The Hells Angels and the Summer of Love seem at opposite ends of the spectrum, right? That’s what I thought before I started gathering data for my next novel, Don’t Stop the Music. Sonny Barger and his fellow bikers considered themselves caretakers of the Haight Ashbury when heaven appeared to have kissed the earth. In 1967 one hundred thousand kids, Vietnam Vets, drop-outs and curiosity seekers descended upon the neighborhood. The deluge was overwhelming and the Angels lent a hand. They provided free security for music concerts in Golden Gate Park and elsewhere (such as at Altamont Speedway, which went horribly twisted, but that’s another story). They aided Huckleberry House with the corralling of wayward children. The Diggers enlisted the Angel’s help with the distribution of free food, clothing and medical services. And this is where it gets interesting.
Hells Angels in the Haight:
An Oakland mobster by the name of Papa Al and his sidekick, Teddybear, tried to muscle in on the action at the Free Clinic in the Haight Ashbury during that fateful summer. Papa Al insisted on using the facility to sell his drugs, mostly speed and other amphetamines. Dr. Smith, founder of the medical outlet, called Sonny Barger when push came to shove. Sonny had a face-to-face meeting with Papa Al and supposedly told the thug never to set foot in the Haight again OR ELSE.
I couldn’t resist and have used these characters as well as the famous music producer, Bill Graham, as center pieces for my next novel, Don’t Stop the Music.