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Former Hells Angels boss Sonny Barger dies


Sonny Barger, longtime leader of the Hells Angels rock gang, has died at the age of 83. After years in prison, he presented himself as a refined bully, writing books and raising horses.

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Ralph Hubert "Sonny" Barger in 2003 in Quincy, Illinois

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

"If you are reading this message here, I am no more," the post on Facebook reads.

It announces the death of Sonny Barger, a formative figure in the notorious »Hells Angels« rocker gang.

Barger passed away peacefully after a short battle with cancer, it says, and further: »I had a long and good life, filled with adventure.

And I've had the privilege of being part of an incredible club.«

"Keep your head high, stay loyal, stay free, and never forget the value of honor," the post concludes.

Loyalty, freedom, honor - all secondary virtues that the "Hells Angels" like to adorn themselves with.

In addition, the gang stands for violence, drug trafficking, biker wars, racism.

And for motorcycles, of course, the Harley-Davidson.

Ralph Hubert "Sonny" Barger founded the Oakland, California local Hells Angels in 1958 and quickly rose to become the leader of the biker gang.

Its name goes back to a 1930 film, »Hell's Angels«, about the experiences of fighter pilots in World War I.

How big the role of former soldiers was in the founding phase of the gang is not entirely clear, in any case the name sounded martial and fitted the self-image of the bikers.

In their early days, the image of the "Hells Angels" wasn't all that rough: they were viewed in the 1960s as part of the counterculture that was gaining strength, they had their headquarters in San Francisco, the charismatic Barger cultivated acquaintances with cultural figures such as Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary or the band The Grateful Dead.

The rockers took the same drugs and raved about an attitude to life that was immortalized in the 1969 road movie "Easy Rider".

But they used the skull and crossbones as symbols, and their motto was: »Fuck the World«.

During the Vietnam War, Sonny Barger volunteered the entire gang for combat.

“We have a feeling that a crushing force of well-trained gorillas will demoralize the Viet Cong and serve freedom.

We are now ready to take on our duty,” he wrote in 1965 to then US President Lyndon B. Johnson (who, however, did not accept the offer, as the Washington Post reports).

Barger wanted nothing to do with leftists, students and opponents of the war.

This became clear at the latest at the Altamont Festival in 1969.

This was planned by the bands Rolling Stones and The Grateful Dead as a West Coast Woodstock, but ended in an orgy of violence: the »Hells Angels«, who were hired as security, beat up concertgoers in droves, and when a black visitor, 18-year-old Meredith Hunter, attacked she resisted and drew a revolver, stabbed him a "Hells Angel."

He was later acquitted of self-defense, but from then on Altamont symbolized the end of the Love Generation – and also made it clear to the last of what the »Hells Angels« are capable of.

Drug trafficking, prostitution, extortion, violence

The bikers had long been involved in drug trafficking, prostitution, extortion, violence and other criminal activities and expanded worldwide: the London group was founded in 1969, and the first German group in Hamburg in 1973.

Sonny Barger also spent years of his life behind bars for gun possession, acts of violence and drug-related offences.

His gang isn't all that dangerous.

"It's all police propaganda," Barger assured SPIEGEL TV in 1998.

“Come by my workshop at 10 a.m., that’s where I stand and tinker around with motorcycles.

And I go home at five, I'm far too tired to kill anyone later in a bar, all I want to do is go to bed."

You can see the recordings with Barger in the following post (from minute 9:30):

The recordings show a cheerful man in a rocker's habit, holding a hole in his throat to talk - a tracheotomy after throat cancer - and flirting with the image of his gang without hesitation.

Yes, he wore a Nazi belt with a swastika in the '60s, so what?

"We're just a bit different," he dismisses the accusations.

In another excerpt, Barger explains his philosophy: »We believe in good and evil, we respect laws.« He does not necessarily obey state laws, he admits, but rules are needed in order to survive.

And he describes his problem: »The government doesn't obey its laws – we, in turn, are expected to do so«.

Relaxed attitude, the image of the refined bad boy, Barger made a business model out of it in the last decades of his life.

He wrote five books, including an autobiography and two novels, and raised horses in Arizona with his fourth wife, Zorana.

He played an imprisoned rocker in the hit TV series Sons of Anarchy.

In 2016 he moved back to his native Oakland.

There he succumbed to cancer on June 29 at the age of 83.


Source: spiegel

All life articles on 2022-06-30

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