by Arun Singh Pundir
The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, or HAMC, is a one-percenter club that most countries around the world consider to be outlaws. While the more common motto is “Angels Forever, Forever Angels,” another one is also “When we do right, nobody remembers. When we do wrong, nobody forgets.” Which is pretty menacing, if you come to think of it.
Since the club was formed way back in 1948, its origin stories differ a bit. A popular story is that it was formed by immigrants from World War II and later amalgamated other motorcycle clubs like the P*ssed Off B*stards of Bloomington, comprising WWII veterans. The name comes from one of the founders, Arvid Olsen, who served in the Hell’s Angel squadron in WWII. But despite all the negativity surrounding the HAMC, some facts prove to be flattering. Here are 15 of them.
15 The HAMC Is A Close Bro-Hood
Being under the scrutiny of the law, constantly, can wear out the best of relationships. And most people on the road treat HAMC with caution reserved for feral animals. But even then, the HAMC remains close-knit, runs plenty of legitimate businesses, such as a store in Toronto, and does a lot of charity work, as well.
14 They Have Had Celebrity Bonds
The HAMC has been known to have ties with many rebels of the times, think Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg, and Jerry Garcia. More bonds have emerged between them and The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Mick Farren, the Merry Pranksters, and Tom Wolfe. The HAMC is motorcycle club royalty, in a matter of speaking.
13 The HAMC Is A Bonafide Brand
Hells Angels may have begun as a free-riding motorcycle club, but over the years they have turned themselves into a brand that now makes diversified things such as t-shirts, coffee mugs, and yoga pants, all branded with HAMC logos. Even Sonny Barger, the leader, has his branded line of goods.
12 They Sometimes Did Security Gigs
Who better than some menacing big-sized bikers to provide security for a free Rolling Stones concert, guaranteed to be flooded by fans? The Altamont festival was successfully patrolled by the HAMC in December 1969, and all they got as payment was beer, while they successfully cowed the crowds down into order.
11 George Harrison Partied With Them
The Beatles were not averse to a good time, so when George Harrison met up with HAMC members in the US, he invited the club back to party in the UK. The party wasn’t a personal one though, but hosted by Apple Records and two HAMC members did attend the same. This later became the origin story of the UK chapter.
10 Their Existence Spurred Many A Movie
The public fascination with motorcycle clubs was at an all-time high in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and filmmakers did their best to exploit the hype by churning out movies with “Hells Angels” in the title. Think Peter Fonda’s The Wild Angels in ’66 or Jack Nicholson’s Hells Angels On Wheels. You get the idea, right?
9 HAMC Is A Global Phenomenon
The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club may have been formed in the US, but they are pretty much spread all over the world, even though the Netherlands has completely banned the club. They list some 29 countries in their charter, but since the membership requirement is still all-white, we doubt they can spread any further.
8 It Isn’t Easy Being A HAMC Member
Other than the popular public opinion that has turned against bikers in general, HAMC is disliked by most policing authorities over the world. If that wasn’t tough enough, they have to ride for at least 20,000km every year, on a serious Harley-Davidson or thereabouts to be considered a bonafide Hells Angel.
7 They Sued Disney And Won.
There are few, if any, who have sued Disney and managed to turn the verdict in their favor. But surprisingly, HAMC was one of the few. Disney made the movie Wild Hogs, starring John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy, and used the HAMC logo without permission or attribution. HAMC sued and won.
6 When In Need, They Go The Legal Way
So clearly, despite being an outlaw group, HAMC does take the help of the law and the legal system whenever it feels it has been short-changed by people and companies who decided to use their name or logo without prior permission. This isn’t just an outlaw gang, this is a club filled with people with plenty of brains.
5 After Disney, HAMC Sued Plenty More
Despite being on the “wrong side” of the law, as per motorcycle club diktats, HAMC is a pretty popular name and their Death Head logo has quite the aficionados. While they cannot stop someone from tattooing their skin with the logo, they can stop people ad brands from making a profit off them. So they have sued Toys ‘R’ Us, Alexander McQueen, Amazon, Saks, Zappos, and Marvel as well, and mostly won.
4 They Are Still Viewed By Some With Rose-Colored Glasses
Motorcycle clubs mean different things to different people, but most have the same origin stories, of veterans being left to their own devices after the war, with no government aid or help coming their way. This banding of brothers has continued long after the veterans themselves may have passed away and many still yearn to be a member of HAMC or be involved with one.
3 The Violence Is Somehow Justified
Most motorcycle clubs are viewed as rebels, with or without a cause. And this holds especially true for the one-percenters, who refuse to conform to the American Motorcycle Association’s handbook and form their own rules and regulations that they are ready to live and die by. So this kind of brotherhood, wrong or right, will remain in a romanticized light.
2 HAMC Gave Rise To Gonzo Journalism
The term “Gonzo” journalism was coined for an article by Hunter S. Thompson, as a form of journalism that is not objective and comes through personal experiences with the subject in question. And Hunter S. Thompson became the pioneer of Gonzo journalism by writing a book in 1967 titled Hells Angels when he rode for them for a year as part of the research.
1 HAMC Is Into Serious Business
In the US alone, HAMC has 18 trademark registrations that umbrella the use of seven different marques, one being the iconic Death-Head logo, and six more involving variations of it. But they have also extended these trademarks into other countries, clearly showing that they are proud of their legacy and will not let anyone else use or misuse it for profit.