About billjfromaustin

Biker - longtime Harley guy - but also an author, songwriter, artist, photographer, avid reader and music fan, and rabid collector of books, music, art and ANYTHING related to motorcycles!

Rejected Princesses

Greetings, y’all.  You might say I’ve been busy lately – flooded home, reconstruction, dealing with ongoing pain and disability from my catastrophic work accident in 2004 – but I haven’t forgotten this site, or the things I still hope I might accomplish here.  Anyhoo…

There’s a fellow who does some really fun stuff with what he calls “Rejected Princesses”: strong, often rebellious and even violent women who violate the gender norms of their day and challenge the male-dominated societies in which they lived; wild women who blaze their own paths and fight their own battles; women that Walt Disney and company would never consider for cutesy movies, clothing lines and toy tie-ins a la Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Pocahontas and Mulan.  His name is Jason Porath, he hangs out over at Rejected Princesses, and as a son, brother, husband and erstwhile stepfather to some pretty amazing women, I really, really enjoy his work.

Jason has honored women like baseball pitcher Jackie Mitchell, the seventeen year old woman who, in 1931, struck out New York Yankees hitters Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, back to back, before being pulled from the game, quite possibly for embarrassing the two stars.  Then there’s Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the young Russian woman who, in World War Two, energized by the Germans’ destruction of her University, became the deadliest female sniper in history (in a cadre of deadly women snipers that Russia fielded to fend off the Nazis, Lyudmila took out 309 of the bastards) and later became friends with American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  Or howzabout Rosalind Franklin, who made the discovery of DNA possible with her pioneering work in X-Ray diffraction (whatever the devil that is!) and was promptly ignored and even posthumously insulted by the pompous asses who claimed the resulting Nobel Prize for themselves.

Jason even delves into ancient history, with women like Hypatia, the first female mathematician in recorded history, and mythology, with women like Iara, the Brazilian warrior woman who was murdered by her own father – tossed in a river to drown – and subsequently turned into a mermaid by sympathetic fish, so she could sing a siren song that drove men mad with desire.  The entire site is chock-a-block with stories like these, and pretty cool Disney-styled portraits of the women in question.  Jason’s also published a book,  Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions and Heretics, and is working on a second volume.

So, what does all this have to do with motorcycling?

Not a damned thing, except that, just today, I took a moment to suggest two new heroines for Jason’s files; two women well-known to those of us who read the history of motorcycling.  My entry is reproduced below, and if Jason should opt to honor one or more of the women I mention, I’ll be back here ASAP to announce it.  Meanwhile, take a stroll over to Rejected Princesses and poke around a bit.  As internet time-sucks go, it’s one of the more entertaining and enlightening sites out there.

There are two women who loom large in the world of motorcycling – the world I’ve lived in since I was seven years old (55 years ago) and got my first ride on the back of a neighbor boy’s bike.

The first is Dorothy (Dot) Robinson:

http://www.motorcyclemuseum.org/halloffame/detail.aspx?RacerID=78

http://www.historybyzim.com/2013/10/dot-robinson-first-lady-of-motorcycling/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_Maids

Dot was NOT the first lady of motorcycling, despite the title – by the end of the 20th Century’s first decade women were already making their mark in the world of motorcycling by taking cross-country trips (well before the advent of the Lincoln Highway, Route 66, the Interstate System, or even “luxuries” like motels and motorcycle repair shops every 10th of a mile along the way) and acting as ambassadors for the sport and lifestyle of motorcycling – but Dot DID do a lot to further women’s participation.

The second is Bessie Stringfield:

http://www.motorcyclemuseum.org/halloffame/detail.aspx?RacerID=277

https://timeline.com/bessie-stringfield-motorcycle-america-7a002f5057c5

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bessie_Stringfield

Bessie was an African-American woman who took numerous solo motorcycle trips across America during the Jim Crow era, when “uppity” blacks were getting lynched and jailed at an appalling rate.  She apparently never lost her joyful approach to life and motorcycling.

There are other women, like Effie and Avis Hotchkiss, Adeline and Augusta Van Buren and Della Crewe – some of those early pioneers cited above – who are also worthy of mention, but Bessie and Dot are two of better-known women ‘cyclists.

Anyhoo, I love the work you do.  I was one of the folks who pre-ordered the first RP book, and am looking forward to the second.  I hope you’ll consider honoring one, both or ALL of these fantastic women.  If I may be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Shalom,

Bill J. from Austin

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I’m still here!

More history posts coming soon as I get time.  Meanwhile, here’s a blast from my own past.  Shortly after I rebuilt my 1974 shovel in the early ’80s – refurbished 1954 rigid wishbone frame, fresh motor, fresh paint, the works – I went on a group ride to Lake Buchanan in the Highland Lakes Region of Central Texas.  A few weeks later a fellow who’d been on the ride with us – a fellow I didn’t even know – came in the shop where I worked and dropped some pics on me.  They were all great shots, but the one below captures the pure joy and pride I was feelin’ that day!

1980 c. Bill on Blue Bitch grinnin' like a fool! 8.5 x 13'' a

A little while later I rode up to Little River, a little town outside Temple, Texas, and raced heads-up in the run-what-ya-brung FL class.  Did pretty good, for a virtually bone-stock motor!

1980s Bill on Blue Bitch burnin' up the asphalt at Little River-Academy Drag Strip outside Temple, Texas! 8.5 x 11'' a

A couple years later I rode to Sturgis, South Dakota, for the big rally that city hosts every summer.  I rode my shovel and my partner rode his rigid jockey-shift 1973 shovel chop.  We lit out of Austin Friday night after work, took a leisurely ride up IH35 into Kansas, and then meandered west and northwest into Sturgis.  We camped twice, and even stopped to visit my brother’s in-laws in Kearney, Nebraska, and still made it in time to pitch our tents before sunset on Sunday night!

Bill 1982 Sturgis Road Out of Town b1982-08 T.R. Evans leaving Sturgis, S. Dakota after Black Hills Classic Motorcycle Rally (1)

Sturgis was fun – it was a blast having motorcycles outnumber cars, for once – but the only reason I’d go back during the rally would be to create a “35 years later” documentary film or photo essay.  Wouldn’t mind getting up there to ride those roads when they weren’t packed with drunk bikers, though!

And speaking of packed: Here’s downtown Sturgis on the Monday night of the rally week.  Remember, this was 1982, and 30,000 was a record-breaking crowd for the rally – the biggest in attendance (thus far, anyway) since the rally began back in the late ’30s.

Bill 1982 Sturgis Main Street 04 Black Hills Power and Light

Bill 1982 Sturgis Main Street 03

Had to do the tourist bits, of course:

Bill 1982 Sturgis Mt. Rushmore Full Frame (2)Bill 1982 Sturgis Mt. Rushmore Headshot a

All in all I had a blast – put on some miles, saw some fun stuff while motoring through the always fascinating (to me) American landscape, and met some really cool folks.  As stated above, I wouldn’t want to do it every summer, but I think every biker owes it to him or herself to make the scene at least once!

life-1982-august-13-sturgis-edition-bill-at-mt-rushmore-11-x-14-5-b

Bobby Zimmerman 1941-1961

As a longtime biker, any mention of motorcycles, riders, clubs, etcetera, intrigues me, so when Bob Dylan mentioned late Hells Angel Berdoo President Bobby Zimmerman (Chronicle: Volume One, 2004, pg. 79), while explaining his own renaming, I went looking for more info.  First, I located a photo of the deceased, posted on the Berdoo chapter’s Memorial page:

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Dylan apparently had the date of death wrong: He said Zimmerman died in 1964, but Zimmerman’s *Angel brothers have him dying three years earlier.

Then I dug a little further, and found this article, a human-interest item by John Weeks of the San Bernardino Sun, published last fall, in which Dylan claims a spiritual bond with the soul of the dead Angel:                                                                                   

A surprise addition to the local family

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s put our hands together and give a warm hometown welcome to a local boy who has made good, who has distinguished himself as one of the most influential singers and songwriters of all time, a living legend, a Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree, a recipient of multiple Grammy, Oscar and People’s Choice awards, the one and only, the Inland Empire’s own … Bob Dylan!

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Whoa, hold on here. Let’s check our notes.

Says here that Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman in 1941 in Duluth, Minn., that he grew up in Hibbing, Minn., that he went to college in Minneapolis, that he moved to New York and became famous, that he later lived in both New York and Minnesota, and that for the last couple of decades he has made his home in Malibu. There’s no mention here at all of the Inland Empire.

Oh, wait, there’s more. Wow, this is new. Says here that Bob Dylan had a bonding experience with the soul of a dead San Bernardino biker, also named Robert Zimmerman, in the 1960s, and that he was transformed into a different person at that time.

An Inland Empire person, evidently.

Is this a joke?

If it is, it’s Bob Dylan himself who is telling it. In public.

Here are his own words, in an interview with Mikal Gilmore that appears in a recent cover story in Rolling Stone magazine:

“When you ask some of your questions, you’re asking them to a person who’s long dead. You’re asking them to a person that doesn’t exist. But people make that mistake about me all the time. … Transfiguration is what allows you to crawl out from under the chaos and fly above it. That’s how I can still do what I do and write the songs I sing and just keep on moving.”

That Bob Dylan! What a card! What a kidder!

No, wait. Later in the interview, he starts talking about transfiguration again, and he presses the point. He brandishes a dog-eared copy of the book Hell’s Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club. He cites a chapter in the book that recounts how Robert Zimmerman, the 21-year-old president of the San Bernardino chapter of the Hells Angels, who lived on Walnut Street in San Bernardino, was killed in a 1961 motorcycle accident in Madera County. That accident was a precursor, Dylan believes, to his own motorcycle accident in 1966 near Woodstock, N.Y. The two events were directly related and they completed Dylan’s transformation into a new person, he says.

He can’t be serious about this, right?

Wait, he really is. He goes off on it for a third time during the course of the interview. “I’m showing you a book that’s been written and published. I mean, look at all the connecting things: motorcycles, Bobby Zimmerman. … And there’s more to it than even that. … I’d always been different than other people, but this book told me why. … I didn’t know who I was before I read the Barger book.”

Well, if he really means it, we should start now to prepare for that hometown concert in the Inland Empire that now seems inevitable. We’ll put up banners. “Welcome home, Bob!”

He can perform in the giant San Manuel Amphitheater in Devore, or perhaps he would prefer a smaller arena show, at the Epicenter, say, in Rancho Cucamonga, or the San Manuel Stadium in downtown San Bernardino, or Coussoulis Arena at Cal State San Bernardino. Or, he could do a series of small, intimate shows in theater settings, such as the Glass House in Pomona, or the Fox Riverside, or the historic California Theatre in San Bernardino.

Many towering figures in the music industry do have strong roots in the Inland Empire. The list includes Tennessee Ernie Ford of San Bernardino, Kris Kristofferson of Claremont, Frank Zappa of Rancho Cucamonga, Jimmy Webb and Jim Messina of Colton, Sammy Hagar and Travis Barker of Fontana, and Liberace, Dick Clark and Herb Alpert, all of whom had homes in Lake Arrowhead.

Jazz legend Pearl Bailey, in her retirement, ran a popular guest ranch in Apple Valley.

Singers Bonnie Raitt and Joan Baez both have University of Redlands connections, thanks to their fathers. Raitt’s father, the Broadway star John Raitt, was a University of Redlands graduate. Baez, whose father taught there, writes about living in Redlands in her autobiography, “Daybreak.”

Now, it appears, we must add a new name to the list of musical hometown heroes.

Bob Dylan.

Of course, unlike the others, Dylan neither was born nor raised here, nor did he ever work or go to school here. No, he’s here only in spirit, as the result of transfiguration.

That means he is in a category of his own.

But we knew that already, didn’t we?

http://www.sbsun.com/johnweeks/ci_21766920/surprise-addition-local-family

The story is addressed in greater detail by author Grant Maxwell, in a post he describes as “a (slightly modified) excerpt from my forthcoming book, How Does It Feel?: Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Meaning of Rock and Roll,” which may be seen here:

http://rockandrollphilosopher.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/bob-dylans-transfiguration/

In that post Maxwell delves deep into the chronology of events, and how Zimmerman’s death ties in not only with Dylan’s own motorcycle crash, but with the entirety of Dylan’s professional career!  So, I guess that would make Zimmerman Dylan’s “guardian angel,” right?

Food for thought, if you’re inclined to think along those lines.

* NOTE: In the book Dylan mentions in his interview – Hell’s Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club – Hells Angel Sonny Barger relates the story of Zimmerman’s death on the ride home from the Bass Lake Run, an annual Angel event immortalized in Hunter S. Thompson’s book on the Angels.  However, while on page 70 he gives the same 1964 date that Dylan used, on page 130, again recounting Zimmerman’s death, he writes that Zimmerman died in1962.  I can’t explain the discrepancies between Barger’s recollections and the chapter’s official website.

Bob Dylan and motorcycles

I’ve been doing a little research on songwriter Bob Dylan.  Like most riders, I already knew about his mysterious wreck near Woodstock, New York, in 1966, where he dumped his Triumph, injured himself to an unknown degree, and went into seclusion for a while.

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However, in reading through books about Dylan, interviews with people who knew him prior to his arrival in Greenwich Village, and his own Chronicles: Volume One (2004) I turned up a few references to Harleys, time spent running with the biker boys in his hometown, even being a bit of a “rough, tough” character.  I don’t know how true any of that is, but he apparently did spend some time around riders, as seen in the photos below.

1956:

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1966, on the Triumph he later wrecked:

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I always cringe at this one, because for some reason he’s dangling his feet – not a smart thing to do and goofy-lookin’ to boot!

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The passenger below is identified as “Sebastian,” but I don’t who Sebastian is:

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I’m not sure of the year – probably mid-’60s – but he appears to be riding a Japanese bike; maybe a Honda:

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and in 2004, back on a Harley-Davidson!

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One more, of the man on an entirely different kind of bike…

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…but wearing a motorcycle club jacket.  Go figure!

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