Daniel Francis Haggerty, who was probably best known for portraying a mountain man named Grizzly Adams, died of cancer last Friday at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California.
Haggerty was a handsome biker and a bodybuilder who broke into film playing “Biff the Muscle Man” in Muscle Beach Party in 1964. That movie also featured Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Haggerty went on to play parts in movies like Angels Die Hard, Bury Me an Angel, Pink Angels, Chrome and Hot Leather and Sleazy Rider but most readers here will remember that he was the on set mechanic for the 1969 film Easy Rider. Haggerty also had an uncredited role in that film as a hippie in a commune. He went on to enjoy enormous success playing Grizzly Adams in the movies and on television.
There were, apparently, either three or four Captain America motorcycles used in Easy Rider. They were named for the character played by Peter Fonda. They were beautiful panhead hard tails with chromed frames, ape hanger handlebars, raked front ends, mile high, 60’s sissy bars, braided lines, fishtail shotguns and gas tanks painted to resemble the American flag. The bikes have been reproduced numerous times. You can hardly go to a bike show without seeing one. And the story of what happened to the originals has evolved over the years.
Haggerty – or possibly two, black, bike builders named Benjamin F. “Ben” Hardy and Cliff Vaughs – built three – or four – Captain America bikes for the film. One – or two or three – of them were either cannibalized for parts or stolen or destroyed during the filming of Easy Rider. Haggerty sold the one, true Captain America bike to a Texan named Gordon Granger in 1996 for $63,500. He authenticated the motorcycle at the time of the sale and again in 2005 but he would later explain to the Los Angeles Times that he had been mistaken.
The last, true, Captain America bike was mostly destroyed in a fiery explosion at the end of the film but Haggerty salvaged it, restored it with parts from the other Captain America bikes used in the film and sold it to Los Angeles Realtor and movie memorabilia collector Michael Eisenberg. Haggerty authenticated that machine, too and Eisenberg sold that one at auction in October 2014 for $1.35 million.
Haggerty was an interesting man.
In 1977, a customer in a restaurant set his beard on fire with a flaming cocktail. He suffered third degree burns on his arms but walked out of the hospital ten days later. In 1985, he was sentenced to 90 days in county jail for selling two undercover, Los Angeles policemen cocaine. “What I did was wrong,” Haggerty told the judge. “But what the system did was not right.”
After his death his longtime agent and manager Terry Bomar said, “He wasn’t a choirboy by any stretch of the imagination. He was a pirate! He would light up any room he walked into – he had infectious laughter…. He was very unexpected! I knew him for 20 years. I never knew what he would say.”
Daniel Francis Haggerty was born on November 19, 1941 in Los Angeles. His father was an actor and his parents separated when he was three. He married Diane Rooker when he was 17. His second wife, Samantha Hilton died in a motorcycle accident in 2008. He is survived by his children, Megan, Tracy, Dylan, Cody and Don.
Dan Haggerty lived a better story than any of his movies.
Requiscat In Pace