel’s drive-in from the 1973 classic, “American Graffiti” — Image by © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis Mel’s drive-in was actually out of business, and was reopened just for the filming of American Graffiti– then promptly demolished after filming was finished. American Graffiti was George Lucas’ semi-autobiographical teenage tale (Lucas grew up in Modesto, CA during the heyday of cruising and hot rods) that starred a treasure trove of young talent– Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips, and the list goes on. It also created a huge resurgence in American 1950’s & 1960’s culture–  inspiring a long string of films and TV shows, most notably “Happy Days.” Hot Rod magazine even listed the ’55 Chevy and ’32 Ford deuce coupe (the true stars of the film) at the top of their list of most influential hot rods of all time.        

Paul Le Mat in the George Lucas’ 1973 classic car film, “American Graffiti.” George Lucas had  the license plate on the ’32 Ford hot rod read: THX-138. This was a reference to THX-1138, his 1971 sc-fi flick. Later in his Star Wars saga, the yellow airspeeder Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan use to chase bounty hunter Zam Wesell is said to be a tribute to John Milner’s iconic coupe in American Graffiti.

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Yep. Back-to-back Scott Toepfer action. It’s that good. Ghost Town, USA is a short film that Toepfer did for the Harley-Davidson RIDEBOOK campaign that brought together folks from different artistic / lifestyle backgrounds to celebrate life on the open road, and the history of American motorcycle culture. Here photographer & filmmaker Scott explores America’s past through the lens of ghost towns and the haunting lessons they hold.

“The visitable ghost towns across the Western U.S. are few and far between today. Most have either decayed beyond recognition, or have turned into gift shop trinket towns selling $10 keychains and fake gold. Thankfully, Bodie, California has a different story. A gold mining town established in the late 19th century, it quickly became one of California’s largest cities – and as any famed mining town would, it was filled with saloons, brothels, and other establishments of ill repute. Much of the town burned in the fires of 1892 and 1932, forcing most of its remaining residents to leave one of the toughest towns in the west. When the last of the residents left in the 50’s, the California Park Service took over in ’64 to preserve the structures and share its history… with us, and a few hundred other tourists daily.”   

–Scott Toepfer

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Scott Pommier, photographer and good friend of yours truly, shared these pivotal pics of the force behind 4Q Conditioning and well, frankly– who can resist a great Max Schaaf pic, for chrissakes?


— Image by © Scott Pommier

“Max Schaaf lives in Oakland, California where he skates, builds bikes, lords over land, watches movies, paints, writes, dog-walks, loves, hates, rides bicycles, talks on the phone, quotes, quips, scoffs, praises, and plays by his own rules. He drinks coffee in the morning, tea at night, he prefers to pee outside, he made me tear up once during a scolding, but he’s also been gracious, generous and patient beyond all expectations. He knows how to tell a story, he knows how to listen to one. He ollies out of smith grinds, he skated to Too Short, Johnny Cash and Fugazi. He went big on a Japan, and hung up, and now he’s big in Japan. He has the unflinching stare of a convict, but the eye of an artist. Self-made and self-destructive. “Uncompromising” can mean difficult or it can mean “principled.” Max is uncompromising. Every decision is from the gut. every move has meaning.” 

–Scott Pommier

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The Stonemasters: California Rock Climbers in the Seventies

Their ranks included John Long, John Yablonski, John Bachar, Tobin Sorenson and Richard Harrison, this long-haired band of bros from Southern California, who, armed with little more than frayed cut-offs, dark shades and folded bandanas, heralded the golden age of American rock climbing. They called themselves the Stonemasters—cheeky, but deserved—in their stripped-down, bare-bones approach to climbing, they devised revolutionary techniques, underscored by their renegade attitudes. Balancing intensity and exuberance, the Stonemasters were a team of some of the most innovative daredevils the world has ever seen, and in the early 1970s, these laid-back originators of adventure sports were risking life and limb, long before the X Games had a moniker, before Title IX passed legislation, and before the Z-Boys had a pubic hair to scratch between them.

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It’s Better in the Wind” by Scott Toepfer (shot mostly on Super 8mm) chronicles the freewheeling life of adventure on the road.

Scott was kind enough to bless TSY with a look at this masterpiece, featuring his good buddy Chuck Ragan who’s contributing some original songs for the soundtrack– which is a combination of music and spoken word. I’m pretty stoked to see the completed work.

For me, “It’s Better in the Wind” is the essence of leaving the hassles and drama of the 9-to-5 grind in the dust– where it belongs. That’s the vibe that Scott captures so beautifully.  It’s not about posing, man.  It’s about showing. The images crystalize the adventure and joy of hitting the road with good friends– to inspire themselves, as well as us, to never stop living for the day– not the man.  Hell yes.

Image by © Scott Toepfer

Image by © Scott Toepfer

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“Ghost Rider” by Shawn Dickinson

A product of SoCal, Shawn Dickinson grew up inspired by the surrounding counterculture of custom Hot Rods, Surfers, and the iconic art that was produced by the legends before him– you see the classic Rat Fink and Tiki influences that, in his hands, are at once timeless and fresh.  He got his chops as a cartoonist for the underground Untamed Highway, which was chock full of 1950’s Kustom Kulture. Dickinson went on to illustrate posters for Rockabilly and garage bands, not to mention numerous comic projects and commissioned works. 

I’m a big fan of the guy’s work.  As he describes it, Dickinson’s creations and medium are a throwback fusion of, “Imagery stylistically inspired by 1930’s cartoons (what I feel was the craziest era for cartoons), mixed with iconic imagery inspired by 1950’s & 1960’s rock n’ roll, cars, bikes, etc. (what I feel was the craziest era for all those things). And I still paint with watercolor and India ink.”  Love it.

Shawn Dickinson featured in Car Kulture DeLuxe Magazine

“Smooth” by Shawn Dickinson

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