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Motorcycling is not the Hells Angels but it's a complicated cultural touch-point that's difficult to ignore. The Daily News recently republished these revealing photos from former LIFE Magazine staffer Bill Ray.
The infamous motorcycle outlaw club Hells Angels that began in Fontana, California in 1948, has often been associated with crime, despite the organization maintaining that their negative reputation is undeserved. In 1965, photographer Bill Ray and writer Joe Bride traveled with the group for weeks and captured inside shots of the organization, which still remains secretive today.*
“It was exhilarating being around them, no question about it,” said Ray. “You just never knew what they were going to do. You’re always kind of on edge, because — think about it — these people have a lot of time to waste. They don’t punch a clock, so they fill the time drinking beer, smoking pot, screwing around. There was always a sense that anything could happen at any minute. Things could go from lighthearted to tense to really scary pretty goddamn quick.” **
The reputation of the Hells Angels is legendary. They have inspired writers, musicians and filmmakers, and continue to be the subject of both disapproval and devotion. And while their legacy and membership continue to grow, the mystique that surrounds their organization remains.