VENTURA, CALIF., DEC. 9–The David Mann Chopperfest has become an annual sojourn for me. No matter where I am on the map or what’s happening on the Doppler, I saddle up and mosey off towards the West Coast to spend some quality time with like-minded riders at the ultimate SoCal biker get-together. The ride takes on a sort of spiritual tone and once there the weather is spectacular, the seaside party is a sort of family reunion, and the good-time love vibe makes one feel that all is right with the world. In other words, the David Mann Chopperfest is in keeping with exactly who the Mann was: laid back and trés cool.
David Mann supplied Easyriders magazine with dramatically painted centerfolds that captured the essence of biker culture for 33 years before his untimely passing in 2004. Once considered “low-brow” art, Mann’s work continues to grow in popularity and is now known throughout the world. His paintings can be found displayed in museums, galleries and garages, as well as on book covers, all manner of memorabilia and T-shirts. At this year’s ’Fest we saw a woman with a full back tattoo of one of Mann’s paintings with his signature inked below, and you can even find David Mann “guardian” bells at the official website, www.davidmannart.com.
This year’s Chopperfest held an air of anticipation for months prior to the event due to the announced appearance of Jacquie Mann, David’s wife. Jacquie was David’s best gal-pal for 17 years before their marriage on the very grounds where the festivities unfurl in his memory each December. The couple was married in a double ceremony under gently swaying seaside palm trees with David and Jacquie’s best friends, David Hansen and his lady love, Tammy, back in March of 1997. The shindig went down smack dab in the middle of a swap meet put on by Dave Hansen. But before we get too deep into this tale of love and intrigue, we need to be clear about the players. There are three Davids: one Mann and two Hansens—and all three were friends.
“Big” Dave Hansen was David Mann’s manager and close friend; “Huggy Bear” Dave Hansen owned a vintage motorcycle shop called The Shop. The Big one called the Huggy one and talked him into letting him get married during his annual swap meet. After getting that all worked out, the Big one called the Mann and told him to “stop kickin’ the tires and buy the car,” and invited him to share the festivities by having a double wedding ceremony at Seaside Park. David Mann asked Jacquie to marry him while the Big one was still on the phone. Jacquie said yes. You getting all this?
A memorial was organized by the two Hansens after David passed in ’04, and the obvious venue was the place that held the most sentiment for them all—the Seaside Park at Ventura Fairgrounds. Jacquie Mann had not returned to the park since the memorial, so this year’s trek from David’s home turf of Kansas City, Missouri, where she still resides in the couple’s home, was an emotional one, but she came smiling into the open arms of family, friends, fans and the two Daves. And the party began.
Anyone that knew David Mann knew him as loving and kind. Endless tales are told of his generosity in sharing his skills with other artists, encouraging their careers and talents and illuminating his willingness to donate to a cause. He had a great sense of humor, an always-open door and would give a friend the shirt off his back. It was in his spirit that the Chopperfest was started; giving everyone an opportunity to remember and celebrate the special Mann they knew and loved. Each year there’s a bit of a change in the event, but the three consistent ingredients are that there is always an art show, a kickass swap meet and a killer bike show. This year, the expanded art show arranged in the usual Quonset hut location was absolutely over the top.
For most of the beautiful, sun-drenched day there was a line to get through the door to see the show. People wanted to see Jacquie and chat about her beloved Mann while checking out the last unfinished piece David was working on at the time of his death. Once inside, art lovers were treated to a room full of incredible biker art spread out in an intriguing display.
The open room was laid out to represent a hypothetical bike wheel where guests were invited to meet the several artists that lined the room and comprised the laces (or spokes) of said wheel. The center of the room (and centerpiece of the gallery) was the “hub,” where onstage “The Unknown Artist” was silently working to complete a painting. Representative of every artist who works in anonymity in whatever studio he can find, Douglas Maynardo Kremiller spent the day working in a sort of self-imposed isolation, as he ignored attendees. The nearby signage warned viewers not to touch or speak to “Maynardo” as doing so would “break the digital time continuum forever, and his image would surely disappear,” which captured the imagination of attendees. The display seemed to perplex many who found themselves wrestling with whether to ask the pressing questions that suddenly popped into their heads once they were told not to speak to the artist, while others smiled and simply enjoyed watching the artist work.
Kremiller’s participation came as a fluke. Curator of the show for the first time since 2004, the aforementioned Big Dave Hansen signed up Kremiller during an unrelated meeting. The artist overheard Hansen receive word via a phone call that Jeff Decker, sculptor and the originally planned center of the show, would be unable to make the Chopperfest. Kremiller whipped out his portfolio and, in a last minute “Hail Mary,” Hansen signed him up and a star was born. His mute performance was the hit of the show, as over 6,000 attendees traipsed through the building again and again viewing the work of such artists as Mark L. Martinez, Jack Knight, Jack Gilbert (aka: Krylon John), the well-known and notable biker painters Eric Hermann, David Uhl, Tom Fritz, as well as Easyriders’ own photographer Kim Petersen who attended and photographed the now-famous Hansen/Mann wedding.
“You know, this was a lot of work. We had some trouble with materials, manpower and several other issues while putting the art show together,” Big Dave told THUNDER PRESS. “It was pretty tough, but everyone came together and helped each other out. John, Eric, Tom, David, all those guys knew we were having a problem and they all just pitched in. It was all about artists working together to help each other. That’s what showed up. The end result was a team of artists helping other artists to honor David. He would have been proud to be shown with these artists. That was cool!”
Meanwhile, across from the art show the Sugartown Roller Girls were whacking the crap out of the competition at an exhibition bout, while the swappers were cheerfully selling coveted tidbits to happy shoppers. Vendors lined the park as a record number of attendees milled about, enjoying the salty air and warm sun. Jennifer Santolucito held court center stage while simultaneously playing guitar and singing, wrangling tattoo contestants, making announcements and keeping Charlie Brechtel and his band in line—all this as 200 motorcycles sat lounging on the lawn in the bright coastal sun. By mid-afternoon the crowd was anxious to hear the bike show results.
Fittingly, the bike judged most representative of David Mann’s uniquely stylized motorcycle was built by Micah McClosky, who happened to be a longtime friend of David and Jacquie. Micah’s H-D Panhead had been sold, but before the owner was to take possession of the motorcycle, folks talked McClosky into entering the show in memory of his departed friend. In a touching moment shared by the crowd, Micah was presented the David Mann Memorial Award by a tearful Jacquie Mann. The Best-of-Show award was presented by musician Nick Perri to Scott Jones and his family for his very cool ’59 Pan/Shovel.
This was the highest recorded turnout the David Mann Chopperfest has seen in its nine years and the place oozed all the warmth and love folks associate with David himself. It’s a strongly held belief that the beautiful weather is a blessing from Mann and the attendees always appreciate the gift, reluctant to leave and lingering until the last award is delivered before slowly heading for their bikes. We couldn’t help but take a few minutes to watch as the sun began its slow descent into the sea and wondered if the figure that kind of disappeared into the coastal haze was David waving us goodbye. We chose to think so. Until next year, friend.
1st: Scott Jones Noise Cycles, ’59 Pan/Shovel
2nd: Pat Taylor, ’48 Pan
3rd: Danny Zandona, ’42 Knuckle
Old Skool Skooter
1st: Paul Wheeler, ’47 Knuckle
2nd: Dalton Walker, ’50 FL
3rd: Orlando Flores, ’47 Knuckle
1st: Leroy Yoder, ’29 Indian 402
2nd: Leroy Yoder, ’35 Indian Chief
3rd: Dan Michl, ’39 Knuckle
1st: Forest Woodman, 2012 Spec. Construction
2nd: Stacy McCleary, 2012 Spec. Construction
3rd: Dave Gillem, ’96 Big Twin
1st: David, ’72 Honda CB750
2nd: Marty Scales, ’40 Knuckle
3rd: Devillina, ’48 Pan/Shovel
1st: Mikey Santoro, ’72 Yamaha Custom
2nd: Slim, ’72 Yamaha HZ750
3rd: Shem B, ’79 Yamaha XS650
1st: Keith Drum, 2010 Spec. Construction
2nd: Kutty Noteboom Hippy Killer, ’76 Shovel
3rd: Aki Sakamoto, ’76 Shovel
1st: Dalton Walker, Triumph 500
2nd: Jim Giuffra/AFT Customs, Honda Spec. Const.
3rd: Rob Bodine, ’82 Honda BB650
1st: Juan Sandoval, 2012 Heritage Softail
2nd: Lu Mautico, ’98 Road King
3rd: John Stewart, 2007 Street Glide
1st: Bill Keener, H-D Spec. Const. Pan
2nd: Kelly Baker & Ramero Munoz, H-D Evo Custom
3rd: Joe Badley
1st: Chris Charest, ’73 XL
2nd: Bob Baradat, ’75 XLCH
3rd: Darlene Inda, 2000 XL
1st: Mike Grawach, ’68 Triumph T100R
2nd: John Crush, ’73 Triumph Rigid Custom
3rd: Patrick Morin, ’67 Norton 750 Atlas
Marco Ibarra, Yamaha XS650
David Mann Memorial Award
Micah McClosky—H-D Panhead
Best Of Show
Scott Jones/Noise Cycles, ’59 H-D Pan/Shovel