Ralph "Sonny" Barger was indeed president of the Oakland Hell's Angels
chapter for many years, until he transferred to the Cave Creek
, in his late fifties after his battle with throat cancer
. At the time, Arizona
was a small outfit and Sonny says he moved there because of his throat, although he hints in Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club
that he wanted to leave his Oakland
days behind him and move onto greener pastures. Perhaps he wanted a more quiet, settled life away from the ghosts that haunt him, after all, Sonny Barger is now in his sixties.
As an author, Barger comes across to me as being a violent thug with a dangerously twisted view of reality . He is not a modest man by any strech of the imagination, and is quite happy to boast of his past exploits, like his courtroom victories against the US government in the RICO indictments or the time he shot a man in the head "by accident", to his time in various lockups including the infamous Folsom Prison.
He reminisces with a tear in his eye about various punishment beatings meted out to members of rival clubs, kidnappings, drug deals, murders and his time on the inside with his "brothers". He also covers such subjects as rat packing and the art of lighting someone up with great enthusiasism.
Barger was highly influential within the HAMC, and seen by many as a father figure and mentor. From what he writes in his book he seems to fulfill that role in a sense by always looking out for his Hell's Angels brothers whenever they were in trouble. On the other side of that coin though, he would have no trouble killing two of his brothers and burying them in a friends back garden because they looked at him funny.
During a free Rolling Stones concert in Altamont, California in 1969, the HAMC were asked to organise sercurity for the band. When a man with a gun was stabbed to death for trying to infiltrate the stage, Stones guitarist Keith Richards refused to continue with the set. Sonny's solution to this problem: "I stood next to him and stuck my pistol into his side and told him to start playing his guitar or he was dead."
Sonny Barger in a sentence.
He now resides in Arizona and still runs with the HAMC but in a more recreational capacity. He continues to write and is working on a new book, Dead in 5 Heartbeats and runs a motorcycle shop, Cave Creek Cycles, which you can visit at: www.cavecreekcycles.com.
Links: www.sonnybarger.com, www.hells-angels.com