Doesn’t Harley-Davidson Make Training Wheels?

In 1991 Spy Magazine asked the multi-talented Paul Rudnick to write an epic feature about celebrity faux rebels. They asked me to write the sidebar about faux rebel bikers. Because I had a huge file about this sort of thing plus industry friends who were inclined to gossip, mine was the stress-free (and admittedly much shorter) assignment, submitted by deadline. Rudnick’s was not.

The magazine told me they weren’t going to pay me until they got the feature. A month passed with no paycheck, then another.

Rudnick is a celebrated novelist, playwright, and screenwriter. He authored (among many other things) the screenplay for The Stepford Wives and satiric film reviews for Premiere magazine as “Libby Gelman-Waxner.” In 1991 he was a regular Spy contributor, and an awesome scribe in early bloom as the Hot New Showbiz Thing. He had more stuff on his plate than a Denny’s Grand Slam.

I’d never met Rudnick, but he was listed in the phone book so I called and asked him what up. (This was before the Internet, when people had to actually talk to each other.) Nicest guy in the world! So mean with a keyboard, so sweet to a struggling freelancer. He asked Spy to pay me immediately, and by god they did!

Rudnick’s delicious main article was called “Everybody’s a Rebel.” It was the cover story for the March 1992 issue, which came complete with lick-and-stick biker tats. What follows is the part I wrote. You can see the entire article as it originally appeared here.

And thank you, Paul.

Doesn’t Harley-Davidson Make Training Wheels?
Copyright © 1991 © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Like the leather jacket, the motorcycle has outgrown its humble beginnings as an item of utility: Bikes are now fashion accessories, props for tediously long ad supplements, and the subjects of custody battles. They’ve inspired charity drives (Harleys for the Homeless!) and preemptive movie-contract clauses (a tradition begun when Warner Bros. forbade Steve McQueen from riding his Triumph to the set of Bullitt). But just as the amateur owners of fancy, professional-quality cameras often don’t know how to work the things, possessing a bitchin’ bike doesn’t necessarily mean one knows how to operate it properly. Herewith, a collection of notable motorheads with varying degrees of road competence.

DAN AKROYD rides a police bike with red lights, siren, and dashboard scanner tuned to police frequencies. He recently hosted a legal-aid benefit for convicted drug trafficker Sandy Alexander, a former Hell’s Angels president so cretinous that even the Angels have disowned him.

GARY BUSEY, an anti-helmet-law lobbyist, sustained temporary brain damage when he crashed his Harley into a curb in 1988. Though he claimed to have been doing 50 mph, a witness said he was cruising at a walking pace. Afterward, Busey told the press he still wouldn’t wear a helmet. He was subsequently fired from the film Cadence because he couldn’t remember his lines. Last seen on talk shows saying he’d reconsidered the helmet thing.

DAVID CROSBY, the ex-inmate and firearms buff, broke his leg, ankle and shoulder when he lost control on a curve in Encino, California, in 1990. He claimed his new Harley’s throttle had stuck open.

The late MALCOLM FORBES, who at one time owned 72 bikes, once suffered a collapsed lung and a concussion and broke two ribs. Nine days later he felt well enough to crash a balloon.

BILLY IDOL ran his Harley through an L.A. stop sign and into a car in 1990, breaking his leg and arm. As a result, what was to have been his first major film role (as a roadie in The Doors) was greatly reduced. [Update: because of his injuries, Idol also forfeited the role of the T-1000 cyborg in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which was so memorably performed by Robert Patrick.]

BILLY JOEL, who owns two motorcycles, dresses way down when he takes his bikes in to be serviced to assure that he won’t be overcharged. (One dealer says he once mistook Joel for a bum and chased him away from a $14,000 BMW.) In 1982, driving his Harley illegally with a learner’s permit, Joel collided with a car in Huntington, New York, and fractured his wrist and thumb.

JOHN LARROQUETTE broke his collarbone in a dirt-biking accident in Malibu in 1991. “He’s more embarrassed than hurt,” said a spokesperson, who added that some of his Night Court wardrobe had to be altered “to hide his wound on the set.”

JAY LENO owns 15 bikes, and his two-garage home is equipped with a motorcycle elevator. Around 1977 he trashed a Honda CBX, and in 1991 he fractured his leg when he made a U-turn and was hit by another motorcyclist.

JUDD NELSON drives a bike with “SCUM” painted on it.

MICKEY ROURKE’s mechanic says Rourke “doesn’t care how his Harley runs, as long as it’s loud.” Other biker qualification: hires men to rough up people who look at his woman.

BROOKE SHIELDS was introduced to biking in 1987 by a 420-pound Undertaker (his club, not his profession) whom she met in a topless bar. “She didn’t even bitch about being sore afterward,” he told Outlaw Biker.

ROBERT SINCLAIR, the 59-year-old recently retired CEO of SAAB Cars USA, wiped out at around 100 mph in 1988, breaking his hand and melting his face shield.

KEN WAHL claims that were it not for a teenage motorcycle mishap, he might have become a pro baseball star instead of embarking on the career (gas-station attendant) that led him to acting.

😜😜😜

In the Not For Nothing Department: Yes, Harley training wheels do exist!

In the Not For Nothing Department: Yes, Harley training wheels do exist!

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

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End of the Eighties | Walter Monheit

I was saddened to hear about the passing last week of Walter Monheit, the New York social gadfly and Spy Magazine correspondent.

Walter was always impeccably dressed, quite the dandy and completely guileless. No one knew exactly how old he was, only that he was an indefatigable party boy well into his golden years. He told people he was a ballet dancer or a masseur. It wasn’t widely known that he once worked at a bank, and was a Holocaust survivor.

For sure he was a genuinely interesting guy, and always fun. Clubs let him in for free. He loved women, and women loved Walter. His association with Spy made him a celebrity, but limboing all night with candles on his head made him a legend.

One of the worst-kept secrets in New York was that Walter didn’t really write Spy‘s Blurb-O-Mat film reviews that carried his byline. He once told Spy editor Graydon Carter that he never even read them. A classic was this one about Green Card: “Andie [MacDowell] can perform a naturalization act on me any day!”

But work for Spy he did. The magazine’s masthead identified him as Walter Monheit™ — Messenger/Critic-At-Large, which I’d always assumed was a shtick. One day Spy had to courier something to me, and guess who was standing at the door with it? Yup! Walter seemed very embarrassed that I recognized him. Maybe he’d never read Spy‘s masthead, either.

After Spy died, a friend tried to help my career by introducing me to everyone she knew who had media connections. She said, “My friend’s gonna call you. He knows everyone. Go have a drink with him.” So guess who calls me? Yup.

Walter and I had a couple of phone conversations about meeting, but he wanted to go to places more conducive to police raids than polite chat. He was about 65 at the time.

We never had that drink. But he really did know everyone. We’ll all miss him.

Copyright © 2011 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.