Someone called “bullshit” on my explanation of the outlaw motorcycle club property patch as being “the equivalent of a gold wedding ring [and] merely easier to see,” especially when one is intoxicated. After sulking because my self esteem was damaged, I decided that I had been issued a challenge of sorts.
I faulted Lee Tortorelli for looking at the motorcycle culture for 3 days and then making broad assumptions about it. I lived in that same culture for 30 years and was a member of an outlaw motorcycle club for 5 of them. I figured this gave me the right to make broad statements about things I “knew to be a fact.”
Unfortunately, being a member of something does not make you an objective observer. Therefore, I shall step back and examine the topic of property patches and report my findings. If the facts do not back up my statement that a property patch is equivalent to a wedding ring, then I shall set aside my opinion and report what I have found. This is what the J-School is trying to teach us.
Since I have not yet had a chance to interview anyone, I did some research. I thumbed through Sonny Barger’s autobiography “Hell’s Angel” for information. The HA are only one of several nationally renowned outlaw motorcycle clubs, but through self-promotion and the publicity the HA earned from Hunter Thompson’s book “Hell’s Angels, The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs,” the HA are considered the “gold standard” against which outlaw biker behavior is measured.
It was my assertion that the property patch protected women from unwanted flirtation. On page 45 of Sonny Barger’s book, he states that one Hells Angels club rule was “No messing with another member’s wife.” Further he says “Big time rule. Wife, girlfriend, old lady, whoever she is, if she’s yours, she’s yours. If you fuck with someone else’s old lady, you’re out of the club.”
Barger says on page 97, “We go out of our way to make sure the women who either go out on runs with us, visit our clubhouse during parties, or are just associated with us feel one hundred percent safe. Touch a Hell’s Angel’s old lady and you risk the wrath of not only the member but the entire club.” On the previous page, there is a photo of “Mother” Miles and his property patch wearing old lady, Ann.
I believe Barger was being disingenuous in his statement about the safety of woman at HA parties. I gave a woman a ride home from the Hell’s Angels national run in Missoula in 2000. I asked her her impression of the party at the camp ground. She replied, “It was fun for a while, but then it got weird.” I did not press her for further information and she volunteered none.
Once at Sturgis, I wolf whistled at a beautiful woman on Main Street. I realized that I had made a social faux pax when her HA old man turned and glared at me. I wanted to shrink into the sidewalk. So, I have no doubt that one risks physical harm for messing with an Angel’s old lady.
This idea of the sanctity of the old lady trickled down to the rest of the motorcycle clubs. About 20 years ago, I was at a party in the Tri Cities, Wash. An intoxicated outsider was flirting with the old lady of a member of the Brothers Motorcycle Club. She was wearing a property patch. She complained to her old man who happened to be the club president. The president called over the club member who brought the offending outsider to the party. The president ordered, “You take care of your friend or I will.” The club member punched out his buddy and escorted him away. The etiquette problem was solved at the cost of a broken finger, a fat lip and a black eye.
This illustrates the power that old ladies who wear property patches have within the motorcycle club. Old ladies don’t have a vote in the club, but they certainly make their views known to the male members. A woman wearing a property patch represents the club to the outside world, in much the same way a male member does.