Living By The Code: Rules That All Hells Angels Have To Follow

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You Can’t Share Information About Fellow Members. Another reason Hells Angels can’t be in law enforcement is because the group has a strict discretionary policy. If a member were to rat out a fellow brother, they could expect to get kicked out of the group.

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The Hells Angels website clearly states, “We do not answer questions about members,” not even missing ones. Their secrecy is meant to keep everyone in the group protected as they place loyalty to one another above all else.

 

Once A Hells Angel, Always A Hells Angel

Once you’re an official Hells Angel, there’s no backing out. Members don’t retire, and the only time they exit the group is if they’re kicked out for breaking a rule. Your charter essentially becomes a second family.

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The Hells Angels spend a ton of time together and members have already known one another for years by the time they join. When one of them passes away, everyone unites to honor the memory of their fallen brother.

 

No Talking To The Media

Since the Hells Angels are very secretive in their activities, none of them are allowed to talk to the media. This not only protects the group as a whole but also helps enforce the rule that members don’t talk about one another.

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Investigator Julian Sher says members are forbidden from talking to others about their codes since it’s part of their security. By keeping as many things to themselves as possible, they mitigate the risk of information leaking.

Long-Standing Association With Harley-Davidson

To be a Hells Angel, you don’t just need to be any biker; you need to be a very specific type of motorcyclist. As we’ve mentioned, the recruitment process can take years because they only accept those that are like family.

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One part of being the right kind of biker is owning a Harley Davidson. Riding Harleys is a Hells Angels tradition that runs along the same lines as the sacred vest. It holds value because its a part of what makes them who they are.

They Ride Thousands Of Miles A Year Together

According to their website, the Hells Angels ride around 20,000 kilometers together every year. That’s more than 12,000 miles! Members need to be true motorcycle fanatics to fit in, meaning that their bike is their top mode of transportation.

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While Hells Angels are like brothers, their connection is founded on their shared love of motorcycles. Riding is their outward expression of freedom and the closest they get to feeling completely liberated. As such, they’ll happily spend hours on the road.

Show Up To Club Events

If you really take the Hells Angels way of life seriously, then the highlight of your day is attending one of their activities. Members who fail to show up to meetings and hangouts indicate to others that they are missing the point of the club.

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The biker brotherhood is known for having a strict attendance code. Those who continually miss events are seen as disrespectful and are not likely to make it past the “hanging around” phase of recruitment.

Members Are Like Family

A part of what makes Hells Angels so drawn to gatherings is that the members become like family. Not only do they get to do what they love by riding bikes, but they also get to do it with other people who feel the exact same way.

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Their passion runs much deeper than just excitement over motorcycles. Hells Angels is about a way of life, a belief system, that all of its members profoundly connect through.

Don’t Join Another Biker Club

The Hells Angels have a deep bond that is meant to last a lifetime. With that connection comes commitment, meaning that members shouldn’t even consider joining another biker club.

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Likewise, members need to be careful about who they associate with. The website warns, “Never combine your support to Hells Angels with other clubs, street gangs, or others if you are unaware of the relationship between those others and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.” In other words, anything members choose to support has to fit in with the group as a whole.

 

It’s A Brotherhood, Not A Sisterhood

Hells Angels refers to itself as a brotherhood; thus, you’ll only see men with the death head insignias on their back. Though women aren’t technically in the club, they do play a major role in it.

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Many of the Hells Angels have wives and families. If he’s going to be a part of the crew, then his partner has to understand the commitment and be okay with the lifestyle and all that comes with it.

 

***Not Just Anyone Can Start A Charter

As with joining a charter, creating one doesn’t just happen overnight. The Hells Angels website explains, “Motorcycle Clubs consist of people who have ridden together for years, live in the same area, are known by the community, have runs and parties, and are a brotherhood.”

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It takes years, even decades, to become that established. Only then would you consider morphing your group into a Hells Angels charter. That’s why the website states that when you’re ready to start a charter, you won’t have to ask how.

You Don’t Want To Break The Rules

Breaking the Hells Angels rules puts members in a position they’ll strongly regret. Since the motor club is secretive and full of loyal participants, there’s no telling what will be done to someone who betrays the brotherhood.

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Investigator Julian Sher claims that the group has burned off the tattoos of past members who broke the rules. The worst form of punishment is being kicked out of the club, resulting in complete banishment from other members.

Don’t Question The Missing Apostrophe

Grammar nerds will have already noticed that Hells Angels is missing an apostrophe. Since the angels belong to hell, there should be a possessive apostrophe between “Hell” and “s.” The group is all about breaking the rules, so it’s fitting they don’t obey the grammar.

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Their website simply states, “Yes, we know there is an apostrophe missing but it is you who miss it. We don’t.” Plus, there was already a 1930 war film called Hells Angels when the biker club started.

Non-Members Can Buy Merchandise To Support The Club

Though members despise people who aren’t in the club wearing the Hells Angels insignia, there is merchandise fans can buy to support the group. Hells Angels has a support shop where non-members can show their appreciation for the bikers’ way of life.

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Members love getting the support because proceeds who to local charters. The more merchandise they sell, the more events that they can put on for fellow bikers and other community members to enjoy.

You Have To Be Clean

Given their reputation as tough guys, you would think the Hells Angels wouldn’t be concerned about what substances its members use. The truth is the group is very strict about any members using illicit substances.

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The Toronto based charter of the club told The Star, “All ‘contact or use of [substances] is strictly forbidden’ as is the use of needles ‘for pleasure.’” The bottom line is this — stay clean or get kicked out of the club.

 

You Can’t Link To Their Website Without Permission

Another rule about the Hells Angels that isn’t as surprising as it sounds is this — you cannot link to the club’s website without express written consent. Because of how protective the club is of its members, this rule makes complete sense.

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As the rule is written on their website, it reads, “You may not establish and/ or operate links to this website without the prior written consent of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. Such consent may be withdrawn at any time at the Hells Angels MCs own discretion.”

 

Prospects Cannot Retaliate Against Hazing

Once you officially become a prospect to join the Hells Angels, there is one big rule you have to follow. You cannot, under any circumstances, retaliate against hazing. This is important because the process can often be a violent one.

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According to the club’s bylaws, this practice is not done to belittle potential members, but is instead seen as a test of their character. If you retaliate, you are not deemed worthy to continue the initiation process.

 

Only Members Can Wear Official Merchandise

While it is possible for supporters of the Hells Angels to buy merchandise, only club members are allowed to wear official merchandise. The club takes this rule as seriously as they do the patches on their vests.

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If you are caught wearing merchandise intended to impersonate the Hells Angels, you can expect retaliation. Just make sure that if you do plan to support the club, you are going through the proper channels!

 

Patches Are Sacred

As members grow with the Hells Angels and rise through the ranks of the club, they are given patches. These patches are seen as sacred symbols and must be respected with the utmost care.

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The rules about protecting these sacred patches are so strict it is even rumored that Hells Angels members must refuse to let doctors cut through the patches if bodily trauma needs to be taken care of!

 

Consent Is Required

Despite their tough reputation, it should be clear by now that the Hells Angels require members to show quite a bit of respect and restraint. This rule even applies to their interactions with women.

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Any member must get consent. Taking advantage of women is unacceptable and the club has a zero tolerance policy towards this behavior. Break that policy and a member will find themselves in a world of hurt!

They Don’t Talk About Missing Members

As respectful as the organization can seem, the Hells Angels are also very secretive and protective about its members. This protection even extends to anyone associated with the club who has gone missing.

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Members, as you know, are not allowed to talk to the media about members, but they also should not discuss other members with anyone not associated with the club. This not only protects the privacy of members, but it also protects them from law enforcement when necessary.

Some Charters Will Allow Non-Harleys Under One Condition

Across the Hells Angels organization, it is widely accepted that the only motorcycles members can ride are Harley Davidsons. We even wrote it as one of the rules earlier. While most charters abide by this rule, some will allow members to ride non-Harleys as long as their bikes are American made.

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One of the other acceptable bikes, according to some charters, are Buell Motorcycles, a brand that was originally established in Wisconsin in 1983.

The Club Always Comes First

Once you join the Hells Angels, you are considered family, which means that no matter what else is going on in your life, the club comes first. Being a member means having voting rights and being an active participant in the club, and you are expected to value this above all else.

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Because it is a lifetime commitment, and even wives are expected to understand they come second to the club, you must fully embrace your new lifestyle. You won’t have time to join a yacht club any time soon.

 

Cultural Inclusivity Is Not Widely Accepted

As a club so rooted in rules and history, it is only recently that the Hells Angels have begun accepting more culturally diverse members to join. Throughout its lifespan, the club has been predominantly Caucasian, although it is not uncommon for those with Hispanic heritage to join.

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As far as other cultures go, acceptance again varies from charter to charter. Some have loosened their rules, while others have stayed rooted in the past.

 

Every Meeting Has Strict Rules

When club members gather for meetings, they still have to follow the rules. These guidelines are known as Robert’s Rules of Order. Invented in 1876, Robert’s Rules were initially designed for business meetings, but they have crossed over into Hells Angels.

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Robert’s Rules tell members how to hold a democratic meeting. They must stick to the agenda, interrupt only when necessary, and can raise questions before the assembly. If a Hells Angel breaks one of these rules, they may be fined $100.

 

Prospects Do The “Dirty Work”

If you want to join Hells Angels, you’ll have to hang around them first. If you get noticed, you’ll become a prospect. Prospects have a trial run where they work with Hells Angels for a while before getting their vest. When a member of the gang doesn’t have the “Hells Angels” logo or color on their vest, they’re a prospect.

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Prospects pick up the dirty work that members don’t want to do. For example, they may set up the meeting room before other members arrive. After their “trial period,” prospects receive the Hells Angels logo on their vest, making them a full member.

 

Only One Group Can Control An Area

Certain groups in Hells Angels ride through specific areas. If one group has “claimed” that area, it’s theirs. No other gang can hang around that spot unless they’re driving through, even if they are also a part of Hells Angels.

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Hells Angels have known rivals from other motorcycle clubs such as the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. If a Hells Angels group hangs around an area, no other motorcycle group can try to claim it. In some cities, members of each group go to separate hospitals to not run into each other.

 

Hells Angels Run Charities

Although Hells Angels have the reputation of being a dangerous gang, they occasionally run charities. Every year, they hold a toy drive for Toys for Tots. One time, they donated 200 bikes to the Poverello House, a nonprofit organization that aids the homeless.

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Hells Angels frequently run motorcycle rides for charity, even letting other riders join. Even so, the members are aware that most people don’t know them for their charity. Their motto states: “When we do right, nobody remembers. When we do wrong, nobody forgets.”

 

They Respect People Who Respect Them

Don’t be afraid of talking to a Hells Angel. The members live by a code of respect; if you treat them well, they’ll treat you well. Journalists who have interviewed Hells Angels describe them as “inviting” and “incredibly welcoming.”

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Hells Angels are also known to help their neighbors with issues and occasionally aid strangers. If you treat the riders well, you’ll have no problem interacting with a Hells Angel. But if you treat them poorly, expect them to do the same.

 

They Work As Concert Security

You may see some Hells Angels standing around at concerts. Don’t fret; they are frequently hired as concert security. It began in 1961, when George Harrison brought some Hells Angels from San Francisco over to London for a Beatles concert. The bikers’ respect earned the respect of the Beatles.

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Since then, many bands have hired Hells Angels as a form of local security. The bikers get to attend the concert and earn some extra money on the side. It’s also an opportunity to show off their Hells Angels pride.

 

They Honor The Deaths Of Their Members

Since Hells Angels centers around motorcycle riding, deaths happen. When a member dies–especially a young member–the Hells Angels go out of their way to keep that person’s memory alive. They may hang up posters, ride with that person’s photos, or tell their story at a meeting.

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In 2018, a young man named Clay Hubbard took his own life. The following year, on what would have been his 21st birthday, his mother Christy Hubbard met some Hells Angels that were visiting her town for their annual summer rally. Although she felt intimidated, the group comforted her and even prayed with her in a parking lot. She gave the members a bracelet so Clay could “ride along with them on their rides.”

Community Involvement Is Crucial

Hells Angels don’t only operate within their own group. They emphasize community involvement, and many members join local charities and events. It’s not uncommon to see Hells Angels support the same bars and shops in their neighborhood.

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At one point, a Hells Angels group discovered that their local bar was raising money for SELF School. The nonprofit donated educational resources to disabled children and cancer patients. Immediately, the group volunteered to help and raised money for the supplies. That’s one of many ways in which Hells Angels support their local communities.

Protecting The Brand Is Crucial

By now you know how important it is to protect the brand of the Hells Angels, but we haven’t discussed just far the club is willing to go in this regard. While you might think the rules on this would lean towards violence, sometimes the club goes by the rules of the law.

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The Hells Angels have sued several large companies in order to protect their brand, including Disney after the movie Wild Hogs was released.

 

They Follow Their Own Rules

Perhaps the most important rule that the Hells Angels follow is this – they follow their own rules. The rules that society has created don’t concern them. Once you join the club, you have your set of rules to live by.

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In one publication about the club, it is written, “They, of course, didn’t have jobs. They despised everything that most Americans pursue – stability, security. They rode their bikes, hung out in bars for days at a time, fought with anyone who messed with them. They were self-contained, with their own set of rules, their own code of behavior. It was extraordinary.”

 

The Beginning Of A Legacy

For the most part, it’s commonly accepted that the Hells Angels were officially formed on March 17, 1948 in Fontana, California. The founders included the Bishop family as well as a few other World War II veterans that came together from various post-war motorcycle clubs.

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Despite various news and criminal reports, the Hells Angels say they got their start because It was started because military surplus made motorcycles affordable, and post-war life had left many young men feeling stagnant and missing their sense of soldier comradery.

 

The Club Name Was Inspired by a Squadron Nickname

The name Hells Angels were believed to have been suggested by an associate of the founding members named Arvid Olson. Olson had served in the Flying Tigers “Hells Angels” squadron in China during World War II.

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The nickname “Hells Angels” is one of the many nicknames that came about from the tradition of American soldiers giving their squadron fierce and intimidating nicknames in World War I and II.

Charters Grew Across California

In the early years, the club began to spread across California moderately quickly. According to the founder of the Oakland charter Ralph “Sonny” Barger, the earliest charters in California were founded in San Francisco, Oakland, Gardena, Fontana, and a few other lesser-known areas.

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At the time, the charters were only concerned with themselves and were unaware of all the other charters that existed. Eventually, during the 1950s, the different groups came together and unified to establish a large-scale organization and implement a system of internal codes and criteria for admission.

The Hells Angels Were a Cornerstone of Counterculture

During the 1960s, the Hells Angels became a large part of the counterculture movement, especially in California. They were very prominent in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco and were frequent attendees of the local music and social events.

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Numerous members were also connected to the counterculture’s primary leaders in music and expression, such as Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters, Allen Ginsberg, Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, and more.

They Don’t Want a Bad Reputation

The Hells Angels, as well as a select other few motorcycle clubs, call themselves a one-percenter biker club. The phrase is a 50-year-old title that goes off the old saying that 1% of troublemakers give a bad name to 99% of bikers.

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The name is supposed to help them separate from all of the negative stereotypes surrounding biker gangs and the Hells Angels in particular. Despite the name, numerous members have been convicted of crimes ranging from murder to selling narcotics.

 

Growing International

In the beginning, the Hells Angels were strictly based in California but spread internationally in 1961. That year, the first charter outside of California began in Auckland, New Zealand. This opened the floodgates and the motorcycle club began to spread around the world.

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In 1969, the first European charter was opened in London. There are now more than 275 charters in Europe alone. From the 1970s to now, there have been charters established in Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Eastern Europe, and more. New areas are currently being prospected.

 

Hells Angels Attire

The Hells Angels have a fairly obvious way of letting people know who they are. They will almost always be seen wearing a leather or denim “cut” which is slang for a motorcycle vest. On the cut, they have various patches such as Hells Angels written on the back with the name of their charter at the bottom.

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If they are a full member, they will also have the red and white-winged “death head” logo, the letters HAMC (Hells Angels Motorcycle Club) and the number 81. 81 stands of the letters H and A with H being the eighth letter of the alphabet and A being the first. Over the course of their time in the club, a member can also earn other patches.

 

Becoming A Hells Angel

Becoming a member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is no easy task. It is a process that can take up to a few years to achieve if you even make it that far.

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To start, you must have a valid motorcycle license, own a Harley Davidson motorcycle over 750 CC and have a personality that is cohesive with the rest of the club. You cannot have been accused of child molestation or have ever applied to become a police officer or prison guard. Other requirements are unknown to the general public.

 

The Hang-Around

After being deemed as eligible, a prospective member can become a “hang-around.” This is the first stage of the process. The candidate can be invited to some club meetings or meet other club members at open gathering places.

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Being a hang-around gives you the opportunity to meet other members, make connections, and have a taste of the lifestyle that comes with being a member of the Hells Angels.

Next, They Become a Prospect

After some time, if the hang-around is still interested, he may be asked to become an associate. During this time, the associate will spend a few more years attending events, spending time with members, and proving their worth to the club. After an unspecified time as an associate, you can move up to become a prospect.

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Although prospects can attend closed meetings, they still aren’t allowed to vote on club business. Prospects are put to the test by the members who are making the decision to whether they want to initiate the prospect as a fully-patched member of the club. Prospects are allowed to wear a cut with a patch with the state or territory of their charter.

 

Full Patch Members Require a Unanimous Vote

The final step in the process is being voted in as a fully-patched member. In order for this to happen, the prospect must be voted in unanimously by the rest of the charter. However, prior to the voting, the prospect usually goes to each charter in the area to introduce himself and show his devotion to the club.

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After being voted in by his own personal charter, he is given his top Hells Angels rocker and winged death head logo which are awarded at an initiation ceremony. The act of successfully achieving the title of a full member is referred to as “being patched.”

The “Filthy Few” and “Dequiallo” Patch

In the book Gangs, by Tony Thompson, Thompson describes that there are other patches that are earned by members for specific deeds. One such patch is the Nazi-style SS lightning bolts with the words “Filthy Few.” This is believed to be a patch that is awarded to members that already have or are willing to commit murder for the club.

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There is also another patch that is known as the “Dequiallo” patch. This particular patch is worn by those that have met law enforcement with violence while being placed under arrest. There are other secretive patches which members sport to show their dedication to the club and the things they have accomplished.

Hunter S. Thompson and the Hells Angels

“Gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson actually got his career started with the help of the Hells Angels. For his book Hells Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, he actually spent a year living with the club. He lived their lifestyle and rode a motorcycle with them.

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However, the writer had a falling out with the club. Thompson tried to stop a man from beating his wife and ended up on the receiving end of a beatdown of his own. Furthermore, the biker gang accused him of exploiting them for personal gain and wanted a share of the profits. The book was a huge success and Thompson paid the group nothing.

The Altamont Concert Incident

At a concert held at the Altamont Speedway in 1969, the Hells Angels were hired as event security. Although it’s still debated who actually hired the club, there was a general consensus from the crowd and musicians that it wasn’t a good idea.

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Aside from beating up rowdy concertgoers, a more severe situation occurred when a man named Merideth Hunter pulled out a pistol. He was quickly attacked by a Hells Angels members, including a man named Passaro who stabbed him to death while he was on the ground. Passaro was arrested for murder but was acquitted when footage was recovered of Hunter with the gun and Passaro acting in self-defense.

 

Sons of Anarchy is Loosely Based On The Club

The fictitious television show Sons of Anarchy, created by Kurt Sutter, is loosely based on the Hells Angels club. Many of the events and plot points of the show are based on real-life events that the Hells Angels have encountered throughout the history of the club.

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There are even real Hells Angels members in the show such as David Labvrava, Chuck Zito, Rusty Coones, and Sonny Barger. Kurt Sutter even had Labrava as his technical advisor to make the show as realistic and accurate as possible when it comes to depicting a motorcycle club. He was also a major character in the show who played the character “Happy” for the entirety of the show.

 

Sonny Barger Is The Hells Angels

Over the years, Sonny Barger has proven himself to be the face and authority of the Hells Angels. Although every charter has its own president and is relatively self-governed, Sonny Barger is the man everyone looks up to. He is the president and original founding member of the Oakland charter.

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At 78-years-old and still riding, he has the longest membership of anyone in the club and has managed to stay out of prison for the majority of his life. He served four years for trying to blow up a rival gang’s clubhouse in 1988 but other than that has relatively succeeded in staying out of trouble. Because of his reputation, Barger has been in numerous films and television shows and has authored books about his life and the club.

 

Maurice “Mom” Boucher

While Sonny Barger may be the face of the Hells Angels who represents the good of the club, Maurice “Mom” Boucher did the opposite. He is one of the most notorious ex-presidents in the club’s history. He was president of the Montreal charter during the eight-year-long Quebec Biker War and is currently serving three life sentences after being convicted of murder and drug trafficking.

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Before becoming a Hells Angel, he was a member of a white supremacist biker gang called SS. He was also the guy that was in charge of the Lennoxville Massacre making him one of the most ruthless leaders in club history.

 

The Club Is No Stranger To Filing Lawsuits

Since the Hells Angels have evolved into a cooperation more so than just a club of guys that like to ride motorcycles, they have been involved in a decent amount of legal affairs. In 2007, the Hells Angels sued Disney for using the logo of the Hells Angels in the film Wild Hogs without their permission.

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In addition, in 2010, they filed a lawsuit against Alexander McQueen for misuse of the trademark winged death head symbol and Saks Fifth and Zappos.com which sell a ring which bears the symbol. In 2012, the club went on to sue Toys “R” Us for the sale of yo-yos which allegedly had the “Death Head” logo printed on it. These are just a few notable lawsuits out of many that the club has filed for because they take their branding so seriously.

George Christie – Ventura President

George Christie is the former Hells Angels President of the Ventura, California charter. During his time, he was one of the longest-serving presidents in the history of the club. He left the club in 2001 under some suspicious terms. It was said by some that he was cooperating with the police and therefore in bad standing with the club.

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However, in 2013, he was sentenced to a year in prison due to association with a firebombing and the extortion of a tattoo shop in Ventura. He then went on to work with the History Channel show Outlaw Chronicles and is expected to release his own book.

 

Rejected From Ventura

Hells Angels leader George Christie Jr was denied access to the Ventura County Fair back in 2003. That wasn’t the first time either as it happened the year before in 2002 when he attempted to violate the policy which banned gang attire and tattoos.

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“This is a constitutional thing for one, but it goes far beyond that,” Christie said. “This is not something I take lightly or something I just do on weekends. I’m a Hells Angel 24 hours a day. I’ve dedicated my life to it, and I equate that to religion.”