Hell's Angel
by Craig Knight

Razor Magazine

It was dark. The thunderous roar of Harley Davidson engines filled the air as numerous, very large, evil men milled about. Each one more fearsome than the one before him. Human bones littered the landscape. The weak were assaulted and killed, leaving only the strong among them. Born to be Wild played on the turntable. Again and again and again. Over and over like some sort of tribal chant.

I entered among them. Every fiber of my being screaming to run. Panic swelled in my veins. They could sense my fear. I just knew it. They sniffed at me like a pack of hungry dogs. Then they pushed and they poked - before mercilessly crushing my skull with their pounding fists...

And so it was, with foreboding thoughts, that I entered the world of the Hell’s Angels to meet with, and speak to, former Oakland chapter president, Ralph 'Sonny' Barger.

I arrive at Minneapolis Custom Cycle in Minneapolis MN, to meet with 62-year old former president of the Oakland Hell's Angels, Sonny Barger. He is signing copies of his new autobiography, Hell's Angel. The scene is just as I had feared. Dozens of club members fill the parking lot. So, I puff out my chest, fight every urge to run, and stride into the fray.

An extremely large, bearded member of the club quickly approaches me. "I'm here to interview Sonny Barger," I squeaked.

The crowd parts as he ushers me past Sonny and the line-up of fans, and into the busy bike shop. "Stay here," he says. I am about to be taught one of life's most valuable lessons.

Pat Matter, the shop's owner, approaches and greets me warmly, "Anything you need? A drink? Some water? Sonny is signing some books but he will be with you shortly. Anything you need just let me know?" Pat would be there, like a nagging grandmother, all day long, making sure I am comfortable.

Sonny excused himself from his fans, greeted me and asked if I minded waiting while he signed some books. The sun was hot, and he didn't want those who had come early to have to wait too long in the hot sun. "No problem," I said.

And that was the tone for the rest of the day, as I watched Sonny Barger sign book after book in the hot Minneapolis sun. I don't think I have heard more "excuse me's" or "thank you's" in my life. I encounter more rudeness in 20-minutes at my local supermarket, than I did all day with the Hell's Angels. RESPECT is a word I heard often. Do not pre-judge, do not mistreat, and you will be treated in the same way.

I have interviewed music and film stars, celebrities and wannabe's. I have never encountered the professionalism, graciousness, and unabashed honesty that greeted me this day.

Sonny Barger was as gracious at the end of the day, after four and a half-hours signing books in the hot sun, as he was when I met him upon arrival. He did not complain when I asked him to pose for the camera, he did not constantly look at his watch, or to his handlers to rescue him from such a tiresome ordeal. He graciously allowed me to ask him questions he has been asked hundreds of times before. And he did so with enthusiasm.

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