While the city of Ventura is having its 15 minutes of fame vis á vis True Detective and the Washington Post, VCReporter is soon to get its moment in the national spotlight thanks to our most infamous cover boy (George W. Bush notwithstanding): George Christie Jr.
Episode 5 of the 6-part History Channel series Outlaw Chronicles: The Hells Angels, which airs on Tuesday, Sept. 15, will recall a moment in 1999 when Christie’s placement on the cover of VCReporter’s “Movers and Shakers” issue elicited a less than friendly reaction from then district attorney Michael Bradbury, who was also featured but less prominently. A law enforcement insider told Christie that he witnessed the DA’s reaction. “He slammed his fist on the desk and said, ‘I want that son of a bitch’s patch!’ ” says Christie. And thus began a tedious legal battle for Christie who was squarely in Bradbury’s crosshairs. Producers of Outlaw Chronicles asked Bradbury to appear on the program, but after initially agreeing to make a statement, he ended up declining. Both Christie and Bradbury now live in Ojai, but have not yet crossed paths. If and when they do, Christie says he has no animosity.
Touted by the History Channel as a tell-all (“He’ll tell the world about everything from initiation to murder for hire”) Christie is careful not to reveal too much during the series — but, for the average viewer, that doesn’t make it any less juicy. The roughly 2 million people who tuned in to episode 2, nearly double from episode 1, can attest to that.
“I told them I would not discuss anything that would ultimately create legal situations or indictments for anyone,” Christie told VCReporter. “I never felt I was breaking any code. I felt I was setting the record straight. I’m somewhat of an advocate for the outlaw motorcycle culture.”
Glimpses of that culture, as told by Christie, accompanied by dramatic reenactment and archival photography, have been mostly compelling and no doubt extra-satisfying for Sons of Anarchy fans still in mourning. Christie, clad in black leather and never straying from his seated storyteller position throughout the program, comes across as sincere and nostalgic as he recalls his matriculation from “hangaround” to president of the infamous club.
From heartwarming moments, like visiting the old woman up north who hand-embroidered members’ jackets, to grisly stories of revenge and tenacity, it becomes apparent that what we’re seeing — someone’s foot being cored with an electric drill, a prospect cutting off his fingers (by his own accord) to prove his mettle — is only what Christie is willing to tell us, and there’s a whole lot that we’ll never know. “Either you’re in or you’re out,” says Christie. “With the outlaw culture there’s no middle ground.”
Yet somehow it’s easy to romanticize or even downplay the club’s violent history, especially if you’ve seen Christie chatting it up at Starbucks or spending time with his family. For someone who led a chapter of one of the most notorious organizations of the modern era, he almost seems too intelligent, too well-read, too charming to have been involved with anything so unseemly.
So why are people so fascinated with outlaw lore? “Our forefathers were outlaws and I think that we have a romance with outlaws,” says Christie. A history buff who penned a historical novel on his iPad while on house arrest, Christie sees his involvement with the Hells Angels as an expression of his constitutional rights. “Wyatt Earp was a sheriff but he crossed the line and became an outlaw. Billy the Kid was one of the most recognized names in the world — he was fighting for justice. I took a stand in 1966: I bought my first motorcycle. People can say whatever they want (and most of them have never met me and don’t know what my ideals are and how I feel about life) but I want to take advantage of every aspect of our freedom and that’s what I did for the last 50 years.”
In this week’s episode a new facet of the famed Altamont/Rolling Stones incident was revealed along with the birth of the Hells Angels Ventura chapter. Christie says there’s much to look forward to as the rest of the series unfolds, including him carrying the Olympic torch, the club’s bloody feud with the Outlaws MC, and a near attempt on his life. Outlaw Chronicles: Hells Angels is a wild ride through a subculture that most of us will never understand and many of us will never stop being interested in. For Ventura locals, it’s especially relevant because, like it or not, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is a part of the city’s history, and that particular history has gone global.
Outlaw Chronicles: Hells Angels airs Tuesday Nights on History Channel. Past episodes are available to stream at www.history.com. Out of the Box is a biweekly column by VCReporter staff and contributors about television and streaming content.