“Pride and memory were having an argument,” the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once quipped. “Memory said ‘It was like this’ and Pride said, ‘Oh no! It couldn’t have been!’”
For the last three weeks on the History Channel, former Hells Angel George Christie has lectured a weekly cable audience of between one and two million viewers about his own unchallenged version of what it was and is like to be a member of his old club. Christie was an Angel from 1976 until he was expelled with the status of “Out Bad, No Contact” in 2011. That was shortly before he was arrested by and apparently debriefed with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Since about 1980, Christie has exploited his status as the longtime president of the club’s Ventura charter to enhance his own celebrity. There is a strong consensus among current Hells Angels that he was never as important as he wanted people to think he was.
After doing seven months in federal prison in 2013-14 Christie began to exploit his former membership by promising to tell club secrets. Christie offered to give a million Walter Mittys the vicarious experience of being Hells Angels. He wasn’t the first snitch to tell tales. But Christie has followed his new Hells Angels related career more loudly than, say, Tony Tait ever did. Tait just wanted to make some money. Christie wants to rewrite history. He wants to convince the world that his account of the way things were is the defining history of his former club. This week he wrote somewhat reverentially about himself: “An outlaw, notorious biker and infamous motorcycle club leader, George Christie’s lifestyle and experiences along with his gift for storytelling, leadership and human connection make him uniquely suited to help others and develop (the) historical record.” He doesn’t mention that he has some axes to grind.
Christie is free to say almost anything he wants to say with impunity because outlaw motorcycle clubs are secretive organizations that don’t generally engage in public debates about who said and did what to whom when and where. Most clubs have and enforce a do not talk to reporters rule. The flaw in that is that he who talks is he who gets heard. Christie understands both hillbilly omerta and public relations.
Half The Story
Some part of Christie’s current good reputation is based on good things that were said in his defense on this page and by the British documentarian Nick Mead during his last federal case in 2011-13. Mead for example coined the term “The Last American Outlaw” and spent two years and a couple hundred thousand of his own dollars on a film in Christie’s defense before deciding that the former Ventura patch holder was “a liar, a thief and a snitch.” Now the History Channel has no reservations about describing Christie as a man “some have called the last American outlaw.”
The Aging Rebel made the mistake of taking Christie at his word. So years later Christie and his defenders have quoted the lies Christie told this page and cited this page’s general credibility as proof that Christie must have been telling the truth.
For the record, like Mead, The Aging Rebel has concluded that Christie is a liar, a thief, a snitch and a con man. This page believes Christie traded other people’s freedom for his own and that he is now willing to say anything he can sell. None of that is easy or pleasant to say and this page wouldn’t have to say it if George would just shut up and stop selling lies. But he won’t. He has a miniseries to publicize and history to rewrite and money to make.
History So Far
Halfway through, Christie’s miniseries has featured episodes titled:
“The Angels Code,” in which “Former Hells Angels President George Christie, the man some call the last American outlaw, reveals the secret set of rules that govern admission and conduct in the Hells Angels.”
“The Wild Life,” in which “Former Angels president George Christie reveals for the first time the debauchery, delights and dangers that go into the club’s revelries. These are no-holds-barred accounts of outlaw fun at its most extreme, as Hells Angels reach for a thrill that can come only with women, alcohol, drugs and violence.”
And, “Making Money” in which “For the first time, a real insider (former Hells Angels President George Christie) reveals the means by which members lined their pockets. This episode starts in the psychedelic haze of the ’60s….” Which was actually, about a decade before Christie joined the club.
This week, in an episode titled “At War,” the History Channel promises to tell the real story of the long unpleasantness between the Angels and the Mongols Motorcycle Club. The week after that George will tell the world the means Angels use to get away with “Breaking the Law.” The episode the week after that is titled “Sonny Versus George.”
“Sonny” is an interesting man and an actual historical figure named Ralph “Sonny” Barger. He was not the first Hells Angel but it is reasonable to say that he invented the club and he is George Christie’s great white whale. Christie has hung out with Mickey Rourke, Larry Fortensky and Tommy Allsup. Barger has been sought out and fussed over by Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Baba Ram Dass, Hunter Thompson, Tom Wolfe, Jay Dobyns, Kurt Sutter and Allen Ginsberg, who in 1965, a dozen years before Christie joined Barger’s club, wrote a poem titled “First Party At Ken Kesey’s With Hell’s Angels.”
If only Barger could be diminished, the world might see what Christie sees when he looks in the mirror.
Saturday morning Sonny Barger said, “I’ve seen this bullshit George said in the first three episodes. I can hardly imagine what he is going to say about me when it gets to the last episode…. Every time somebody calls George a liar on his Facebook page, somebody else quotes from those good articles you wrote on him. The club isn’t pleased.”
“Friday, my libel lawyer in Tucson sent the production company a letter. Do you want to see it?”
The letter from an attorney named Alfred S. Donau III is addressed to Shaw Media in Toronto, A & E / History Channel in New York and Shaw Communication Inc. in Calgary.
About the Christie television series, the letter states:
“The docudrama purports to present as facts certain circumstances that occurred in the state of Arizona, giving rise to criminal prosecution of Sonny Barger.”
“It is believed that one of the upcoming episodes will present an alleged 911 call in redacted form, initiated by Mr. Barger in an effort to get his then wife medical assistance. It is believed that the full content and circumstances of the 911 call will not be made known to the viewing audience and will in fact inaccurately portray the call in an effort to falsely imply that Mr. Barger was reporting to police in an attempt to prosecute criminal charges against his former wife. If this is the depiction, it would be false and defamatory. Mr. Barger never pursued charges against his former wife nor did he ever state that he would. The true and accurate version of events is that Mr. Barger simply called for medical assistance due to injuries sustained by his ex-wife.
“In fact, the only criminal charges pursued as a result of the 911 call arose when Mr. Barger’s then wife insisted in prosecuting Mr. Barger for aggravated assault.
“The aggravated assault was reduced to a misdemeanor assault. You are on notice that any representation to the contrary would be false.
“Finally, Mr. Barger wishes to reiterate that which you already know, that his name and likeness are federally and internationally protected pursuant to trademark and copy right laws. We demand that any depiction that can reasonably be inferred to be Sonny Barger be accurate, truthful and presented in such a manner that will not tarnish or diminish Mr. Barger’s reputation or ability to make a living.”
There have, in fact, been hard feelings between Barger and Christie for years. Christie has blamed that animosity, rather than his own conduct, for his expulsion from the club. And, for years Christie has been searching for a means to smear Barger, ruin his reputation and rewrite history. The recording of Barger’s 911 call has been circulated publically and privately as proof that Barger, as Christie once put it, “needed the police to protect him from his wife. That’s not right.” Christie is about to spring that lie on the world at large now.
The history of the Angels according to George is one in which Christie is quite a bit larger, honorable and more important than most Hells Angels remember him to have been and Sonny Barger is very much smaller, weaker and less important than most of America remembers. The Outlaw Chronicles, for whatever it betrays about its narrator’s character, is almost entirely a story told by George Christie’s pride.
“Pride goeth before destruction,” the Book of Proverbs warns, “and an haughty spirit before a fall.” You can almost see George Christie falling now. People who have liked Christie, or cared about him, or believed in him, or who still believe in him might want to look away now.