THE FIRST TIME A YOUNG GEORGE CHRISTIE saw a serious biker in all his long- haired, wind-tossed glory, he knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to break free. He wanted to ride.
“That image just stayed with me my whole life,” Christie says.
Even then, Christie felt like an outsider. In the 1950s 805, his parents, proud Americans both, were nevertheless raising him in a fairly closed circle with adherence to the traditional, old-world customs of their parents, born in Greece. During dinner at visits to his grandparents’ house in Ventura, young George was told to wait for his grandfather, seated at the head of the table, to break the bread before eating.
School was tough. Christie had the smarts but not the grades. His dyslexia went undiagnosed, and even when a test went well, an administrator accused him of cheating. So, at 17, he asked his parents to sign off so he could join the U.S. Navy Reserves. And as Christie served, he never forgot his childhood vision of that wild man and his chopper.
So he rode. And after his service ended, when his military experience led to a job tracking submarines out of Point Mugu for the Department of Defense, Christie cultivated his relationship with “Old Man John,” a founding member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Hells Angels. And then the day came that Christie was offered his patch, and he stepped fully into his outlaw destiny.
Told to choose the club or the job — because, as Christie points out, the DoD wasn’t enamoured with giving a high-level security clearance to a man who spent so much time around felons — he walked away from the job.
Soon he returned home to Ventura, where he would become a club legend and a wanted man. Over the next three-plus decades, Christie would guide the Ventura Hells Angels chapter, battling rivals and law enforcement, evading listening devices, serving time in prison, hanging with legends of the ‘60s counterculture and parlaying lessons from marketing heavyweights into a chance to carry the Olympic flame in 1984.
And then, eventually, he would take another road less traveled. He would leave it all behind.
Meeting George Christie now, only the tattoos — and the vest he wears even on a summer day in Ojai — hint that the well- spoken, espresso-sipping gentleman across the table may have a past that once made him a priority target for local police and federal agencies. Still fit and still sharp-eyed, Christie now lives something of an archetypical Ojai existence.
He’s penned and performed a one-man play called “Outlaw” and written an autobiography, “Exile on Front Street,” which the History Channel adapted into The Outlaw Chronicles. Christie says they “got their money’s worth” on that one.
Now, with one small-screen success under his belt, he’s writing for and getting ready to act in a new show, “Marked,” based on his largely autobiographical novel of the same name. Backed by an experienced production team and optioned by a major streaming service (which cannot be named as of press time, per contractual agreements), “Marked” is set for an October release of at least eight one- hour episodes.
Christie has traded the streets for the runway. “Marked” is starting to shoot at Pinewood Studios, just outside London, and in Marbella, Spain, where producers say they can capture something that mirrors Ventura County at a fraction of the cost. Christie is part of a brain trust of writers adapting the story, led by Pat Andrew of Halcyon-Wanda Productions. Like the novel it’s based upon, the show, Christie says, will be a “fictionalized account of my life.”
The hard-to-find novel (used copies of the paperback go for about $50 on Amazon) follows protagonist Jack Crest as he rises, under the tutelage of Old Man John, to a leadership position in the Question Marks, a one-percenter motorcycle club based on the real-life Hells Angels. Those are not your Bernie Sanders one percenters. In the parlance of the biker world, it is said that 99 percent of riders are law-abiding citizens. The one percenters, then, belong to outlaw clubs — or, as critics have called them, criminal organizations — like the Hells Angels.
The novel parallels Crest’s conflicts and triumphs with those of the law enforcement personnel who pursue him, jockeying with one another in an effort to nail him on a variety of charges. Christie recalls the real-life heat this is all based upon vividly. “I was targeted by multi-task agency squads. Every federal agency, Ventura P.D., Ventura Sheriffs,” he says.
The book pays homage to the road by detailing the club’s annual cross-country trip, which provides a jumping-off point to highlight internal struggles and a cat-and- mouse game with other one-percenters and law enforcement. It also cleverly uses a couple of framing devices, one a flash-forward that starts several early chapters and builds suspense as Crest prepares to take out the leader of a rival gang. The other is a flashback to Vietnam, involving a killing that both haunts Crest and informs his actions as he attempts to live and lead in, perhaps, a slightly more responsible manner.
It remains to be seen whether any of these storylines or devices make the transition to the screen. Much will change in the adaptation, according to both Christie and Andrew. Though Christie never served overseas himself, both men say they want to use the show as a platform to explore not just motorcycle club culture but the scars and trials of returning from war.
While the book is set in, and mostly after, Vietnam, the writers say they’ll transpose the setting so it’s current: television’s Crest will be a veteran of the conflict in Afghanistan. “The first thing that we noticed about “Marked” was how relevant it was to modern-day America — if we change the lead character to be coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq as a war hero versus Vietnam,” Andrew says. “We also understood that the modern media basically was not interested in telling the soldier’s stories, which is exactly what happened to the Vietnam veterans.”
Christie said he’s been picking the brain of an experienced friend to ensure the drama mirrors homecoming as accurately as it does the details of club culture. “He’s a Navy Seal, eight tours in Afghanistan. He’s a treasure trove of that particular era of information,” Christie says. “We want to address Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We want to address narcotics abuse with veterans, administration issues. We’ve got some good stuff we’re working on.”
Christie says some of the Seals he knows talk about going through extensive psychological evaluations before deployment, but question why they aren’t given more (or any) support after the conclusion of the clandestine missions that can take such a toll on them.
Andrew points to some of the root causes of trauma. “What happens with these people, after four tours of duty and they come back home, most of them are disillusioned because the cultures of Iraq and Afghanistan are clannish in nature (and) they are not very interested in democracy,” he says. “Soldiers witness the realities that the war may have been about economics, i.e. oil, and a lot of soldiers were fighting in the epicenter of opiates so there are a lot of addiction problems.”
Andrew says “the original 12” bikers comprising the show’s Question Marks will have various military backgrounds that “provide a rich vein to mine story arcs.” Christie will play a version of his mentor. Big John is modeled on Old Man John and has “a long and mysterious connection to the Chicago Syndicate,” running Ventura County gambling and loan-sharking operations.
It “provides a never-before-seen, insider’s view into how illegal gambling and loansharking are part of everyday life in Ventura,” Andrew says. And he provides us a dialog preview: “As Big John tells his crew, ‘There are no victims in gambling, only volunteers. They come to us to place bets and we take them. Things only get complicated when they can’t pay.’”
Christie says that he has already “channeled” Old Man John, his mentor from the Hells Angels, in his one-man play. He knows the show will take the character to new places, and he’s excited to continue paying homage to the man who introduced him to the lifestyle he’d lead for decades.
Christie also expresses great appreciation for the partnership with Andrew. He said that the two talk for hours at a time on the telephone and that “Pat has a real sense of what’s happening, a real rhythm of the times.”
In turn, Andrew refers to Christie as a “’Renaissance man and an amazing actor — his audition tapes are some of the best I have ever seen. He is a true California liberal. He loves animals, people, the beach and freedom of choice. Those are great traits in a friend and he certainly embodies a great California spirit.”
Indeed, it’s perhaps too easy to want to simplify Christie’s life as a leader of the Hells Angels. Sure, it was a tough-guy existence punctuated with and surrounded by violence, machismo and crime. But it also brought him into contact with a host of erudite icons from the Age of Aquarius.
The novel details meeting Augustus Stanley Owsley, the Bay Area LSD chemist famous as the chief supplier to the Merry Pranksters, at a Marin County party for political movers and shakers from both sides of the aisle. And in our conversation, Christie reminisces about his friendship with Grateful Dead frontman Jerry Garcia, which he says included deep conversations about Amazon deforestation and the dangers of nuclear power.
The updated-for-television retelling may or may not feature acid trips in the woods of Marin or any mention of the Grateful Dead. But its tone will be layered. “While we are dealing with very serious topics, we are also using a lot of irony and humor to walk the viewer through this life,” Andrew says. “If we merged ‘Rebel without a Cause,’ ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,’ and ‘Six Feet Under,’ it might give you some sense of where we are going with this unique television show.”
Christie’s life is like a tapestry with threads of many colors, and the writers plan to explore them in “Marked” as long as people keep watching. And Christie hopes they do. He’s keenly aware that the bottom line rules the day in show business, just like it does in his own past life. “It reminds me of the Department of Defense,” Christie says. “It’s just this big, moving machine with lots of intricate parts.”
If the show takes off, there are tentative plans to shoot local. “I’m hoping that if the series does have some success with the first season,” Christie says, “we can come back and do some stuff in Ventura County, do some stuff in Ojai.”
To support Christie’s work and to see how the team unfurls Jack Crest’s tapestry for television, mark your calendar for October, when “Marked” will start streaming to your watching device of choice.
Follow the link to see what we have been up too... https://spark.adobe.com/page/qzG4w14NdlmKe/
I knew who George Christie was before I ever laid eyes on him. I'd been a friend of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in London, England, and his reputation had crossed the water: a hard man, a tough negotiator, a charismatic leader, respected, loved and feared. But I didn't fear him. Why should I? I wasn't in an outlaw club; he was, and had been for 40 years, President of the Hells Angels.
So when I moved to Southern California, an introduction was arranged by the President of the London chapter; then cancelled abruptly. “Why?’ I asked my English friend. ”We don't talk about him any more,'’ He answered. “He's out... Bad.” Which I learned meant no more contact with the club and maybe worse, maybe a lot worse.
By chance, I did meet George, at a local athletic club, where I introduced myself and suggested lunch. You see, I'm a writer, mostly fiction, sometimes non-fiction, and I am always interested in a character, and this sturdy looking guy dressed all in black with a patchwork of ink covering both arms and a face that told a thousand stories sure looked like a character to me.
We met at a local restaurant, an Italian place. Respectfully, and a bit theatrically, I asked him if he preferred the chair with it's back against the wall. Without hesitation, he answered, “yes.” And in that moment I had a real doubt, 'is this where I die? Is this where two guys walk through the door and open fire, and I'm the collateral damage?” Suddenly my Godfather theatrics seemed serious.
What impressed me most about George was his mind, sharp and fast, and we shared the same irony in our humor, a bit of edge, laced with sarcasm. I liked him... Lunch ended, and we were still alive...
I didn't see much of George after that. A few passing hellos in the gym, nothing more. Maybe I'd offended him, been too familiar too soon. I didn't know. Not for almost two years. Then, after a chance meeting at a coffee shop, he told me.
“'I‘ve already had one murder contract on me. I thought maybe you were the second. That maybe you'd been sent... Sometimes it works that way and I had to be sure.”
I was surprised and mildly flattered... Me, a hit man? I don’t think so. I’m a writer. I write about hits and hit men but, so far, have never murdered anyone.
George’s story is riveting. He resigned from the Hells Angels after a 40- year run and all the rides, parties, women, fights and wars that go with being an outlaw. Took off his jacket, folded it up and laid it on the table of the clubhouse, then walked out. “For me, the club, with all its back biting and hypocrisy, had become the people we’d once rebelled against,” He says. “Brotherhood didn’t exist. Not like it used to.”
Shortly afterwards he was convicted on charges of committing arson to interfere with interstate commerce. Whatever he had to do with the firebombing of two tattoo shops in Ventura remains in question but it was not a hands-on job. That's just not George’s style.
He served his time in La Tuna Federal Prison, near the Mexican border; his cellmate was the President of The Bandidos, a club at war with the Hells Angels. “That’s another thing I never understood,” He explains. “How come we were brothers in prison and at war on the streets. It never made sense.”
A year later he stepped off a plane at LAX, stripped of all financial assets, and 'out bad' with his old club. Responsible for a young wife and child. Times were tough and he was broke, but not broken.
Perhaps, the real test of any man or woman, whether outlaw or civilian, is to lose everything. Do we jump off the Cliff or grow new wings and fly. George flew, beyond the prison bars and outlaw wings. Proving that it's not what we are but who we are when the chips are down. His TV series Outlaw Chronicles set viewing records for the History channel while his autobiographical Exile On Front Street, published by Thomas Dunn, soared straight into the Amazon best sellers list, followed quickly by his novel, Marked.
These days, the 'Al Capone Of Ventura,' as one magazine titled him, is a popular speaker at corporations, law enforcement venues (on his own terms), including nationwide police departments, defense attorneys and Homeland Security, to name a few.
In March this year, George Christie will make his stage debut in the one-man show, Outlaw, written and directed by me, Richard La Plante, suspected hit man, author of crime thrillers and collector of characters. Honored to call George Christie a friend.
Marked now available...
MARKED SNEEK PEEK...
A story of lies, loyalty, betrayal, and brotherhood
Sometime in the 1970s.
Early summer in the high desert of the Southwest.
Several hours had passed, and he had used the night landscape to occupy his time. The layers of the sun began revealing themselves as each second passed. It was one of the most beautiful sunrises he had seen in this lifetime, maybe in any lifetime.
The beauty of the desert is an experience that can change a man. The red hues of the rocks and cliffs, sculpted over millions of years. The big barrel cacti take the outline of bodies as the heat waves ripple upwards off their twisted forms.
The elements were starting to affect his body. The coolness of the evening was slipping away, replaced with that unforgiving oven that would bake for the next sixteen hours.
Thoughts swirled in his head. Jack knew a flash flood could change the landscape in one afternoon. What power nature had over Earth and man. But he also knew what power he held. He’d learned that fact after dispatching his first target as a U.S. Marine scout sniper. When this afternoon was over, he would have demonstrated it once again.
Jack was lucky; the layout allowed him to position himself on top of this old barn, so that the glass in the scope would not reflect off the rising sun. The rifle itself was good, but not outstanding. Nothing like a military sniper rifle you can draw from an armory.
In this type of operation, you don’t get that familiar with the gear. That’s because it wasn’t really an operation, it was a murder. You get your tools where you can and, if you’re smart, once they’re used, you get rid of them. As quickly as you can, and you do it yourself.
Jack took satisfaction in the fact that he had built the silencer himself. It was crafted out of tubing, washers, and steel wool, with a threaded spacer on one end to secure it to the barrel. He hung onto that thought and contemplated whether he had become a sociopath—proud that he had created this tool to aid him in destroying another human being.
His mind drifted to his parents, may they rest in peace. How they had insisted on his getting a higher level of education. If they hadn’t made such a fuss, there was a good chance he wouldn’t even know what a sociopath was.
But Jack pushed these ideas out of his head as fast as they entered. He knew the heat could put strange thoughts in a man’s mind, and that gave him some comfort.
"Marked" is my next book. A fictionalized account of my adventures. Here is a synopsis. Available: Preorder special, first 100 get a signed book and classic photo all for $15. Personalized upon request...