By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Says Fairless, "In 15 years we've had six fights. You can get that in one night at other places around town."
Up at Duke's, the organic influx of bikers was initially intimidating to owner Jeff "Duke" Meinecke. Shortly after the place opened in 2001, an incident involving a Bandidos member bringing a knife into his bar further heightened fears.
"I'll admit, at first I was a little scared," Meinecke says. "But instead of backing away I embraced them, got to know them. I've met some rough-looking dudes, but they turn out to be doctors or lawyers or even policemen. We have this reputation now for being a Sunday biker bar, and that's just fine by me. It's gotten to the point now where people—families, even—will pull in just to look at all the bikes lined up out front."
The lack of regular dust-ups doesn't mean, however, that there aren't invisible lines of demarcation. On consecutive Sundays on Duke's patio, for example, members of Dirty Bastards mingled separately from independent riders as well as Soul Rydaz, Second II None, Desgraciados and the notorious Bandidos, unanimously recognized as the biggest, baddest club in the state and, for that matter, the Southwest. The groups rarely acknowledged each other, but when introduced produced a firm handshake and a stern look in the eye. Opposing members never interrupted when two or more of the same club were engaged in conversation and never asked detailed questions of their counterparts, especially locations of clubhouses, future rides or the number of members.
Wasn't exactly a Cotillion, but imagine the Crips and Bloods idling their feud long enough to attend a social networking happy hour.
"We get along with most and are tolerated by the others," Voodoo says. Dirty Bastards MC is an incorporated, non-profit organization that takes part in numerous charity rides, including last month's "Teddy Bear Run" and the 25th annual "Big Texas Toy Run" to Fort Worth, on December 19, which delivers thousands of Christmas gifts to area underprivileged children. Voodoo chuckles at the grisly portrayal of motorcycle clubs, pointing out that he picks up his kids from school on his bike every day and recently granted his daughter's 16th birthday wish to have the Bastards shuttle her and her friends around town in style.
"It's a subculture, sure," says Bastards member "Mongo." "Some ride on weekends and some, like us, ride everywhere we go. But no matter, you won't find any more pro-American, freedom-loving people. We might look a little more scraggly than you, but we don't bite."
Soul Rydaz president and co-founder "BReal" is a mail carrier by day. Two of his club's members are cops. And none of that will matter—nor the fact that his flashy orange bike costs $35,000—this Saturday when the club holds its annual Toy Drive Block Party in the Wynnewood area of Oak Cliff.
"We're just common folk," he says, surveying the nearly 200 motorcycles at Duke's. "We've got our lives. Bikes are strictly our hobbies. They're vehicles for making us feel free and instruments to help less fortunate people."
Even when asked to grant interviews in the same parking lot, there is a gracious "No, after you..." protocol. Second II None member "Dre" says it's important for clubs to be vigilant in their respect without necessarily being synchronized.
"We all have a common bond and that's the therapy we get from the open road," says Dre, a 49-year-old financial executive whose club mandates members wear full-face helmets. "There are dangers, but same thing in life. We could drop dead from a heart attack tomorrow. At the same time we all need to recognize that some groups just don't fit in. Let's just say there are outlaw clubs that don't share our sense of togetherness."
While it is strictly taboo to publicly address—much less criticize—another club's business, there are outlaw clubs in Dallas such as the Hells Angels of yesterday and Bandidos of today whose reputations often define their reality.
"I'm not about to name names or point fingers, but there are clubs we just keep a healthy distance away from," BReal says. "Our philosophies don't mesh perfectly if you know what I mean."
Trying to define an outlaw club can be prickly. Most bikers treat them like arsenic-eating aliens, keeping a distant respect and a handy reservoir of fear.
Asked about the Bandidos, Voodoo says, "They were the first club in Texas. Other than that I have no comment."
Bikes are louder and faster than ever, but is the biker—other than the Bandido—mellowing?
Strokers' Fairless was riding a Harley with friends near Oak Lawn Avenue recently when he stopped at a red light and noticed a twentysomething woman pushing a toddler in a stroller.
"She kneels down, points and tells her kid 'Look at the pretty motorcycles,'" he recalls. "Things have changed. For the better. There was a time when you pulled up alongside a car and there was no eye contact, the doors got locked and the driver immediately stereotyped you as a bad dude."