|Motto||"When we do right, nobody remembers. When we do wrong, nobody forgets"1|
|Founded||March 17, 19482|
|Key people||Sonny Barger|
|Type||Outlaw motorcycle club|
|Region||Worldwide (230 chapters in 27 countries)3|
|Abbreviation||HA, 81, HAMC|
The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) is a worldwide one-percenter motorcycle club whose members typically ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles and is considered an organized crime syndicate by the U.S. Department of Justice.3456 In the United States and Canada, the Hells Angels are incorporated as the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation. Common nicknames for the club are the "H.A.", "Red & White", and "81" (H and A being the eighth and first letters of the alphabet).7
The Hells Angels were originally started by American war immigrants, the Bishop family in Fontana, California8 followed by an amalgamation of former members from different motorcycle clubs, such as the Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington.910 The Hells Angels' website denies the suggestion that any misfit or malcontent troops are connected with the motorcycle club. The website also notes that the name was suggested by Arvid Olsen, an associate of the founders, who had served in the Flying Tigers' "Hells Angels" squadron in China during World War II.11 The name "Hells Angels" was inspired by the typical naming of American squadrons, or other fighting groups, with a fierce, death-defying title in both World War I and World War II, e.g., the Flying Tigers (American Volunteer Group) in Burma and China fielded three squadrons of P-40s and the third Squadron was called "Hell's Angels".12 In 1930, the Howard Hughes film Hell's Angels displayed extraordinary and dangerous feats of aviation, and it is believed that the World War II groups who used that name based it on the film.
Some of the early history of the HAMC is not clear, and accounts differ. According to Ralph 'Sonny' Barger, founder of the Oakland chapter, early chapters of the club were founded in San Francisco, Gardena, Fontana, as well as his chapter in Oakland, and other places independently of one another, with the members usually being unaware that there were other Hells Angels clubs. One of lesser known clubs existed in North Chino/South Pomona, CA Late 1960s-as late as1970.
Other sources claim that the Hells Angels in San Francisco were originally organized in 1953 by Rocky Graves, a Hells Angel member from San Bernardino ("Berdoo") implying that the "Frisco" Hells Angels were very much aware of their forebears.13 The "Frisco" Hells Angels were reorganized in 1955 with thirteen charter members, Frank Sadilek serving as President, and using the smaller, original logo. The Oakland chapter, at the time headed by Barger used a larger version of the "Death's Head" patch nicknamed the "Barger Larger" which was first used in 1959. It later became the club standard.
The Hells Angels are often depicted in a similarly mythical fashion as other modern-day legends like the James-Younger Gang; free-spirited, iconic, bound by brotherhood and loyalty. At other times, such as in the 1966 Roger Corman film The Wild Angels where they are depicted as violent and nihilistic, they are portrayed as a violent criminal gang and a scourge on society.14
The club became prominent within, and established its initial notoriety as part of, the 1960s counterculture movement in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury scene, London, in England, and elsewhere where it played a part at many of the movement's seminal events. Original members were directly connected to many of the counterculture's primary leaders, such as Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, Allen Ginsberg, Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead, Timothy Leary, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Mick Farren and Tom Wolfe. The club launched the career of "Gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson.15161718
Criminologist Karen Katz said in 2011 that the Hells Angels were the center of a moral panic in Canada involving the media, politicians, law enforcement and the public that sensationalized the importance of isolated criminal acts.19
Numerous police and intelligence agencies internationally classify the Hells Angels as one of the "big four" motorcycle gangs, along with the Pagans, Outlaws, and Bandidos, and contend that members carry out widespread violent crimes, drug dealing, trafficking in stolen goods and extortion and are involved in the prostitution industry.2021 Members of the organization have continuously asserted that they are only a group of motorcycle enthusiasts who have joined to ride motorcycles together, to organize social events such as group road trips, fundraisers, parties, and motorcycle rallies and that those crimes are the responsibility of the individuals who carried them out and not the club as a whole.2223 Members of the club have been accused of crimes and convicted in many host nations.
The Hells Angels' official website attributes the official "death's head" insignia design to Frank Sadilek, past president of the San Francisco Chapter.24 The colors and shape of the early-style jacket emblem (prior to 1953) were copied from the insignias of the 85th Fighter Squadron and the 552nd Medium Bomber Squadron.24
The Hells Angels utilize a system of patches, similar to military medals. Although the specific meaning of each patch is not publicly known, the patches identify specific or significant actions or beliefs of each biker.25 The official colors of the Hells Angels are red lettering displayed on a white background—hence the club's nickname "The Red and White". These patches are worn on leather or denim jackets and vests.
Red and white are also used to display the number 81 on many patches, as in "Support 81, Route 81". The 8 and 1 stand for the respective positions in the alphabet of H and A. These are used by friends and supporters of the club, in deference to club rules which purport to restrict the wearing of Hells Angels imagery to club members.
The diamond-shaped one-percenter patch is also used, displaying '1%', in red on a white background with a red merrowed border. The term one-percenter is said to be a response to the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) comment on the Hollister incident, to the effect that 99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens and the last 1% were outlaws. The AMA has no record of such a statement to the press, and calls this story apocryphal.26
Most members wear a rectangular patch (again, white background with red letters and a red merrowed border) identifying their respective chapter locations. Another similarly designed patch reads "Hells Angels". When applicable, members of the club wear a patch denoting their position or rank within the organization. The patch is rectangular, and, similarly to the patches described above, displays a white background with red letters and a red merrowed border. Some examples of the titles used are President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Sergeant at Arms. This patch is usually worn above the 'club location' patch. Some members also wear a patch with the initials "AFFA", which stands for "Angels Forever; Forever Angels", referring to their lifelong membership in the biker club (i.e., "once a member, always a member").
The book Gangs, written by Tony Thompson (a crime correspondent for The Observer), states that Stephen Cunningham, a member of the Angels, sported a new patch after he recovered from attempting to set a bomb: two Nazi-style SS lightning bolts below the words 'Filthy Few'. Some law enforcement officials claim that the patch is only awarded to those who have committed, or are prepared to commit, murder on behalf of the club. According to a report from the R. v. Bonner and Lindsay case in 2005 (see related section below), another patch, similar to the 'Filthy Few' patch, is the 'Dequiallo' patch. This patch "signifies that the wearer has fought law enforcement on arrest".27 There is no common convention as to where the patches are located on the members' jacket/vest.
In March 2007, the Hells Angels filed suit against the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group alleging that the film entitled Wild Hogs used both the name and distinctive logo of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation without permission.28 The suit was eventually voluntarily dismissed,29 after it received assurances from Disney that its references would not appear in the film.30
In October 2010, the Hells Angels filed a lawsuit against Alexander McQueen for "misusing its trademark winged death heads symbol"31 in several items from its Autumn/Winter 2010 collection. The lawsuit is also aimed at Saks Fifth Avenue and Zappos.com, which stock the jacquard box dress and knuckle duster ring which bear the symbol which has been used since at least 1948 and is protected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.32 A handbag and scarf was also named in lawsuit.33 The lawyer representing Hells Angels claimed "This isn't just about money, it's about membership. If you've got one of these rings on, a member might get really upset that you're an impostor."34 Saks refused to comment, Zappos had no immediate comment and the company's parent company, PPR, could not be reached for comment.35 The company settled the case with the Hells Angels after agreeing to remove all of the merchandise featuring the logo from sale on their website, stores and concessions and recalling any of the goods which have already been sold and destroying them.363738
In Fall 2012, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Hells Angels sued Toys "R" Us for trademark infringement, unfair competition, and dilution in relation to the sale of yo-yos manufactured by Yomega Corporation, a co-defendant, which allegedly bear the “Death Head” logo. In its complaint,39 Hells Angels asserted that the mark used on the yo-yos is likely to confuse the public into mistakenly believing that the toys originate with Hells Angels and Yomega filed counterclaims against Hells Angels for cancellation of the “Death Head” registrations on grounds of alleged fraud in the procurement of the registrations.40 The case settled and the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice.
As of December 2013[update], the Hell's Angels sells its branded merchandise at a retail store in Toronto, Canada.41 Over seven years, it has defended its brand and label against use in clothes, jewelry, posters, and yo-yos.41 Fritz Clapp, its recent attorney, "wears a purple fez during negotiations with other lawyers”, is 67 years old, and has a “bright red mohawk” haircut.41
In order to become a Hells Angels prospect, candidates must have a valid driver's license, a motorcycle over 750cc and have the right combination of personal qualities. It is said the club excludes child molesters and individuals who have applied to become police or prison officers.42
After a lengthy, phased process, a prospective member is first deemed to be a "hang-around", indicating that the individual is invited to some club events or to meet club members at known gathering places.
If the hang-around is interested, he may be asked to become an "associate", a status that usually lasts a year or two. At the end of that stage, he is reclassified as "prospect", participating in some club activities, but not having voting privileges while he is evaluated for suitability as a full member. The last phase, and highest membership status, is "Full Membership" or "Full-Patch".43 The term "Full-Patch" refers to the complete four-piece crest, including the "Death Head" logo, two rockers (top rocker: "Hells Angels"; bottom rocker: state or territory claimed) and the rectangular "MC" patch below the wing of the Death's Head. Prospects are allowed to wear only a bottom rocker with the state or territory name along with the rectangular "MC" patch.
To become a full member, the prospect must be voted on unanimously by the rest of the full club members.44 Prior to votes being cast, a prospect usually travels to every chapter in the sponsoring chapter's geographic jurisdiction (state/province/territory) and introduces himself to every Full-Patch member. This process allows each voting member to become familiar with the subject and to ask any questions of concern prior to the vote. Some form of formal induction follows, wherein the prospect affirms his loyalty to the club and its members. The final logo patch (top "Hells Angels" rocker) is then awarded at this initiation ceremony. The step of attaining full membership can be referred to as "being patched".
Even after a member is patched-in, the patches themselves remain the property of HAMC rather than the member. On leaving the Hells Angels, or being ejected, they must be returned to the club.45
The HAMC acknowledges more than one hundred chapters spread over 29 countries. Europe did not become widely home to the Hells Angels until 1969 when two London chapters were formed. The Beatles' George Harrison invited some members of the HAMC San Francisco to stay at Apple Records in London in 1968.4647 According to Chris O'Dell, only two members showed up at Apple Records, Frisco Pete and Bill "Sweet William" Fritsch.48 Two people from London visited California, "prospected", and ultimately joined. Two charters were issued on July 30, 1969; one for "South London" - the re-imagined chapter renewing the already existing 1950 South London chapter - and the other for "East London", but by 1973 the two charters came together as one, simply called "London". The London Angels provided security at a number of UK Underground festivals including Phun City in 1970 organized by anarchist, International Times writer and lead singer with The Deviants, Mick Farren. They even awarded Farren an "approval patch" in 1970 for use on his first solo album Mona, which also featured Steve Peregrin Took (who was credited as "Shagrat the Vagrant").49 The 1980s and 1990s saw a major expansion of the club into Canada.
A list of acknowledged chapters can be found on the HAMC's official website.50
The club claims not to be a racially segregated organization,5152 although at least one chapter allegedly requires that a candidate be a white male,53 and Sonny Barger stated in a BBC interview in 2000 that "The club, as a whole, is not racist but we probably have enough racist members that no black guy is going to get in it".44 At that time the club had no black members.44
However there have been black members of puppet clubs, notably Gregory Wooley, a high-ranking member of the Rockers MC in Montreal who was the protégé54 and bodyguard of Hells Angel boss Maurice Boucher (who had been labeled a white supremacist by the media). Wooley became an associate of the Hells Angels Montreal chapter55 in the 1990s and later tried uniting street gangs in Quebec after Boucher was imprisoned.56
In another interview with leader Sonny Barger in 2000 he remarked "if you're a motorcycle rider and you're white you want to join the Hell's Angels. If you sic black you want to join the Dragons. That's how it is whether anyone likes it or not. We don't have no blacks and they don't have no whites."57 When asked if that could change Sonny replied "Anything can change, I can't predict the future".57 Tobie Levingston who formed the black motorcycle club East Bay Dragons MC wrote in his book that he and Sonny Barger have a long-lasting friendship and that the Hells Angels and Dragons have a mutual friendship and hang out and ride together.58
In an article about motorcycle rebels in the African-American community magazine Ebony, the Chosen Few MC stated that they see no racial animosity in the Hells Angels and that when they come into Chosen Few territory they all get together and just party.59 A Hells Angel member interviewed for the magazine insisted there was no racial prejudice in any of their clubs and stated "we don't have any negro members" but maintained there have not been any blacks who have sought membership.59 At one point in the 1970s the Hells Angels were looking to consolidate the different motorcycle clubs and offered every member of the Chosen Few MC a Hells Angel badge, but the Chosen Few turned down the offer.60
- "Hells Angels MC World". Hells-angels.com. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
- "Inside the biker gangs: the truth about guns, drugs and organized crime". The Independent (UK). August 14, 2007. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
- "Motorcycle gang". U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved January 23, 2010.
- Lockyer, Bill (2003). "ORGANIZED CRIME IN CALIFORNIA". CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE. Retrieved January 23, 2010.
- "ORGANIZED CRIME IN OREGON". Oregon State Department of Justice. September 2006. Retrieved January 23, 2010.
- "ASIAN ORGANIZED CRIME AND TERRORIST ACTIVITY IN CANADA, 1999–2002". Federal Research Division. Library of Congress. July 2003. Retrieved January 23, 2010.
- "Hells Angels MC World FAQ". Hells-angels.com. Retrieved March 27, 2012.
- Drewery, George (Spring 2003). "3 Skulls, Wings & Outlaws – Motorcycle Club Insignia & Cultural Identity". Inter-Cultural Studies; A Forum on Social Change & Cultural Diversity 3 (2). p. 29. ISSN 1445-1190. Archived from the original on September 6, 2006.
- History Channel episode, Hell's Angels
- History Documentary Hell's Angels Time Index approximately 00.05 minutes into the program
- "Hells Angels MC World". Hells-angels.com. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- Rossi, J.R. "Flying Tiger Association Unit Rosters". The Flying Tigers - American Volunteer Group - Chinese Air Force.
- Birney Jarvis for Male magazine, 1964. Reprinted in Hells Angels by Hunter S. Thompson
- Bagnall, Sam (January 2, 2004). "Programmes | This World | Hells Angels: Easy-riders or criminal gang?". BBC News. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
- The Fall of the Counterculture
- Hell's Angels and the Illusion of the Counterculture; Wood, John. 30 Sept 2003. The Journal of Popular Culture, Volume 3
- The Haight-Ashbury: A History; Perry, Charles. 2005
- "Interview with Sonny Barger". Pdr.autono.net. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
- Katz, Kare (2011-09-01). "The Enemy Within: The Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Moral Panic". American Journal of Criminal - Humanities, Social Sciences and LawJustice 36 (3) (Springer Boston). pp. 231–249. doi:10.1007/s12103-011-9106-6. ISSN 1066-2316.
- "FBI Safe Street Violent Crime Initiative Report Fiscal Year 2000" (PDF). Retrieved August 13, 2010.dead link
- Ibrahim, Youssef M. (March 3, 1997). "New York Times, Sweden's Courteous Police Spoil a Hell's Angels Clubouse Party". New York Times (Stockholm (Sweden); Sweden). Retrieved August 13, 2010.
- "[Hpn] Hells Angels Mc Salvation Army Shelter Run". Hpn.asu.edu. July 6, 2003. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
- "Under watchful eye, bikers aid charity – Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008 | midnight". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
- "History". Hells-angels.com.dead link
- Gangs; A Journey into the heart of the British Underworld, Tony Thompson, (2004) ISBN 0-340-83053-0
- Lindsey, Tom (November 2005). "A Brief History of "Outlaw" Motorcycle Clubs". International Journal of Motorcycle Studies. "The Life story caused something of a tumult around the country (Yates), and some authors have asserted that the AMA subsequently released a press statement disclaiming involvement in the Hollister event, stating that 99% of motorcyclists are good, decent, law-abiding citizens, and that the AMA's ranks of motorcycle clubs were not involved in the debacle (e.g., Reynolds, Thompson). However, the American Motorcyclist Association has no record of ever releasing such a statement. Tom Lindsay, the AMA's Public Information Director, states 'We [the American Motorcyclist Association] acknowledge that the term ‘one-percenter' has long been (and likely will continue to be) attributed to the American Motorcyclist Association, but we've been unable to attribute its original use to an AMA official or published statement—so it's apocryphal.'"
- HAMC Overview Document, Overview of the Hell's Angel's Motorcycle Club (HAMC) In Canada
- 'Litigation against movie release' (March 8, 2006) and they rule., HAMC vs Walt Disney
- "Hells Angels Motorcycle Club settled disputes the old-fashioned way, with a swift kick in the groin or a punch in the face to the offending party. – Hells Angels". Zimbio. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- "Companies / Personal Goods – Hells Angels sue luxury fashion house". Financial Times. October 27, 2010. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- Ella Alexander (October 27, 2010). "Hells Angels sue Alexander McQueen (Vogue.com UK)". Vogue.co.uk. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- Tamara Abraham (October 27, 2010). "Alexander McQueen sued by Hells Angels over winged death head trademark | Mail Online". Daily Mail (UK). Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- "Companies / Personal Goods – Hells Angels sue luxury fashion house". Financial Times. October 27, 2010. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- "Hells Angels set for rumble on the catwalk - Business - Retail". MSNBC. October 27, 2010. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- Jeffrey, Don (October 26, 2010). "Hells Angels Sue Saks, McQueen Design, Over Trademark". Bloomberg. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- "Grazia Fashion: McQueen Settles with Hells Angels". Graziadaily.co.uk. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- by Verena von Pfetten (November 3, 2010). "Alexander McQueen – Hell's Angels – SETTLEMENT". Styleite. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- Cowles, Charlotte. "Alexander McQueen Settles With Hells Angels by Agreeing to Destroy Merchandise With Skull Logo – The Cut". Nymag.com. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- Weller, Susan Neuberger; Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. (July 12, 2013). "Hells Angels and Toys "R" Us Settle "Death Head" Trademark Litigation". The National Law Review.
- Weiss, Debra Cassens (3 December 2013). "Hells Angels club sues often to protect its intellectual property". ABA Journal. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
- Hall, Neal (June 10, 2005). "Behind the Patch: Angels ABCs". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
- NDIC Document, US Department of Justice Report on OMG HA
- "Born to raise Hell". BBC News. August 14, 2000. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- A Wayward Angel: The Full Story of the Hells Angels by George Wethern and Vincent Colnett
- "George Harrison's memo to Apple staff about the Hell's Angels, 4 December 1968". Beatlesbible.com. 1968-12-04. Retrieved 2013-11-06.
- Pg. 129, Rock Scully, David Dalton, "Living with the Dead: Twenty Years on the Bus with Garcia and the Grateful Dead", Cooper Square Publ Inc, 2001 ISBN 978-0-8154-1163-5
- Chris O'Dell (2009-10-06). Miss O'Dell: My Hard Days and Long Nights with The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and the Women They Loved. p. 68. ISBN 1416590935.
- dead link
- "Hells Angels MC World". Hells-angels.com. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- Johnson Publishing Company (December 1966). "Nazi Emblems of 'Way Outs' Are No Symbols of Hate". Ebony: 70. ISSN 0012-9011.
- 2003 Soul on Bikes: The East Bay Dragons MC and Black Biker Set, Tobie Gene Levingston, with Keith and Kent Zimmerman (St. Paul, MN: Motorbikes International Publishing). The history of the Oakland-based African-American Motorcycle Club with a foreword from Sonny Barger.
- Wright, Gary L. (2012-06-08). "FBI leads crackdown on area Hells Angels gangs". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2013-06-18.dead link
- Eric Thibault (2012-08-16). "Sun News : Dead gang leader rebuffed top biker prior to assassination: Source". Sunnewsnetwork.ca. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
- "Global News | Latest & Current News - Weather, Sports & Health News". Globalmontreal.com. Retrieved 2013-06-18.dead link
- Giuseppe Valiante. "Sun News : Bust shows connections in criminal underworld in Canada". Sunnewsnetwork.ca. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
- "Sonny Barger Interview". Let Them Talk. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
- "Soul on Bikes: Tobie Levingston: 9780760317471: Amazon.com: Books". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
- Johnson Publishing Company (December 1966). "Nazi Emblems of 'Way Outs' Are No Symbols of Hate". Ebony: 66. ISSN 0012-9011.
- "Chosen Few Motorcycle Club - Buffalo, NY". Chosenfewbuffalony.com. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
- Sonny Barger (2009). Hell's Angel: The Autobiography Of Sonny Barger. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-184736-3.
- Paul Cherry (2005). The Biker Trials: Bringing Down the Hells Angels. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-55490-250-7.
- Jerry Langton (2009). Fallen Angel: The Unlikely Rise of Walter Stadnick and the Canadian Hells Angels. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-73994-5.
- Yves Lavigne (2000). Hell's Angels: Taking Care of Business. Random House of Canada, Limited. ISBN 978-0-7704-2858-7.
- Yves Lavigne (2011). Hells Angels: Into the Abyss. HarperCollins Publishers Limited. ISBN 978-1-4434-0411-2.
- Yves Lavigne (2011). Hell's Angels at War. HarperCollins Publishers Limited. ISBN 978-1-4434-0410-5.
- William Marsden; Julian Sher (2010). Angels of Death: Inside the Bikers' Empire of Crime. Knopf Canada. ISBN 978-0-307-37032-7.
- Valerie Smart (2001). The Original Hell's Angels: 303rd Bombardment Group of World War II. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-0910-5.
- Julian Sher; William Marsden (2010). The Road to Hell: How the Biker Gangs are Conquering Canada. Knopf Canada. ISBN 978-0-307-36586-6.
- Hunter S. Thompson (1999). Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga. Modern Library. ISBN 978-0-679-60331-3.
- Edward Winterhalder; Wil De Clercq (2008). The Assimilation: Rock Machine Become Bandidos: Bikers United Against the Hells Angels. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-55490-321-4.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hells Angels.|
- Official website – listing many chartered local chapters, with links
- Hells Angels on the Open Directory Project
- FBI file on Hell's Angels
- Never-Seen: Hells Angels, 1965 – slideshow by Life magazine