The Pioneers of the Leather and Biker Scene in L.A.

Smell the leather, feel the power between your legs, and take in the story of the oldest continuing gay group in the world at an exhibit of historic (and sexy) images of the Satyrs Motorcycle Club.

Above left: Marlon Brando (center) in The Wild One. On the right: the Satyrs Motrorcycle Club

Above left: Marlon Brando (center) in The Wild One. On the right: the Satyrs Motrorcycle Club

In 1953 The Wild One was released. It starred Marlon Brando, looking for all the world like a Tom of Finland drawing come to life, as the leader of a rough-and-tumble motorcycle gang. In 1955 James Dean became the icon of troubled youth in Rebel Without a Cause. And at the same time Tom of Finland was working on his iconic drawings of leathermen that he would submit to Physique Pictorial in 1956.

The mood in America was taking a rebellious turn. The leather and motorcycle zeitgeist was in full bloom. Gay men had become a part of the post-World War II biker culture in the ’40s. Leather bars were springing up in major cities and simultaneously, it seems, pioneering gay motorcycle clubs were formed: the Satyrs, established in Los Angeles in 1954; Oedipus, also established in Los Angeles in 1958; the New York Motorbike Club and early San Francisco clubs, including the Warlocks and the California Motor Club, started as well. Leather clubs for gay men opened in Amsterdam and Berlin in the 1950s.

This was a counterculture within a counterculture. The men who were drawn to the scene weren’t so much into camp, show tunes, and cashmere sweaters. The soul of the scene was a masculine independence.

For the entire month of May the Satyrs Motorcycle Club of Los Angeles will exhibit its historic archive collection, Rumble — The Long Road to Equality.

“Los Angeles County once boasted more than 19 gay motorcycle and uniform clubs,” Satyrs president, Riley Black said, adding, “It was the ‘golden years’ of the ’60s following the death of U.S. senator Joe McCarthy. Rumble — The Long Road to Equality displays in storytelling format more than 60 years of our community’s history from the archives.” This exhibit is more than just photos tacked to a wall; this is living history display and will also showcase various artifacts from long since dissolved organizations.

Click here to see a documentary about the club when it celebrated 50 years.

Special thanks to Garry Bowie of the Satyrs for this article.

logoBy Christopher Harrity




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