Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Martin Rosenberg, better known as Paladin; poet and biker
Paladin was a friend of mine from Berkeley CA, a fixture of the burgeoning Old Motorcycle scene in the late 70s/80s, where he could often be seen hanging around T.T. Motors on Ashby Avenue, giving unsolicited advice and a disposition on just about any subject, to anyone who was nearby. Often, that was me, and I rode whatever machine was running, from S.F. to the East Bay to check out the bikes for sale at T.T., visit my friends, and have a chat with Paladin.
Way ahead of the current 'Custom' of 'Paladin's Notebook' pages from Iron Horse magazine, 1980
He was a devoted Triumph man, and I owned several of his 'hardtail' Triumph conversions over the years, each honed closer to the 'bobber' ideal than anything made today - they were fast, light, and no-frills. He could appreciate other Marques though, and enjoyed discussing their relative merits. As mentioned in my 'tattoo post', he had amazing self-applieed Triumph tats on his body, and donated his skin to a Japanese tattoo museum on his death.

John Gallivan, owner of T.T. Motors (see period photo of John below), has this to say; "I liked and respected him a great deal; I sold him that bike [Triumph TR6] for $49.00 and he stayed. His writing in Iron Horse magazine and others are classics. He coined the word 'unobtanium' referring to rare British parts. The centerfold of this mag w/ the girl and real rats crawling all over is a classic." (Iron Horse cover photo below).
John Galavan at TT Motors in Berkeley
As John mentions, Paladin died twenty years ago in his sleep; nobody knows exactly how old he was, but 50ish would be my guess. He had suffered a mighty knock to the head a few years prior, which definitely altered his personality. Still, an amazing soul - when I bought my first Velocette in 1985 from Munroe Motors, Paladin brought out a bucket of water and sponge and washed it! "Such a finely made motorcycle as this should NEVER be dirty!"

The following is an excerpt of an interview with Paladin, from the book, 'Berkeley U.S.A.' (Anne Moose, Alternative Press, 1981):

Palading was a regular contributor to Iron Horse and Hot Bike
"Essentially, everything that I do relates at one level or another to motorcycling. I make my living by writing for motorcycling journals and doing illustrations for them... I'm into motorcycle paint work and uh, you know, it's kind of dull if you ain't into bikes, but I'm into bikes so I find it all quite fascinating....Twenty years ago, it didn't matter if you rode a Harley, or if you rode a Triumph, or if you rode a BSA. If you rode, you rode. You were committed. The other people who rode were your brothers, except you didn't use the word brother because you didn't have to. This was all just, you know, understood at almost a back brain level.
Another page of 'Paladin's Notebook'; this time musing on Morini-based café racers...
Now then, when the Japanese started bringing their bikes in, what they brought was nothing new in the sense of engineering. What they did was... a publicity campaign. They brought in a form of advertising to make the motorcycle, shall I say, socially acceptable. Well, people that are stone bikers, as opposed to motorcycle operators, don't really care much about social acceptability... But what this did, brought a whole new kind of person into the riding scene, and it brought in a lot of divisionism. In 1963, you break down on your bike on the side of the highway, you know that the next guy who comes by is going to stop and help. And it don't matter what brand of bike you're riding, or if his bike is chopped or not, or who's in a club and who isn't - that's jive. You're a biker or you're not. Since the Japanese bike has become's brought this new element ...this whole concept of antagonism and divisionism which we've had to deal with for about the past twelve to fifteen years.

Personally, I can't stand Japanese bikes. I don't care how fast they are, or how many camshafts they have, or if they win races. I just don't like the aesthetics of the damn things. But at the same time, it doesn't matter what kind of sled you've got under your ass - when you're in the wind, it's like, the same wind, and that's the policy we're pushing.
Paladin and his Triumph special on the sidewalk outside TT Motors
As far as I'm concerned, the only group that really matters in this country, per se, is the bikers. And this may sound like an off-the-wall statement, but I think if you'll check back you'll find that during that whole big so-called cultural revolution of the sixties, language, style, and everything was copied from the bikers. Our influence is a lot more subtle than many people would imagine. We're simply living our own lives, and in living our own lives we're setting such a rare example in modern times...

The thing is, you're born black, you're born Chicano, you're born Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, Jewish, Polynesian, whatever. Nobody is born a biker. It's something you do by choice. A biker is under a complete psychic necesssity, right, in that he is one half of a symbiotic organism of which the other half is a motorcycle. And if you wish to make any value judgements on that, go ask your mother how she likes her valium.
I can almost hear his voice...
One of the things that a lot of people that I'm close to are into, is trying to get more women into riding. I guess you could say it's part of our highway beautification project. I personally think that women and men both - and everyone - should know how to handle machines... that, to me, is the only way we're ever going to have what I'd consider to be a sane and healthy culture... If people are going to band together, it must be through recognition and respect of their own strength, and of the strength of those about them. It always starts at the inside and works out."

B/W photos of Paladin are from 'Berkeley USA'. Other photos were sourced from Facebook!
There's now a Facebook page for Paladin, click here.


Anonymous said...

I found the Paladin blog which is good.

I’ll keep checking


Anonymous said...

Keep up the great work with your blog, I check it out almost daily. Best reading on the net!

Yours sincerely

Ben from New Zealand

Barry Regal, Real Estate Broker said...

you oughta track down aaron winchester, which isnt too hard...just hit Cole Coffee on any sturday morning. He should have hours and hours of Paladin anecdotes. My personal favorite Paladin quote (later Paladin, admitedly...) "what ya gotta do is, rip out your entire electrical system and replace it with one of these..."

vintagent said...

Oh yes, I see Aaron once in a while. And that was Paladin's refrain; those damn capacitors! But then, everybody I knew who was cranked up had an obsession with pulling out their wires...

cro said...

Great read!

"But at the same time, it doesn't matter what kind of sled you've got under your ass - when you're in the wind, it's like, the same wind, and that's the policy we're pushing."

I dig it!

coreyl said...

Nice piece, Paul. It brought back some good memories. Paladin was a character, for sure. He could be pithy or a pain in the ass, but he was never dull. He had that unique nasal side-of-the-mouth way of talking. I was sad to see him go so young. What was it about him that seemed to attract so many fine looking women?

Anonymous said...

Your blog is my new favorite.

I’m in Montreal now, but was in the Bay Area ’86-94 and seeing your post on Paladin wouldn’t be surprised if we crossed paths. Same age, too. You know Jennifer Sloane at Munroe Motors? Donny Lemelin at Scuderia West? The latter was inspired by a “club” I co-chartered with Jim Brown, Scuderia Linda, in his garage on Linda St. Membership credentials were very exclusive: you had to own a Ducati that hadn’t run in over a year. We had two patches made, see attached.Jim was also the source of the “British Death Fleet” meme that still appears among a young crop at Zeitgeist who could not possibly have been at Speck/The Adler Museum the night Jim noticed an Argentine War poster on the ceiling and started calling our clique of Euro-bike riders after the slogan on it.

You might have seen me on a black 1980 Ducati SSD streetfighter that had an olive-oil “burp” can. Or an 850 Eldorado, or a Metralla, or a green TR6. Or maybe on a silver X6, in the “Rollie Free” pose flat out on the Bay Bridge trying to keep up with Jim’s R90S.

Anyway, your blog is terrific.

Conchscooter said...

I wonder what the modern Bonneville would have done for his sensibilities. Nothing good no doubt!

david said...

The "six degrees of separation" theory is all bunk
when it comes to Vintagent. I also knew Paladin
and John Galivan, and have often wondered what
John did after T.T. Photographed Paladin inside T.T.
one day for a photoclass assignment in about '81- '82. Back then I had a '65 Tr6 that broke faster than i could fix it.

Anonymous said...

Dear Paul,
your blog always amazes me; it is full of great stories.
George Cohen

Anonymous said...


Excellent website... none better looking....great text... good photos. However, you are missing a link to the number one website for Vincents according to "Classic Bike" magazine.

Jim Baltusnik

Anonymous said...

What a trip down memory lane.

Jennifer called him "the dirty little troll"

Pulled into T.T. Motors one day in 1976 looking for Triumph parts.
The result, T.T. John Galivan became a good friend, T.T. Motors
became a frequent Saturday destination, and Paladin somehow was part of that deal.

John was the quintessential "patron" of the local alternative Scooter underclass.
He once told me he thought he remembers Paladin (by his real name) from the East
Cost, but Paladin would never confirm or deny the fact.

When ya pulled into T.T.Motors the first person ya noticed was Paladin. And if he
wasn't around the first question ya asked is "where's Paladin?"
Which usually precipitated a spontaneous Paladin impression contest.

Paladin's delivery on all topics Motorcycle could best be characterized as a cross between
Bobcat Goldthwait and Lilly Tomblin's Ernestine the operator.
When Lindsey became the T.T. Motors service manager, his daily immersion as a
"Paladin understudy" produced an absolutely perfect impression, a hands down winner.

John's Girlfriend (later wife) Jennifer never developed more than a passing "tolerance"
for Paladin, whom she sometimes referred to as "that little Troll."

Paladin was certainly an acquired taste.
Although he was quite an intelligent guy with a quick wit, his casual attitude
toward maintaining a sound mind and healthy body put a real damper on
his potential. Galivan once noted that LSD makes a poor substitute for dental care.
And on visit to his "pad" i couldn't help but notice enough dirt in the rug to
support third world agriculture.

Paladin was an anachronism. A real living examples of those who
"Eat, Breath, Live and Love Motorcycles."
But he was more than that, he was the Don Quixote of the 1960's
Rocker era, tilting at the windmills of contemporary Japanese-centric motorcycle

Last time is saw Paladin he was riding "alloy-Bike." A collection of Galivan donated parts
that he used to assemble his version of a Triumph-engined Norton framed hot rod.
And a Triton it was, a custom bike in the best tradition of the English Rockers.

No mater how ya felt about Paladin, he was a committed biker in the original meaning of
that term. With malice to none, he lived life on his own terms, something not many can claim in this day and age.
Paladin was an original. And he is missed.

The Nicker

sleethmitchel said...

i went to the premier showing of 'alice's restaurant' with paladin and
his lady. i talked often with him in
harvard square; he was an amazing knife smith. somebody was boasting about a new knife he had purchased. 'let me see it,' said paladin. he then produced one of his hand-made blades with which he whittled away this guy's new knife. 'let me know when you're ready to buy a decent blade,' was his parting comment.

Unknown said...

I was one of Paladin's roommates in 1981-82 when he lived in Berkeley, at that time he rode a beautiful Blue Norton which he also featured a self portrait of himself on in Iron Horse, I was a 15 year old kid at the time, he would give advise on anything except cooking and cleaning I was better at that. we all lived in a pink house below SanPablo Ave Three bikers and me, I sometimes miss them all now that I'm grown and a Grandma. Happy riding Paladin. Titian

Unknown said...

Paladins joke
The English drink warm beer because Lucas Wired the fridgs

Arnold Snyder said...

Paladin was a close friend of mine from the mid-70s when he arrived in Berkeley till his death in 1988. I knew him more as a performance poet and artist. I recently wrote a novel that is dedicated to Paladin and the main character is based on Paladin. The novel will be published on Sept 30, 2012, but there's an excerpt you can read on my blog right now. There's also a self-portrait Paladin did for a poster for my stage production of "Son of Hamlet," in which he played the lead role. You'll find the excerpt from my novel, "Risk of Ruin," here:

Ricky J in SLO said...

TT had a magnetic attraction to even pimply teenagers like me, John and his merry band suffered my penniless visits with good humor. You could be ten cents short of a dime but hey, the conversation (and education) was free.

If anyone should be given a motorcycle because he stared at it long enough, their luscious red 981cc Laverda 3CL would've been mine- on more than one Sunday I rode BART from SF just to stare at it through the window. For hours.

Alas, it never did come home with me and all I got was the ability to draw it from memory.

Godspeed TT Motors!

The Vintagent said...

@ Ricky J; John Galavan (former propietor of TT Motors) is on Facebook, and regularly pipes up on The Vintagent's Facebook page:

Arnold Snyder said...

There's now a facebook page for Paladin.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this, I was sitting in my place today, and after drinking a little vodka i was thinking of Paladin. I met him many times at TT motors and was wondering what had become of him. Its funny how 30 years later how something just pops into your head. Sad to hear of his early passing, but somehow I am sure he packed 100 years of living into his time on earth.

Maryann said...

I had the pleasure of living with him at his page street address. He was a "Biker" in every level of his soul. He slept on the floor with his bike parts as art of his family. His connection to his spiritual side was intertwined with the bikes life and his very own. He could have a 'deep' conversation on any thing brought to the table of knowledge. He had great cookie skills as well. A beautiful home made beef stroganoff with a wonderful cruise on a bike as the main treat. RIP Our other brothers from that era are with him. I know they are having a blast together!