George Christie’s version of his life as charter president of the Hells Angels is as verbally grandiose as it is proudly grim. Consider it a literary chain across one’s face.
I couldn’t be more of a square; this is the assumption I’ve made having read the life of Ventura Hells Angels charter president George Christie. The man is, was, essentially forever an outlaw … which is a term he clings to and wears as an all-but-literal badge of honor. Exile on Front Street is the autobiography of the former President of the Ventura, California, branch of the Hells Angels. As far as life stories go, there are few out there with more color. Keith Richards’ Life, perhaps.
So yeah, here’s me, who could not be more suburban and middle class and sheltered, being drawn in to the vivid, almost cinematic world Christie paints in these pages. The title references his exile stemming from his expulsion from the Angels, as well as playing into the notoriety established by the club from their disastrous stint as security at the Rolling Stones’ Altamont gig (events which pre-date Christie’s time as an outlaw biker).
There’s something entirely charismatic about the persona that Christie presents. Yes, he’s an outlaw biker. Yes, he’s done wrong (which is sugar-coating it). But you can understand the appeal. You get a tangible sense of the pride one might feel aback a Harley Davidson on the open American road.
It doesn’t make the lifestyle more appealing – there are fights involved and I’ve never been in that situation; I don’t stand my ground, I just run. But he very successfully articulates how he feels about the lifestyle, the way he feels when on a bike on a long, flat journey; he equates it to a Zen-like state of bliss, for which I will have to take his word. (I have a push bike, so I’m more of your 10-speed outlaw … take that, Society!)
If you believe every word of his, Christie never did so much as jaywalk. So, you’d assume some degree of embellishment has taken place.
Christie’s storytelling is compelling. He paints a captivating, fascinating portrait of this world he once inhabited and does an excellent job in articulating the various codes, unwritten rules, and “mentality” of the outlaw biker set. A fascinating insight it is, especially when you see that at the end of the day even the Hells Angels are an incorporated body – bound, and often hindered, by bureaucratic processes.
There’s a moment in one of many occasions where Christie found himself in front of a judge, where the comment was made along the lines of “I can only imagine what you’ve gotten away with over the years, Mr. Christie,” which rings rather true. If you believe every word of his, Christie never did so much as jaywalk. So, you’d assume some degree of embellishment has taken place.
You can also only assume he may have had help in stitching this tome together, but on the surface, Christie is a great writer – a true-to-life storyteller who makes this world of outlaws, bikers, thugs, and off-the-grid bad boys seem so “romantic.” You’ll never find me anywhere near anything with “Harley Davidson” written on it, but I had a hard time putting down Christie’s grandiose, suave autobiography.
So it’s probably slanted? So what? I kinda loved this book, to tell the truth. Get your motor running, indeed.