Just A Shot Away

July 10, 2018

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Just A Shot Away

There is a new book out today about the Altamont Speedway Free Festival on December 6, 1969. It is called Just a Shot Away: Peace, Love, and Tragedy With the Rolling Stones at Altamont and its author is a very celebrated writer and professor named Saul Austerlitz.

Altamont was so long ago that many readers here may never have heard of the thing but it was the event that bronzed motorcycle outlaws’ reputation as bloodthirsty psychopaths. It is polished history, which is to say it is a story prosecutors can tell jurors.

The Rolling Stones and other bands of that era including the Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Santana, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young agreed to put on a free rock n’ roll show. It was supposed to be a love fest. The Stones had just made $1.5 million on an American tour. They commissioned a concert film about the free show. And they hired Bay Area Hells Angels to guard the stage.

The Stones agreed to pay the Angels $500 and provide them with free beer. The Angels parked their bikes near the stage. When the music started the audience rushed the stage and started knocking over bikes. It was all downhill from there.

One of the fans who pushed his way to the front was a large black youth in a lime green suit named Meredith Hunter. When Hunter pulled a pistol and started waving it around a Hells Angels prospect named Alan Passaro grabbed Hunter and stabbed him until he fell and let go of the gun.

Eyewitness Account

The next morning, a respectfully regarded Hells Angel named Ralph “Sonny” Barger told San Francisco radio station KSAN:

“We were told if we showed up, we could sit on the stage and drink some beer that the Stones’ managers had brought us, you know. And I’m bum kicked about the whole thing. I didn’t like what happened there. We were told we were supposed to sit on the stage and keep people off, and a little back, if we could. We parked where we were told we were supposed to park. Mostly, a little bit to the side of the stage so that people who were there didn’t have to move back too far.

“Personally, I was there to sit on the stage and listen and drink this beer that we were promised. I didn’t go there to fight. I went there to have a good time and sit on the stage. Finally, the Stones come out and they start playing. Everybody’s having a good, good time. All of a sudden, someone down in front, where this one bike, right directly in front, was, is yelling. I myself jumped down there and the wiring has shorted out somewhere. The bike had caught fire. The people were packed right up to the stage. So I told them to back up so we can get this fire out. Nobody’d back up. Some other Angels caught what was happening and came off the stage, and when they did, people started backing up.

“Now I ain’t saying anything about no Angel hit anybody. I know some of them hit people. But they moved them people back out of the way of the bike. And we got the fire put out. In the process, you know what, some people got hit. And you know what? Some of them people were like maybe them Friday nighters that got that front row. I don’t know. But they didn’t want to give up that spot even to put that fire out. And when they come back fightin’, they got thumped. And a lot of time there was six or seven Angels on one guy, and a lot of times there wasn’t. After that happened, we got the fire out. And everything was cool. The people moved back in again.”

“We moved them people to save that bike. And, after that, they tried to destroy our bikes, and we’re not gonna stand for it. And that made it personal…. You know what? I’m a violent cat when I got to be. But I don’t really want to be. But there ain’t nobody gonna take anything I got and try to destroy it. Mick Jagger, he put it all on the Angels.

“Look, I ain’t no cop. I ain’t never going to ever pretend to be a cop. I didn’t go there to police nothing. They told me if I could sit on the edge of the stage so nobody would climb over me, I could drink beer until the show was over. That’s what I went there to do…. I’m no peace creep, by any sense of the word. And, if a cat don’t want to fight with me, don’t want to hassle with me, I want to be his friend. If he don’t want to be my friend, then out of sight, don’t even talk to me. But if he don’t want to be my friend and he’s gonna get in my face, I’m gonna hurt him, or he’s gonna hurt me. And you know what? It doesn’t really matter if he hurts me, because I’ve been hurt before. And I’ve been hurt by experts. Over the years, though, I’ve learned how to get up and do it again.”

The Tragic Hero

Meredith Hunter died. His death became the dramatic highlight of the concert film Gimme Shelter. And, now Hunter is the tragic hero of Austerlitz’s book.

Hunter’s sister, Dixie, was worried about what might happen to him at the concert. “Meredith was receptive enough to his sister’s concerns that he decided he was going to protect himself at the concert at the Altamont Speedway. ‘You know what happens to people who look like us,’ he told her. Dixie responded with a chuckle. It was just like her brother to act tough but not even be capable of following through. ‘I see you got a gun,’ she laughed. ‘I bet you don’t have any bullets for it.’ It would just be there to scare off any hoodlums who decided to pick on a black teenager at a rock ‘n’ roll show. He told Dixie not to worry. He would not have to deal with any of that, anyway.”

Hunter’s girlfriend “Patti was hardly surprised when Meredith came back to the car to join her for a respite that afternoon. This concert was a bust, and she was ready to leave, Rolling Stones or no Rolling Stones. She was dumbfounded when Hunter went over to the Mustang, unlocked the trunk, and removed a long-barreled .22 Smith & Wesson revolver with a blue-steel barrel. Bredehoft watched him put the gun in a pocket of his jacket. ‘Why are you getting that?’ she wondered, shocked. ‘It’s just to protect myself. They’re getting really bad,’ he told her, referring to the Hells Angels. “They’re pushing people off the stage, and beating people up.”

“The couple had been among the fans terrorized by the Hells Angels’ presence. They had scurried out of the way when the Angels had roared up to the stage on their Harley-Davidsons with hardly a pause; if they hadn’t made room for the motorcycles, they likely would have been run over. They watched helplessly as the bikers used their pool cues as truncheons, beating fans who had violated the unspoken rules of proximity to the Hells Angels. Bredehoft was particularly troubled by the bland announcements that came from the stage, asking the audience to calm down and be cool. It wasn’t the audience causing the trouble in the first place, she thought.”

Self Defense

Hunter was only protecting himself, Austerlitz reports, from “five bikers” who “had beaten others for the crime of enjoying themselves” and who “had singled out other African-Americans.”

This is obviously a book people want to read now. It comes skiing in on an avalanche of pre-publication praise. Excerpts appeared yesterday in Rolling Stone. It is the story of an innocent teenager who attended a “concert and never came home.” Hunter, the book all but says, could have been any of our sons who had the misfortune to cross paths with bikers while brandishing a gun.

Whether you like it or not, this is an “important” book. The New York Times settled that last week when it called Just A Shot Away “revelatory” and “important.”

You can’t argue with Austerlitz. He has a degree in Film Studies from Yale and a Masters in Cinema Studies from NYU. His work has appeared in The New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Slate, The New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications.

Books like this are what history has become.

No word yet on the inevitable movie.

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30 Responses to “Just A Shot Away”

  1. Mark Says:

    This is more BS being hyped by chickenshits against Bikers across the board. Let’s look at the facts, that revolver could have realistically have killed a person for every bullet it could hold. Lives were at risk and people stepped up to defend other people’s lives. Putting themselves at risk of death and or injury to protect other people whom were in and not the club. An award should have been giving along with a key to the city for such an act of such bravery. If Hunter wasn’t black the communist wouldn’t have the soapbox to harp off of. Blacks are known, then as now to be a race of very violent people. Being this BS is about blanketing people, let’s blanket people. They can not live in peace in Africa around each other, a fact. In the USA blacks rape 30,000 white woman yearly and not one white man has raped a black woman, a fact as per FBI reported stats. Bottom line, a black man destroyed the Peace, Love and Woodstock mind-set of the 60/70’s pulling out a gun to threatening innocent people at a music festival.

  2. Snow Says:

    I read Mr Barger’s version in his book many moons ago, that’s the version I believe.
    Fuck all the revisionist bullshit
    Sieg. +10

  3. david Says:

    And banker-offspring Mick wipes the blood of his hands and says, not me.

  4. WheresMyBoots Says:

    Here we go … again. Save for Donald Charles Davis, and Sonny Barger, every spineless, ass-sucking prick ‘journalist’, or ‘author’, that has ever written about this clusterfuck has described Hunter as “black TEENAGER”, “black TEENAGED BOY”, and every variation thereof possible. This 7’2, 18yro, Huggy Bear (for you youngsters, Huggy Bear was a comical pimp on a comical cop show)-outfitted nimrod who kept checking that pistol in his drawers and hanging his tongue all the way out repeatedly, clearly charged the stage with a drawn pistol. Passaro saved somebody’s life, or several, no matter who he was or what he was in the years since.
    As Sonny Barger put it, Hunter “committed suicide”. At some point since that day it has also been said that Merideth Curly Hunter yelled something about killing Jagger. Maybe he did, maybe not.
    ‘Men’ younger than, or the same age as Hunter were getting shot up and dying in Viet Nam, but only the Vets and some authors remember them as “teenagers” or “boys”.
    81 in particular and 1%ers in general have been blamed for “the end of The Age of Aquarius”, “the end of The Summer of Love” (which was two years earlier), rape as a sporting event, body odor, halitosis, expensive foot powder, that dude tripping balls onstage before he his rather gently led off, and just about every other bad thing that occurred in the 60’s and plenty since. The ‘hippies’ were bent because they assumed scooter tramps would be their ‘praetorian guards’ for some strange reason, and missing the point that 1%ers typically don’t do much that other elements of society ‘want’ or ‘expect’ them to do, and that is *exactly* why everyone is so fascinated by, or want to be, just like the author of, and many of the readers of this site.

    I finally accept that every fucking time–well, almost–that this thing is written about Hunter is going to be a “young black boy child teenager” (again, unless it’s Donald Charles Davis-respects, or Ralph Barger-respects).
    I’ll watch ‘Gimme Shelter’ again though, and once again see what actually happened, and see Mike Shrieve (great drummer, Santana) tell Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh that “the (81) are beating up musicians” (Marty Balin decided to play The Lone Ranger and got KTFO’d for his efforts, big surprise there, jumping into the middle of a dust-up involving a bunch of pool cue wielding prospects; he was ‘the musicians’), laugh out loud, and not see the Grateful Dead anymore (fine with me) who got back on the helicopter and left.
    That striped-shirt, hot chick stage left smiling and moving her head to the music, yeah, I’ll watch her too. She seemed to be having a great time. So did that black dude earlier in the movie dancing and appearing to be under the influence of damnedifIknowbutgimmesome.
    Thanks for telling the truth Rebel: looks like you are all alone in *that* journalistic room, and standing tall.

    Respects, and Ride Free.
    -WMB

  5. rocco151 Says:

    @Sieg

    Excellent point…thanks !

  6. BigV Says:

    Neuro: Personally, I wanna go out with a white redhead girl who has big lips, freckles, about 30 years old, nice labia, well groomed but not bald, big tits, nice birthing hips, and go out by having kher fuck me to death. TO DEATH !

    Some guys go by the bank, withdraw $10k, take a nice relaxing walk down the river basin, slip, hit their head as they go into the drink, and they die.

    Different strokes for different folks.

  7. Koala Says:

    For anyone interested, here’s the full audio of Sonny Barger on KSAN: https://youtu.be/JUlyVSfhgaM?t=35m58s

    Link should start at 35:58. If you find the initial commentary annoying, skip to 36:34 for the start of the segment.

  8. Neuro Says:

    Alan Passaro was found dead in Anderson Reservoir in Santa Clara in 1985, with ten thousand dollars in his pocket.

  9. Sieg Says:

    Rocco151, it was a different time, and Kali was a different place.

    Never happen that way today, you’d be in the joint most rickey-tick, hate-crime enhancement and all.

    FTF/FTP
    TOSIAR

  10. SCREWDRIVER Says:

    you can reach me # 760 207 2965

  11. Igo Says:

    I’ve read every book about Altamont, and I would say the one that seems closest to the real story was Sam Cutlers. He was the RS tour manager, and also had a meeting with the HA in NYC. He was on the stage,saw what went down. So much of the info written about this is wrong( Like “Sympathy for the devil was being played as it happened?”, anybody that watched the film knows that’s not true) and what is seen on film, his story seems to make the most sense. Plus, nothing I’ve read about Hunter would ever lead me to believe he was just “some poor black kid that just wanted to watch to Stones play” and got stabbed for his troubles. You could fill another book with all the misinformation that’s been printed on this……

  12. rocco151 Says:

    All of you on this site are way more qualified in the ways of MC clubs than I am but even a novice such as myself can’t help but be impressed by the fact that the ex-convict club member (HA Alan Passaro) that killed Meredith Hunter was cleared in a court of law of self defense in this case ! This case wasn’t a racial thing or a rock and roll thing this was a case of survival….you pull a rod you mean business…IMHO Alan took care of business…and the Judicial System agreed !

  13. 10GUAGE Says:

    I have been to many concerts and worked loss prevention as well…the Angels used pool cues, in my day it was 4 cell mag flash lights. I can tell you nobody gets away with rushing the stage, spitting, throwing shit…it’s like going to the bar or the clubhouse, everybody understands the rules writte or unwritten…and if you don’t, well those lessons will be painful.

  14. Penguin Says:

    Most decisions are circumstantial in the moment. The example of the Altimont affair serves as a good example,,,a long series of flawed decisions that seemed ok at the time gradually aligned to bring all the reagent factors together at the stage…after that a FUBAR situation was as sure as dynamite. The colored cat died through misadventure – it was everybody’s, and nobody’s, fault or error – especially in young men, alcohol, and lotadope – I remember.

    Can’t say I knew the fellas in the club, but I had drunk beer with a few in their homes as a guest – and the club used to be present, with scoots, at panhandle love-ins. People kept a cautious distance from those bikes – I know I did. Seemed like good working class guys, and fair-minded…but tougher than me. Also older.

    Now that some of us are older we have the capacity to sense bad decisions better than we used to, I think…

    Is often a poor decision to pull a piece out, worse to wave it ’round, and really stupid to point it – and a .22? The cat was not thinking…

    A colored man I know told me a story about how he and his brothers were camping and a white guy came round to invite them all to share a great dinner and party. It was dark…and, not understanding the intent, and influenced by the civilrights violence, my friend (now a retired fireman) had the white guy in rifle sights… The white man never knew how it was, it went right, and they partied together most of the night… Stuff happens…

    Historian David Irving addresses the ways Historians re-write History as Lies… He’s on youtube… Evidently the new book is an example of TBS as “History”…

  15. Phuquehed Says:

    All these mother fuckers with ‘degrees’ from college, not a one of them relevant to *anything* they write about or do for their work/job, all trying to come across as an ‘expert’ of something, and pretty much every fucking one of them a fucking moron with absolutely no – common sense, dignity, honor, truthfulness, or integrity. Every fucking one of them shows the reaqders they’re number one goal is for money, *IF* the readers would actually stop and think once in a while as they read the rag.

    Unfortunately, it’s all about just saying they got the book, know the author and know s/he/it knows all about ‘those bad motorcycle gangs’, because, well, the pigs told them it’s all true, and since they’re all gutless worms who would call 911 before defending their own wife or daughter who just got ripped from their side into an alley to get raped, the pigs are their number one source of what’s ‘correct’ to believe or not.

    Fuck all these authors, every one of them that Rebel has exposed as one of these wretched, stinking cunts described above by me. The best thing they, the authors, the publishers who let the lies ‘get out there to the general public’, the rags that promote the lies without any investigatory work whatsoever, and the pigs who *tell* them all that they’re right, would be to each of them test the warning label on a plastic bag, preferably out in the countryside from wherever they live so that their rotting carcasses can be of at least some use by feeding the critters and enrichening the soil a little.

    ACAB TOSIAR FTF

  16. FF Says:

    Even when I was 10 years old and saw this movie for the first time, I knew right from wrong. I was rooting for the Angels the whole time.

  17. Not Surprised Says:

    @ Koala Exactly

  18. Gordo Says:

    Free beer and a good time sounds great to me

    Moral of this story

    dont wave a piece around

  19. Trebor Says:

    The Documentory will definately be better than the book.The stage was too low the lighting bad the Rolling Stones dragging out the wait before hitting the stage was probably the worst of it.Too easy to blame the Angels but they were no more than products of their environment.

  20. Not Surprised Says:

    After the show, the HA remained until dawn, making bonfire from pieces of the stage. The first media reports portrayed it as “a racial execution”and there was an attempt to portray Hunter “as just a kid”
    In The film Gimmee Shelter, you can see his tongue
    flicking rapidly from all the meth. Pics of his
    “blonde white girlfriend” were promoted, but at trial,she said they barely knew each other.

  21. Not Surprised Says:

    Hunter did not aimlessly wave his firearm in the air. He pointed it. This can be seen in
    the movie. GIMME SHELTER. That’s why a jury ruled the stabbing self defense. In the freeze frame, it appears he was aiming at the stage

  22. Not Surprised Says:

    Hunter was no hero,nor was he a
    victim in the classic sense.
    He did not wave his firearm
    aimlessly. You can see he pointed it.Why a jury ruled self defense

  23. Paladin Says:

    You wanna get your ticket punched? Wave a gun around and see what happens. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. This book is nothing more than leftist spin on what was considered then and would considered today as a case of self defense.

    Paladin

  24. Mr Nobody Says:

    One book I won’t be reading. I rarely read nonfiction. Especially opinionated nonfiction.

  25. Filburt Says:

    Phuk the book.
    One of the fans who pushed his way to the front was a large black youth in a lime green suit named Meredith Hunter. When Hunter pulled a pistol and started waving it around He shouldn’t have. Period.

  26. freebird Says:

    Just A Shot Away “revelatory” and “important.”

    What the fuck….. maybe the movie will pull out all the stops and we will find out he was also gay. Shut the Angels down….. what were they thinking!

  27. Koala Says:

    History being rewritten again.

    First, the Angels killed the 60s and the peace and love movement with the death at Altamont.

    Then, the film footage revealed an Angel stabbed a guy in self defense who was waving around a gun threatening people.

    Now, the guy supposedly grabbed the gun in self defense against some Angels who might have put boots and fists to people who got too close to the front.

    I think it’s fair to say that every outlaw club – not just 1%ers but all outlaw clubs – have had a member act inappropriately at some point even though it’s not the modus operandi of any club. The Angel stabbing the gun-wielding Hunter at Altamont is not one of those cases.

  28. Dasein Says:

    Whenever any journalistic subjectivity is offered, any sort of editorial viewpoint, particularly any of the dramatic, self-validating social proselytizing that vomits from the face of the new york times,
    The Truth is the opposite of whatever the NYT claims, always.

  29. Meh Says:

    Hunter’s fan club admit idiot boy armed himself, returned to the specific, small area where he expected violent conflict, then brandished that weapon.

    Doing that shit would easily justify a police shooting or armed self-defense by any citizen who wasn’t a patch. It certainly justified the acquittal of Passaro.

    It would be rude of me to imply this is just another Leftist Jew spinning a civil rights issue where none existed then cashing in, so I won’t imply that.

  30. Sieg Says:

    Hey, you can’t argue it…

    If Osama bin Barry had had a son, he’d have looked just like Meredith.

    Well, if he had a son with a REALLY black Black woman.

    This isn’t about motorcycles, or clubs, what it’s about is that in Amerika, in 2018, no “person of color” (I got kicked off farcebook for putting those words in the wrong order once) is ever truly guilty of anything, and if they are, it’s because of something Mr. Charlie did to them.

    FTF/FTP
    TOSIAR

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