On a slow news day in a slow news month it is hard not to stare at the train wreck George Christie’s life has become since he was kicked out of the Hells Angels.
Christie has become a sort of vampire Angel since he was expelled from the club in 2011. His public persona and at least some of his income requires him to pretend he was the most noble Hells Angel of them all; even as he continues to suck every last drop of blood from the people he knew during his club days. Christie has become an example of the club making the man. Sometimes this dramatization of Christie’s past is amusing and sometime’s it is repellant.
In the last year Christie has tried to force the British film director Nick Mead to polish Christie’s reputation for him. He has demanded that a man who bought a motorcycle from his late son give it back. He has threatened to sue one of his wife’s ex-lovers, a former club brother who blames Christie for sending him to prison. He has been the star of a widely publicized reality television show that promised to tell-all about what is probably the world’s most famous motorcycle club. The television show infuriated club founder Ralph “Sonny” Barger who found it to be full of lies. Christie has a deal to lend his name to yet another book that will stereotype bikers in general with the usual, stale tropes and will libel the Hells Angels in particular.
Christie has done all this because he needs the money. Since the Angels divorced him he has lost his house and his tattoo shop. He has tried to pose as a prison consultant, advising middleclass, middle aged, first time offenders on prison protocol. Now he has been caught stealing from David Mann’s widow.
Mann was sort of the Norman Rockwell of motorcycle outlaws. Mann was a former member of the El Forastero Motorcycle Club who became a “motorcycle artist” for Easyriders magazine in 1971. His precise, colorful and accessible illustrations celebrated freedom, long hair, beautiful choppers and the open road. They often featured surrealistic backgrounds. And although Mann has been dead since 2004 his work is still familiar to virtually anyone who rides an American motorcycle. Christie has been selling reprints of a couple of Mann’s posters on Ebay and on Christie’s own website.
George The Legend
Christie describes one called “Midnight Mud Check” as: “In the early seventies, the remaining Question Marks (MC) along with myself started a journey to become a Hells Angel (sic). The dominate (sic) clubs in Ventura County didn’t waste any time letting us know they didn’t approve. The rest is history. Dave Mann heard what happened. Like so many events in outlaw history, he captured it on canvas and presented it to me as a gift. This is the first time this poster has been offered to the public. Autographed copies available for $180 plus $20 tax and shipping. Purchase online using a credit card or see below for ‘old school’ purchase instructions.”
The other poster is called the “Olympic Torch Poster” and Christie explains: “Vintage Poster by Artist Dave Mann of George Christie carrying the 1984 Olympic torch. George has been notified by the U.S. Probation Department that, due to his probation terms, he is unable to display club related indicia on his website however the Olympic Torch poster is available in its original form from his wife Nikki – you can still order it here. Autographed copies available for $150 plus $20 tax and shipping. Purchase online using a credit card or see below for ‘old school’ purchase instructions.”
Mann’s widow recently became aware that Christie has appropriated her late husband’s work. Last Friday she sent a letter to James Devine, an attorney who has represented Christie in numerous matters.
The letter read:
“My name is Jacqueline Mann, and David Mann was my late husband. I have elected to write personally rather than through a lawyer at the outset to see if we can resolve what has become an issue that is a source of great consternation for me. I understand that you represent Mr. George Christie Jr. in his business affairs. Please inform Mr. Christie that he is in violation of U.S. trademark and copyright laws because he has reprinted two specific works created by my late husband, “Free George Christie” and “Midnight Mud Check” hereafter referred to as Item #1 and Item # 2 respectively for purposes of reference.
“Item # 1 was created upon request by the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) while Mr. Christie was an active member and was incarcerated some three decades ago, and many posters were printed back at that time. There were posters left over from that initial press run that were recently sold on eBay without my consent some for as much as $200.00 apiece. I understand lawful possession, right of first sale doctrine and other vague statutes that could be used as a defense if I were to initiate legal action for the eBay sales, however that is not my intent. Your client is welcome to the profits he made from these because, technically, he was incarcerated again and half of these profits supposedly went on his books while he was at La Tuna Federal Corrections while the other half covered operating expenses. Maybe Dave would have even approved of that.
“However, Item #1 reprints as well as Item # 2 prints were never intended to be duplicated and printed for sale. The originals were gifted to Mr. Christie’s private collection. There is no written agreement because it never would have occurred to Dave that it would ever be commercialized this way. Both items 1 & 2 are being sold as ‘vintage’ and this may be misleading to the buyer because they are not fully disclosed as reprints.
“Either way, David Mann’s signature is a registered trademark, and is clearly visible on the pages that these posters are offered off of: Mr. Christie’s website GeorgeChristie.com as well as on the posters themselves. They are being offered for $170.00 each with Mr. Christie’s autograph.
“This is not cool. I am hereby demanding that Mr. and Mrs. Christie cease and desist with any further marketing and sales of these two items as well as anything with David Mann’s signature on it as of January 1, 2016 otherwise my next letter will be through an attorney and I will pursue not only injunctive relief I will also seek recompensation for damages, monetary and otherwise through litigation. I will in addition demand a full accounting of published reprints, original posters sold on eBay and all other related transactions, a physical inventory, profit and loss statements, state and federal tax filings, FICA, state board of equalization filings, shipping records, interstate records, location of items in dispute, proof of ownership, authenticity and a whole lot more. I would appreciate a reply from your office prior to January 1, 2016 stating how you wish to proceed. I will interpret the absence of an answer or reply to be that Mr. Christie is declining my request or demand. If you prefer that, legal remedies will be the only course of action to pursue.”