If David knew I was writing this, he’d be pissed off, embarrassed or both. For such a talented guy, David has a streak of modesty a mile wide. Obviously from what I’ve written so far, you can tell that what I’m going to say about David will be complimentary. To that, I will paraphrase what Marv Levy’s Buffalo Bills said to America, when the Bills made it to the Super Bowl four times, but failed to win any of the four games….
“Live with it, David!”
Very simply, I consider David to be one of the most transformative figures of the biker subculture. I think he’s right up there with Hunter S. Thompson. Now, you might be confused about why I chose HST to compare David to, say, as opposed to Sonny Barger. Sonny Barger was also a transformative leader, leading to the world wide spread of 81.
But, ask yourself this: Without Hunter S. Thompson’s glorification of the Hells Angels in his book, would the Hells Angels have come this far in proliferation as the most dominant MC in history? If HST had thrown in with and followed the Gypsy Jokers around and centered his “gonzo journalism” on the Jokers, would the Jokers now enjoy the notoriety that the HA do? Think about it.
It could be argued that David Snow’s Iron Horse magazine had as much if not more influence on bikers, than Hunter S. Thompson’s book. There is one essential difference between Thompson and David Snow. Thompson was not writing from a position of idealism. Although he did hang with the HA to gather information for his book and did ultimately end up with a Britbike to ride around on—he never was the true biker that David is. Herein lies the essence of why David is such a transformative person in the culture:
David believes in everything he does and writes, to a fault.
Here is a perfect example of this perfect idealism that David lives by. I recently posted a photo of the NYC Hells Angels’ clubhouse in the 1970s, long before the facade of the clubhouse acquired that polished painted door at 77 East 3rd Street in NYC. The place looked like a ramshackle garbage dump, with HA related graffiti all over the place, done crudely with spray cans. It reminded of the Bowery during the Great Depression.
Yet, David’s comment was simply, “So brilliantly hardcore.” David’s mind is so steeped in idealism, that he could not see this scene any other way but the way that he did—as the “way it should have looked,” devoid of polish and the “touch of the artiste” about it. In other words, “hardcore.” That struck me, and I doubt if anybody else but me perceived the significance of what David said. It was a true clue to his personality.
When the suits at Iron Horse tried to pressure David to ditch Fritz, or else lose Iron Horse—David took the only step his integrity and idealism would allow him to do. He walked away from Iron Horse. I’ll never forget the day in 1997, when David showed up at my office in the West Village to deliver me the news. It was indeed, a sad day, but a day that I could have predicted because I know of David’s Idealism.
David has never sold out.
Frankly, I consider David a genius, but he would no doubt dispute this, because of his great modesty. I said to him after he left IH, “Hey David, with your talent and drive you could lead any magazine you wanted.” But to him, if he could not do it his way, all the success in the world with any amount of compensation and perks, would be in his eyes, lowering himself. This is the key to David Snow.
So true to his roots as a true hardcore in any facet of life, he returned to Arkansas and took up what he considered an honorable and artistically rewarding profession—as one of the top talented tattoo artists of his time. He could have done anything here in NYC, the publishing capitol of the world, but he stayed true to himself, and his unerring nose for being and staying hardcore.