By Ray Seidel
Celebrities, be it cinema, TV or music, are often thought of as keeping a wide distance from the rest of us mere mortals, secluded in exclusive estates in Beverly Hills and the like, with staff to do the driving to keep the mansion stocked with wine and cigars. But the love of riding motorcycles is a big equalizer, and stars of all stripes enjoy the real world fun of throwing a leg over two wheels and getting out for a ride…
Elvis Presley is well known for being a real biker, most often on a Harley-Davidson. Movie roles could put him on anything however, and in this ad he’s on the ubiquitous Honda Super Cub. Having had one myself as my first motorcycle, I know why they have been around forever, and are still being made today. Lots of fun for short hops. Another Honda promotion is this poster for the rare KISS motorcycle.
Clint Eastwood rode motorcycles often in his films, here on the set with his ’67 Norton. The Duke, John Wayne, also rode on the set, both horses AND his Honda and Hodaka dirt bikes. His boots being useful for all. Throw in another cowboy, Roy Rogers, who initially rode a motorcycle to Hollywood out of necessity, too poor to get there any other way. After stardom came a dressed up Indian, and later in life (much later) a Harley. Clark Gable was often seen riding on the MGM lot on a Harley, but sometimes an Ariel. Another real rider in film, and in real life, is Ann Margret, here on a Norton.
Steve McQueen was a serious motorcycle rider AND collector as most everyone knows. He rode in his films, and in his personal life his go-to bike was a Triumph 650, though Indians were his favorite motorcycles, as seen here. The closest to what could be called Steve’s “best friend” was Don Gordon, whom Steve cast in many of his films. Don told me that Steve would just appear in the middle of the night on his Triumph and say “Let’s go for a ride.” “But Steve, it’s raining out there.” “Who cares, get on your bike and let’s go.” Steve raced in his movies; Paul Newman raced in real life for fun, and also on a bike, as seen here. Danny Trejo rides off and on screen, and what I would call a guilty pleasure is to catch him in Desert Heat playing an Indian who rides an Indian.
Movie star and former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger is mostly a Harley guy, though he has ridden Indians in Terminator 3, and in his personal life. Besides the loaner he rode here for a charity event, he was given one by the Gilroy Indian factory when they were still in business. Indian has had a long history of giving out motorcycles for good press, including Jane Russell on this 1949 Scout, and Alan Ladd. Another Indian guy is Mike Wolfe from American Pickers. His helper Danielle Colby Cushman seems to like Harleys.
Charlie Chaplin gave the Thor IV some good screen time, a popular bike from 1901-07. For some SERIOUS screen time, there is Ewan McGregor in Long Way Round, who with a support team travelled by BMW from London to New York City via Western and Central Europe, Ukraine, Western Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Siberia and Canada, over a cumulative distance of 18,887 miles. This was followed by Long Way Down, from Scotland through eighteen countries in Europe and Africa, to Cape Town in South Africa. Highly recommended for amazing scenery and the incredible obstacles, both in nature and with humans, that had to be overcome. Pictured here, he’s on an OSSA bike.
Jay Leno we all know has a hangar in Burbank full of bikes (and cars), and can often be seen at The Rock Store. Jay is easy to talk to, so if you go up there, go aheadand see what he brought this week. Here is his 1950 Vincent. You never know what you’ll see him on. Or anyone else for that matter; here are Harrison Ford on a BMW R1200GS, Sean Connery on a 1971 Moto Guzzi Ambassador, Bruce Springsteen on a Triumph Scrambler. So is Chris Pratt, but that was for Jurassic World.
Check out the pictures; see how many bikes and celebs you can recognize. You might just meet some on your next ride!
* Photos from Internet Archives