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GOING THE DISTANCE
"THE IRON HORSE SOAP OPERA"
Recently, English Don posted some rememberances at another biker forum regarding IH. I was asked at The Seedy X-Bar if I had any thoughts about it. Here was my response.
"Some things in that thread bothered me, because of my personal recollection of how things went down at the end of IH. Memories are funny things, though. I'll give you an illustration. A year or two ago, I wrote an article about an NYC HA I knew in the late 60s, after his Manhattan chapter of the Aliens MC became the NYC HAMC. In this article, because my memory of his name was faulty because it had been such a long time ago, I used the wrong name for this guy in this recent online article. Subsequently, an HA who was in that club and knew this guy, wrote to me and said that no such HA by that name belonged to the club at that time, and was I making this up? I had to refer to an early IH article I wrote in the early '90s about the same HA, just to see what this HA's correct name was (it was Mario, but the passage of time erased this from my memory banks), and I emailed back to the other HA who contacted me, just to prove that I wasn't fabricating a story.
It may not be possible to similarly fact-check in earlier writing about the following, but this is my best recollection regarding the whole sordid, drama-filled soap opera that was IH's demise. A well-known photographer of celebrities named Timothy White became involved with IH at that time, and weasled his way into the graces of the IH suits. He did some photos for IH, and became very influential with IH's management.
Snow came to me and told me that White and his gang of buddies, who included English Don, were in effect trying a hostile takeover of the editorial reins of IH. They were hanging around the suits. Snow couldn't stand 'em, and considered White to be two-faced and devious.
One day, Snow came to my office and told me that management had given Snow an ultimatum: get rid of Fritz, or else. Snow chose the "or else" and quit as editor. Snow would not forsake his best friend, Fritz.
He told me that because of White's influence, there was scuttlebutt that English Don might be made editor, thereby fulfilling their goal of taking over IH.
White was in fact, tight with Don as well as the Psycho crew. In light of that, I found it strange and incongruous when Don put down Timothy White in that thread, when as far as I could see, he was part of White's little conspiracy.
After that, I just don't remember what happened to IH, besides Hammer taking it under a different title.
Two points about English Don, and Steg. Steg and Don got into IH because one day, I saw Steg's bike on the street, and left a note on it asking him if he would like it featured in IH. The result was my article, "Axe Man's Chops." At that time, Steg was partners with Don at SD Cycles. Because of Don's affiliation with Steg---who I liked a lot then, and still like a lot---I wrote a feature about Don and his bike. I don't remember the title. It was something like "Killer Born Bike." That was their entry into IH. It bothered me that Don made it sound as if Snow was a mere footnote in Don's role in IH, when Snow as editor allowed my articles about Steg and him, to appear in IH. He really didn't have to publish 'em."
The demise of Iron Horse in 1997 was a dramatic and painful experience, a true soap opera featuring heroes and villains, plots hatched, plots fulfilled and ultimately, plots that proved futile. The reason that these plots failed was because the underlying foundation for the magazine, its corporate leadership---was flawed and financially vulnerable. The aforementioned Timothy White played a pivotal role in the Machiavellian machinations that led to the unraveling of the iconic Iron Horse as we knew it. Oh sure, copies of IH came along over the years, but never again would any biker magazine be led by a literary giant such as David Snow. In fact, the whole soap opera reminds me of a Disney classic: "Snow White." David was Snow White The Literary Giant, and the other editors who followed in different interations that claimed IH's mantle, were some of the seven literary dwarves. Who could match David's genius with mere bluster? Who could emulate David's vision by self-aggrandizing themselves with exaggerated tales of heroism that were laughable, at best? The answer is, nobody.
Here is further food for thought for what it's worth: the rigid frame originally modified for Snow's F.U. Chop by the Timothy White gang, was so misaligned that it was unusable. David had to start from scratch with a stock aftermarket unit. Superb workmanship? I'll report and you decide. There was much self-serving image rebuilding featuring fearless biker exploits in that English Don thread. Image rebuilding is as difficult as nation building. Have you looked at Afghanistan lately? Those pesky Taliban folks keep gettin' in the way, just like certain truths keep inconveniently popping up, in this IH saga. Some depend of the tincture of time to cure, no make that "erase" peoples' memories of what went down. Others yet, rely on promoting a self-image to overwhelm the inconvenient past. You know the old saying. If ya can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, then blind 'em with B.S.
Revisionist history? Maybe. For sure, there was credit claimed that was unwarranted. Like I said before, memories are funny things in that they easliy evade capture, and even more easily escape incarceration in one's experience for very long. They are like greasy weasels waiting to slip away from one's grasp at the first opportunity. I haven't thought about English Don until that thread was brought up, and haven't thought about Timothy White for the same reasons: these greasy weasels slipped away long ago, anonymous and clandestine, hiding in plain sight but unseen,
but I'm able to catch some of these varmints by the tail enough to form a recount, more disturbing than the Florida recount was. The verdict is in, and the slippery weasels lost.
We're really rappin' about what seems to me to be ancient history here, when discussing the End of Iron Horse. It seems like four decades ago---the time it took me to forget Mario The HA's name---rather than merely 13 years ago. We've all moved on from the time when the Greatest Biker Rag That Was Ever Published, was alive and kicking. It took a stimulant like that English Don thread to bring it all back to the forefront of my brain. What that thread reminds me of unfortunately, is that people are constantly seeking heroes in every phase of life. People for example, have latched onto Indian Larry as one such hero to look up to. Frankly, I didn't perceive him that way when I had contact with him. I've told the story about how Larry shot his mouth off at a New York HA sponsored custom bike contest where a club member won first prize, about how he (Larry) "should have won" the prize, not the HA. Predictably, the club sent some members to Psycho Cycles to teach Larry the error of his ways, by walking away with his bike. It took Steg's asking the club for the bike back, to get it back. This story epitomizes what my opinion of Larry consisted of. Now it appears, others are attempting to iconize English Don into heroedom. I guess my opinion of Larry never changed, because I never watched his TV show. I saw no reason to.
It always struck me as weird that bikers, who are depicted by the straights as rebels without a cause, with a humongous chip on their collective broad shoulders and an independent streak a mile wide, and
who shun what others think of 'em as their default position---would turn out to be people who would seek and need heroes in other bikers, to worship. I find it offensive and troubling. The biker subculture is deeper than that, and any biker worth his 60 weight who considers himself a member in good standing of the biker subculture, should not need to worship others of his own kind. Stand alone, baby. Be strong. It should be just you and your bike, against the world. FTW, as they say. Later.