Why you should care
Because biker gangs can carry life lessons.
In 1968, I was 6 years old. My family was holed up in a derelict shack on Stierlin Road in Mountain View, California, out by the city dump. The place was so small that my younger sister and I bunked on the back porch.
Our neighborhood was made up of sprawling family farms interspersed with clusters of World War I-era homes. There was a bar with six stools, a corner store and a handful of weathered Victorian mansions. It’s all gone now. Our little enclave was bulldozed to make a parking lot for Shoreline Amphitheatre, and the rest was swallowed up by the ravenous Googleplex. Amazingly, the impressive palm tree in our front yard is still standing.
An outlaw biker gang, the Northern Rebels, had a clubhouse around the corner from us on Plymouth Street. They laid claim to one of the old Victorians and raised unholy hell in it day and night. The president and founder of the club was Danny Maupin, who had actually lived with us for a time just ahead of his “1 Percenter” days. Outlaw bikers call themselves 1 Percenters, not because of their income brackets but because the American Motorcyclist Association once said that 99 percent of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens. The remaining 1 percent? Well, you do the math.
My mom had taken Danny in when he was a teenage delinquent in need of a place to crash. The two of them became lifelong friends. The gang would race their bikes up and down the street and it wasn’t too hard to get a ride around the block or even a joyride downtown. I once got a lift to my grandmother’s house. She turned three shades paler when I pulled up on the back of a three-wheeled chopper. After inviting me and my friend Chomp inside for chocolate chip cookies, she sent us on our merry way.
The Hells Angels stormed the Rebels’ clubhouse, laying waste.
A pair of towheaded brothers lived on the farm behind our house. One was my age and the other was a few years older. They began ambushing me on my treks to the clubhouse, pelting me with rocks or sniping at me with pea shooters.
One day, Danny showed me his collection of colors; he had 13 club vests, or cuts, nailed to the wall of his office. Each represented a rival gang that had been vanquished by the Rebels. I figured he could give me some tips on how to deal with my adversaries. Sure enough, he handed me a slingshot and took me out to the yard. Once I was able to take out beer bottles at 10 feet without missing, he sent me on my way with his slingshot and a pocketful of rocks. The next run-in with the towheads was the last.
Later that summer, the Hells Angels stormed the Rebels’ clubhouse, laying waste. They busted out the walls with sledgehammers, shot out the windows, lit beds and couches on fire, then set off dynamite in the fireplace. They gathered the Rebels in the front yard and pulled their patches, officially disbanding the club. As far as I know, none of their bikes were messed with.
Three years later, in 1971, we moved to Palo Alto only to discover that Danny had an apartment just half a block away. He was now a full-patch member of the Hells Angels and was living with a contingent of the Oakland chapter, which occupied every unit in the complex. Several had provided security at the ill-fated Altamont Free Concert, including Danny, who was now known as “Danny Reb” by his brothers in arms. He was the Angel who famously knocked out singer Marty Balin during Jefferson Airplane’s set.
My best friend and I would often drop in when we were out riding our bikes. We’d usually find Danny pounding beer and wrenching on his Harley in the middle of his living room or smoking dope and making out with a new girlfriend or two. There was a seemingly endless rotation of eager women, more than enough to go around. Even at the tender age of 9, I was enamored with their reckless and unapologetic hedonism. The camaraderie among the members, their autonomy within society, hell, even the aesthetic was a powerful enticement.
I began dressing like an outlaw biker, making my own cut out of an old Levi’s jacket. Danny offered to convert my Schwinn Stingray into a chopper, and he hacksawed the forks off another bicycle and welded them onto the end of mine, making them impossibly long. When I arrived at school on my badass ride, my classmates didn’t know what to make of it, or of me, and that suited me just fine.
There was another kid my age named Tony who practically lived at the Angels’ compound. He kept pressuring me to drop acid or do speed with him. But in all the time I hung out, I was never once offered a hit off a joint or a sip of a beer by a club member. I’m sure Danny had everything to do with that.
Danny Maupin went on to become the revered and respected president of the Daly City chapter of the Hells Angels. He passed away a little over a year ago after a long illness.
His mother told us that as Danny lay dying in his hospital bed, a new doctor came in to check his vitals. It had been several days since Danny was able to move or to muster the strength to open his eyes. The doctor caught a glimpse of his iconic winged skull tattoo emblazoned with “Hells Angels Forever” and said something derogatory about the club. Danny lurched forward and cold-cocked the guy, knocking him out.
Love, Loyalty, Honor and Respect. It’s a 1 percent thing, used by Hells Angels, though not exclusively. And because disrespect begets disrespect. Something else I learned from Danny.