The Wrong Crowd

Davy Gant. His art, mostly head portraits that I saw first, looked like they'd been painted with a cigar butt dipped in mud and house paint.  But the power, the sheer energy that burst off the canvases, was almost breathtaking. They caused an arc between your eyes and the roiled surface of the painting. It wasn't exactly anger that was popping off the things, but something like it, subtler. Some humor in there too. But the paintings were unmistakably the work of someone very gifted.


When I met the painter, he reminded me of some intelligent outlaws I'd known in Milwaukee when I worked on Harley Davidson advertising. I'd had Harleys since I was fourteen, so I had met my share of road agents, and ridden with some clubs, not Hell's Angels, but outlaw enough. In fact, the Milwaukee Outlaws bought my extreme chopper when I had to sell it; the well pump shot craps in our rural home, and I needed the cash. They paid me in stacks of twenties at my kitchen table.

What's this got to do with writing? Gant had a show, and it was all biker art--extremely good and crackling with energy like drag pipes on a Harley. His friends, The Conquerors, supplied great music, from haunting to biker brash. And his own rat-chopper sat in the center of the show on a Persian carpet. Two extremely talented photographers, The Wade Brothers, recorded the show, and as synergy would have it, all decided to make an installation out of it. With a 1968 biker flick, 1960's thrash music, the compelling art, and bikers causing actual commotions. They call it The Wrong Crowd complete with club colors: a tongue with wings and an acid tab.

They eschewed the usual crowd-begging sources, acquired some sponsors, and asked me to write the script for the movie. The first one I wrote opened with three main characters riding toward the camera, their faces intercutting with their mug shots, their various crimes listed onscreen as credits. They had "acceptable" names like The Rev, who was a defrocked minister, and backstories revealed in the opening.

But they were too mild.

They supplied the names. Mother*****r, Piece of s**t, and Fatass.  And they said, the music carries the show. Just give it a little structure. 1968 was a year of seismic change, upheaval. RFK and MLK were killed. Vietnam was rampant. A 1968 bumper sticker summed it up: We are the people our parents warned us about.

So I started the flick with that spectacular '68 image of Earth rising above the lunar surface shot from Apollo 8. Then, bam, quick cuts of parties, psychedelic scenes, politicians, Laugh-in, classic godawful Vietnam pix, Hell's Angels, Black Panthers and, as they say, much much more. Then dissolve to Fatass and friends at a campground with the rest of the gang. The Conquerors music starts and continues to the end with an entire album.  Dialogue is sparse and shocking in places. The three main characters split up, raise hell, and reconvene at the campground. Beer, booze, acid and marijuana provide a steady diet along with some bar sandwiches and cop encounters. Sex, violence, and pretty damn good music inform the action. How they will shoot this stuff is a challenge, but The Wade Brothers are magicians of the lens and viewfinder. Look for it next summer or fall. It will raise some hackles and some hell, just like the sixties. And it took me back to some years I now see that I was fortunate to survive.


Guinotte Wise is a sculptor and writer. His latest book, Night Train, Cold Beer is available here:

A Gant painting:

The Wade Brothers: