The Return of Hollister

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Article by Babydoll Pics by Babydoll, Pizano, and Art Hall

We arrived in Bolado Park in our home away from home, with our three dogs and our daughter, knowing that the park would be overflowing with Boozefighter’s from all over, being the 60th anniversary in Hollister and the place where their story began.

Many of us still wonder why we didn’t have a rally in 2006 and what were the changes that took place this year when the new promoter took over. Some of you newbie’s might want to know who these Boozefighter’s are and why they are such a big part of this rally’s history? And what brought us to this tiny town for this event in the first place? I hope to answer these questions for you as we read on.

On Thursday, we rode to downtown Hollister and none of the streets were blocked off, there were no vendors to speak of however, there was the famous Johnny’s Bar and Grille open for business, with their new and improved mural, recently painted by biker and artist Ronald Rocha. Thousands of people every year stop just to take a picture of Johnny’s sign and the mural on the side of the building as this place has become a regular tourist stop.

When Charisse Tyson, owner of the famous Johnny’s decided to update the faded mural, Rocha offered to repaint the mural for the cost of the paint. The mural was brightened with vivid colors and for those of you who have not seen it yet and are lover’s of the history of Hollister in art form, it is a must see. It has bold figures of Marlon Brando from the “Wild Ones”, “Wino Willie” Forkner the original Boozefighter and Motorcycle Icon and Daniel “Boo Boo” Cazares, who can still be found walking the alley with a boar skin atop his head. And if you haven’t seen the old classic, “The Wild One’s” (for you youngin’s) go rent the movie.

Wino Willie was supposed to be a technical advisor for the movie, the Wild Ones. They requested him because he was actually there when Life Magazine sensationalized a minor incident on that 4th of July back in 1947, which prompted the movie about the Boozefighter’s. And who better to advise them since he was a participant? However, Willie got drunk and never showed up to the movie set. (I wonder why they named him Wino Willie) Maybe that’s a good thing, because the movie was a huge hit and if the truth would have been told, the movie may have flopped! But, the movie will help you understand why this rally takes place on 4th of July weekend and will give you a taste of who the Boozefighter’s were and still are, although mellowed a bit.

I began a conversation with Charisse Tyson, the owner of Johnny’s Bar. She seemed very relaxed for taking on the job of Chairperson of the entire event. I asked her why the 2006 rally had been canceled and she explained that the city had been in the red $70,000.00 from the year 2004 and 2005 was worse with a debt of $250,000.00. With two years of serious debt, the City Council voted to cancel the 2006 Hollister Rally. When the City was approached by Horsepower Promotions (Seth Doulton) he convinced them to let him take over the rally, but he paid a hefty price. He had to hand over $382,000 by March of 2007 in order to get an okay to proceed with the 2007 rally. He succeeded in doing so through vendor proceeds, T-shirt, and food contracts and other funds.

Friday riding into Hollister, the views were breathtaking and the weather was excellent. One of the nicest changes that Seth made was the VIP parking. You can park your bike in a gated, guarded area, check you jacket, helmet, shopping items and feel your belongings are safe. You walk a block and you are on San Benito. Once I got to San Benito, however, I was a little shocked to say the least.

Here you are on the main street of the rally, standing where you were two years ago. There used to be bright shiny chrome and colored fenders lined up of every make and model, along side each other for blocks on both sides of the street. You could hear the rumble of hundreds of bikes slowly making their way down San Benito showing us custom choppers, bobbers or Harley Davidson’s with beautiful scantily clad women on the back. At times, someone would burn a little rubber, giving the crowd an “ooh” or “awe” and it was exciting and fun to watch them. However, this was no longer the case. There were no parked bikes, there were no bikes riding down San Benito. In fact, there weren’t any bikes period! There were only lines of white vendor tents all the way down San Benito. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Vendors!!!

Police presence did not seem overwhelming and the one time I did see the police involved in a bit of an altercation, they remained calm, and gave the man involved several chances to walk away, however he seemed to be intoxicated and allegedly had an open container and was acting somewhat belligerent. He made quite the scene, to which several photographers, including myself, stood ready with camera in hand in case the police decided to take him down. However, the police just stayed loose and there was nothing much to take pictures of, except a suspect spread eagle against the Johnny’s mural.

Back at the Bolado Park, there were several famous photographers from as far as Germany to shoot the Boozefighter’s and some of the original “Yellow Jackets” as they were once called. Vern Autry was one of the Original’s who was and still is a tough guy, to be sure. He is the essence of brotherhood when he speaks of the old days, but when I asked him if he knew he was a living legend he just modestly said he didn’t know about that and then he smiled with a bit of a twinkle in his eye. All I can say, is Vern was a real tough guy when he was young, but if you want to know if a guy is still tough, watch him walk down the street. He won’t budge for anyone even today. I don’t know how old Vern is, but he fought in World War II so that should tell you something about his age.

Dago, a feisty little Italian lady, who I have seen several times at Boozefighter events, came up and said hello. She looked tired, so we grabbed a chair for her, and we talked a bit. She talked about many things, including her best friend Terri Forkner and the good ole old days. Imagine in her day, riding her own bike and hanging out with guys like the Boozefighter’s and racing her bike against her dad in his car!

Dago is an original Boozette, and the only one I have ever seen with an actual Rocker on her vest. Now I can’t explain that one to you, because I was afraid to ask, but someone once told me that the ladies were part of the club, themselves. Don’t quote me on that because I don’t want the guys to come after me!!!! It started all the Boozette’s whispering and I started to giggle when I thought about my friend Carl “Big Daddy” Spotts because I knew his wife Jackie “Queen Bee” would be getting some phone calls from her Boozettes sisters who only wear their patch….lol!!!

I sat down to talk with “Snowman” Brian Trum. He has always been a little intimidating to me, so it was really good for me to be able to spend some time with him. From the time he was a little boy he always wanted to ride. He had seen the movie “The Wild Ones” and loved the whole idea of motorcycles and dreamt of going to the town where it all took place. When he was older and had the opportunity he rode to Hollister and even took a picture of the sign to prove he had been there. He also contacted Wino Willie who was interested in re-activating the club and in finding some old members as well as starting new Charters. Snowman was determined to have his own Charter, which he did earn, successfully.

At some point Snowman, Wino Willie and the other’s decided to have a run to Hollister to relive the “Wild Ones”, in 1997 which was their 50th Anniversary. As Snowman tells it, he got a letter from the San Benito County Sheriff asking the Boozefighter’s not to tear up the town again, and to please set an example for the people of the town. He thought that was hilarious because most of these guys were in their 80’s by now, pushing walkers or in wheelchairs. As it turned out, that run was nothing to speak of, but because of it, they did find some long lost Boozefighter’s/family as they had hoped and since then they have come back each year. That is how the “Hollister Rally” began.

Saturday, it was back to town and there was a huge crowd. Having the vendors in the street, allowed a lot more room to walk than usual. Normally, with the bikes parked up to the curb, you only have the sidewalks, but with the availability of part of the streets to walk in, pedestrians could maneuver much easier. That was another plus for Seth.

There were several shows, demo’s and runs you could take part in over the course of the weekend. There were the usual bike games, a boxing demo, a fashion show, a movie theater showing all the biker movies classics, which Quick Throttle sponsored. There was a poker run put on by the Top Hatter’s and a Spa Tour and Poker Walk around town which was free. There was also a stunt show and a martial arts demonstration. There were several bands located in three different staged areas including groups like Charley Brechtel, Muttley, Johnny Espinoza Vent, Shakedown, MoFo, Crimes of Passion, Brad Wilson, The District, Blue Barron, Wiggie Wagons, Soul Kiss, and TBA who entertained the crowd for hours. The Ms. Hollister Contest took place on Sunday afternoon on the main stage, which Quick Throttle proudly sponsored as well. And you had no problem finding anything because the event program mapped everything out for you, including where you could find each and every vendor and VIP parking area.

But much of the weekend was about the Boozefighter’s. People stopped them on the streets to ask questions about their history and to take their pictures. Once when we were walking into Johnny’s they weren’t going to let us in until they saw that Pizano was a Boozefighter. Johnny’s was crowded with Boozefighter’s and they could not let anymore people in. People realized this event was very much about the Boozefighter connection and history with this town called Hollister. Although people don’t talk about it much, there were other clubs in Hollister back in 1947, but unfortunately they didn’t receive the notoriety because a movie wasn’t made about them. Hollister dubbed the Birthplace of the American Biker Movement is home to some of the original riders of 1947, Peter Lomanto, Jess Bravo, Joe Bravo, Harry Prater, Babe and Johnny Lomanto.

The focus has always been on the bikers and their bikes at this event. It has always been fun to “people watch” and check out the bikes and babes as they cruise down San Benito. Biker’s enjoy the attention their bikes get. That has been half the fun of Hollister. Taking that away to please the city and vendors may be a smart move financially but I know we spent a lot less time in town, less time eating and drinking and less time walking around. We really missed watching the bikes and taking pictures. I think that was true of other’s as well because Charisse mentioned that Johnny’s Bar made about $2,000.00 less in sales than in 2005. Of course, there are two new bars in town, too.

Hollister is a cool little town with a lot of character and so much history behind the event that I want to see it continue as does everyone. I am hoping the promoters can come up with and alternate street for biker’s only. Charisse and I had been thinking the same thing…that maybe East Street could be closed off to cars where bikers could still do some people watching, hangin with their bikes, cruisin and go back to the way things were…. well…almost.

After the event, I spoke with Charisse, she verified that the biker’s were not happy about the new San Benito set up, although she had to admit the bar was much more mellow and easier for her to handle. She also said the vendors were happy and did quite well in sales and I can verify that most vendors told me the same thing. It was her opinion that if they could work out a way for the biker’s to be happy, it would be the perfect event and she was going to meet with the appropriate people to talk about just that.

All and all, this was the first year of a New Hollister and I think Seth and the committee did a great job and they were well organized. I know from what I heard, the vendors and the City love and trust Seth. According to Seth, over a 130,000 people came out to enjoy the rally and the Police Chief Jeff Miller recapped by saying “this was the safest, smoothest and most organized rally to date.” Wow, even the Police were happy!

I felt good about most of the changes, but we all missed the bikes coming down San Benito and I don’t know how you can possibly replace that. However, Seth pulled this rally together in six months, now he has a whole year to improve it. He plans to expand it to surrounding areas, much like Sturgis expanded. The coolest thing that is planned for next year is the historical “hill climb and bike races” as it was in 1947. I know that will make a huge difference in this rally and the biker’s it will bring back. So, Seth you are on your way to greatness. But we still want the bikes back on the street, roads blocked without any cars, just a cruisin’, rumblin’ and a smokin’. I know if anyone can make it happen, two people pleasers like you and Charisse can…where there is a will, there is a way.