Listen to Peter ‘Big Pete’ James talk about his newly released book and answer some audience member questions.
By James Macecari
In Chicago, the Outlaws Motorcycle Club is king and top of the food chain. Founded in 1935 in McCook Illinois, the Outlaws M/C have grown to be one of the largest motorcycle clubs with chapters worldwide. Today’s focus will be on Chicago and Big Pete 1%er, former Regional Vice President and Northside Chapter President of the Outlaws M/C. Big Pete 1%er is the author of “The Last Chicago Boss” co-written by Kerrie Droban and available at all major online book retailers.
Before going on, I received numerous e-mails regarding Big Pete 1%er, it’s my use of 1%er after his name that has hit a nerve with some. I must disclose first and foremost that I’m not a neutral party while writing this article. In the early 2000’s I was a member of the Black Pistons Motorcycle Club and in the same region as Big Pete 1%er. Although I was not part of his chapter of Black Pistons under his direction, I would often see him at all the area events, Parties and COC meetings. I’ve personally got to know Big Pete 1%er over many years, as you will see in the interview, he was a man that some liked, and some others did not, but like he said “Some might not like me, but those who knew me, knew even if I didn’t like you, I would always treat you fair”. This was spot on from my point of view, yes while I was riding with the Pistons, and even when I left, this is exactly what people would say when describing Big Pete 1%er.
Big Pete 1%er has since left the Outlaws M/C, his reasoning behind leaving the club, I will leave that for you to find out from his own words in his book “The Last Chicago Boss”. Why do you see me using the 1%er behind his name? I use it because that 1%er is the man, not any patch that a club would put on their members. Big Pete 1%er was too many of us in Chicago the equivalent of Sonny Barger is to the Hell’s Angels. If you strip away their club affiliations, you will find identical men. Men who through street smarts, courage and determination led a group of brothers to the pinnacle of power, through tough times and good times these special men were there for other members to look up to and strive to be like. That is why I use the 1%er, in my eyes and many like me, club or no club, Big Pete 1%er embodied what it was supposed to be like to be a member of the Outlaws M/C.
When I got to speak with Big Pete 1%er during the interview, I had a list of questions I wanted to ask, I was only able to get out 4 because I was in ah of the answers he gave me to those questions and subsequent discussions around those topics. During that interview with Big Pete 1%er, I received so much knowledge and wisdom that many would give an arm or leg for. He put whatever I asked into terms everyone could understand, the knowledge this man displayed is exactly the reason why he was the ultimate Boss of Chicago. Besides the questions that I asked, I will fill in with other questions and answers that he gave in interviews with others, this will give our readers a better understanding of who Big Pete 1%er is and why Chicago and more importantly the Northern Illinois Confederation of Clubs was so lucky to have him.
Insane Throttle– Do you think that today’s Probates could make it Probating as you did under such guys as Taco 1%er or Frank Wheeler 1%er in the 1990’s?
Big Pete 1%er- I don’t think so, it was a completely different time period when I was probating, today’s generation is totally different than mine, today’s culture as a whole is totally different than when I probated
Insane Throttle– Many today in the Biker world throw around the term “Brother”. What do you think of how it’s been watered down.
Big Pete 1%er– Brother is basically used because you don’t know the person’s name, brother is no longer what it use to be, today many wouldn’t know what a brother was if it hit them square in the face.
Insane Throttle- I recently got done doing some interviews with the Iron Order M/C. I was shocked to find out that many ex- 1%ers from some of the big clubs are now apart of them. What do you think some of the reasons were behind them leaving a big name club and joining them?
Big Pete 1%er– If they went and joined Iron Order, they were never who they were apart of before or claimed to be. How could you be an Outlaw or with any of the other big clubs and join a cop club?
Insane Throttle- From my point of view, and when I was apart of the Black Pistons, our rival club was the Hells Angels. It would’ve been unthinkable that they would be in Chicago, why do you think that is changing?
Big Pete 1%er- Smart moves by the Hells Angels — plus waves of prosecutions, poor leadership by some current Outlaws and changing times and attitudes — have changed things.
Insane Throttle Follow up – I’ve noticed as I’ve been writing more and more about the various different clubs, especially about the Hells Angels, It takes a lot of time, for instance, a year hang around period, and then a year prospect period before getting a vote for membership, the Outlaws it’s a 6 month probationary period before the first vote. Do you think that has an effect on the type of members the Outlaws get and why the Hells Angels seem to have a more dedicated membership?
Big Pete 1%er– To be honest, I was surprised it took longer to be a member of the Fugawe Tribe Motorcycle club than to be an Outlaw. The 6 months was just a guideline, a minimum that a person should hang around, you can’t get to know someone and trust they will be there for you after only 6 months. Over time, chapters just used that to get more members and sacrificed quality for quantity.
Big Pete 1%er has done numerous articles promoting his new book. Here are some more interview questions and answers from various sources.
MERRY JANE: How did you manage to never get locked up through all the years of being Chicago’s Outlaw boss?
Big Pete: In 1978, I read this book called Snowblind and this guy was one of the first guys who actually started talking about how you can’t do anything for more than two years, criminal wise. If you do anything for more than two years, you’re going to get caught. Later in my life, I was talking to this investigator and the guy said, “It takes a year for them to find out about you, and it takes another year to build the case. If you stop everything at two years then it’s over.” I told myself, OK, if you’re going to do this stuff, you have to do it right. Even when I was in college and was a pretty successful peddler.
Big Pete 1%er-Anybody can go to prison. That’s not hard. Especially in this day and age in the United States. The goal is to stay out of prison and know when to call it quits. I don’t take credit for the two-year rule, but I developed it from reading that book. That has saved me more than anything else I ever did. It didn’t matter what I was making, how safe I felt. That didn’t mean that six years later I wouldn’t go back to it. I made sure if there was any violence — with DNA and all the things they have to catch you-you can’t be penny wise and dollar foolish. A lot of guys don’t look at the bigger picture.
Merry Jane -How do you think The Outlaws have changed since you first joined?
Big Pete 1%er -It’s not so much The Outlaws because the core values are still there. It’s the people and how times have hanged. The core values and the rules and the beliefs are the same for the club, but because of the newer people that have come in, things have changed. But if you focus on 1995 to 2015, it’s a 20-year span. The difference between those guys that took on the Hells Angels in 1995 versus the guys that were around when I finally left and had my falling out is night and day. I think that came from all the major clubs growing. And once you start to grow, the standards are dropped a little bit. I think that’s the major thing.
You don’t have the same type of dude that says, “Hey you know what, these are what our beliefs are. This is what we are going to do.” Those guys are gone. And I think the other thing that helped change that is just society itself. Coming through the ’90s, when all the sentencing changed with longer prison terms and no parole, it changed guys’ mentality. I remember a defense attorney telling me because there were some times when there were close calls, “Times have changed.” It used to be guys got 3, 5, or 7 years and everybody was a stand-up guy, but with 15 and 20-year sentences, 25 and 30-year sentences, that really tested guys. People didn’t want to take those risks anymore.
If you look at that movie Blow with Johnny Depp, he gets pinched with 400 or so pounds in Chicago and jumps bail, but the original sentence was like three years. Now the sentence would be like 20-30 years. I was actually involved in sending commissary money to the brothers in prison, but I would notice the guys drop off over the years. It’s really sad, but life goes on. Absence does not make the heart fonder. The standard of what the club believes in is the same, but when it comes down to it a lot of guys don’t stand up.
USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin: In the beginning of the book, you speak of the impact your uncle had on you. How did he — and also your parents — influence you?
Big Pete 1%er: He showed me that there was more. That you had to go out. That you had to find your way… Don’t sell yourself short, that’s what basically he taught me… Between him and my father, they both taught me — their lessons were invaluable. The older I get, the smarter those two guys were…
For my mom, she was the one who actually instilled the confidence… One of the first things I can remember her telling me is, “if you don’t think you’re No. 1, don’t expect anyone else to.” When I’m hearing this at 4, 5, 6 years old, I didn’t really understand that. I didn’t understand that until there were times in my life where I had to believe who I was otherwise I couldn’t expect anyone else to believe that.
USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin: Your wife, Debbie, is a constant support for you throughout the book. How did that play into the development of it?
Big Pete 1%er: She’s kind of a grounding force for me. Other than to keep me calm, she added a few things from her point of view, but the book wasn’t about her. She had a part in it. There were a couple times I thought, “this isn’t where I want (the book) to go,” and she was stabling, as always. She had a stabling presence.
USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin: Why did you decide to write this book?
Big Pete 1%er: It’s hard for me to explain. I saw things changing — and I understand that things change — but my goal was to write this book in the hope someone will wake up and try to salvage things (with the Outlaws). I might not be Mr. Popularity (for writing it), but I’m willing to risk that in the hopes that someone will read this and say, “Look at what this guy says. Things need to change.”
As the book went forward, it’s getting things off my chest. Things that bothered me. Maybe there was a better way of doing it. I couldn’t find one. When this opportunity arose, I took it. I’m not one of these guys who look back and say “I regret this.”
After taking a few days and thinking about my interview with Big Pete 1%er, I knew it was more of a conversational interview Not many times in life does a man get to sit down and hear and learn about life from a man that lived everything you ever knew or was exposed to growing up. I have never been in a more state of ah then I was that afternoon. Most kids growing up have hero’s like professional sports players or actors, mine were never those. From the first time, I saw Russ or Tim pull up on sunset lane with those Harley’s, or to know a great man named Skid 1%er (Former Northside Chicago Outlaw Boss). Working class men riding those Harley’s and doing the hustle every day. It was a great day for me today, but also a sad one knowing great men like that are few and far between now. Men of the previous generation who called life as it was, men you could always count on, to be honest, and fair. It was a sad moment to hear of some of the things that happened to an organization I grew up idolizing, sad knowing that great men who made that organization and sacrificed so much for it were just pushed aside. The lessons I was taught by Big Pete 1%er in that interview will ever last within me to I go to the grave. They put comfort in me knowing that true men still walk the face of this Earth in times of political correctness and fake people.
Regardless if your a member now or former member of the Outlaw Nation or the Black Pistons, when you talk honestly about Big Pete 1%er, regardless if you harbor bad feelings or not. If you are being true to yourself and those who you talk to about him, you cannot ever say he wasn’t fair. You cannot honestly say that Big Pete 1%er didn’t put all he had into the Confederation of Clubs and more importantly, into the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. If the word “Brother” has any meaning to you, then you know regardless of patch or circumstance, Big Pete 1%er was a brother to the Outlaw Nation, a brother to those he helped so much achieve better out of themselves, a brother to everyone in the motorcycle club world. If not for his skills and dedication, many of the clubs in Chicago would never be, clubs under his guidance that made up the huge support network that the Chicago Outlaws now enjoy.
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