Man, I’ve been doing this for about 20 years— 20 years! Every month trying to come up with an editorial that doesn’t put you to sleep, trying to get the best of the best out there and always planning ahead to the next issue. Most of my editorials have come from personal experiences on the bike or related to the bike. Sometimes the industry provokes a thought, a comment by someone or just venting frustration. Words can come back to haunt you or open doors, sometimes both.
When I first started I wanted to come out swinging, giving the magazine a reputation for calling it the way I saw it, right or wrong, throwing political correctness out the window. The magazine was on the attack, taking no prisoners, just body counts. As I look back, there are things I did or said that I ask myself, “what were you thinking, idiot?”
I recall one such blunderous moment responding to a letter inBack Talk. The author talked about brotherhood and his feelings while on the road, looking like a raccoon after the sun had tanned his face except for where the goggles had protected it from the sun. It was actually a very good letter to the editor, but instead of letting it stand, I blasted him for no good reason. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would, if but to change my response.
Although I have thought about it over the years and the author actually worked for the Horse for a while, something happened that caused us to part ways and to tell you the truth, I have no idea what it was, but I take responsibility for whatever happened. What brings him to my editorial is that I just so happened to find him on Instagram, the only social media platform I use. Some of you may know him. We have exchanged private messages on Instagram recently and I’m glad we can still do that. I remember him as a guy who meant what he said, and said what he meant. A very hard worker who always brought content when I needed it. He likely will never read this, simply because I don’t think he reads any motorcycle magazine anymore, but it doesn’t matter. If you ever run across a bad-ass looking biker in Kentucky who goes by the name Cochise, he’s the real deal and he’ll watch your back. Tell him I said hi too.
In our culture we tend to think of everyone as thick-skinned, hard as nails, showing little or no emotion. Well, that isn’t always the case. When I started I had no idea what to do, how to go about putting a magazine together and so on. Plus, I had no one to show me the ropes because Princeton was a cesspool of societies rejects, starting with the drunk that ran the place, down to the cronies that laid out the magazine and separated it. They ran like rats when corporate ran to California with all the money, leaving the 40 titles out to dry. It was me and the drunk who formed a very unlikely, unholy, relationship that eventually evolved into The Horse, but I’m getting off course.
Scott “Genghis” Wong is one of those who I owe alot to but he’ll never hear it from me, unfortunately. He agreed to help me even though he greatly offended David Snow, the former editor, for doing so. Scott told me what to watch for, who to trust and who not to trust. Of course, I did what he said trusting his advice, which turned out to be correct. Scott could get me five features in a day if I was short. And they were all good bikes, great photography and copy ready. So what happened? Scott didn’t like one of the editors I hired from the old Iron Horse. He felt the guy was a phony, didn’t like choppers and was bad for the magazine. I sided with this tall, dark-haired kid over Scott and Scott was deeply hurt. I should have sided with Scott because the other guy was, indeed, a charlatan. And of course there is too much bad blood now between us to ever reconcile, but I still look back and regret that decision.
If you were a dedicated reader of the old Iron Horse like me, you probably looked at all the cast members and saw them as chopper demigods, like Indian Larry, Steg, English Don, JT, Genghis, Flynch, Paul Cox and so on. Snow had a talent for making anyone look bigger than life, or the lowest of life. I approached the magazine assuming they were all how Snow portrayed them. Another bad decision. But to be sure, some were actually better than I could have imagined, like Flynch, Indian Larry, Paul Cox, Steg and even Scott. I wish I had done my due diligence before entrusting some of the others, although no irrevocable harm was done.
I used to enjoy the Coontail award, showcasing the most anti- chopper bike out there. It was fun and made “coontail” a household word. However, what I failed to realize is that a lot of these bikes were customer bikes made by guys who had to make a living so I was actually cutting down guys on our side, like Steve Broyles. The idea was good, but executing it had its drawbacks so we eventually dropped that section as you will see in the next paragraph.
I think I would have remained on that philosophical path of following a “bull in a China shop”approach to crafting editorial shad it not been for Keith Ball. He tactfully told me to cool my jets and don’t be so caustic in everything editorial or feature. His words actually had an impact. He said to the reader I come across as too brash, irresponsible and that would have a ripple effect on other features that had solid content. I think he and I are still friends, butI haven’t seen him in a few years so I don’t know.
Regrets were many, but along the way I met people who I would never have met had it not been for the magazine and consequently friends that will last a life time.I know, with 100% certainty, ifI were out on the road alone and needed help in Bum fuk Egypt, I could pick up the phone and without hesitation, Debo, Steve and Kevin would drop what they were doing and be on the road asI was still giving details of my problem. I know there are others,but those three come to mind right away because they have already proven themselves in that situation. I don’t have many friends, but those that I consider friends are remarkable in so many ways. If I didn’t mention your name it’s because I couldn’t possibly include everyone and do them justice, like Ted Arsen, who has been a solid supporter since day one.
So what am I going to write about? Hell if I know.
Founder of The Horse BackStreet Choppers Magazine