Outlaw Bikers and Movies

It started in 1947 in a town named Hollister, California. Two motorcycle clubs from Los Angeles met in Hollister during the 4th of July weekend. The clubs were the Boozefighters and the 13 Rebels. They rode modified or bobbed motorcycles and drank a lot of beer.

From all accounts, including the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office, nothing really happened that weekend except that the boys, almost all veterans from World War Two drank a lot of beer and staged drag races on the main street.

As has happened so many times before and after that weekend, the press created a story. Life Magazine that same month ran a photo of a burly biker sitting on his parked hog guzzling beer on a street in Hollister.

His shirt is open in the photo and empty beer bottles are scattered all around his machine. Life magazine didn’t tell anyone for a long time that the photo was staged, but it had the effect that the magazine wanted.

Americans were now terrified that drunken outlaws on motorsickles would be heading to their town next, looking for young women in tight sweaters with pointed breasts.

In 1951 a short story was written about two outlaw clubs with bikers now known as one per-centers taking over a small town in central California (looks like Hollister).

The short story was titled, “Cyclists Raid.” That was all Hollywood needed. In 1953, Marlon Brando rode into a fictional small town in California on his Triumph motorcycle with his gang the Black Rebels in the movie “The Wild One.”

Lee Marvin comes into town on a big Harley bobber gets drunk and thrown into jail. The Black Rebels terrorize the hayseeds in the little town and do some really bad things such as talking like beatniks and calling an old man daddio.

There is a chick in a skin tight sweater with a pair of knockers that look like Cadillac tail lights. Her blue jeans are tighter than the sweater and she has a leather motorcycle cap cocked to the side of her head.

She asks Marlon Brando what he’s rebelling against, when she sees the name Black Rebels on his leather jacket. He replies, ‘Whaddya got.”

This movie is still available and was or may be shown nonstop at biker bars. The Wild One has been followed since that time by several outlaw biker movies, and movies featuring lone wolf rebel types riding across the American southwest in search of “Whaddya got.”   


Leroy B. Vaughn is a retired skip tracer and trained observer. He is not the 1950’s hillbilly singer, motorcycle cop from Orange County California or the dentist from Los Angeles, all with the same name. 

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