The Hells Angels: The Story Behind The Controversial & Misunderstood Motorcycle Club

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is one of the largest biker clubs in the world. What started off as a way for veterans to connect and create a sense of comradery has developed into a worldwide organization. In recent years the Hell’s Angels have been involved in shooting sprees in Las Vegas, running narcotics throughout the world, and various other criminal enterprises.

From being a crucial part of the 1960s counterculture to club members taking each other out, see how the Hells Angels grew to what it is today.

The Beginning Of A Legacy

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

For the most part, it’s commonly accepted that the Hells Angels were officially formed on March 17, 1948 in Fontana, California. The founders included the Bishop family as well as a few other World War II veterans that came together from various post-war motorcycle clubs.

Despite various news and criminal reports, the Hell’s Angels say they got their start because It was started because military surplus made motorcycles affordable, and post-war life had left many young men feeling stagnant and missing their sense of soldier comradery.

The Club Name Was Inspired by a Squadron Nickname

Photo: Keystone/Getty Images
Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

The name Hells Angels were believed to have been suggested by an associate of the founding members named Arvid Olson. Olson had served in the Flying Tigers “Hell’s Angels” squadron in China during World War II.

The nickname “Hell’s Angels” is one of the many nicknames that came about from the tradition of American soldiers giving their squadron fierce and intimidating nicknames in World War I and II.

Charters Grew Across California

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

In the early years, the club began to spread across California moderately quickly. According to the founder of the Oakland charter Ralph “Sonny” Barger, the earliest charters in California were founded in San Francisco, Oakland, Gardena, Fontana, and a few other lesser-known areas.

At the time, the charters were only concerned with themselves and were unaware of all the other charters that existed. Eventually, during the 1950s, the different groups came together and unified to establish a large-scale organization and implement a system of internal codes and criteria for admission.

The Hells Angels Were a Cornerstone of Counterculture

Photo: David Reed/Redferns
Photo: David Reed/Redferns

During the 1960s, the Hells Angels became a large part of the counterculture movement, especially in California. They were very prominent in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco and were frequent attendees of the local music and social events.

Numerous members were also connected to the counterculture’s primary leaders in music and expression, such as Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters, Allen Ginsberg, Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, and more.

They Don’t Want a Bad Reputation

Photo: Barbara Alper/Getty Images
Photo: Barbara Alper/Getty Images

The Hells Angels, as well as a select other few motorcycle clubs, call themselves a one-percenter biker club. The phrase is a 50-year-old title that goes off the old saying that 1% of troublemakers give a bad name to 99% of bikers.

The name is supposed to help them separate from all of the negative stereotypes surrounding biker gangs and the Hells Angels in particular. Despite the name, numerous members have been convicted of crimes ranging from murder to selling narcotics.

Growing International

Photo: Maciej Luczniewski/NurPhoto /Getty Images
Photo: Maciej Luczniewski/NurPhoto /Getty Images

In the beginning, the Hells Angels were strictly based in California but spread internationally in 1961. That year, the first charter outside of California began in Auckland, New Zealand. This opened the floodgates and the motorcycle club began to spread around the world.

In 1969, the first European charter was opened in London. There are now more than 275 charters in Europe alone. From the 1970s to now, there have been charters established in Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Eastern Europe, and more. New areas are currently being prospected.

Hells Angels Attire

Photo Credits: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Photo Credits: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The Hells Angels have a fairly obvious way of letting people know who they are. They will almost always be seen wearing a leather or denim “cut” which is slang for a motorcycle vest. On the cut, they have various patches such as Hells Angels written on the back with the name of their charter at the bottom.

If they are a full member, they will also have the red and white-winged “death head” logo, the letters HAMC (Hells Angels Motorcycle Club) and the number 81. 81 stands of the letters H and A with H being the eighth letter of the alphabet and A being the first. Over the course of their time in the club, a member can also earn other patches.

Becoming A Hells Angel

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Becoming a member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is no easy task. It is a process that can take up to a few years to achieve if you even make it that far.

To start, you must have a valid motorcycle license, own a Harley Davidson motorcycle over 750 CC and have a personality that is cohesive with the rest of the club. You cannot have been accused of child molestation or have ever applied to become a police officer or prison guard. Other requirements are unknown to the general public.

The Hang-Around

Photo: Harvey L. Silver/Corbis/Getty Images
Photo: Harvey L. Silver/Corbis/Getty Images

After being deemed as eligible, a prospective member can become a “hang-around.” This is the first stage of the process. The candidate can be invited to some club meetings or meet other club members at open gathering places.

Being a hang-around gives you the opportunity to meet other members, make connections, and have a taste of the lifestyle that comes with being a member of the Hells Angels.

Next, They Become a Prospect

After some time, if the hang-around is still interested, he may be asked to become an associate. During this time, the associate will spend a few more years attending events, spending time with members, and proving their worth to the club. After an unspecified time as an associate, you can move up to become a prospect.

Although prospects can attend closed meetings, they still aren’t allowed to vote on club business. Prospects are put to the test by the members who are making the decision to whether they want to initiate the prospect as a fully-patched member of the club. Prospects are allowed to wear a cut with a patch with the state or territory of their charter.

Full Patch Members Require a Unanimous Vote

Photo: JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Photo: JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images

The final step in the process is being voted in as a fully-patched member. In order for this to happen, the prospect must be voted in unanimously by the rest of the charter. However, prior to the voting, the prospect usually goes to each charter in the area to introduce himself and show his devotion to the club.

After being voted in by his own personal charter, he is given his top Hells Angels rocker and winged death head logo which are awarded at an initiation ceremony. The act of successfully achieving the title of a full member is referred to as “being patched.”

The “Filthy Few” and “Dequiallo” Patch

In the book Gangs, by Tony Thompson, Thompson describes that there are other patches that are earned by members for specific deeds. One such patch is the Nazi-style SS lightning bolts with the words “Filthy Few.” This is believed to be a patch that is awarded to members that already have or are willing to commit murder for the club.

There is also another patch that is known as the “Dequiallo” patch. This particular patch is worn by those that have met law enforcement with violence while being placed under arrest. There are other secretive patches which members sport to show their dedication to the club and the things they have accomplished.

Hunter S. Thompson and the Hells Angels

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Michael Ochs Archives/GettyImages
Michael Ochs Archives/GettyImages

“Gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson actually got his career started with the help of the Hells Angels. For his book Hells Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, he actually spent a year living with the club. He lived their lifestyle and rode a motorcycle with them.

However, the writer had a falling out with the club. Thompson tried to stop a man from beating his wife and ended up on the receiving end of a beatdown of his own. Furthermore, the biker gang accused him of exploiting them for personal gain and wanted a share of the profits. The book was a huge success and Thompson paid the group nothing.

The Altamont Concert Incident

Photo Credits: Bill Owens/20th Century Fox/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Photo Credits: Bill Owens/20th Century Fox/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

At a concert held at the Altamont Speedway in 1969, the Hells Angels were hired as event security. Although it’s still debated who actually hired the club, there was a general consensus from the crowd and musicians that it wasn’t a good idea.

Aside from beating up rowdy concertgoers, a more severe situation occurred when a man named Merideth Hunter pulled out a pistol. He was quickly attacked by a Hells Angels members, including a man named Passaro who stabbed him to death while he was on the ground. Passaro was arrested for murder but was acquitted when footage was recovered of Hunter with the gun and Passaro acting in self-defense.

Are the Hells Angels Racist?

Photo: John Stillwell/PA Images/Getty Images
Photo: John Stillwell/PA Images/Getty Images

Although the motorcycle club claims that it is not a racially segregated organization, just by looking at its members, you may think otherwise. In an interview from 2000, Sonny Barger stated: “The club, as a whole, is not racist, but there are probably enough racist members that no black guy is going to get it.”

It’s also been said that if you’re white then you join the Hells Angels and if you’re black you join the Dragons. However, Tobie Levingston, the leader of the Dragons, has said that he and Sonny have a long-lasting friendship and that the two clubs get along with one another.

Charters Clash, Resulting in the Lennoxville Massacre

Photo: National Post
Photo: National Post

Some of the Hells Angels own charters don’t see eye-to-eye. In 1985, five members of the Hells Angels North Laval Quebec were murdered by members of the Montreal, Quebec, and Nova Scotia charters.

The victims were thought to be liable members, so they were invited to the Lennoxville clubhouse where they were beaten, shot, and their bodies were thrown into the St. Lawrence River. Five of the members involved were sentenced to life in prison but were all released by 2013. The incident is known as the Lennoxville Massacre.

Sons of Anarchy is Loosely Based On The Club

The fictitious television show Sons of Anarchy, created by Kurt Sutter, is loosely based on the Hells Angels club. Many of the events and plot points of the show are based on real-life events that the Hells Angels have encountered throughout the history of the club.

There are even real Hells Angels members in the show such as David Labvrava, Chuck Zito, Rusty Coones, and Sonny Barger. Kurt Sutter even had Labrava as his technical advisor to make the show as realistic and accurate as possible when it comes to depicting a motorcycle club. He was also a major character in the show who played the character “Happy” for the entirety of the show.

Sonny Barger Is The Hells Angels

Photo: Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images
Photo: Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images

Over the years, Sonny Barger has proven himself to be the face and authority of the Hells Angels. Although every charter has its own president and is relatively self-governed, Sonny Barger is the man everyone looks up to. He is the president and original founding member of the Oakland charter.

At 78-years-old and still riding, he has the longest membership of anyone in the club and has managed to stay out of prison for the majority of his life. He served four years for trying to blow up a rival gang’s clubhouse in 1988 but other than that has relatively succeeded in staying out of trouble. Because of his reputation, Barger has been in numerous films and television shows and has authored books about his life and the club.

Maurice “Mom” Boucher

Photo: Montreal Gazette/John Mahoney
Photo: Montreal Gazette/John Mahoney

While Sonny Barger may be the face of the Hells Angels who represents the good of the club, Maurice “Mom” Boucher did the opposite. He is one of the most notorious ex-presidents in the club’s history. He was president of the Montreal charter during the eight-year-long Quebec Biker War and is currently serving three life sentences after being convicted of murder and drug trafficking.

Before becoming a Hells Angel, he was a member of a white supremacist biker gang called SS. He was also the guy that was in charge of the Lennoxville Massacre making him one of the most ruthless leaders in club history.

The Club Is No Stranger To Filing Lawsuits

Photo: Neville Elder/Corbis via Getty Images
Photo: Neville Elder/Corbis via Getty Images

Since the Hells Angels have evolved into a cooperation more so than just a club of guys that like to ride motorcycles, they have been involved in a decent amount of legal affairs. In 2007, the Hells Angels sued Disney for using the logo of the Hells Angels in the film Wild Hogs without their permission.

In addition, in 2010, they filed a lawsuit against Alexander McQueen for misuse of the trademark winged death head symbol and Saks Fifth and Zappos.com which sell a ring which bears the symbol. In 2012, the club went on to sue Toys “R” Us for the sale of yo-yos which allegedly had the “Death Head” logo printed on it. These are just a few notable lawsuits out of many that the club has filed for because they take their branding so seriously.

George Christie – Ventura President

Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

George Christie is the former Hells Angels President of the Ventura, California charter. During his time, he was one of the longest-serving presidents in the history of the club. He left the club in 2001 under some suspicious terms. It was said by some that he was cooperating with the police and therefore in bad standing with the club.

However, in 2013, he was sentenced to a year in prison due to association with a firebombing and the extortion of a tattoo shop in Ventura. He then went on to work with the History Channel show Outlaw Chronicles and is expected to release his own book.

Rejected From Ventura

Ricardo Dearatanha/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Ricardo Dearatanha/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Hells Angels leader George Christie Jr was denied access to the Ventura County Fair back in 2003. That wasn’t the first time either as it happened the year before in 2002 when he attempted to violate the policy which banned gang attire and tattoos.

“This is a constitutional thing for one, but it goes far beyond that,” Christie said. “This is not something I take lightly or something I just do on weekends. I’m a Hells Angel 24 hours a day. I’ve dedicated my life to it, and I equate that to religion.”

They Don’t Get The Respect

Ricardo Dearatanha/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Ricardo Dearatanha/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Although he was denied two years straight, the fair officials got the message across that George Christie and the rest of his angels are allowed as long as they don’t wear any club attire. The club quickly cried discrimination.

The Hells Angels think they are law-abiding citizens and claim that a motorcycle club shouldn’t be confused with a gang. Christie often supports this claim by referring back to the 2002 ruling where a judge said there was no evidence that the group was a street gang.

Christie Wants to Show Peace

Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Christie must have really wanted to go to this fair. He notified the fair officials days in advance of his arrival. He then took a step further and only took his family with him.

“It’s the contention of the Ventura police that there is going to be some sort of spontaneous problem, some type of violence. I don’t agree with that and tried to show them by going as far as taking just my family,” Christie said. You would think that one would be left off the hook for good behavior like this.”

Otto Friedli – Hells Angels Founder

Martin Rose/Getty Images
Martin Rose/Getty Images

Otto Friedli was one of the original members of the Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington Motorcycle Club. He then left the club and is credited as being one of the founding members of the Hells Angels back in 1948. He spent some time as the president of the San Bernardino charter as well as the National President.

It wasn’t until Driedli went to prison that Sonny Barger took over as National President of the club. After he was released from prison, he left the Hells Angels on good terms and joined the Black Sheep Motorcycle Ministry

Terry The Tramp – Oakland, California

Sony Music Archive/Getty Images/Terry Lott
Sony Music Archive/Getty Images/Terry Lott

Terry the Tramp was an old time member of the Oakland, California charter. He was featured in the film Hells Angels 69 as well as well as referenced multiple times in Hunter S. Thompson’s book Hells Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.

During his time in the club, he made a name for himself and eventually grew into the legend under the presidency of Sonny Barger. Unfortunately, he passed away from a drug overdose at the age of 30 in 1970 but is still an often discussed member and a model for what a Hells Angel should truly be.

Yves “Apache” Trudeau – Canada, Laval, Québec

Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Yves Trudeau or “The Mad Bumper” was a former member of the Canadian Hells Angels North Chapter in Laval, Quebec. Due to his addiction to cocaine, he eventually became paranoid and believed that the other members of his club wanted him killed. So, he ended up becoming an informant for the police.

In exchange for a lesser sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole in seven years, he admitted to the killing of 43 people between September 1973 and July 1985. After his release from prison on parole in 1994, he was given a new name but was arrested in March 2004 for sexually assaulting a young boy and received four more years. He was then diagnosed with cancer and moved to a different prison.

Did They Try And Kill Jagger?

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Apparently, Mick Jagger has had his fair shares of close calls over the years. From the drugs to the old girlfriends, he has been there and survived it all. However, there was a time that has been highly secretive until BBC radio uncovered the facts. The attack on the Rolling Stones frontman happened in the early ’70s when they were at their peak.

The Hells Angels were the ones who put the hit on the Jagger. It was a failed assassination attempt that was meant to handle Jagger at his holiday home in the Hamptons according to a former FBI agent.

A Secretive Plan

Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

The plan was to sneak up on Mick Jagger undetected from the sea. Now, Hells Angels could be a tough group, but we’re sure they weren’t trained in assassinating.

“They planned the attack from the sea so they could enter his property from the garden and avoid security at the front,” says Tom Mangold, a BBC presenter who uncovered the bizarre story for a Radio 4 series on the history of the FBI.

An Unexpected Turn

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Reg Lancaster/Daily Express/Getty Images
Reg Lancaster/Daily Express/Getty Images

This story just gets crazier by the moment. The men had loaded up in the boat and were prepared to handle the deed. Then, a storm came crashing in and the men were reduced to seafood.

“A group of them took a boat and were all tooled up,” Mangold reported. “But their boat was hit by a storm and all of the men were thrown overboard.” It seems like Jagger had some divine intervention.

The FBI Got On Their Tail

TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images

The founder of the FBI was convinced that the Hells Angels were a criminal group so he came up with a plan. He made sure that his agents would infiltrate some of the chapters of the gang but only at a great risk. It was one of these agents that found out about the assassination attempt

“The FBI only found out about the assassination attempt some time after the fact,” says Tom Mangold.

It Pays To Be Sneaky

Ralf-Finn Hestoft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Ralf-Finn Hestoft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Even though they found out some time later, it is still helpful that they found it. This gave the FBI more of a reason to want to pursue the Hells Angels.

“Apparently this agent was told of the attempt and its failed outcome some time after it had occurred, although it was never made clear to him when exactly the attempt on Mick Jagger’s life had taken place,” Tom Mangold said.

What Did The FBI Do?

Steve Thorne/Redferns
Steve Thorne/Redferns

“Because no actual crime had been committed, there was nothing that the FBI could do,” says Mangold. “It’s as simple as that.”

It is even thought that Jagger wasn’t even made aware of the attempt at his life. There’s a reason this story has been under wraps and that is because there is partly nothing there to report and the lines are blurred still. There is no telling what kind of action takes place behind closed doors with them.

Trouble With The Rock Machine

THIERRY ZOCCOLAN/AFP/Getty Images
THIERRY ZOCCOLAN/AFP/Getty Images

It’s natural for some sort of competition to brew between two groups who do the same thing. And even if they don’t do the same, The Rock Machine and Hells Angels draw many similarities. There was a point in time when the two were at war.

“They were famous rivals to the Hells Angels from 1986-2002,” Therichest reported. “The Quebec Biker War primarily dealt with this rivalry; a turf war raged on for years while the two clubs fought over the rights to street drug distribution and territory.”

The Book About Them

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Paul Harris/Getty Images
Paul Harris/Getty Images

We briefly mentioned the name Hunter S. Thompson earlier and the fact that he made a book about the Angels. Let’s dive back in deeper on this book. He wrote the book 1966 and it didn’t do a good job depicting the Angels.

“Unfortunately, the Angels were depicted as emotionally and intellectually void in the book; a feud between the famed author and the club ensued,” Therichest wrote. “They were less than pleased that he spoke so badly of them after they had allowed him to spend time with their club to research the book.”

Women Who Roll With The Angels

Photo: JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Photo: JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Many women are attracted to the Hells Angels lifestyle as well. Throughout the history of the Angels, women have joined them, cruising on the backs of bikes and flipping the bird to the camera. Many of them also wear the Hells Angels cuts, with “support your local 81” patches.

The ladies who ride with them aren’t limited to girlfriends. There are many wives of Hells Angels who love the thrill of being apart of a motorcycle club.

A Dangerous Lifestyle

Photo: JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Photo: JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Many of the women who ride with the Hells Angels are just as dedicated as the men. Women can be a part of the Angels community, although it’s rarer to see a female commanding a bike.

These adventurous ladies also take the same risks, and make certain commitments to the club. The majority of the women involved in the group are dating or married to a member. You can only imagine the drama that unfolds when one of these biker couples break up.

What Happens When the Hells Angels Gather

Photo: JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Photo: JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images

The Hells Angels gather for massive runs together. More than a thousand Hells Angels members from all over Europe and beyond joined the 2016 World Run event in Poland to rally and ride together.

The Hells Angels hold official events around the world. While it always seems to put local law enforcement on edge, the rides are often organized with good intentions. Some are memorial rides for late members, while others benefit children and causes, like the Toy Run.

The Clubhouses

Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Because of the reputation for violence and crime, Hells Angels clubhouses are kept on the radar of law enforcement around the world. This building was a Hells Angels clubhouse on Eastern Avenue in Toronto.

The federal government kicked the club out and put it on the market. The proceeds from the sale went to supporting a crime bill. Up next: see what happened when police decided to raid a Hells Angels clubhouse in Germany.

100 Police Raid a Clubhouse in Germany

Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images

When police decided to raid a Hells Angels clubhouse in Cologne, Germany, they came prepared. In May 2017, 100 officers of German law enforcement brought in an armored vehicle that broke down the doors of the clubhouse, complete with a battering ram and an iron cage.

Police seized weapons and arrested 12 members of the Hells Angels. The raid was performed after rival gang violence escalated in the city between the Hells Angels and another gang, the Bandidos.

New Years Eve, Celebrated Hells Angels Style

Gideon Mendel/Corbis via Getty Images
Gideon Mendel/Corbis via Getty Images

Happy New Year! Depicted are members of the Johannesburg Hells Angels chapter, ringing in the year 1983 with the traditional kiss. One of the Angels appears quite surprised by the other’s actions at the party which was held in Hillbrow, South Africa.

There are eight chapters of the Hells Angels in South Africa, including Capetown, Georgetown, according to a local website maintained by the group. Up next: see how Hells Angels responded to the Vietnam War.

Attack On Vietnam Protesters

Photo: Bettmann / Contributor
Photo: Bettmann / Contributor

The Vietnam War inspired many deep emotions across the United States and beyond. In 1965, an anti-Vietnam war protest was held at the Berkeley-Oakland line in California. In an effort to stop the demonstrators from entering Oakland, 35 members of the Hells Angels launched an attack as the march neared a police cordon.

A fight ensued, and a cop from Berkeley broke a leg during the brawl. Just two Hells Angels were arrested for the incident.

Their Response To The Berkeley Attack

Photo: Bettmann / Contributor
Photo: Bettmann / Contributor

One month after the Angels launched the attack on some Vietnam War protestors, the group held a press conference. Ralph “Sonny” Barger announced that the Angels would not follow through with plans they had to conduct another demonstration that anti-war marchers were about to hold.

He said that he feared the protesters “may provoke us to violence.” Pictured, from left: Tiny Walters, Ron Jacobson, Skip Workman, Sonny Barger, and Tom Thomas.

Hells Angels Forever

Photo: Bettmann / Contributor
Photo: Bettmann / Contributor

1983 saw the release of a documentary titled Hells Angels Forever. The late actor Robin Williams and his wife Valerie attended a party to celebrate the film’s premiere.

The event was also attended by Chuck Zito (pictured on the right), the Vice President of the New York chapter of Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club. The New York Times called the film: “a narcissistic, somewhat paranoid, sometimes self-conscious home movie.”

A Hells Angels Wedding

SSPL/Getty Images
SSPL/Getty Images

This photo, which originally appeared in the Manchester Daily Express, shows a Hells Angel named John Fernihough directly after he got married to his sweetheart, Marie Clarkson. The British groom was only 17, and the bride was 16. Their wedding took place in October of 1971 at the local Registrar’s Office.

Some Hells Angels weddings in recent years have ended in violence, including a 2008 Las Vegas nuptial service that resulted in 13 men being arrested for assault. Up next: the 59th anniversary of the Hell Angels.

50 Year Anniversary

Photo: Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Photo: Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

March 17, 1998, marked the 50-year anniversary of the Hells Angels’ founding. To commemorate the date, chapters around the world held parties. This photo shows local and visiting members gathered in front of the Ventura County Courthouse.

Then-president of the Ventura chapter, George Christie Jr., allegedly invited a teenage member of a narcotics ring to attend anniversary festivities held at the clubhouse. The juvenile was also allowed to have his 15th birthday party at the clubhouse.

Stoner Lodge

Photo: Denver Post via Getty Images
Photo: Denver Post via Getty Images

Where do the Hells Angels go for some R & R? In 1986, the answer was the Stoner Lodge. The lodge is nestled in the middle of the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, and it hosted a party for Sonny Barger in August of ’86. Approximately 200 Hells Angels, along with their families, attended.

The lodge was established in 1890 and most recently hit the market in 2016, for $13.9 million. This photo shows Angels arriving for the festivities.

An Image Overhaul

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Photo: NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images
Photo: NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images

In 1978, the Manhattan chapter of Hells Angels was intent on improving its image. So the group did what anyone in their situation would do — they threw a party. The shindig was held at Thrush nightclub on February 28, 1978.

The Angels invited their female companions as well as the press. This photo originally appeared in the New York Post with the caption, “So here’s the new image.” She what happened when the Hells Angels were introduced to LSD next.

The Merry Pranksters Welcome The Hells Angels

Ted Streshinsky/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Ted Streshinsky/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

On Saturday, August 7, 1965, the countercultural novelist and LSD enthusiast Ken Kesey held a party at his ranch La Honda, California. In addition to his regular group of intellectual friends, known as the Merry Pranksters, he invited the Hells Angels. A banner reading “The Merry Pranksters Welcome The Hells Angels” hung over the doorway.

According to several accounts, Kesey introduced the Angels to LSD during the festivities. The above photo shows members of the Angels dancing at another Kesey party called the Acid Test Graduation.

Funeral For An Angel

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Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Gerry Tobin, known as “Gentleman Gerry,” was a well-known and popular member of the London chapter of the Hells Angels. In 2008, he was gunned down by rivals from the local Outlaws motorcycle group. Tobin had just attended the Bulldog Bash bikers’ festival.

At his funeral, 1,000 Hells Angels on their bikes followed his casket on a 13-mile procession. The Outlaws who murdered Tobin were each sentenced to life in prison. Despite trying, Hells Angels hasn’t been able to convince anyone that they are just a club.

More Than A Club

ANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images
ANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Even with all the attempts to try and prove that they are just a club and nothing more, there always comes evidence that proves that to be false. It seems like a gang would be more inclined to provide drugs and sex trade for a whole country.

“This biker gang is responsible for about 90% of both the drugs and the sex trade in Canada,” The Richest reported. That sounds more like gang activity and not your average club actions.

Toronto’s Former Mayor Involved With HA’s?

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Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Many times, whenever a politician high in power gets involved in anything shady it becomes a piece of news. So sure enough, when Rob Ford the former mayor of Toronto was caught taking pictures with Hell Angel’s members, people started to make connections.

He was also caught on film prior to this smoking crack and making racist comments. So when these pictures with the Hells Angels surfaced and he denied knowing them, people were highly skeptical of this.

George Christie Spills The Beans

Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The longest-sitting president in Hells Angels history, George Christie Jr. opened up about the group in a TV special called Outlaw Chronicles: Hells Angels. He revealed many secrets about the club and reiterated the fact that they are not a gang.

“My position, and I hold it steadfast throughout all six episodes, is the Hells Angels is not a criminal organization, but there are criminals within the organization like there are in any walks of life,” Christie clarifies.

His Perspective

Steve Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Steve Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Christie wanted to tell the story because he was tired of them being confused for something that they aren’t. He also thought it was appropriate because it was coming from him and not a third party.

“I figured it was the appropriate time to tell the story from my perspective and my words,” Christie tells us. “It’s interesting because it’s not really from a law enforcement perspective. That’s usually the way these stories are told. It’s very unique.”

Is He Afraid Of Being Targeted?

Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Usually, there is no getting out of a gang without serious consequence. But luckily, this isn’t a gang but the Hells Angels do a reputation for seeking vengeance on those who speak out about them.

“That’s really not an issue with me,” he says. “Certainly there are people that have taken exception. When you’re a leader in an organization for 35 years and you have a revelation and decide to leave, certainly there’s a faction of your old associates that aren’t going to be happy with you.”

It Was Like A Divorce

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Some may be able to empathize with this. Christie isn’t worried about the club coming after him. But he does know that leaving the club felt like something many people can relate to.

When I left, it kind of reminded me of a divorce: At first, everyone wanted to be amicable. They weren’t happy about my decision, but they understood it. As things progressed, it became aggressive, and it was hard to take.

What Attracted Christie?

Bettmann Getty Images
Bettmann Getty Images

There has to be a reason why people are so into certain things. For some, it might be to have a sense of brotherhood like when joining a fraternity. For Christie, he says the motorcycle club had a code of honor.

“I felt there was really a code of honor despite what society-at-large would think,” Christie said. “These were guys I could trust. I knew if I confided in them or told them something, they wouldn’t take it and use it against me.”

He Just Wants The Proper Representation

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Mathis Wienand/Getty Images
Mathis Wienand/Getty Images

Christie believes that his words will help spark a different conversation and help educate those who don’t know too much about the Hells Angels. It isn’t all that kind that people get the wrong idea based on some inaccuracies in the media.

“What I want [viewers] to understand is they have completely misinterpreted what the organization is all about and what its primary function is,” Christie said. Hopefully, his wish came true.

Why Did He Step Down?

JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images
JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images

For anyone that has been in a position of power for a long time, it must be hard for them to step down. That is like entering a new world at that point. And for Christie who was president for decades, why did he leave the club?

“I felt we became the people we rebelled against, and that’s exactly what I told them at the meeting when I left,” he said “At one time, we would interact with all the clubs up and down the coast, and by 2011, we were fighting every major outlaw-bike club in the United States—plus law enforcement.”

The Book Had To Be Written

Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Bryan Chan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

When people are throwing dirt on your name and suspect the worse from you, it might be good to set things right. This is true especially when the false information is detrimental to your personal life. This is why Christie decided to write a book.

“All of a sudden I had people I’ve never met before, who weren’t even club members, who were maybe who you’d call loose associates or fans or whatever, coming at me, making accusations and whatnot. I decided to set the record straight,” Christie said.