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WHEELS OF RAGE
Chapter One
ABOUT THE NOTORIOUS AND IDIOTIC
IRON CROSS MOTORCYCLE CLUB

The world of the motorcycle outlaw is one which few citizens understand and most fear. It is made up of a breed of thugs whose only aim in life seems to be to shock and disturb straight people.

A stripped down Harley-Davidson ridden by a filthy, psychotic brute will cause any man to shudder with fear, rage, and surprisingly, envy. For when the outlaw gets off his bike and goes into a bar the straight people step all over each other getting out of his way. And if four or five straight punks should sound him out on why he smells so bad he will take them all on with a screech of joyous rage.

One against five is showing class. And whatever the motorcycle outlaw lacks in social grace and refinement, he more than makes up for in class.

Class, to some outlaws, is taking on impossible odds in a fight and winning. To others it might be ganging up on a motorist and destroying his car with chains at speeds up to 100 mph. But whatever class is among the different clubs it is always violent and usually shocking.

Class is also partly what keeps the individual clubs together. Each member tries to show more class than the other members. If he gets in over his head, the other members are obliged to bail him out. From this came the rule that if an outlaw gets into a fight with a straight person, no matter what the reason, the whole club pitches in to help and stomps the poor straight bastard into the ground. This makes for a corps spirit you cannot find anywhere else. One man becomes ten, twenty, thirty. No matter what kind of a loser he was before he joined the club, he is a lion now. So it is pretty easy for a lone outlaw to beat five straight people. His club's reputation has them so scared they are half way running just at the sight of him.

Every outlaw club has its own image. But although the images might make the various clubs seem as different worlds, all outlaws are alike in their fierce love for their machines.

All motorcycle outlaws respect their machines like they respect no person. Out of this respect grows a love few of them can articulate and few non-cyclists can appreciate. Their heavy cycles are, without exception, powerful, dangerous and a challenge to control. Once the outlaw masters his machine, he has a status with himself and among his fellows that makes him contemptuous of all not so endowed.

Disdaining all but the most formidable machines, their stock bike is the Harley-Davidson 74. The 74 applies to the engine which is 74 cubic inches. This is nearly twice the size of most other big bike engines and the most powerful in the motorcycle line.

The 74 is the kind of motorcycle the police ride. But the lawman's over- encumbered "trash wagon" arouses nothing but contempt. To the average outlaw, a cop's bike is fit for nothing but to steal. Once stolen, the cop's or anyone else's Harley 74 is stripped down to the bare frame. The bike is then built up from the frame, using only the barest essentials.

Its weight is reduced from 600 to about 450 pounds. The large seat and gas tank are replaced with half-size styles and when finished the "chopper" is as sleek and trim as a race horse. A truly beautiful machine!

While driving through a Mexican section of Phoenix, Arizona, I spotted five such beautiful machines parked outside a run-down bar. Nearly every club allows individually decorated bikes but these were all shiny black and chrome.

Their sameness caused me to stop and check them out. Their riders were inside and I figured that would be as good a place to meet them as any.

It was dark in there and it took a minute to make things out. I sat at the bar and ordered a dollar pitcher of beer. Two hulking cyclists sat a few seats down arguing heatedly, but in low voices, about the merits of the shotgun over the automatic carbine.

I could see the back of one. He was wearing a sleeveless denim jacket. Across it was sewn "IRON CROSS M.C." Underneath was the kind of cross the Germans painted on their tanks in World War II. Under that was "CALIFORNIA".

The other three were in back of me in a booth. They were talking about the run they had made to Phoenix and about some sort of trouble they were having with some other cyclists. I was trying to overhear them but a drunken baseball fan beside me was drowning them out with his praise of the Mets.

He was one of those obnoxious types who think they have everyone interested when, in fact, everyone wishes they would leave. He was annoying the bikers in the booth and I heard one of them say, "I can't stand that creep. Let's stomp him." Another one said, "No, let's put him down, instead."

One of them left the booth and came to the bar and ordered another pitcher. I later learned he was Paranoid George. He was short and chunky with long stringy black hair and the wildest eyes I have seen outside a nuthouse. He had a skull and crossbones sewn on the front of his colors. Beside that was a patch reading "Paranoid".

The two left in the booth were Samson and Pinocchio. They were both giants. Samson had long blonde hair and Pinocchio was more clean cut. As they drank their beer out of the large pitchers they looked like Vikings who would think nothing of destroying everyone around them.

While the bartender was drawing another pitcher of beer, the baseball fan was telling him, "Now, you see, the National League has the Mets..."

Paranoid George interrupted him, "Hey, Mister, what's the Mets? Is it like the clap or something?"

The baseball fan answered, "Why, the Mets are a baseball team. The best team there is. I've followed the Mets since they were organized."

One of the bikers at the bar got up and said, "My mom followed troop trains during the war. She wore army shoes. Do you wear baseball shoes?"

Before the baseball fan could answer, Paranoid George said, "Mister, I still think the Mets is some kind of disgusting disease. Are you sure you ain't just putting me on because I'm ignorant and been deprived?"

The biker on the stool nearest me, known as Gargantua, said, "No, Paranoid, the Mets are a baseball team. People like William Ehrens root for them."

This encouraged the baseball fan and he said, "Yes, some of the best people root for the Mets. By the way, pard, who is William Ehrens?"

Gargantua answered, "William Ehrens was convicted of the rape-slaying of a six year old girl in Chicago."


While the baseball fan was sorting this out Gargantua moved over a couple seats and sat beside him. Then he said, confidentially, "You being a fan of the Mets, maybe you can clear up a rumor about them. You know the one about how they carry on in the showers. Tell me, are any of them normal?"

The baseball fan looked like he was going to start slugging. He said, "Why you must be crazy, man. The Mets are as normal as you are."

"Oh, I'm just so glad," said Gargantua and leaned over and gave the baseball fan a sloppy kiss on the mouth.

The baseball fan jumped up off the bar stool and left, shuddering with rage and embarrassment. All the bikers had a good laugh over the put-down and spirits were high.

The two bikers at the bar went back to the end of the room to play the bowling game and I struck up a conversation with Paranoid George, still at the bar. I said, "You guys did a beautiful job on the bore. He was driving everybody nuts."

He answered, "Yeah, Samson wanted to stomp him but I figured it would be better to put him down. That's more fun a lot of times because you take a guy like that and you really blow his mind and he remembers it longer than if you just thumped on him. Besides, we're partying and in a good mood anyway."

I ordered two pitchers of beer and he accepted one. I asked him about the state of the motorcycle clubs in California after the publicity and the Hell's Angel movies and all.

He said, "Well, most of the stuff they wrote about the Angels was lies. They never had as many guys as the papers said and all that rape stuff was crap. A lot of it was to sell papers and a lot was to make the politicians look good. They thumped the Angels pretty much out of sight."

"We're not exactly like they were, though. We dig bikes and guns and partying. We like the life a lot."

"I figured you for a political group," I said, "Like, your bikes, all black and your hard line looking colors. I write and you people look like you'd be good subjects for a story."

He said, "I don't know about political. I voted once and I didn't like it. As far as stories are concerned, we guys don't give interviews. If you want to write about us you better talk to our president, Big Mike Brown. We're staying on the other side of town. We made a run here from L.A. for a party. Big Mike can give you a real story and maybe someone'll get killed 'cause some of the guys want to take over the club and they think the Phoenix guys and some of us'll go against Big Mike."

He rambled on about plots and mutinies until he finished his pitcher and then we all went outside. The guys started their scooters and peeled on out of the lot and I followed them in my car. We got across town without incident and I was ushered into a middle class home packed with the most raunchy assortment of savages I had ever seen.

There were a least a dozen in the front room. They were all drinking beer and most of them had pistols in their belts or rifles within arm's reach. There was no tension in the air. It was just as if they were always this way. I later learned that they were usually armed for what they thought were emergencies.

They were laughing at some joke we had missed and paid no attention to us as Paranoid George led me through the mob to a bedroom. Here were Big Mike Brown and his lieutenant, Noah, a bearded monster who was a dead ringer for Al Capp's Earthquake McGoon. They were talking to Mike Murray, a clean cut young Honda rider and owner of the house. In a corner of the bedroom was a young girl having hysterics.

From what I heard and found out later, Big Mike told Murray: "These guys are asking for a shootout and some of them are your friends and we don't know which side you're on. So if you're with them we'll leave and go across the street and open up on everybody. But if you're for us, we'll stay here and let'em have it when they show."

With that the hysterical girl began to squall louder. Murray answered that he was for Brown's faction but his wife (the one who was wailing) was only eighteen and pregnant and quite nervous and upset and had not seen so many hoodlums in one room and you really can't blame her for not wanting all these strangers having gunfights and maybe stabbings in her home.

Big Mike, being more mannerly than a regular hoodlum, gave Murray his promise that he would not go killing or beating anybody in their home and that it would be a neutral territory.

No sooner had he promised this than in walked Fat Jim, one of the opposing faction. He took a seat on the couch in the front room and apologized to all concerned for his lack of faith in their fearless leader. He blamed all the trouble on Raffles.

Raffles was a doped up psycho who had gotten in with the Iron Cross when his own little scooter group disbanded. I was told he stole a couple of their motorcycles and various sums of money. Why they had not wasted him before was a mystery. Apparently they just had not gotten around to it.

Being a smooth talker, Raffles had won over several of Mike Murray's punks and through some sort of idiot logic he thought he had most of Big Mike's people on his side.

A few minutes after Fat Jim arrived somebody said, "Hey, here he comes."

Noah asked, "Who?'

"Here comes Raffles."

Noah said, "Let me get him."

Then Noah went to the door and threw a thug called "Pigpen" a Walther P-38 and told him to back him up in case Raffles got the drop on him and if he did get the drop on him, then Pigpen was to waste him.

Noah then went out the door to meet Raffles. Raffles immediately pulled a knife and threatened to gut Noah "like a goddam hawg." Noah then pulled a 14 shot Browning pistol and shoved it up to Raffles stomach. Raffles was high on acid and laughed and said, "Oh, put that stupid thing away. You won't do nothin'."

There was then a scuffle in which Noah took away the knife and threw Big Mike the Browning and confiscated Raffles' 45 which he had not drawn from his belt.

Raffles was then dragged into the house and questioned. He was out of his gourd on acid and seemed to think he was a North African oil potentate and needed a mediator. After listening to him babble for a few minutes, they beat him up a little bit and threw him out.

Later that afternoon a character they called "Shotgun" arrived from Northern California. He had gone from one outlaw club to another for years looking for the one that fit his ideals.

He cast motorcycle outlaws in the same mold as the old western outlaws. To Shotgun, the Iron Cross members were all socially disinherited heroes creating their own justice.

Shotgun heard about the trouble with Raffles but still considered him an insane friend, not having been stung by him personally. That evening he was out in the yard and quite drunk when Raffles, still stoned, drove up in a jeep. He got out yelling that he wanted his 45 back and Shotgun welcomed him like a long-lost friend and tried to get him to get back into his jeep and drive to the nearest bar.

Raffles was willing but before they could get to the jeep they were blocked by the Mad Hatter. He ran the Napa, California chapter and had hated Raffles long before Big Mike had let him into the club.

As Shotgun tried to get Raffles past the Mad Hatter to the jeep, the Mad Hatter was working himself into a screaming rage. "You're a cop!" he yelled at Raffles. "You're a damn police plant!" Then he started punching Raffles while screaming, "Fight, you bastard, fight!"

When it penetrated Raffles' fogged brain that he was being attacked, he started slugging. Then the Mad Hatter stepped back and drew a pistol. After first theatening to shoot Raffles, he began pistol-whipping him. After losing a lot of blood and a dime-sized piece of his skull, Raffles retreated to the jeep and drove off to a hospital. Shotgun, now in a drunken rage, went storming into the house screaming, "Damn, I don't never get to talk to nobody."

With all this going on, I waited for the Phoenix police to mob the place. But no fuzz showed at all.

By the time the party inside settled down to a dull roar, I went looking for Big Mike for that interview. But he had ducked out and was on the town burning credit cards at Phoenix's better watering places.

Paranoid George emerged from the john dressed in a neat sweater and slacks and looking like a Berkeley college professor. He invited me for a night on the town with him and a 270 pound weight lifter and black belt Karate man from Dallas called "Brogan". Also to go was Shotgun, who was pretty sober by now.

Brogan had a string of credit cards as long as his arm and took us to a very nice restaurant in a Phoenix hotel. He explained the simplicity of getting the credit cards and using them with no intention of ever paying, which he called "burning" them.

He would rent a room for a few weeks and write to various credit card distributors such as gasoline companies, restaurant chains and others. Most companies would send the cards on trust. Then Brogan would move and use the credit cards until their expiration dates ran out.

While the cards were still good, the Iron Crosses lived like kings. Each meal was a banquet and this was no exception. Paranoid George ordered Lobster Newburg, I ordered Crab Louie, Shotgun ordered a double order of German sausage and Brogan two filet mignon steaks. During the course of the meal, Brogan ate both steaks with all the side orders and drank five Zombies. Shotgun drank five double tequilas and neither he nor Brogan seemed more than a little tipsy.

It struck me then that these people could get staggering drunk at a party after only a few beers but be hardly affected by lots of hard liquor in public.

The dinner went on for hours as my three hosts told me about how great it was to be a member of the Iron Cross Motorcycle Club. The way Paranoid George and Brogan talked, they were a combination of the French Foreign Legion and Africa's white mercenaries.

Shotgun explained that with the breakdown of society, the rugged individual could once again come into his own. He painted a picture of the armed biker becoming the Jesse James of the future.

They all seemed to have dreams of becoming folk heroes in the best Zane Gray tradition. As they went on to tell me how they would snuff all their enemies, anyone who tried to keep them down, I was beginning to believe them.

After several stories of their club's ferocity, they went to girls and I learned Brogan was going with Paranoid George's sister. I met her later. She was passing pretty and a little silly but not so crazy as her brother.

Paranoid George did not have a steady girl at the time. Shotgun joshed him about his fat wife who he had recently driven to her mother's and thrown out onto a trash pile.

Paranoid George did not mind the kidding. He seemed to take his women as he found them. He told me, "I like women who are dirty and mean and vicious, 'cause that's the only kind there is."

When the party ended Paranoid George was fast asleep. Brogan cuffed him a few times but a simple beating would not wake him. We thought we would have to carry him out but Shotgun solved the problem by reaching over and pouring a pot of scalding coffee in his lap.

I had not checked into a hotel that day, so after the blast Brogan used his credit cards again. He booked Shotgun and me into a deluxe motel double and he shared one with Paranoid George. Shotgun went to sleep as soon as he hit the bed. I tossed in mine for what seemed hours, dreaming or imagining thousands of enraged motorcycle bandits roaring into sheep-like masses of "enemies".

It came to me that they were not just a bunch of hoodlums on shiny Harley-Davidsons. They were a private army, well armed, disciplined, able to prey on the merchant class for their needs and with hangers on all over the Southwest where they could get together for rest and recreation.

It then occurred to me that even their drinking habits revealed them. I had noted before that they became quite drunk when at a party among their own. But they maintained an unconscious control, although drinking much more, when among strangers. This is a trait of professionals; always wary when among possible enemies.

Another ominous aspect of their otherwise clownish natures was their cold hatred toward those they considered enemies. Somewhere in my dreams there were Vikings on motorcycles splitting people's heads open with battle axes.

Chapter Two Of WHEELS OF RAGE


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