For better or worse, the L.A. party scene has become the epicenter of popular culture in this country and virtually every mainstream media outlet— broadcast, print and blog—has become saturated on a daily basis with reports from the red carpet and photo ops and photo oops of alleged “celebrities” of dubious talent, dubious judgment, dubious driving abilities and dubious human worth. There’s no escape from it. Celebrity worship is the new opiate of the masses, and a disturbing percentage of young people—a solid majority of the so-called Gen Y—report that their goal in life is simply to become rich and famous, without elaborating on why that’s important or how, exactly, they expect to achieve it.
That comes as no surprise considering what they’re exposed to, and I pity them their vapid fixation. Which is not to say that my own generation didn’t have its own vapid fixation in our youth, we just had a more realistic one; we just wanted to be cool.
Being cool had nothing to do with money and fame. In fact our notion of cool was the antithesis of wealth and what passes for celebrity these days. Being a rebel was cool. Being anti-establishment was cool. It was our parents who were all hung up on the money thing. We were so unyielding in our definition of cool that getting a record played on AM radio was the kiss of death for a rock band.
We were also lucky in our cool fixation because we had a surefire means of achieving that status, and that was to ride a motorcycle. A Harley was the coolest bike you could ride, but the British twins were a close second and a hell of a lot more affordable for a teenager bussing tables or pumping gas, and our concept of fantastic wealth back then was as humble as the price of a used hog.
That standard of cool endured for decades, my entire adult life, making my life choices simple and radically less stressful than the striving for reality show stardom or a gold-plated Escalade like these poor kids are up against these days. For us, Harley equaled cool. Period. Milwaukee stood above the fray, unmoved by fashion trends, determining unilaterally what was cool just by doing it and not giving the whole matter much thought beyond that.
That’s the epitome of cool. So you can imagine my consternation when Harley-Davidson suffered what appears to be a crisis of cool confidence and leapt headlong into the L.A. party scene. I didn’t see it coming, which is embarrassing since bird-dogging the American motorcycle industry and tracking popular perceptions of Harley-Davidson and biker culture in mainstream media is my gig. So blindsided was I by a press release from Harley-Davidson trumpeting their sponsorship of Complex magazine’s gala VIP red carpet party at L.A.’s Boulevard3 nightclub during LA Fashion Week that I momentarily suspected it to be a hoax— some kind of cruel joke intended to make me feel uncool. I honestly didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. I was utterly unfamiliar with Complex magazine, Boulevard3, and LA Fashion Week. And as I read further I was introduced to a whole raft of “celebrities” I also knew nothing about: Travis Barker, Perez Hilton, Aubrey O’Day, Chudney Ross, Claudia Jordan, Carrie Ann Inaba, Chyno and the
Cheetah Girls. The only name I recognized was David Hasselhoff—and I found that equally perplexing.
A month later, while I was still puzzling over the Complex party deal, another press release came from Milwaukee announcing that they’d co-sponsored an American Music Awards after party at Les Deux in L.A. where they’d helped a rapper by the name of Fabolous celebrate his birthday. Seriously. Once again there was a red carpet involved and once again they listed the “celebrities” and once again I was dumbfounded: names like Young Jeezy, The Game, Idris Elba, D-Ray, Chloe Kardashian, Vida Guerra, Page Kennedy. This time the only name I recognized was Snoop Dogg. (But just to show you how hip I really am, I remember the guy from back when Snoop Dogg wasn’t his name. It was Prince. So there.)
I realize, of course, what’s happening here. Harley’s endeavoring to expand their presence and appeal outside of their traditional customer base, and they’ve decided to go after the trendy urbanites and hip hop crowd and there’s nothing wrong with that, Lord knows. What’s troubling, I’ve found while checking out Complex magazine with its cover photo of rapper T.I.—who also attended the AMA after party—and checking into this guy Fabolous, is the virulent misogyny these “artists” espouse. Here’s a sample of T.I.’s “art”:
Pimpin’ get a bitch, break a bitch, hit a bitch, shake a bitch Spit game till I make this shit turn these tricks and get me rich Lick his ass suck my dick bring me back my niggaz quick
And here’s a taste of birthday boy Fabolous:
Yeah, I’m a Ghetto Superstar nigga Most niggas trying to get one chick, right? I’m trying to get two You know, two is always better than one, right?
It’s you, her and me; eyes too blurred to see Speech too slurred to G But you know “Young’n” would love ta See ya upon each other, feeling on me while tongue’n each other
But while we’re on the subject of expanding the H-D demographic, it should be noted that the week before the Complex party, Harley co-sponsored an event in New York of a much different nature. This one was the “Reinvention Convention” presented by More magazine, a publication targeted at successful professional women over the age of 40. Harley was there to pitch motorcycling as an empowering activity for women, which it most certainly is and always has been.
Oh, the irony.
It’s all right here in the diaries.