By Bradley Rohlf
In “Outlaw,” George Christie presents his life and legacy as the former president of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club. He stars as himself in this one-man show based on his life, written and directed by Richard La Plante.
The show has the general feel of a Netflix documentary but not quite as slick. Its strength lies more in the curiosity-engaging subject matter than the overall presentation.
Christie joined the Hell’s Angels Los Angeles charter in 1976, and shortly thereafter became president. Later he would found the Ventura charter of the club. He was the most visible leader in the club for thirty-five years, until he resigned from his position and membership in 2011.
The way he tells it, it sounds a bit like destiny. As a small child he first saw a biker roll through town. This man commanded an aura of danger and fearful respect. This man in the denim vest was truly free. The image stuck with him when he purchased his first bike before he turned 20 when he was in the Marine Reserves. He soon found a brotherhood, his people, among the various motorcycle clubs (MCs) of southern California.
Christie does not deny the hard-partying and sometimes criminal reputation of the Hell’s Angels and other MCs, after all, the term ‘outlaw’ is worn with pride. But his initial draw, and what kept him in for so long was the camaraderie and structure. It also doesn’t hurt that he was running several lucrative business enterprises, some of which, he admits with some self-deprecation, were legal.
La Plante crafts the story through chronological vignettes. Christie recounts segments of his life, and adds comments to provide greater context. Each scene is aided by appropriate photos, and bookended by music selections to reflect the tone. Restraint is exhibited in lighting design, effectively punctuating key moments in the narrative.
As adept as he was handling media and public relations, I expected a little more from Christie’s stage presence. His charismatic on-camera interviews were an ever-present thorn in the side of whichever government agency was investigating him at the time.
He is an engaging storyteller, but there were moments where I felt he was caught up with how he ought to be telling the story, rather than simply telling it.
But beyond that, Christie exhibits impressive stamina, as he tackles the just over two hours of performing with no intermission – only taking occasional respite in a sip from one of the multiple cups of Powerade placed about the stage.
The show is not all tales of rowdy partying and gang warfare. Christie is reflective, he highlights examples of good and bad leadership, the human need for belonging, and how ego can destroy the good things community builds.
While it is unrealistic to expect the story such a life to be told in one sitting, it felt as though there were some large narrative gaps. It’s enticing to hear the “real” history from the source, and while there is no reason to doubt the facts shared, this is still the life of George Christie told by George Christie. It’s his side. His perspective.
Christie has been telling his story for a few years now. He has written two books, makes lecture appearances, and speaks at corporate events. This theatrical version of his life premiered this past April in Ventura, California, and his next appearance will be August 3-5 in Rapid City, South Dakota.
He closes by reminding us that the term outlaw does not equal criminal. It is someone who operates outside of and beyond the law – unbound by the rules of society. Christie is a man driven to control his own mythology. And by all appearances he is succeeding.
“Outlaw” was presented June 29 – July 1 at The Playhouse at Westport. For more information, visit www.playhouseatwestport.com.