Book review: Hells Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga

Sorry folks, I'm having technical difficulties scoring the book. I put it on reserve a couple of months ago and last I heard, it was mis-shelved somewhere in the Bellevue library. God knows what that book is doing in the yuppie part of town. Since when have Valley Girls taken an interest in the Hells Angels?

Correction: The library finally found it, but I haven't had time to read it yet. When I do, I'll update this. By the way, I found out this book is still in print (at least the paperback version is) so if you want your very own copy, you should be able to get it.

Actually, I read that book about 20 years ago. It's a good book, but the Angels felt burned over it. I guess Thompson should have let them have a cut in the royalties, but for some reason, he didn't. You can see how the Angles would feel a little pissed off about it. I know they also had some objections to some of the content of the book, but I'm not sure what. It would be nice if one of them emailed me to set the records straight, but I don't think that's likely to happen, and even if it did, I wouldn't know if it were a prank or for real. I'm sure you can see how that could be a problem.

Anyway, here's some of the stuff I remember about the book. It talked about their tattoos, like the number 13. It was their secret code for marijuana, since "M" is the thirteenth letter in the alphabet, according to some cop report that Hunter Thompson found. Well, that cracked me up because I've got a freaking marijuana leaf tattooed on my arm and so do a lot of other Hippies. Then there's the Zig-Zag man tattoo. I think an Angel by the name of Turk Gut thought that one up. He was one of the San Francisco poster artists. I think the first thing he designed was a Zig-Zag t-shirt, then a poster and it caught on with the tattoo artists. It mentioned some of their other tattoos, but I don't remember all the details, except for the one percenter business. Someone said that only one percent of motorcyclists were bad, so that's how the Angels got on that kick. Who said it is a debatable question. I've heard everything from Richard Nixon to the President of the American Motorcycle Association.

The book mentions Kesey's Hells Angel party, but this was before Neal Cassady had died so he refers to him as "the sidekick of a famous novelist," and talks about how he was outside completely nude, yelling obscenities at the cops and the cops didn't do anything. They just harassed people coming or leaving the party.

The book also talks about a motorcycle run the Angels went on. It didn't seem like a typical run, because the Angels were all paranoid about something and they made their old ladies stay at home. It was mainly a drunken party at some lake or something and another thing that was strange about it was they didn't seem to do their usual motorcycle stuff, like weenie runs and that kind of thing. Of course, it's kind of hard to do things like that when there aren't any chicks around. Even though they had tons of beer, they ran out about three in the morning and had to make a run for some more. Never mind that everything was closed at that time of night, the Angels have connections. The book also stressed that when Angels crash, they make sure they do it where they're not likely to be found by other Angels or they are likely to be pissed on.

Well, the rest of the book is a blank to me now, so you'll have to wait until it gets here and I get a chance to read it. The thing that pisses me off is I took some pretty good notes the first time I read it but I'll be damned if I can find them.

Copyright © 1995,
Colin Pringle (