Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Suthbros, HA on Wheels and More

Gary Sutherland sent more photos. I'll let him tell the tale behind the photo below. Sprinkled within the story is their later knucklehead build photos.

Hey Chris,

Here's that photo of me and my bro taken in the parking lot of the Bakersfield Inn during the filming of 'Hells Angels on Wheels'.

On the set 1966. Teenie boppin wanna-bee Heaven. Gary's with top hat on the left, Brother Larry with biker vest , on the right.

This was late Sept-Oct of '66. There was a guy with a moving van full of Harleys which he rented out to the studios and Hollywood production companies. He had a bunch of hogs parked in the lot in front of the Bakersfield Inn motel.

1969 Suthbros later basket case project

He was a collector of nazi regalia which gave us an 'in'. We showed him some of the medals and patches Larry had sewn onto his levi vest. This peaked the guy's interest. Kind of a big guy with an east coast accent. We were a little intimidated because we were still in our mid teens and looked like teenie bopper wanna-bees. He let us horse around on the bikes and said if any of the bikers gave us any shit, he'd kick their asses.

P.S. off to the side it looked like they were constructing some sort of mannequin with outstretched arms that they place on a trashed-out bike. I never got the significance of that until I saw how the movie ended. Let me tell ya... it looked just as cheesy on screen as it did in real life.

Gary later wrote:

Larry had a silver WW2 Wiermact Nazi dagger sewn onto the vest. On the back he'd painted a winged skull with the name 'Grim Reapers'.

That evening we returned to the Inn where the bikers were congregated and drinking beer. I think they were getting ready to shoot the last scene. I heard one of the bikers laughingly comment on Larry's attire... "Hey check out that guy", they all laughed "Ha Ha Ha". I ran off and told Lar he better not wear it, or risk getting stomped... "Hey man, those Hell's Angels were laughing at your vest" He couldn't get it off fast enough.

We later got to know a lot of these guys. They were mostly locals. There was an old club house behind the Bakersfield Inn were the bikers would meet. Larry knew one of them and impressed the club president with his photography skills. They were actually going to recruit him as their club photographer. They were even going to let him wear their colors with "photographer" on the rocker under the club insignia.

Later came the "Gun" incident. One of the members, a guy named Gene Lemond, showed up one night and needed one of Larry's guns for protection. Lar tried to reclaim it and they all turned on him. "hey man, that's Gene's gun... and you ain't leaving this house with it". Well, that was that.

The sad part was, I kind of liked hanging out at that place. There was this huge Nazi ship flag hanging on their living room wall... the drapes were always drawn and that flag was very prominent. Also, they had the cleanest bikes I'd ever seen. Showbikes, lots of chrome with molded frames and cobwebbing. These guys were meticulous.

Here's a shot of me wearing the ubiquitous fur hat we were talking about.
Bring Back the Fur Hat!

I'd mentioned to Gary, how some of the LIFE magazine photos showed guys wearing those fur hats you used to see.


chessie said...

Thanks Chris for posting this! I often hear younger people tell me I've lived a really interesting life.

Well, here I am, saying the same thing to your friend here. In '66 I was 11 years old...

These photos are precious as gold to a lot of people...thanks for posting them.

Throwback said...

Your story is fucking Priceless man. HA on wheels is in my top 3 bikers movies. Thanks for the cool history.