THE LEGENDARY ARMOND BLETCHER | FALLEN HELLS ANGEL OF UNHUMAN PROPORTIONS

“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

ARMOND BLETCHER EASY RIDER

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.

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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

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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THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF BILL RAY, 1965 | HELLS ANGELS & HOT OLD LADIES ON ICE

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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“FOUR WHEELS MOVE THE BODY — BUT TWO WHEELS MOVE THE SOUL.”

GILDA TEXTER VANISHING POINT HONDA MOTORCYCLE

 

Gilda Texter on a Honda Scrambler in the epic film “Vanishing Point”, 1971.

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Woman riding a motorcycle

That’s a woman on that gnarly chopper!

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1982, Sturgis, South Dakota — Hells Angels at Sturgis — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

June 17th, 1977, Cleveland, Ohio — Plumber Sam Green drives his customized Harley-Davidson motorcycle on a tree lined street in Cleveland.  Green added hundreds of lights, horns, and chrome balls, as well as a television, canopy, CB radio, and tape deck. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

April 17th, 1974, Daytona Beach — They’ve got all kinds of names for members of the younger generation. At Daytona Beach, at least, it might be termed the relaxed generation. Some youngsters from Ohio rest on their motorcycles after arriving in the area recently. Daytona Beach is one of the few resorts in Florida where vehicles can be used on the beach. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

March 9th, 1968 — Cyclists are Sought in Murder Case.  Cleveland, Ohio:  Their bikes are their most prized possessions, say the Animals.  Shown working on their motorcycles are (from left):  V.C.; Gabby; and Tom (only nicknames given).  In foreground is an unusual three-wheeler.  Local authorities are looking for the motorcycle riders who killed two men in a cafe on February 28th.  Three suspects in the case are former members of the Animals. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

Dec 3rd, 1966, Las Vegas — Hordes of teenagers cruise the Las Vegas Strip on motorcycles and in cars at night. Traffic along the strip is bumper-to-bumper every weekend as youngsters arrive to observe and be observed. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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FROM HELLS ANGELS TO HITCHCOCK | IRVING PENN SHOT THEM ALL

Irving Penn – Doug, Hells Angels (San Francisco), 1967.  Appeared in Look magazine, January, 1968.

THE INCREDIBLES

This Hell’s Angels motorcyclist writes no songs of protest.  His actions, his very appearance, says all he wants to say to us.  Thus, a lifestyle becomes a statement about the world and, in a sense, a work of art.  Irving Penn went to San Francisco to photograph some of the people who outrage and lure us being what they are. Looking past current rages and entertainment, Penn placed these people in a neutral, ageless environment.  His pictures, accompanied only by fragments of conversation are addressed not just to the now but to the days to come.

–Look magazine, January, 1968

 

Irving Penn – Hells Angels (San Francisco), 1967.   Appeared in Look magazine, January of 1968.

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THE ROLLING STONES @ ALTAMONT | WE’RE NOT IN WOODSTOCK ANYMORE…

Altamont_Hell's Angels 69684-9

Not barely four months after Woodstock, Altamont would prove to be worlds apart from its predecessor. For reasons largely unforeseen, or at least unacknowledged at the time, there was a definite divide in ideology between the American hippies in the crowd, and some of the English rockers onstage– for whom this hippie-trippy way of life was hard to swallow. For some it was simply naive, and to others– it was downright offensive. Pete Townsend in particular left Woodstock with a bad taste in his mouth– “All those hippies wandering about thinking the world was going to be different from that day on… As a cynical English arsehole, I walked through it all and felt like spitting on the lot of them…” Country Joe countered with his personal recollection of Pete at Woodstock. “I saw Townshend pull up in his limo, then do his set, and leave. That’s the sum total of his experience of Woodstock. He played at it but he wasn’t really part of it.”

Look, we all go through life with our own backgrounds, beliefs and expectations that impact our openness to ideas, and color our perceptions of attitudes and events. That being said– Is Townsend really there to “experience Woodstock”, or is he there to put on a great Who show? Whose place is it to dictate that everyone passing through the ’60s has to buy into the damn hippie lifestyle? It clearly wasn’t for everyone. Certainly not for the Rolling Stones.

By 1969, the Rolling Stones were a band with a well-established attitude of monstrous proportions.  They were effin’ rock stars baby, and royalty at that.  The world was their stage– and they saw Stones’ fans as their subjects. There to adore them and feed their egos.  They didn’t come into Altamont with the idea that it would be a lovefest.  Strangely, Mick Jagger was going through a phase of curiosity in Satanism and the occult at that time– but he would be far from prepared for the darkness that would unfold at his feet on that December day.

Altamont and the Charlie Manson murders would effectively usher out the age of the hippie. But was the hippie movement even real outside of the provincial confines of Woodstock and Haight Ashbury? Or, were we all just temporarily clouded by the sweet scent of a movement that was never more than a passing fad or fashion for most?

Photo above of Mick Jagger & Charlie Watts with Hells Angel. — Photograph © Ethan Russell. All rights reserved. From the start, the Altamont festival was a disaster in waiting. The stage was too low, the crowd too close, the Hells Angels too wired on beer and bad acid. Such was the rush to stage the festival that there were no food or drink outlets, and few toilets. –Sean O’Hagan

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TSY SATURDAY SLOPPY SECONDS | THE 1970’s BADASS BIKER ROUNDUP, PT. II

Just too much 1970s Biker badass goodness to not go sequel on y’all, and in full color no less, bros and bras.  Check the great ozone fade in a lot of these old pics that have been used and abused, and finally landing here for prosperity.  I’m honored to give them a home. While I’m at it–  also revisiting custom bike legend Jeff McCann.  His awesome archive of work has been lovingly featured on TSY before to mad fanfare, as it should.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

Love some old school 1970s Harley Digger action.

Roberta Pedon on a Panhead chopper. Not many are fit to print, I’m glad to have this lil’ gem.

“Run to the Redwoods”  Jeff McCann’s run featured in this 1974 Custom Chopper magazine. “While I claim no credit for the success of the “Redwood Run” in later years, I was the one who was it’s initiator. Bob Dron was at “The Run to the Redwoods” and is the guy parked by the side of the road watching the passing bikes in the first photo above the title. 4 years later he purchased the Oakland Harley-Davidson dealership from the surviving Self brother. At the Northern California Dealers meetings he began lobbying for a revival of the TTT event and suggested they follow the format I had established, ie. live band, food and drink provided and use the same (now improved) campsite. When it was finally approved sometime later he called and told me they had decided to call it the “Redwood Run”, a slight variation on the nameI used. The call was a courtesy to see if I objected and of course I did not.

I attended the first event and for many years afterward. As the run grew in popularity it became profitable to a small degree. The dealers had begun contracting with the local Kiwanis Club for all site services. The local sheriff announced the dealers where going to have to begin paying for his departments “overtime” costs incurred by policing the event, to the tune of $40,000, the dealers canceled the event. The very next year the Kiwanis took out ads in several newspapers and motorcycle magazines and announced the continuation of the “Redwood Run” just as everyone had known it before.”.  Jeff McCann

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TSY FRIDAY FADE | THE LATE NIGHT 1970’s BADASS BIKER ROUNDUP

It’s Friday, folks.  No heavy lifting.  Sit back while TSY rolls-out The Best of 1970’s Biker Roundup. Badass bikes built by real bros.  Slamming Bud in tin cans.  Braided ol’ ladies with an aversion to bras, bouncin’ on back, bracin’ the sissy bar.  Sucking SoCo from a skin.  Passing out shirtless in the tall grass as the bonfire fades into dawn.   Why, oh why did it have to end?  Because it was too rad to last…

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Because he can.  And back then it might get ya’ a boob flash. In a Herculean effort to prove the 45 Magnum is a lightweight, Randy Smith hoists 203 pounds of machine off the ground, solo. The whole 45 magnum weighs only slightly more than a unit Sportster engine. 


The bodacious Roberta Pedon straddling a Harley Panhead chopper.  Think she knows how to ride?

Proudly have pics like this in the ol’ family album?  We may be kin.  via

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“IT NEVER GOT FAST ENOUGH FOR ME” | GONZO — HUNTER S. THOMPSON

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Hunter S. Thompson  –photo ©Al Satterwhite

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I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.

— Hunter S. Thompson

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America… just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.

— Hunter S. Thompson

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Hunter S. Thompson  –photo ©Al Satterwhite

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Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming– “Wow! What a Ride!”

— Hunter S. Thompson

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HUNTER S. THOMPSON | HELL’S ANGELS

 

“The hard core, the outlaw elite, were the Hell’s Angels… wearing the winged death’s-head on the back of their sleeveless jackets and packing their ‘mamas’ behind them on big ‘chopped hogs.’ They rode with a fine unwashed arrogance, secure in their reputation as the rottenest motorcycle gang in the whole history of Christendom.”

–Hunter S. Thompson – Hell’s Angels 1966

Hunter S. Thompson’s epic images of Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang members

“We’re the one percenters, man — the ones who don’t fit and don’t care.  So don’t talk to me about your doctor bills and your traffic warrants — I mean you get your woman and your bike and your banjo and I mean your on your way.  We’ve punched our way out of a hundred rumbles, stayed alive with our boots and our fists.  We’re royalty among motorcycle outlaws, baby.”

–A Hell’s Angel speaking for the permanent record

Hunter S. Thompson’s epic images of Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang members

“Some of them are pure animals. They’d be animals in any society. These guys are outlaw types who should have been born a hundred years ago– when they would have been gunfighters.”

–Birney Jarvis, a charter member of the Hell’s Angels who later became a San Francisco Chronicle police reporter

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