For awhile, the airwaves hummed with shows featuring colorful welders and “custom choppers.” One of those shows was called American Thunder and it was different from all the rest because instead of welder it featured a model named Michelle Smith. (Seen squatting in the photo above.)
When the depression hit and people became less interested in bikes that were worth more than their homes but not their mortgages the show’s producers blamed Smith. She was fired and replaced by a manly millionaire who was once on Survivor. Maybe he was on Survivor more than once. Then he was fired and Smith became part of a new version of American Thunder called Two Wheel Thunder.
Two Wheel Thunder might be available for viewing on a television near you. Or maybe not, depending on your cable provider. You might get a home shopping show in a language that sounds like gagging instead.
I only bring this up now because I am too lazy to chase an actual story today and because Smith recently sent out an alert to 18,000 of her closest friends that Two Wheel Thunder will be “in Tampa for the premiere of the Easyriders Sequel.” I know because I am among Smith’s 18,000 closest friends, although some days I fear I may actually only be number 18,000 in a very long line. So when I heard from her my first thought was “There is an Easy Rider sequel?”
Easy Rider Sequel
Yes there is, I soon learned. Yes there is.
The late Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda proposed a sequel in 1985. Hopper’s idea was to set the movie in a grim and distant future, like, oh maybe, 2012. The original characters would be magically brought back to life and take a road trip through this post-apocalyptic America.
That sequel didn’t work out but other Hollywood entrepreneurs liked the idea of milking more money out of Easy Rider. The actor Martin Landau tried to produce a new version of the film in the 1990s. After Landau, a producer named Glenn Tobias raised money for a sequel but didn’t actually make one. He kept the money anyway and was sued by the estate of one of his investors in 2004.
The Lawyer Dreamer
The estate won that legal battle and a wealthy lawyer in Ohio named Phil Pitzer bought Tobias’ rights. Those rights, however, did not include the title Easy Rider. The original film’s producers Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson retained those rights. So, more litigation followed and to make a long and dreary story a little shorter, the Ohio lawyer eventually got to make his movie.
“I had a total vision of what I wanted in this movie. If it works, good for me. If it doesn’t, it’s my fault,” Pitzer told the Springfield, Ohio News-Sun in February 2010. “The last thing the Hollywood establishment wants is for someone like me to do well in their backyard.” Hollywood did not care.
The film was originally scheduled for release in September 2009. In May 2009 Pitzer flew a half dozen cast and crew members to the Cannes Film Festival for a “photo opportunity.” Pitzer tried to drum up an audience for the film at Sturgis that year. And, the film was not released that September.
The Ride Back
Easy Rider: The Ride Back was probably finished in 2010. “This movie may not be appreciated immediately,” Pitzer said. He was right about that. Since Pitzer was playing with his own money, no estimate of the film’s cost has ever been attempted. The movie has never been distributed but it does have an official web site.
That site describes the movie as, “The long awaited prequel to one of the highest grossing independent films of all time. Easy Rider defined the thoughts and values of a generation. The prequel Easy Rider: The Ride Back shows through flashbacks how these much loved characters became the classic icons of a generation. Millions of fans around the world know the throb of the Captain America Harley-Davidson, the roar of that great 60s music, the thrill of the open road. Now a whole new generation can experience the same sense of freedom….”
The movie seems to have not yet been released on DVD. If Easy Rider defined your “thoughts and values” and you want to see this prequel your best chance may be at the Gary Amphitheater in Tampa on February 25. And, if you are also one of Michele Smith’s 18.000 closest friends, now you know what she is talking about.