Monday, October 05, 2009


A while back, I got wind that Sonny was a fan of Sons. My initial response was relief. Perhaps the same relief David Chase felt when he got a gift basket instead of a dead fish from his Italian brethren. Sonny is Sonny Barger (it's a hard G). If you don't know who Sonny is, you should. The man is single-handedly responsible for turning a lifestyle into a subculture. Before Sonny, motorcycle clubs were an unorganized pack of riders. For better or worse (depending on what information you choose to believe) Sonny organized and idealized the MC life. A few weeks ago I was made aware of a poker run for Sonny's 71st birthday. It was an open party. Meaning it was open to friends and neighbors who were not part of the club. Sonny does two of these events a year. One for the HA anniversary and one for his birthday. I reached out to Sonny's lawyer, Fritz Clapp to make sure it was cool if I showed up. I then received a few Facebook messages from a family friend of Sonny and Zorana (Zee), his wife, extending the invitation. When I spoke to Zee on the phone she couldn't have been more gracious and welcoming. She then put Sonny on the line and he personally invited Katey and myself to the run. Katey unfortunately is in Hawaii shooting Lost, so I went solo (I invited my cast, but everyone had prior commitments... or so they said... fucking actors). I flew into Phoenix in the morning and was picked up by Kevin, the family friend. I was taken to the third bar of the poker run (a poker run usually consists of hitting 3-5 bars and landing at the last one for the big party). I was greeted by Sonny and Zee and escorted into the bar. I know this is going to sound like naive idol worship, and I know Ralph Sonny Barger is a man who has been accused of some nefarious deeds, but the guy I met was unbelievably kind, gracious and giving. He basically adopted me for the day. Had me at his side and introduced me to everyone he encountered. I felt like the prodigal son. We posed for photos, signed autographs and shook hands for hours. Sonny refused no one. I was exhausted trying to keep up with him. To be clear, this crowd-working only happens on open runs. Private runs or private time, his brothers wouldn't let anyone approach Sonny. You can get a sense from my blog and tweets that I'm a guy who speaks his mind. Usually to me detriment (I'm piling up the hostile work environment claims from Fox employees). And I'm not a guy who is easily impressed, I can smell bullshit a mile away. Trust me, I'm neck fucking deep in it in this town. So, based on my limited resources, I was expecting Sonny to be slick, vague and a bit of a manipulator. I was not expecting to meet a quiet, simple, forthright cat. And he was. Alarmingly so. An interesting mix of charisma and enigma. His feedback was direct, honest and kind. But I found myself more fascinated by what he didn't say. A look or a nod to one of his brothers or his wife spoke volumes. The legendary status made complete sense to me. The man know he's an icon and wears it like a comfortable shirt. He made me feel completely at home. The only tension I experienced was when Sonny asked me if I wanted to ride to the last bar. Sonny Barger was inviting me into his formation, I couldn't refuse. So I rode Zee's Electra Glide, packing her behind me. Now, I've gotten very comfortable riding again. As some of you know I hadn't been on a bike for a dozen years so when we got our free Harley's the deal I made Katey was that I'd bone up and take a few lessons. Which I did. But here I am, riding a bike I've never ridden before, riding in a pack with a hundred bikes, which I've never done before, with the love of Sonny's life packed behind me. My prayer for the few mile ride was "Oh my fucking god, please don't let me lay down the bike, please don't let me lay down the bike...". I didn't. Other than the flop sweat, I actually held my own, got us both there in one piece. After the party, Sonny and Zee invited me back to their home where a few friends and the rest of his Cave Creek charter joined us. I hung out and listened to these guys swap stories and critique the show. My favorite piece of feedback came from a prospect who said that there'd be no fucking way Half-Sack would be drinking and making out with a girl at a run. He'd be washing the fucking bikes. The comment came from a place of experience. I gotta say, the coolest thing to me was how much all these people love the show. I mean they really fucking love it. Every character nuance, every detail is not wasted. They are smart, sophisticated viewers who completely plug in. And they totally get and accept that it's television and that we take deep dramatic license. My favorite quote of the trip came from one of the Cave Creek members, who blurted out this excited revelation, "Sons is fucking soap opera... but it's our fucking soap opera". Yes, brother, it fucking is. I want to thank Sonny and Zee and all the members of Cave Creek for an extraordinary day.