Unless you’ve been cloistered away in Bobst for the last few weeks in preparations for midterms, you’ve probably heard about the bloody September 29 incident in which Alexian Lien was pulled from his SUV and beaten by a group of motorcyclists after hitting one of the bikers then fleeing the scene. Although Lien was left with cuts and bruises, the incident has allegedly left one of the motorcyclists paralyzed. In the following weeks, multiple arrests have been made, including those of six bikers who belong to “Hollywood Stuntz,” a biker gang (and I use that term loosely) notorious throughout the city for organizing massive rides that effectively halt traffic so they can perform their mad stunts (stuntz?).
For most of us, motorcycle gangs are one of those mysterious, distant entities we all hear about but never see—kind of like unicorns and Dakota Fanning. The grisly, leather-clad dudes on their obnoxiously rumbly motorcycles are typically viewed as dangerous outlaws and criminals, a stereotype that the Hollywood Stuntz attack doesn’t help. However, the actions/stuntz of the Hollywood Stuntz don’t reflect the character of all motorcyclists. In fact, the biker community—including members of the Hell’s Angels, the most notorious motorcycle gang in the country—is shocked and disgusted by the violence.
John*, a former Hell’s Angel and self-described “long-haired, hippy-looking bastard” with colorful past that involves living in a box by the river, condemns the attack as helping perpetuate a violent stereotype. “I think those guys are absolutely stupid for including civilians in their activities,” he says. “Nothing good ever comes from it. We just didn’t do that. We didn’t fuck with civilians.”
However, Frank, a longtime motorcyclist who used to ride with the Hell’s Angels and other biker gangs, does admit that he has met bikers who do fit this violent stereotype in the past.
“The first time I went to jail, I shared a cell with a Hell’s Angel who got caught putting a case of dynamite under a house,” he said. “I don’t know whose house it was or why he did it, but I never gave him my address.” Despite this, Frank assured that things have changed since his first incarceration, saying, “Most bikers have really good jobs; [bike gangs] kicked out the druggies and alcoholics years ago.”
Even in the most savage chapters of the Hell’s Angels’ rough history, violence was typically never directed at non-bikers. In fact, most violence occurred within the club.
“It depends on what you call violent,” John said when asked about intra-gang brutality. “If a [club member] has got an ass whoopin’ coming, he gets it. We didn’t hurt one another: we schooled each other. But you don’t treat each other like shit. If you do, you’re gone.”
While the bikers agree that beating a non-biker is mostly a no-no, because “violence is wrong” and stuff, their quasi-pacifist philosophy is motivated more by logic than by morals, mostly in an attempt to avoid attention from law enforcement.
“You mess with a civilian, you’re asking for the cops, and we don’t want that,” said John. “You’re protecting every single member of the club with your actions, you know? If I’ve got a problem [with a non-biker], and I do something that would bring the police around my brothers, that’s bad.”
Frank agrees that delivering an ass-whoopin’ to a non-biker is more hassle than anything for most gangs, saying, “Bikers don’t want to mess with you if you respect them. They’ll leave you alone.”
Above all, bikers like John and Frank want to distance themselves from groups like the Hollywood Stuntz that unfairly color the motorcycle community as destructive and dangerous. Stuntz like these make people forget that motorcycle clubs were created not to wreak havoc, but rather as a way to share the love things that go “vroom.”
“I don’t think any human being can experience anything as exciting as riding with thirty or forty members of your club brothers,” John said. “People like [the Hollywood Stuntz] ruin our shit.”
When asked if he had any final words of advice for the Hollywood Stuntz, Frank had little to say except, “The moral of the story is don’t leave self-incriminating evidence behind.”
*All names have been changed, mostly because John said, “if you tell anyone where you got this information, I’ll kill everybody you’ve ever met” following our interview. Don’t worry, he was kidding—I think.