RAT PACK M.C. IN 1969: Where are they now?
For years now, I’ve felt compelled to write an annual “New Year’s Message,” probably prompted by a deep-seated narcissism, and an inflated false sense of self-importance. But ya know what folks, deal with it America. It is what it is, and here it is—but a day late in 2016.
Whatever the underlying reason for my writing these things year after year, there they are, like a broken clock that’s right at least twice a day. This year, however, that New Year’s Message was delayed by a bad cold I’ve had for the past several days, a good enough reason for you treasured readers to forgive my lateness in presenting you with this year’s message. But as Patty just said to me…..
“That’s not a reason, it’s an excuse.”
Hey, mebbe, mebbe not. Doesn’t matter. The cold has been especially resilient, making me think that it might be the flu. Oh, well—life goes on, then we write.
The tardiness of this New Year’s Message, like a crescent wrench thrown into the space-time continuum as one travels in a time machine, has landed us not into an inspiring screed about looking forward deeper into 2016, but a look backward into the distant past.
While researching the ‘Net for photos to post at THE SEEDY X-BAR & GRILL, I came across this photo of the Rat Pack M.C. taken in the 1960s. This happens to be a photo of my friend Steppenwolf (real name Arthur Sellers), and his Panhead. Arthur is on the right in the photo, holding the handlebars. Iron Horse Magazine readers will remember my mentioning Steppenwolf and his club, in the magazine. This was the very first picture, I’ve ever seen of the club.
Another former Rat Pack M.C. member, whose name might be more familiar to you, is that of Spade George, who is shown in this photo taken around the last time I saw George in 1970, in front of his house in Daly City in California.
SPADE GEORGE: I last saw him in Daly City.
George and his motorcycle shop, have become somewhat of an icon on the West Coast. Few there however, will remember him as a member of the Rat Pack M.C. in New York City in the 1960s.
The Rat Pack Motorcycle Club, was one of those “second-tier” MCs in the NYC area, in the 1960s. The club, which had its clubhouse in Brooklyn, was well represented in Manhattan. In fact, my friend Steppenwolf, lived on East 6th Street in the East Village, only three blocks from the Hell’s Angels’ clubhouse on 3rd Street.
There was a time when Steppenwolf had the rolling chassis of his Panhead, stored in my parents’ Chinese laundry in Queens, while he had his Panhead motor being rebuilt.
The Rat Pack M.C. had a good relationship with the other area clubs, including the HAMC. The Rat Pack M.C. was also well-respected in NYC in the 1960s, until a particularly nasty event took place in 1969.
Photo by Genghis
MITCH “HIPPIE” DIAMOND: A biker friend killed by a Rat Packer.
Mitch Diamond was a good friend of mine, who I met in 1968. Mitch was the guy by the way, who gave me my nickname of Genghis, When he said one day, “Hey, you look like Genghis Khan on a Harley!”
I first met Mitch–that is, the first time I saw Mitch—was when I saw Mitch riding past me on Northern Boulevard in Long Island City, on his gold Panhead rigid. I was riding east, coming from The City (Manhattan), and he was riding west to take the 59th Street Bridge back to the city. He waved at me. I was on my ’68 Sportster, “Sally The Bitch.”
I didn’t meet him proper, until we were both hanging out in front of Gem Spa on Second Avenue and St. Marks Place in The City. But I recalled seeing Mitch in Queens, when I finally met Mitch in The City, because believe me, Mitch was an unforgettable presence on his gold rigid Panhead.
IN FRONT OF GEM SPA: Me on Sally The Bitch in 1969
When I met Mitch face to face in front of Gem Spa, we introduced ourselves, after I told Mitch that I remembered seeing him riding his Harley in Queens. Gem Spa is an iconic candy store that sold reams of magazine, the greatest assortment of magazines in the New York City Area. It is still open today. Back in the 1960s, its was a local hangout for bikers, who parked their Harleys in front.
Mitch lived in a long railroad apartment on 2nd Street in The City. When you did a walk-through in Mitch’s house (“house” is used universally in New York City to refer to a home, whether it’s an apartment or a house), you had Harleys and Harley parts as an obstacle course, strewn among glass tanks housing his snakes. Some of the Harleys there, belonged to others who paid Mitch for garaging their bikes there.
One of these bikers who kept his bike in Mitch’s house, was a member of the Rat Pack M.C. This club member had a dispute with Mitch, when Mitch wouldn’t let this guy have his Harley, until the Rat Packer paid Mitch the money he owed him.
A fight ensued, resulting in the biker stabbing Mitch to death. It was a grisly scene ( as I was told), with blood stretching from one end of the railroad apartment, to the other end. It must have been quite a struggle.
Shortly after that, The Rat Pack M.C, disbanded. Rumors abounded on the street, that the club had to break up, because another club in the area who was tight with Mitch, was after the Rat Pack because of Mitch’s murder. The photo I found of the club, was taken—as they say—in a happier time, when harmony reigned between certain clubs in NYC, and Mitch was still alive and riding his Pan.
This tale is hardly an inspiring message of hope for the New Year. However, let me say that in order to look forward with hope and optimism to the future, one must view the past with an appreciative and thoughtful eye. Happy New Year! Later.