By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
No, not all OMGs—outlaw motorcycle gangs—sport characters straight out of Mad Max, with patches on their eyes and evil in their hearts. They aren't all dysfunctional criminals, destined to break laws, create havoc and live outside the generally accepted rules of society. Bikers still cut loose in their private clubhouses and at their giant annual rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, but they're closer to the introspective riders on Sons of Anarchy than Jack Black angrily punting a careless cager's dog off a bridge in Anchorman.
In Dallas, in fact, OMGs may be sliding more toward extinct lists than terror watches.
On December 15 detective Larry Wall, a veteran of the Dallas Police Department assigned to motorcycle gang-related cases, retired from the force. His position—his one-man department—totally dissolved. Its relatively small number of cases are now referred to Department of Public Safety troopers. Nonetheless, when I first began to conduct interviews for this story, Rico warned me: "Don't fuck with Bandidos. Seriously. Don't do it. They're as strong as ever."
But even Texas' signature club is killing the skeptics with kindness.
"They have the reputation of being a perceived threat, but I've seen them for years conduct themselves very courteously," Meinecke of Duke's says. "Now, I'm not saying it would be a good idea to cross them or disrespect them. They're probably some pretty tough guys if provoked."
The bikers' real rival is, of course, the distracted, disturbed or even drunken driver behind the wheel of a car. Just recently 62-year-old Bennie Dee Bar, riding on Preston Road, was killed by a 22-year-old driver whom police arrested for hit-and-run, and in October, Dr. Gary Purdue, chief of the burn unit in the Department of Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center, died when an allegedly drunken driver ran a stop sign on Webb Chapel Road and hit him at 7:20 in the morning, sending him through a resident's backyard fence. Just last week, a 43-year-old Dallas man, who was fleeing police, lost control of his motorcycle and hit a brick wall in Preston Hollow, killing him at the scene.
Perhaps, for the first time in a long time, it's more hazardous to be on a bike than in a bike club.
To get in a club, a biker must first have the gumption to voluntarily approach existing members. If he passes the initial eyeball test the candidate is invited to a meeting, called "church," and then offered probationary membership as a "prospect," not unlike a fraternity pledge. After six months to a year of successful initiation, he is accepted as a "full patch" member, complete with leather vest and three back patches displaying the club's name (top label or "rocker," across shoulders), logo (in middle) and location (bottom rocker, across lower back) "We don't just give those away, you gotta earn them," Voodoo says of full patches. "Once you're in, you're in. To the end."
Adds Mongo, "Most guys are closer to their bike brothers than their real brothers."
At a biker party at a private residence in Carrollton last month, the scene wasn't drastically different than you'd imagine. Confederate flag on the wall. Classic rock on the radio. More leather than an S&M convention. Beer, brats, babes and good ol' boys with bad ol' thoughts. At exclusive clubhouse meetings, the drill is repeated, sometimes with the inclusion of female groupies and marijuana, both of which are passed around freely between members.
There are local clubs that remain all-white or consist exclusively of blacks or Hispanics or even law-enforcement personnel (Blue Knights). And then, like Bandidos and its support club, Desgraciados, there are the hardcore, harder-edged "1%" clubs. Some say the 1% patch designates a member who has defended a club brother to the death. Some say it means a club follows only one percent of the laws, or generates one percent of its revenue via illegal means. Others say the 1% label merely signifies the club hasn't formally registered with the American Motorcycle Association. Most agree the patch means "advanced."
"To the one-percenters, club comes before anything else," Voodoo says. "If your mom's lying on her deathbed and your club calls a meeting, you're at the meeting."
If you want to ride sans affiliation with a club, you ride as an independent like "George T. Wishbone." Independents hang out with clubs; they just don't belong to them.
"In clubs, if a member screws up you have to back them up no matter what," says Wishbone on a cool November night at Cape Buffalo grill in North Dallas. "I don't go for that shit. Independents are a club by not being a club. Our patch is not having a patch."
Wishbone, who hosts parties at his house with guests from numerous clubs, is particularly proud of two patches on his vest, however. One shows a poker hand full of aces, missing only the clubs suit. The other one depicts "The White House" in Washington, D.C. Yes, that one.
"I do know people high up at the White House," he says. "But what exactly does it mean? It's in your best interest to not investigate further. I'm serious."