|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 Scottish-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.
Other sources13 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. 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
The Hells Angels' official website attributes the official "death's head" insignia design to Frank Sadilek, past president of the San Francisco Chapter.20 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.20
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.21 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 call this story apocryphal.22
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".23 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.24 The suit was eventually voluntarily dismissed,25 after it received assurances from Disney that its references would not appear in the film.26
In October 2010, the Hells Angels filed a lawsuit against Alexander McQueen for "misusing its trademark winged death heads symbol"27 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.28 A handbag and scarf was also named in lawsuit.29 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."30 Saks refused to comment, Zappos had no immediate comment and the company's parent company, PPR, could not be reached for comment.31 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.323334
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.35
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'.36 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.37 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. Successful admission usually requires more than a simple majority, and some clubs may reject a Prospect for a single dissenting 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.38
The club claims not to be a racially segregated organization,3940 athough at least one chapter allegedly requires that a candidate be a white male,41 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".37 At that time the club had no black members.37
However it is possible the interviews with Sonny were taken out of context or purposely misconstrued by the media as there are a few Hells Angels members of African descent, notably Gregory Wooley a high-ranking member in Canada who was the protege42 and bodyguard of Hells Angel boss Maurice Boucher (who had been labeled a white-supremacist by the media). Wooley became the first black person accepted into the Quebec charter43 in the 1990s and later became a Hells Angel leader who tried uniting street-gangs in Quebec after Boucher was imprisoned.44
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 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.45 When asked if that could change Sonny replied Anything can change, I can’t predict the future.45 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.46
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.47 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 haven't been any blacks who have sought membership.47 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.48
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 after the Beatle George Harrison invited some members of the HAMC San Francisco to London.49 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").50 The 1980s and 1990s saw a major expansion of the club into Canada.
A list of acknowledged chapters can be found on the HAMC club's official website.51
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.5253 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.5455
- "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. 2006-09. Retrieved January 23, 2010.
- "ASIAN ORGANIZED CRIME AND TERRORIST ACTIVITY IN CANADA, 1999–2002". Federal Research Division. Library of Congress. 2003-07. 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
- Author: Katz, Karen | Title: The Enemy Within: The Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Moral Panic | Name: American Journal of Criminal Justice | Date: 2011-09-01 | Publisher: Springer Boston | Issn: 1066-2316 | Subject: Humanities, Social Sciences and Law | Pages: 231 to: 249 | Volume: 36 | Issue: 3 | Url: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12103-011-9106-6 | Doi: 10.1007/s12103-011-9106-6
- Hells Angels Official Web Site: History, http://www.hells-angels.com/HISTORY.html
- 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.
- June 10, 2005 (June 10, 2005). "Vancouver Sun June 10, 2005 Behind the Patch: Angels ABCs: by Neal Hall:". Canada.com. Retrieved August 13, 2010.
- NDIC Document, US Department of Justice Report on OMG HA
- "Born to raise Hell". BBC New]. August 14, 2000. Retrieved February 1, 2013.
- A Wayward Angel: The Full Story of the Hells Angels by George Wethern and Vincent Colnett
- Ebony Dec 1966
- 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.
- FBI leads crackdown on area Hells Angels gangs | CharlotteObserver.com & The Charlotte Observer Newspaper
- 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
- HAMC London Web Sitedead link
- "Hells Angels MC World". Hells-angels.com. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
- "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.
- Valerie Smart The Original Hell's Angels: 303rd Bombardment Group of World War II 2001 Arcadia. (ISBN 0738509108)
- Thompson, Hunter S. Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. New York: Random House, 1966; Ballantine Books, 1996 (ISBN 0-345-41008-4)
- Barger, Sonny; Zimmerman, Keith; and Zimmerman, Kent Hell's Angels: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. HarperCollins (ISBN 0060937548)
- Jameson, Michael (2000). "Motorcycle club's origins clouded in wartime history, but all sides agree on one thing: Today's Hells Angels are no monks". Missoulian (Missoula, Montana: Lee Enterprises). Archived from the original on April 26, 2006.
- Langton, Jerry Fallen Angel: The Unlikely Rise of Walter Stadnick in the Canadian Hells Angels. John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd. (ISBN 0-470-83710-1)
- The Assimilation: Bikers United Against The Hells Angels by Edward Winterhalder and Wil De Clercq – ECW Press 2008 (ISBN 1-5502-2824-2)
- Winterhalder, Edward, Out In Bad Standings: Inside The Bandidos Motorcycle Club – The Making of a Worldwide Dynasty,Blockhead City Press, 2005/Seven Locks Press, 2007 (ISBN 0-9771-7470-0)
- Sher, Julian and Marsden, William The Road to Hell : How the Biker Gangs are Conquering Canada, Random House, 2004 (ISBN 0676975992)
- Sher, Julian and Marsden, William Angels of Death; Inside the Bikers' Global Crime Empire, Knopf Canada, 2006 (ISBN 0676977308)
- Cherry, Paul The Biker Trials: Bringing Down the Hells Angels, ECW Press, 2005 (ISBN 155022638X)
- Lavigne, Yves Hell's Angels: Taking Care of Business, Ballantine Books, 1994 (ISBN 9994961950)
- Lavigne, Yves Hell's Angels: Into the Abyss, HarperTorch, 1997 (ISBN 0061011045)
- Lavigne, Yves Hell's Angels at War, Harper-Collins, 2000 (ISBN 0006385648)
- Sännås, Per-Olof Hells Angels, Action Bild Per-Olof Sännås, 2003 (ISBN 9163135752)
- Police claim a victory over bikers in Thunder Bay CBC News, Thursday, January 19, 2006
- Storm thwarted Mick Jagger murder attempt Telegraph, UK, Sunday, March 2, 2008
- Wagner, Dennis (Jan. 23, 2005). "Hells Angels: The federal infiltration". The Arizona Republic.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Hells Angels|
- Official Hells Angels website – listing many chartered local chapters, with links
- Hells Angels at the Open Directory Project
- FBI file on Hell's Angels
- Never-Seen: Hells Angels, 1965 – slideshow by Life magazine