Last night on the Season Finale of History Channel hit OUTLAW CHRONICLES: HELLS ANGELS, George Christie Jr. wrapped up his final days with the club he called his family for literally decades. Sonny Barger was one of–the–most famous Hells Angels out there. But, Christie was not necessarily as enamoured with this legendary figure in Hells Angels history as others have been over the years.
Well, at least, not as time went on.
When Christie first met Barger, in a stand-off with the cops, he admitted he was in awe of him and his ability to take control. “Sonny brought to the Hells Angels something that they never had had before, and that was organization. Sonny has this ability, this charisma, and people wanted to follow him. People wanted to make him happy. There was a lot of guys in the club that, you know, they didn’t have that family unit and, I’ll tell you, Sonny was a strong father figure for these guys.”
Sonny Barger became a public face for the Hells Angels when he led patriotic tirades against Vietnam War protesters. It was not long before Hollywood came calling, and Sonny responded. But, many members were not happy with actors portraying Hells Angels. So, Sonny made the decision: No one would ever wear Hells Angels name or logo again unless they were officially a member.
In the 70s, sales of meth were soaring, and there were rich criminals in the ranks. Sonny was doing time for “various indictments,” and Christie was finding his voice in the Hells Angels. He became president of the L.A. chapter, then moved it to Ventura. As opposed to Barger, Christie was willing to listen to other voices, other ideas. He was willing to negotiate. And, as he gained popularity with other Hells Angels, he became less popular with the #1 Hells Angel, Sonny Barger. And, when Sonny was released from prison, he was intent on reclaiming the club that he felt he had built as his own.
In a poorly planned trip to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota to face the Outlaws motorcycle club, only half of the Hells Angels showed up, the other half already on their way to Frisco, CO, the original destination. As Christie pointed out, there were no cell phones back then, no answering machines, no way to contact people anytime, anywhere. Christie was one of the ones who ended up in Frisco, and when Sonny drew a line between those who showed up at Sturgis and those who did not, the line was drawn firmly between Christie and Sonny Barger.
Obviously, it was Sonny’s fault, having chosen both destinations and making changes to reroute much too late to get everyone where he wanted them to be; perhaps he recognized his mistake and did not like being in the wrong. Whatever the reason, he was furious not with himself, but with those who did not show up in Sturgis. When he and Christie spoke about it, he told Sonny: Dividing the club is not the smart thing to do. Christie thought he had gotten through at that point, and they put the incident behind them. But, as it turned out, Sonny did not respond well in the long run.
Not long after getting out of jail, Sonny found out he had throat cancer, and during his treatment, Christie’s role in the Hells Angels grew–and Christie became the face of the Hells Angels for many people.
Tony Tate, an informant for the FBI and ATF, infiltrated the Hells Angels, and rose to the rank of Sergeant at Arms. Having an informant deep in the structure of the club gave law enforcement just the edge they needed to make progress against the club. In an effort to get Christie and other club members on tape, he wore a bug in a cast to a meeting where they hoped he would be getting some useful incriminating evidence about a murder plot. No luck, as Christie suspected something funny about the shiny new cast. Later, Tate tried to get Christie to help him with a drug deal, but Christie, more suspicious than ever, did not bite. However, Tate was able to get evidence against Sonny regarding an alleged attempt to blow up the Outlaws clubhouse and subsequently kill them on tape. So, pulling the plug on the operation, the FBI goes after Sonny, sending him to prison for four years and effectively ending his reign as the leader of the Hells Angels.
But, Sonny was not ready to go.
After his release from prison, Sonny decided to start a new chapter in Arizona to facilitate a new rise to power. The tension between Christie and Barger grew into a full-on rivalry, and a fight between the Ventura chapter and the new Arizona chapter ended up with the Ventura guys taking the patch off a full member from Arizona. Christie admitted he was not there when it happened, but he conceded, “That’s something you just don’t do.”
A meeting was to be held, but being on felony probation, Christie was not allowed to leave California and go to Arizona. He told his guys to go, have the meeting, come back immediately. But, they did not listen, and stayed to party afterwards. Ventura Hells Angel Josh Harber was killed, perhaps as an act of revenge; Christie declined to say if it was a “message” from Sonny. But, subsequently, Sonny’s closest ally and business partner, known as “Hoover,” was killed by a sniper while sitting on his bike. Christie denied any involvement. But, soon after, Sonny forces Christie’s hand.
Hells Angels are not allowed to dial 911 for any reason; it results in automatic expulsion from the club. After an altercation with his wife in his home, Sonny not only dialed 911 to call an ambulance for her, but he gave his name and gave information about weapons. Sonny denied he had done it, but Christie had the 911 tape to prove it. The only problem: The “angry mob” that had demanded punishment for Sonny and had asked Christie to lead the charge against him then turned, ultimately backing Sonny.
Bad blood sealed.
But, the final act of betrayal was when Sonny’s book, My Life and Times with the Hells Angels, was published. Sonny sold the movie rights to the book, but the Hells Angels received no compensation for the use of the club’s name and logo–breaking Sonny’s own rules about anyone else wearing the club logo or name. Again, the “angry mob” came to Christie, and once again, they turned on him, making it appear Christie was working his own power-hungry agenda against Sonny.
Is it any wonder Christie has no qualms about telling his story today?
“My whole agenda was trying to uphold the code of the club. In my opinion, Sonny felt that he was above the rules and he was going to do what he wanted. If you’re a leader and you have a vision, and nobody but you can see that vision, maybe you’re not a leader anymore. So, I made a decision, which to me was the hardest thing I’d done in my life: I exited the club.”
Like Christie said, the easy thing would have been to stay, to just acquiesce and go forward for the rest of his time with the Hells Angels. But, as anyone who has watched this show has seen, that’s not Christie’s personality. He was soon excommunicated by the club, and Christie was clear: He believes that order came straight from Sonny Barger. But, in the closing moments of the show, Christie expressed no remorse for his time in the Hells Angels:
It’s been a long journey and, you know what? I don’t have any regrets, I’m not sorry for any decisions I’ve made, and I wouldn’t change anything. I’m going to enjoy my last days upon Earth as a solo outlaw. The man makes the patch, the patch don’t make the man.
OUTLAW CHRONICLES: HELLS ANGELS is dedicated to George Christie’s son, George Christie, III, April 22, 1976 – August 6, 2015.
Image: Courtesy of History Channel, Used with Permission