The Rebels Return With a Rally That Brought Upwards of 10,000 Bikers to the Famed and Historic Location
Words and photos by Diane ‘Shadow’s Wife’ Jones
Some people would like to think that the term “fake news” was a recently coined term born out of the political divisiveness that plagues us today, but that isn’t true for the biker community.
The original “fake news” came in 1947 when motorcycle riding soldiers returning from war descended on the sleepy town of Hollister, California, in hopes to participate in the games and hill climbs put on by the Gypsy Tour Motorcycle Races at Bolado Park that had been started in the 1930s.
However, the rowdy, rambunctious riders were not allowed to participate and turned their pent-up energy into riding and partying on the main street of Hollister, where their shenanigans drew the attention of the police and some arrests were made.
Of course, the news media ate it up with coverage that included loaded words such as “riots”, “gangs”, “debauchery” and other such wild claims that most certainly would have rattled American sensibilities at the time. The most critical, original “fake news” of the time came when the San Francisco Chronicle apparently staged a motorcycle outside of a Hollister bar, with empty beer bottles around the bike and put a truck driver appearing to be a drunk biker on the bike to perpetuate the original “fake news” by portraying these rowdy, fun loving, bikers in the most negative way possible. The story and the staged photo were picked up by Life Magazine and it became a national “fake news” story.
Then in 1953, Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin brought the tale to the silver screen with The Wild One, a fictional depiction of “outlaw” biker culture and motorcycle gang violence based on a 1951 story published in Harper’s Magazine that played on the media’s sensationalist Hollister coverage. The movie was made with the help of one of the founders of the Boozefighters M/C, ‘Wino Willy’ Forkner, giving it some legitimacy.
In 1995, Hells Angel Sonny Barger tried to get the City of Hollister to agree to bring back the biker events of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Met with absolute resistance, Sonny turned to his good friend Mike Corbin of Corbin Saddles for assistance. Finally, in 1997, the Hollister Rebel Rally was restored.
Despite annual political obstruction from Hollister city leaders, prominent motorcycle businesses in the area came together again this year to put on a grass roots rally that bypasses entanglements with officials.
Rey Sotelo of Hollister Powersports, Mike Corbin and Peter Lago of Johnny’s Bar and Grill joined with Bob Richards of 41Live, Brian Holt of Official Gear Promotions and Russ Brown Motorcycle Accident Attorneys.
Corbin gives a lot of the credit to Barger for getting the ball rolling, honoring him with a plaque as the “Original Visionary of the Hollister Rally”. Barger was unable to personally accept the honor, sadly missing the rally for the first time in some 50 years. Accepting the plaque on his behalf was another good friend, Jason from the Altamont charter of Hells Angels.
Holt, Lago, Corbin and Sotelo all reported that the rally doubled in size, from some 5,000 attendees last year to upwards of 10,000. The crew is looking forward to getting down to the business of planning for next year.