Sonny Barger, figurehead of Hells Angels, dies at 83

Hells Angels founder Ralph 'Sonny' Barger and his wife Sharon are shown after his release on US$100,000 bond in San Francisco, Aug. 1, 1980. (AP Photo/Robert Houston, File)

Paris, 2022-06-30 18:53:38. Sonny Barger, figurehead of Hells Angels, dies at 83


Livermore, California –

Sonny Barger, the leather-clad player in the 1960s counterculture and the figurehead of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club who was at the famous Rolling Stones party at Altamont Speedway, has died. He was 83 years old.

Barger’s death was announced on his Facebook page late Wednesday.

“If you are reading this letter, you will know that I am gone. I asked that this note be published immediately after my death,” “I have lived a long and good life full of adventures. I have had the honor of being part of a wonderful club.”

“I passed out peacefully after a short battle with cancer,” the post said.

Barger’s former attorney, Fritz Clapp, told the Associated Press that Barger had liver cancer and died Wednesday night at his home in Livermore, California. He said Barger authored the post on the Facebook page run by Barger’s wife, Zorana.

Ralph “Sonny” Barger was a founding member of the Oakland, California, branch of the Hells Angels in 1957 and was present at his most famous moment – the 1969 Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway, where motorcyclists were hired as security personnel stabbed a attendees. who pulled a gun to one of their members.

The media commonly portrayed The Hells Angels as the dark edge of the 1960s counterculture, embracing freedom, drugs and rock music, but also crime and violence.

But Barger, the Hells Angels’ unofficial spokesperson, belittled its outlaw reputation.

He said in a 2000 interview letter to Heads magazine. “We are a small drop in a bucket. There are cops who commit more crimes than the Angels of Hell.”

Barger’s arrest record included charges ranging from driving under the influence to attempted murder. He spent 13 years in various prisons, according to news reports.

He claimed that one of his most satisfying experiences was his acquittal in 1980 on racketeering charges, an error at trial for conspiracy to break the racketeering law.

But in 1988, a jury found Barger guilty of conspiracy to violate federal firearms and explosives laws on plots to kill members of a rival gang. He was sentenced to six years in Phoenix Federal Correctional Institution and released in 1992.

Barger has benefited from his notoriety. He has written three books about his life and philosophy, including his bestselling autobiography, The Angel of Hell. The title of a chapter in one of his books was “Nothing makes your position clear more than a punch in the face.” He also wrote two novels.

Sonny Barger Productions operates a website and sells clothing.

Barger left high school at age 16, grew up in Oakland and joined the army in 1955 with a false birth certificate. He was fired with an honorable discharge after the fraud was discovered.

Hells Angels started out with friends and soon learned that there were other Hells Angels clubs in California. Barger helped unite the clubs.

He played the main character in the 1966 movie Hunter Thompson featuring Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.

“He is clever, cunning, and has a kind of wild animal cunning. He was clearly the most competent person,” Thompson wrote.

Regarding Altamont’s murder, Barger argued that the Hell’s Angels acted in self-defense. The club member accused in the incident was acquitted. The stabbing incident was filmed by a camera crew filming the “Gimme Shelter” documentary.

Barger underwent a laryngectomy in the early 1980s for throat cancer, which he attributed to a habit of smoking three packs a day. Next, he breathed in through a plastic valve in his neck, and covered the opening to speak.

“Live your life the Sonny Barger way?” he wrote in the opening lines of his 2005 book “Freedom: Credos from the Road.” I wouldn’t recommend it.


Biographical information compiled by former Associated Press reporter Gary Keane.

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