The Grit and Glamour of Queer LA Subculture

About Rough Riders

Research and Notes by Declan Creed and Lindsay Weinberg

"We’d throw the tent on the back, throw the trick on the back, and get on the motorcycle and ride away."

- John Laird, member of the Satyrs Motorcycle Club

In this chapter, we hope to explore the history and tradition of Los Angeles gay motorcycle clubs (MCs), one of which is the oldest continuous gay organization in the country. The Satyrs MC began in 1954, four years after the Mattachine society was founded. We seek to theorize and understand how such gatherings of people from across the city created a distinctly mobile subculture based on a combination of post-WW2 road culture and uniquely gay modes of sexual and aesthetic belonging. Toward this latter point, we will investigate the MC scene's overlap with leather and BDSM communities through publications and archives at the ONE and LA's Tom of Finland Foundation.

Like many gay subcultures that saw their heyday in the twentieth century, motorcycle club membership is declining; thus, we are forced to ask whether archiving this history will involve simply collecting the ephemera of a dying breed, inspiring a revival, or informing new queer subcultural forms. We hope that future developers of the this chapter will use the multivalent structure of Scalar as a sort of map for readers to take different routes, mirroring the MCs' various adventures.  Our original intention was to trace the genealogy of the Satyrs and other gay MC's in main sections while including a link "off the beaten path" by following a "Detour" icon for further historical context and alternative courses through the leather community.

In the current iteration of this work in progress, we include two photo galleries. The first of the Satyrs MC we located from a private collector, who has since donated them to the ONE Archive. This collection gives viewers a peak into a post-WW2 ethos of optimism and comradeship in contrast to the secretive nature of 1950s homophile organizations and before the LGBT liberation movements of beginning in the late 1960s. Our second gallery pulls from the Drummer Magazine archive and demonstrates the increasingly complex negotiations between queer subculture and authoritarian masculinity as MC culture becomes a more generalized aesthetic in gay male life in the 1970s. 

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