Saturday, October 18, 2014


The 'wet plate' photo I shot of the 'Captain America' chopper last May
The upcoming sale of Michael Eisenberg's 'Captain America' chopper (later today) prompted quite a bit of interest in the film, the bike, and the back story of the bikes used in Easy Rider.  As I'd just researched this very subject for my book 'The Chopper; the Real Story' (Gestalten), and have what I believe is a fairly complete picture of the origins and build of 'Captain America', I guess I've become an expert on the subject!  National Public Radio producer Tom Dreisbach assembled the story, and I was interviewed in the studios of KQED in San Francisco, which was a novel experience for me.  I'm regularly interviewed on radio and for podcasts, but have never before been on All Things Considered!
The 'wet plate' portrait of Cliff 'Soney' Vaughs I shot at a reunion of man and machine last May in LA, for 'The Chopper: the Real Story'
The story is available on a podcast at the NPR site, and the text of the story is on the same page.  It's not the complete story - you'll have to buy my book to read that, as it's complicated and long.  I had the pleasure, by coincidence the same day as the NPR broadcast, of meeting Larry Marcus in Oregon last week; Larry is a professional mechanic, and actually built the 'B' bikes for Easy Rider, in the backyard of the home he shared with Cliff Vaughs in 1967/8.  The spot he chose to meet (and Indian Casino) was, by greater coincidence, having a small chopper show at the time, which included a pair of replicas of the Easy Rider choppers.  Strange and stranger, but there you go - the life of the Vintagent is never without surprises.
Larry Marcus with a Captain America replica...


GuitarSlinger said...

Seems to me good sir you're finally getting your due . Which in my opinion has been long overdue . Congrats ... and looking forward to my copy of the book's arrival

shoshone3 said...

Second attempt at a comment. Which of the two bikes is a phony? You seem to be endorsing the auction bike as the real thing.

The Vintagent said...

The bike just sold is the one with Dan Haggerty's certification - and for better or worse, he's the key figure in the trail of ownership.

GuitarSlinger said...

In my hardly ever humble opinion Paul ... using Dan Haggerty ... not that I have anything against the man personally mind you .. as the Key Figure in ' verifying ' this bikes provenance ... is a blatant exercise in ' Circular Logic ' A bit blunt perhaps ... but thats my opinion and I'm sticking to it

As to the final price once the hammer fell ? An abject example of blatant conquest versus reality or any semblance of genuine passion

Sad in my opinion ... how Classic Bikes and Cars are following much the same path as the ' Art World ' of late . Robert Hughes must be spinning in his grave . Either that .. or laughing his ___ off over what a bunch of fools we're all becoming .. in the name of ego and abject greed

The Vintagent said...

For better or worse, Guitarslinger, Dan Haggerty is the only person who could make the claim, as he had possession of the bike's remains after the filming.

Haggerty gave an interview back in '99 to the Chicago Tribune, when they did a story on the Granger bike exhibited as a Captain America replica at the 'Art of the Motorcycle' show at the Field Museum. He sheepishly admitted the original frame was still sitting at his garage, and the Granger bike was assembled around parts he didn't want to keep from the original CA.

Granger never challenged that story, or the 'replica' status at the Museum, but later convinced Haggerty to sign a paper lending credence to his replica. Dan was a very bad boy to sign that paper, unless he's just lying to everyone, which is possible.

Now that someone is financially invested in one Captain America being the 'real' one, there's already a need to bolstering of that claim with lawyers, and Haggerty will truly be in the hot seat for certifying two bikes as 'real'.

I've had an earful about this story from many parties, and perhaps it's appropriate the world's most famous motorcycle doesn't really exist, but stands as a paragon of wishful thinking, greed, covetousness, and mighty egos.

I write in 'The Chopper' that Easy Rider can be seen as a Chauceresque morality fable regarding exactly these issues, as the central characters get their just rewards after choosing greed and sin over the good life offered them at several points.

Such stories have deep resonance, as stories are the foundation of culture. It doesn't surprise me that the trickster gods, Loki or Coyote or Hermes or whomever, have seen fit to offer a shiny object like Captain America as bait to expose our worst tendencies. Sadly, it works every time.

Clifford Vaughs said...

I had a good time being feted at the Motorcycle Film Festival.

"Fifteen minutes of fame".

Cliff Vaughs aka Senor Blues