A man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere…
Tuesday, July 27th, 8pm
Arlo & Esme 42 E. 1st street (between 1st & 2nd ave)
Easy Rider (1969)
Bikers, Captain America (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) roll up to a Mexican roadside bar, La Contenta (The Contented One) to buy cocaine. Meeting with their connection (Phil Spector) out back, they test out the merchandise off of a side view mirror. The drugs are good and cash is exchanged for 2 motorcycle batteries full of the stuff. The drug deal next continued at an airport where the two meet a buyer. The drugs are tested in the front seat of a 1960 Ford F100 pickup and the cash is counted in the buyer’s Rolls Royce.
“Sure is a good lookin’ machine”
With the cash stashed into surgical tubing in the gas tank, and tossing his watch to the ground, Captain America (known as such because of his American flag painted on chopper, jacket and helmet) and Billy head out on their choppers for New Orleans and Marti Gras.
“Going down to Marti Gras, gonna get myself a Marti Gras queen”
Along the way, they are constantly persecuted for their long hair and crazy bikes. Rolling in dough, they are forced to camp out since they can never get a room. Of course some along the way are accepting. A flat tire forces them to stop at a family ranch, where horses get new shoes fitted while the bike gets it’s tire patched.
“Hey man, everything we ever dreamed of is in that there tear drop gas tank…”
Picking up a hitchhiker at a gas station, they are taken to a commune full of city kids turned hippy living with goats and little kids in the desert, trying to grow crops in the bone dry sand. Though they know they won’t make it, they dig what they’re trying to do. Living simple off the land like the farmer who fixed their flat.
“Hey, do you know who this is ma…It’s Captain America!”
Billy starts to get itchy and they move on, taking a few local commune girls for a skinny dip first, of course. Soon after they’re arrested for “parading without a permit”. In jail they come across the local blue blood drunk, George Hanson (Jack Nicholson) in his dapper white suit.
“To ‘ole D.H Lawrence!”
Swigging from a flask in the early morning light, George talks them out of jail, he dons a gold and purple football helmet, and hops on the back of Captain America’s bike, to visit the best little whore house “Madame Tinkertoy’s House of Blue Lights”, corner of Bourbon and Toulouse, New Orleans, Louisiana. “These ain’t no porkchops, these girls are US Grade A prime”, and with that, they’re off.
“They got some fancy bikes out there. Yankee queers!”
Everywhere they stop, girls love them, cops hate them and they spend more nights camping out, introducing George to pot and talking about idealism and America.
“They ‘aint scared of you. Just what you represent….and what you represent to them is freedom”
Late that night, the three are awoken to a harsh beating from some locals that snuck into their camp and poor George is killed.
Captain America finally hit New Orleans and head right to the House of Blue Lights in memory of George. After a weird night of whore, socialites and drink, they grab two girls and go to check out Mardi Gras (filmed by Hopper the year before in 16mm to raise money for the feature), and ending the night tripping out in a cemetery.
Billy: “We did it, man. We did it, we did it. We’re rich, man. We’re retirin’ in Florida now, mister.”
Captain America: “You know Billy, we blew it.”
Leaving Nola nothing seems changed, no revelations, just a weird night out after the long ride there, the trip being more the point than the destination, they ride alone content, when suddenly Billy is run off the road by a truck. Captain America, referred to for the first time as Wyatt, tears off to find help. The truck turns around, saying they need to go back and help, and almost immediately truck and bike meet head on. In a flash, truck driver pulls out a shotgun and ends Captain America dead in his tracks. No mercy for the lone riders (the original name of the film) and the American dream is squashed once more.
Watch the ORIGINAL TRAILER
“Ben Hardy created the “Captain America” and ‘Billy’ choppers for the film Easy Rider. Hardy’s Motorcycle Service was located at 1168 E. Florence in Los Angeles. The building is still there, only now occupied by an auto repair shop.
Story goes– Peter Fonda, the producer of Easy Rider, hired Cliff Vaughs to coordinate the motorcycles for the film, and Cliff tapped Ben Hardy for the actual construction of the machines. In total, four former police bikes were used in the film. The 1949, 1950 and 1952 Harley Davidson HydraGlide bikes were purchased at an auction for $500. Ben Hardy took the standard H-D frames and used Buchanan’s frame shop to alter the steering head angle to 45 degrees. The steering head was cut off and repositioned, and the resultant extreme rake required a 12″ extension to the telescopic forks. A set of A.E.E. fork clamps are used, with extended handlebar clamps (‘dog bones’); the handlebars have a rise of 13″ – not yet in ‘ape hanger’ territory.” – The Selvage Yard
Read a great article on Ben Hardy at The Vintagent