The mos famous and infamous of motocycle gangs. Different "chapters" of the Hell's Angels exist in almost every area of the United States, and there are some in europe. They have done everything from looting and pillaging to charity work, to security for the grateful dead concerts. They ride Harley-Davidsons.

They own a couple of apartment buildings on third street in Manhattan where they have their New York headquarters, and park their motorcycles outside.

Anytime you walk past there a couple of big bikers outside, keeping an eye on the block and, of course, their hogs.

None of these guys are particularly rich, and most have large amounts of money - not to mention sweat equitytied up in their bikes.

Even in the winter someone will be out there, usually burning a fire in a 55 gallon drum nearby.

They have a huge American flag on the front of their headquarters, and some small speakers mounted outside. It's seems like every time I walked past when I was living in New York there would be a 60's tune playing!

Back in the late 1970's (after New York almost went bankrupt in 1975) they were, strangely enough, a stable force in a sea of chaos.

Lots of crazy shit happened in Lower Manhattan at the time, it was almost out and out anarchy since the city had almost no money to enforce the law.

Their block, however, was an oasis of civility - but on their terms. They just didn't let a lot of weird stuff happen on third street.

Even now conventional wisdom has it that the crime rate is lower on their block than elsewhere in Lower Manahattan.

I'm empirical by education and profession so I won't commit myself to an opinion without seeing hard data, but intuitively I know that the sight of a few rowdy, 300 pound tattooed bikers milling around in the street probably makes most jerks who would mug or steal think twice about committing such crimes in their general proximity.

In early 1980's they used to throw a hell of a fourth of July block party outside their headquarters.

They'd close the street off to traffic, hire a band and have free food and booze for everyone who showed up. Later on at night they'd blow off some fireworks. It was a real good time!

I remember these parties for several things; first, most of the older bikers back then - I mean guys in their 50's or 60's always had an willowsome 18'ish babe - and sometimes two - hanging off of them!

The band apparently had been carefully instructed; lot's of 60's music, and almost nothing but The Stones and similar tunes. Nothing wrong with that!

And another thing I remember about these parties, and the reason that I stopped going to them. Sometimes people got fucked up!

All it took was a flippant comment, a joke interpreted wrong, maybe a little flirting with a biker babe and they'd all be on top of someone. I saw it happen twice and it wasn't pretty.

So I stopped going to their parties. A few years later they were blowing up some fireworks and a kid got killed; almost decapitated by some schrapnel from the garbage can they detonated the stuff in.

The City came down on them pretty hard, and they don't have their parties anymore.

Although I had stopped going I still think that it was too damn bad.

The Hells Angels have their own ethos and behavioural code that they hold themselves to. One of my old girlfriends, who used to date one always referred to them as righteous and I know why.

Another ex-girlfriend's grandmother who lived on thieir block had trouble walking. As soon as they noticed they would always help her to the grocery store, and carry her bags home for her.

She passed away about a year later and three of them showed up at the furneral home that night.

They quietly filed into the small room packed with more conventionally dressed mourners. Most of her surviving relatives were from the suburbs, and didn't know what to make of this. Some fumbled at wallets and purses, thinking they were going to be robbed.

The bikers showed their respect to the deceased, and paused long enough to sign the book before silently heading back to their motorcycles parked outside.

But when they left it was in true Hell's Angel's fashion; throttles wide open, making enough noise to wake the dead.
The name also refers to the 8th Air Force, 303rd Bombardment Group(H) who served in England and Europe during WWII. They earned the moniker for acts of bravery and almost suicidal daring in the face of Axis ground-to-air artillery emplacements.

The Hell's Angels were also the first unit to complete the fabled "25 missions" required by US High Command before they would be returned home. The deed is commonly attributed to the crew of the Memphis Belle for the excellent reason that 'Belle's crew actually did go home. The Angels just had to keep on flying missions. None of them was called Yossarian, incidentally.

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