Breaking all the rules
Waukesha, Wis., Sept. 16—After two years of trial and tribulations, the effort of piecing together a full-length biker flick came together this past September. The writers of Rebel on the Highway, Charlie Brechtel and his wife Sabrina, along with executive producer Dennis Sanfilippo, packed their bags and flew from Northern California to present the film to their discerning friends in Milwaukee. Things kicked off on Thursday night with a ride over to the famously hospitable Iron Horse Hotel for a pre-screening party. Situated right across the river from the Harley-Davidson Museum, the beautiful summer evening was spent as a meet-and-greet party on the hotel patio.
Rebel on the Highway was highly anticipated from the very beginning as word of mouth spread and folks in the motorcycle world became curious. As a movie written by bikers, about bikers, for bikers and starring bikers, imaginations ran wild as everyone eagerly awaited its release. Besides the typical good vs. evil, racing with the devil storyline, the most exciting element of the unique film is that every viewer will most certainly see someone they know. Unlike typical movies, there’s nothing “Hollywood” about it. Most obvious is the conspicuous absence of professional actors, sans one: Mickey Jones. All the other players are personalities from Charlie Brechtel’s everyday life.
A good many of the cast members came from across the country to celebrate the release on the outskirts of historic Milwaukee. The local Indian motorcycle dealer, Rob Schopf, provided bikes for the film’s stars while Tony “Pan” Sanfelipo (the first Freedom Fighter ever inducted into the Sturgis Hall of Fame was cast as “God”) and his wife Vicki shared their bikes so the entire crew could spend the weekend tearing up the fall foliage along some iconic back roads. In keeping with the “by bikers, for bikers” theme, scheduled stops included Knucklehead’s Pub in Eagle and Hollywood’s Roadhouse.
Sharon Hollywood, owner of Hollywood’s Roadhouse and president/cofounder of the women’s Iron Angels riding club, invited the Rebel on the Highway clan to swing by and grab a bite to eat. Nestled up next to a river and off the beaten path in Nashotah, Hollywood welcomed Charlie’s pack with plates of homemade fish and all the fixin’s then topped it off with a variety of equally fabulous desserts. Hollywood also made it out to the premiere at the charming Majestic Cinema. “I really enjoyed the movie,” she shared later. “It was a good laugh, a good picker-upper.”
The Majestic was sold out early on so management opened a second theater for the Saturday afternoon screening. Lines of anxious viewers crowded the tables in the lobby to buy support gear and get signatures from such notable cast members as riding personality Bean’re, master builder and gregarious biker Berry Wardlaw, and biker advocate, avid rider and past Wisconsin politician Dave Zein. Everyone’s favorite nonagenarian lady rider, Gloria Tramontin Struck, held court at the end of the table as she charmed those who asked for an autograph. One autograph hound, Danny, beamed as he went down the row of actors to have them sign his poster. “Oh my gosh, I am so glad I came to this,” Danny gushed. “My friend talked me into coming to see the movie. I’d never even heard of it, and it was so much fun.”
Brechtel did an excellent job of casting the various characters since most, fittingly, played themselves, and a veritable who’s who in the riding world gathered to cheer on the efforts of the wannabe thespians. The underlying commentary here is that Charlie managed to bring together some of the key players in the motorcycling industry simply because they believed in him and wanted to support his project. Say what you will, but that kind of friendship and loyalty is its own reward.
By the time the cheers settled and the heckling amongst friends began, riders saddled up again for an evening ride to celebrate the completion of the lengthy project that ran the gamut of emotions. Two of Charlie’s close friends who played in the movie passed away before its completion. Chuck “Deluxe” Ruiz and Deacon Jones both lost their battles with cancer and preserving their voices, and friendship, on film is a point of pride for Brechtel but caused a rush of emotion for those who knew the backstory. Another friend, musician Gregg Allman who has music included on the soundtrack, also passed. Charlie made a host of new friends during the shooting of the flick, too. Among them is award-winning blues musician Charlie Musselwhite who has a role in the film and his harmonica skills can be heard on the soundtrack CD as well. Musselwhite will be appearing at some of the screenings scheduled over the next few months so be sure to find a viewing near you. It’s a great opportunity to meet some of your favorite bikers and famous musicians. You just might be surprised by who you see on the silver screen, too.
Schedules for future showings can be found on the website along with support gear and posters. Rebel on the Highway-The Soundtrack goes on sale in time for Christmas buying and can be found on the website, iTunes, Google Play and Amazon.