News Item: California town rains on Wild Ones' parade
(Category: Biker News)
Posted by LAKOTA
Tuesday 20 June 2006 - 08:34:47

Outside Johnny's Bar in Hollister stands a life-size cut-out of Marlon Brando, resplendent in the black leathers and peaked cap that brought him fame as the Wild One, the biker icon celebrated each July 4 in this California city.
But if local authorities get their way, the cardboard cut-out will be the only biker to be found this Independence Day on the main street of "the birthplace of the American biker".

A meeting of the city council today will make the final decision on whether the annual biker rally celebrating the events behind the Brando film should go ahead with official approval. This year the council voted to withdraw its sponsorship, blaming the costs incurred and the threat of violence between rival biker gangs last year when 130,000 converged on the city.

But the announcement has been like a red flag to a bull. As Brando's character says in the film when asked what he is rebelling against: "Whaddya got?"
Bikers are mobilising to turn this year's non-rally into the biggest ever. A "call to prayer" in Johnny's Bar says: "The best way to bring our rally back next year is to have a huge and wonderful group of bikers show up this year."

A poster behind the bar declares it the "HQ of the Unofficial Rally ... where the legend began it will continue."

Robert Nelson, a biker and Vietnam veteran, sighs. "They've got to do something because there's going to be a whole lot of bikers converging on this place," he says. "Regardless of who sponsors it, it's still going to happen."

The local sheriff, Curtis Hill, concedes: "We're expecting some people: from 5,000 to 120,000 and everything in between."

The stand-off reflects a battle for the soul of this small community. Surrounded by cherry orchards and fields of lettuce, its standing as an agricultural centre has given way in recent years to a new identity as a dormitory town for the hi-tech commuters of Silicon Valley. Johnny's is the last vestige of its rebel past; the town's last bowling alley was redeveloped as a Kawasaki dealership. In 1947, when a group of bikers led by the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club rode into town, Hollister was a solid farming community. Life magazine propelled the events of that July 4 to the level of myth. When 4,000 bikers descended on Hollister for a three-day convention, the magazine carried the headline "Cyclist's holiday" above a photograph of a drunken-looking man on a motorbike.

"They quickly tired of ordinary motorcycle thrills and turned to more exacting stunts," said the report. "Racing their vehicles down the main street and through traffic lights, they rode into restaurants and businesses, breaking furniture and mirrors. Finally, after two days, they left with a brazen explanation. 'We like to show off.'"

Mr Nelson views the Life version of events, and its subsequent Hollywood treatment in the 1953 film, with disdain. "He wasn't even a biker," he says, pointing at a photograph. "He was a farmer. The film was so far-fetched because it showed the bikers as evil."

Terry Rorda, editor of the local Thunder Press biker magazine, says the town's history is a vital part of the American myth. "It's near and dear to anyone who decides to put on black leather and get on a motorbike. It was a nascent part of the counter-culture. It really is tragic to see it being pushed to the margins."

For Rorda, the rally is a victim of local politics."It's a big mud-wrestling match between the different factions. It's always been over-policed. There's always been an agenda for law enforcement to police the bejesus out of it."

Sheriff Hill says the issue is more one of money. "Somebody wants to throw a party and expects the taxpayer to pay $650,000 for it," he says.

Meanwhile, the staff at Johnny's are preparing for a busy weekend. As Rorda says: "Nothing's going to happen, but it's going to be an interesting nothing."

This news item is from White Trash Networks
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