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Voice Of The Crew - Since 2002

Los Angeles, California

HomeCraftsEasy Rider Motorcycle

Easy Rider Motorcycle

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Props—like actors and those in
other such suspect occupations—
become respectable if they last
long enough. And with respectability,
comes value. Think of
the auction of Dorothy’s ruby red
slippers from the Wizard of Oz,
or of Steven Spielberg’s purchase
of the Rosebud sled from Citizen
Kane.
But some props—like rock
stars in private planes—go out at
the zenith of their glory. Fittingly,
one such case is that of the choppers
in Easy Rider. The very
ones ridden by Peter Fonda and
Dennis Hopper in their search
for America.
As cinematographer Laszlo
Kovacs, ASC tells Below the Line,
the bikes were transported back
to L.A. for some final scenes, and
“when we opened up our trucks—
five-ton trucks—there were no
bikes! Both were missing.”
The mystery
of their vanishing
has never
been solved,
but as Kovacs
tells it, “a couple
of ‘Angels’-
type guys were
maintaining
our bikes.”
That’d be
“angels” as in
“Hell’s Angels,” and their names
were “Gypsy” and “Tex.”
“Tex was a small and tough
guy—unbelievably tough,” Kovacs
continues. Somewhere on the
road, somebody was admiring the
custom-built choppers a little too
much, and in the line of duty,
Tex “got into a fight.” Going past
the line of duty, “he shot a guy.”
Evidently the same guy who had
designs on the bike. Tex “went to
jail for about a year, maybe,” after
which, his trail vanishes. Gypsy,
“an amazing guy,” isn’t around to
shed light on the mystery, either.
“After the show, he got a job at
Universal. He was a grip, working
up in the rafters. Those were
special times—heavy on drugs,
drinking.” Too heavy for poor
Gypsy, who one day fell from those
rafters, straight into the afterlife.
So Gypsy and Tex took the
secrets of the bikes’ whereabouts
with them. “This is one of the
stories,” Kovacs concludes. “Or
maybe a combination of several
stories.”
All Kovacs knows for sure
is that when they filmed that
famous final campfire scene,
where Fonda says, “we blew it,”
he had to “compose (the shot)
in such a way an empty space
(was left) where the bike was
supposed to be. Very few people
really caught it. They didn’t realize
the bikes were missing.”
But Kovacs calls the shot a
tribute to the infamous choppers,
each of which achieved an immortality
in vanishing that eluded
poor Gypsy and Tex.

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