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Moved to the main board. -Dr. B

I was working in the News Department at KRLA when Henry Fonda's son, Peter, was arrested for possession of marijuana. I was mildly amused that so much interest was engendered by the incident, considering the number of citizens detained and incarcerated for smoking "pot".

We chatted for a while at the courthouse and I called in my story. He was interested in my hobby: designing and building motorcycles. It turned out that we lived in the same neighborhood, West Hollywood. I told him I was usually found in my back yard enjoying my hobby.

He came by a few days later accompanied by Dennis Hopper whom I hadn't seen since his performance in "Rebel Without A Cause" with James Dean. We talked and I learned that they had been planning to develop a movie that centers on motorcycles. I agreed that the themes of the western were careworn but an American adventure with the protagonists riding motorcycles instead of horses was apt. We adlibbed a story line: two friends,(not quite "bikers") travelling across America seeking adventure. I offered the name "Easy Rider", taken from the Mae West performance of "Where Has My East Rider Gone", in the production "She Done Him Wrong"… The title had been an adornment of my house, on the wall; a tapestry with a hidden message sent to me by Susan Mansour, erstwhile friend.

We had several discussions about the project at my home in West Hollywood and agreed that we would have to develop interest in the movie outside my parlor. We were not particularly known well enough to raise interest or financing. Peter and Dennis had a long background in the industry they would raise the money. I would design and build the motorcycles and develop the visual themes. Captain America and Bucky, costumes, colors: red-white-blue. I was accorded the title of associate Producer. We named our company Pando.

Through Pando, I was instrumental in hiring Baird Bryant as Director of Photography and agreed to have Paul Lewis as Production Manager. Subsequently, Les Blank, Virgil Frye, Karen Black, Seymour Cassel, Francine Reid, Larry Marcus, were included. Jack Nicholson was hired after the New Orleans "shoot". I never met Raphaelson and Snyder (?) who backed the film. Neither did I formally meet Terry Southern, credited with the screenplay. From my apercus the production proceeded admirably until the New Orleans shoot when there was a dispute about how much film was being used by the Director, Dennis Hopper. I was summarily fired from the production. The critics praised the film. Dennis was awarded "Best New Director" for ER.

There were no African Americans in the film as actors or participants in the production.

I didn't have any contact with the production long after ER was released. The casualty rates on motorcycle accidents were so high that I asked Peter Fonda for a letter of intent to use to fund "Not So Easy", an educational film on how to ride a motorcycle safely. Filmfair financed the film with full support of Harley Davidson. Harley Davidson provided Evel Knievel, who was under contract to them at the time. I had Evel Knievel's Coliseum jump on film, and a performance by the LAPD motorcycle drill team. Two of my cronies from Hollywood Chosen Few appeared on film:"Rabbit, and "Billy Diamond" (deceased). It was required viewing at judicial traffic school for quite some time.

The motorcycles were designed and built by me in my back yard. My longtime friend and mentor Mr. Ben Hardy assisted me wholeheartedly. We had met when he taught me how to wire my first motorcycle, a 1947 "knucklehead" in 1961. He had contacts developed over years of repairing motorcycles in his shop on West Florence Ave. Jim Magnera of MC Supply was a valuable asset. He had arranged to act as my agent when Harley Davidson sold me an unnumbered engine (shovel head) which required a new law from the California Legislature. Mr. Magnera was also active in financing the burgeoning black motorcycle enterprise in South Central Los Angeles. Mr. Magnera and Mr.Hardy were instrumental in my relationships with motorcycle specialists in Los Angeles.

In the creation I had: Buchanan for frame fabrication, Dean Lanza, art work, Larry Hooper, upholstery, LAPD junk yard engines: rebuilt by Mr. Hardy. I don't remember the chrome shop. Mr. Hardy also designed and constructed one of the fine points on the motorcycles. I had wanted something unique and he built the curved tail light brackets. I don't remember the shop that tailored the leathers for ER.

After I had completed the construction of the machines, the registration (pink slip) was in the name of Pando Company. I asked Mr. Hardy to assemble the two disposable motorcycles in his shop. I was simply too busy with the daily task production of ER at the time to complete them at home.

I have never actually seen "Easy Rider". It represented only a few months out of my 74 years. I had a lot of fun with the bikes and with the talented people I met while working on the film. I have special regard for Mr. James Magnera a man with foresight, who personally helped aspiring entrepreneurs in South Central Los Angeles. Mr. Ben Hardy who worked for me as a mentor and skillful craftsman on a dozen designs of my own motorcycles. Mr. Buchanan, the man to go to for excellent frame modification.
Mr. Dean Lanza, The Artist: Brilliantly designed my marijuana plant on candy-apple petrol tank. Mr. Larry Hooper, ever a fugitive…the best leather craftsman ever.
Mr. Larry Marcus knows more about tools than anyone.

Mr. Dennis Hopper, Director, underlined my contribution to the production of "Easy Rider".

There has been a remarkable marketing of "custom motorcycles" since ER.
Items and modifications I worked out with Mr. Hardy et al are now manufactured on a production line. Harley Davidson had "Low Rider". Innumerable entrepreneurs have made a good living popularizing and promoting the so called "chopper".
I missed my fifteen minutes of fame…..

Clifford A. Vaughs
Tuesday 29 March, 2011
Portobelo, Panama

Addendum

The fiery ending is an example of art imitating life.

I was riding my "chopper" on the highway between Pine Bluff and Little Rock; pursuing an assignment for SNCC to initiate a school boycott there.

I had with me a staff member of the Arkansas Project a Miss Iris Greenberg. A pickup truck passed us going in the opposite direction; stopped and turned around. They took a shot at us from behind and missed. They didn't pursue us any further...so I lived to tell this tale.

"Not So Easy"
Produced and Directed by Cliff Vaughs for Filmfair.
financed in part by Filmfair and Harley Davidson.

The release of "Easy Rider" brought out a number of new and inexperienced motorcycle riders, with the ensuing motorcycle accidents and casualties.
When I finished the design and construction of the motorcycles and the establishment of the Captain America and Bucky motif(costumes) I was fired after the filming in New Orleans.
I had known Peter and Dennis through my work at KRLA and the fact that we lived in the same neighborhood. Laurel Canyon, West Hollywood. They visited me in my home often enough to get interested in a movie about motorcycles. At the time I was constructing motorcycles in my back yard as a hobby.
Looking at the stats I felt I had to do something to counter a reckless trend. Peter agreed to give me a letter of intent.
Filmfair and Harley Davidson agreed to cooperate on the production. Harley Davidson had given me a motor in 1965 to build a custom motorcycle to be included in a hot rod promotion sponsored by KRLA.
I had myself, my wife Wendy, William Smith and Evel Knievel as riders, as well as the LAPD motorcycle drill team. Two members of the "Chosen Few" Hollywood chapter appeared also. "Rabbit", at the Coliseum." Billy Diamond"(deceased) on the freeway. Pat Deturk was there too.
Harley Davidson donated twenty-five motorcycles and a five ton lift-gate. I had a nice vintage Rolls donated by the Script Girl.
We did our filming on the Santa Monica Freeway, Pacific Coast Highway, and The Coliseum. A crane shot of a figure eight executed by the LAPD drill team. An opening shot of Peter Fonda ,in Malibu Canyon at the RAND Corporation installation. The streets in Venice, on what to look for when turning.
I was able to use Evel Knievel's jump at the Coliseum to add to the instruction. Evel was remarkable:he practiced on all the models the company gave us.
I had original music and very talented below-the-line cast working. It was so long ago and such a fleeting episode in my life, that I don't remember the names of all the participants. I saw the film years later when I was living underground in Miami. At the library.
The film was well received. Awarded second prize at an educational film exposition. We couldn't use a face mask for Evel's ride and we didn't zip William Smith's jacket up to the top on one of the freeway shots.

Clifford A. Vaughs ,
Cristobal

You can see this film on "Google"
(I'll look for the link to make viewing simpler.)
 

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WOW...whadda story! Real history!


I enjoyed watching the short interview with you on the "History of the Chopper".

...but you really autta watch the movie sometime.

GodSpeed!
 

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wow, I can just see you working on bikes in your back yard when peter fonda strolls in, jeesh, this is damn cool, we are all real happy to have you on here. i found it especially interesting that there were no black actors anywhere in the film considering the origins of the actual bikes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Yes quite so.

"What Will The Harvest Be" ABC television
Award "Best Documentary" 1969,Associated Press "Berkeley, Third World or Third Reich"
"Credibility Gap" "Most Creative Presentation of the News"1969 Associated Press
The above were done with my then partner Lew Irwin

I'm on board S/V Amistad. Rio Dulce, Guatemala
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
wow, I can just see you working on bikes in your back yard when peter fonda strolls in, jeesh, this is damn cool, we are all real happy to have you on here. i found it especially interesting that there were no black actors anywhere in the film considering the origins of the actual bikes.
It took attribution by Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, and The Beattles to recognize the "Blues" as African American.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
HI CLIFFORD did you build Buddy Miles's Mag engine 45 Trike? That was A wild and big money trike back in the Day!
I was managing Buddy Miles and his band in those days.
Fillmore East, The Whiskey, The Crater (Hawaii) Fillmore West, Mercury Records, "Band of Gypsies" album for Capital Records

I had a frame and actually a 289 V8 in my West Hollywood garage designated for Buddy.
I gave him a ride on my chop one day. He didn't travel more than two blocks before the Hollywood Division stopped him on LaCienega and brought him back.
 
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