Friday, October 4, 2013

A 'Hollister' for the new century

I think this group calls itself "Hollywood Stuntz". Rhymes with "Peckerwood C...."

A few days ago, a gang of 'stuntahz' (my word) had the poor judgement to film themselves terrorizing a guy driving through New York, with his wife and kid. Bad judgement was exercised all around--I'm 95% certain that if it had been me in the Range Rover, I would have seen them approaching from behind, pulled to one side to let them pass, then followed at a safe distance to watch their madcap antics. No one--at least, no one in my car--would've been hurt.

Instead, at least one biker was injured, and the driver took a shit-kicking. Still, nothing about this would have made it more than a local news story, except that one of the idiots involved posted a video to YouTube that went viral within hours. I won't bother posting the video because you've all seen it; most of you have made up your minds about it and posted comments on it.

What's interesting to me is not the first wave of reaction to the story, but the second wave. Within a day or two the NBC Nightly News had produced a sensational story with the requisite footage of police describing the phenomenon as a growing threat.

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There has never, ever, been a cop that downplayed the potential risk of some new threat trumpeted by sensationalists in the media. Why would they? Any increase in public paranoia translates into increased power and prestige for the cops. Ironically, it doesn't matter whether the populace is afraid of criminals, or afraid of the police. Either one is good for cops.

What does this remind me of? Hollister. On July 4 1947, 4,000 'straight-pipers' rode into Hollister. Their plan was to spend the long weekend partying and watching local, AMA-sanctioned flat track races, but the partying got a little out of control. Even the local police admitted that the bikers "did more harm to themselves than they did to the town" but the press blew the story out of proportion. Police all over the U.S. used those exaggerated stories when pressing for increased budgets and, often, military style weapons and equipment. 

It's hard to believe now, but right after WWII, the Hells Angels were an AMA-sanctioned club that put on events open to all motorcyclists. Then, the L.A. cops framed several members on rape charges so flimsy even the cops' usual co-conspirators--local DAs--threw them out. In the process, though, the cops encouraged the criminalization of the club, helping to turn it into a gang. After all, if you're going to be harassed and charged anyway, why not commit the crimes?

When the Hollister events were dramatized by Hollywood in 'The Wild One', America's image of motorcycling changed for decades, until Honda's "nicest people" TV ads made Americans reevaluate motorcycles and the people who rode them.

If you read Backmarker, you probably have no trouble telling these urban stuntahz apart from serious sport riders. (Hint, if they're just wearing a t-shirt and a cheap Icon back protector, and have a girlfriend perched on the back in short shorts and high heels, they're not serious.) But that distinction is harder to make for the average cager or cop.

AMA: here's a chance to redeem yourself in the eyes of real motorcyclists. Step up here and get ahead of this story, if there's still time. Otherwise, it's a 'Hollister' for the new century. And that's all American motorcycling needs.


  1. Your first paragraph is exactly what I said to a friend yesterday. On the money, as usual.

  2. I actually received correspondence from the AMA on this. I also sent letters to the editor to multiple papers that the AMA provided. I guess they either read your Blog or have some other really smart folks.