GELNDALE, CALIF., OCT. 20–Fog hung over my head as I headed north towards Glendale H-D past downtown Los Angeles. The tequila sunrise washed the Griffith Park hills with a gauzy veil of soft orange that suddenly cleared as I approached my off-ramp. The Love Ride is still recovering from a near-fatal attack from the recession, and the crowd in Glendale was deceptively small. No crowding the donation tables, no problem browsing the racks inside the dealership and easy access to the stage. But the lineup of bikes down San Fernando Road indicated there were thousands ready to go.
The VIP area adjacent to the store had the usual batch of celebrities I recognized and some I did not. Blame it on my inability to afford cable. As perennial Grand Marshal Jay Leno approached, I thought I could play TMZ and ask an open rhetorical question: “After investing in a dozen new denim shirts and visiting Disneyland, what’s the first thing you’ll do when you retire from The Tonight Show?” He paused for a brief moment and then answered, “I’ll have to think about it.” Gee, I was hoping for a little more repartee, but it’s too early. Later he would be in fine form and made this the most amusing press conference I have ever heard here.
And the best-laid plans have a tendency to betray: if you believed the online schedule, you were expecting the press conference to begin at 8:30 a.m., not an ungodly time to wake on a Sunday morning. But time constraints forced Katey Sagal and the Forest Rangers to entertain at Castaic Lake instead, which really was a better venue for both her and the participants. But that threw off the schedule and rather than ignore the gap, everything was moved up—a lot!
After music by the bands American Hitmen and The Loveless, Tom “Disco” Loveland began the celebrity press conference. Love Ride founder Oliver Shokouh welcomed the crowd and introduced Lorenzo Lamas to sing the national anthem. Bob Kurkjian, USO executive director for the Greater Los Angeles Area, spoke about the benefits provided for vets.
Disco is always the best emcee to have for any occasion and proceeded to wrangle the celebrities onstage at 8:00 a.m. When he asked who had attended the first Love Ride, my hand shot up. He chuckled, “Just one?!” Actually, old timers have learned to skip the scene at Glendale and head straight to the lake—really unnecessary. In fact, you missed all the fun. I planned to record the press conference, but couldn’t operate the recorder, my camera and take notes at the same time, so I tried to memorize as much as I could. Disco handed the reins to Leno, who said, “We’re trying something different this year: Make love to the person next to you… plenty of options!” Looking over the Davidson family onstage, he said, “I can remember when we didn’t have grey hair! When we had hair!” When the familiar made-of-money GEICO rider came up, Leno said the costume of greenbacks appeared authentic and asked his name. “Bill,” he replied. Leno quipped, “You’ll lose your pants in a divorce in Hollywood.” And responding to one cast member from Sons of Anarchy who declared a change in biker culture, Leno was quick to correct him. To paraphrase: “You may have changed from biker scum to TV star! You got rich; all these other folks are still poor!”
The press conference surprisingly lasted only 15 minutes and the riders were told to mount up at 8:30. That was a whole 45 minutes early and I dashed to get ahead of the caravan, but I did pause to observe two folks, Gerry and Devon McKenzie, toiling to fill out over $400 dollars in raffle tickets!
At the lake was a line of cars and bikes—folks who thought themselves clever to arrive early—held back because the lot was set to open at 10:00 a.m. I informed those in charge of parking that the caravan was leaving early and we needed to get out of their way. No go. Eventually I flagged down the sheriffs and told them of the time change and they were able to have the lot opened. But just as the sign was given for us to begin entering, the familiar roar of bikes announced the arrival of the caravan and we turned off our engines and waited for what turned out to be only 10 minutes after expecting the wait to be more along the lines of 30. Now we could all enjoy the day.
A quick glance around the grounds and everything looked normal: dozens of vendors, a bike and car show, lunch trucks and a crowd that visibly doubled from last year. In other words, it was as it should be—a great turnaround for such a venerable event. With daylight savings and the October date, the warm sun would last long enough to extend biker time till way past 4:00 p.m., allowing a great ride to after-parties or home.
As an artist I was thrilled to discover David Uhl in his booth surrounded by his most popular prints, adding touches of paint to a giclée print of “Once Upon A Time” to be raffled. He has created motorcycle-themed paintings since 1998, and was offering autographed catalogues of his work.
Throughout the vendor area I began gathering freebies and ended up with quite a bit of swag, not the least of which was a GEICO gecko stuffed toy. I imbibed Rock Star drinks all day and now know how helicopters manage to hover in one place. Jerky Hut, long a mainstay at biker swap meets, was here offering a dozen samples of old standards and new flavors. GEICO also had a new custom on display with a wicked gecko tail fender wrapping around the rear tire.
The program at Castaic opened with the Santa Clarita Young Marines Color Guard and the national anthem sung by Petty Officer Rebecca Lopez, USN, for her second year. The concert performances continued all day, kicking off with Katey Sagal and The Forest Rangers (including songs from her upcoming album Covered), Chevy Metal (with Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame), and Jackshit, who backed up headliner Jackson Browne.
The Southern California Harley-Davidson Dealers Association presented Oliver a framed Love Ride poster to honor this 30th event. A bit of international flair was provided by the Swiss Love Ride top earners who gave Oliver a huge cowbell (prompting Leno to quip, “You should see their army knives!”), and H.O.G. groups from Brunei and Malaysia, came up to be welcomed by the attendees, proudly waving their national flags. The Victor McLaglen Motor Corps, led by Harry Fisher, performed to a much larger audience this year, demonstrating all the ways you can pack a passenger on a bike: flung over the front fender, upside down, behind you, beside you, on top of you and more. Assistant Drill Leader Mark Frymoyer even thrilled one young woman with her own stunt, riding atop his shoulders.
As the day began to wind down, Oliver returned to the stage to announce the Top 10 Fundraisers, and introduced the bike show judges including Roland Sands of Roland Sands Design, Russell Mitchell of Exile Cycles, Chica of Chica Custom Cycles, Lenny Meyer of Big Boy Choppers, Michael Schacht of Crocker Motorcycle Company and Joan Krenning of Lady Road Dog. Oliver then awarded the “Opportunity Prizes,” including the 2014 H-D Road King to a very happy Jim Carnes.
The Love Ride raised over $400,000 thanks to the efforts of more than 4,000 attendees, hundreds of volunteers and sponsors Budweiser, GEICO, Chevron, Sebastian Professional, Russ Brown, John Paul Mitchell, City National Bank, Fender and the City of Glendale. The Love Ride retains its proud title as the longest-running, one-day motorcycle charity event in the world, bringing the total for charity over that span to over $24.5 million.
Top 10 Fundraisers
1. Eric Schmoranzer, who earned $2,000 in Chevron gas cards and a two-night trip for two to Las Vegas
2. Jim Carnes, who earned a Stephen Holland painting of Evel Knievel signed by Evel and the painter, plus a two-night trip for two to Las Vegas
3. Judi Flournoy, who earned a Swiss Trax garage floor, plus a two-night trip for two to Las Vegas
4. Gerard McKenzie, who earned the David Uhl painting “Once Upon A Time,” plus a two-night trip for two to Las Vegas
5. Kent Vest, who earned the Jackson Browne auction package, plus a two-night trip for two to Las Vegas
6. Janelle Skeen, who won the Custom Love Ride Stratocaster guitar by Fender
7. Michael Mills, who earned $1,000 in Chevron gas cards
8. Douglas Eaton, who earned a $500 gift certificate redeemable at any Southern California Harley-Davidson association dealerships
9. Bobbi Kaelin, who earned a $500 gift certificate redeemable at Harley-Davidson of Glendale
10. Michael Popovich, who earned $500 gift certificate redeemable at Hollywood Harley-Davidson
Bike Show Winners
People’s Choice Award: Mikei Bilek, Boss Hoss cruiser
Custom: Bruce Iverseon, Boss Hoss pickup
Sportster: Randy Romero, XLCH
Softail/FX: Cardo Bongiorno, 2006 Heritage
Touring: Robert Shelton, 2012 CVO Road Glide Custom
Veteran: Denis Olsen, 1966 FLH
Lady Ridden: Donna Kaminsky, 2008 Dyna Fat Bob