Sonny Barger

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Sonny Barger
Ralph Hubert Barger

(1938-10-08) October 8, 1938 (age 82)
OccupationOutlaw biker, author, actor
Known forFounding member Hells Angels, Oakland chapter
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata

Ralph Hubert "Sonny" Barger (born October 8, 1938) is an American biker, author, and actor who is a founding member (1957) of the Oakland, California chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.[1] He is the author of five books.

Onscreen, Barger was identified but did not speak in Hells Angels on Wheels (1967) and was one of several members of the Angels who had speaking parts playing themselves in Hell's Angels '69 (1969); he has appeared in several additional films. He also appeared in the Sons of Anarchy television show as Lenny "The Pimp" Janowitz.



Barger features prominently in Hunter S. Thompson's book, Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (1966). Barger and the Hells Angels are also depicted in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), during Ken Kesey's La Honda encampment. Barger was one of the Hells Angels present at the Rolling Stones' Altamont Free Concert in 1969, and appears in the documentary film about the concert: Gimme Shelter (1970).


In 1983, Barger was diagnosed with throat cancer, after years of heavy smoking. His diagnosis and treatment was at Ft. Miley VA Hospital in San Francisco. Having stage III laryngeal cancer, a total laryngectomy with bilateral functional neck dissections was performed by Michael Tralla MD, FACS. Consequently since his vocal cords were removed, he learned to vocalize using the muscles in his esophagus.

In 1988, Barger was found guilty of conspiring to blow up the clubhouse of a rival motorcycle club, The Outlaws in Louisville, Kentucky,[2] and spent four years in federal prison in Arizona.[citation needed]


Sonny Barger remains an active member of the Hells Angels in the Cave Creek, Arizona Chapter, having moved there from Oakland in 1998.[3]

In recent years, Barger has worked to promote motorcycle safety; he co-authored a book on the subject with Darwin Holmstrom (the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motorcycles (1998)[4]) titled Let's Ride: Sonny Barger's Guide to Motorcycling (2010).[5]

In terms of pure workmanship, personally I don't like Harleys. I ride them because I'm in the club, and that's the image, but if I could I would seriously consider riding a Honda ST1100 or a BMW. We really missed the boat not switching over to the Japanese models when they began building bigger bikes. I'll usually say "Fuck Harley-Davidson." – Ralph "Sonny" Barger, Hell's Angel [6]

On November 30, 2010, Barger made a guest appearance as Lenny "The Pimp" Janowitz on the Season 3 finale of the FX television series Sons of Anarchy, about a fictional outlaw motorcycle club, allegedly based on the Hells Angels. Show creator Kurt Sutter spent time with Barger and other members of Hells Angels researching for the show, and acted opposite Barger in his scene. Barger returned again on the Sons of Anarchy as Lenny "The Pimp" Janowitz November 29, 2011, in the Season 4 finale, part one. Barger's third guest appearance on Sons of Anarchy as Lenny "The Pimp" Janowitz was during Season 5, Episode 10, which aired on November 13, 2012.

Selected works[edit]

  • With Keith Zimmerman (2001). Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club. William Morrow. ISBN 0-06-093754-8.
  • Ridin' High, Livin' Free: Hell-Raising Motorcycle Stories. William Morrow. 2003. ISBN 0-06-000603-X.
  • Dead in 5 Heartbeats. HarperTorch. 2004. ISBN 9780060532536.
  • Freedom: Credos from the Road. William Morrow. 2005. ISBN 0-06-053256-4.
  • 6 Chambers, 1 Bullet. William Morrow. 2006. ISBN 9780060745318.
  • Let's Ride: Sonny Barger's Guide to Motorcycling. William Morrow. 2010. ISBN 978-0-06-196427-5.



  1. ^ Newton-Matza, Mitchell (March 26, 2014). Disasters and Tragic Events: An Encyclopedia of Catastrophes in American History [2 volumes]. ISBN 9781610691666.
  2. ^ "Jury Finds Hells Angels Leader Guilty in Plots", Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, October 29, 1988
  3. ^ Barger (2001)
  4. ^ Holmstrom, Darwin (1998). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motorcycles. Alpha.
  5. ^ Barger & Holmstrom (June 8, 2010). Let's Ride: Sonny Barger's Guide to Motorcycling. HarperCollins.
  6. ^ Barger, Ralph (October 2, 2001) [2001, 2000]. "Harleys, Choppers, Full Dressers, and Stolen Wheels". Hell's Angel the Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club. Harper. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-06-093754-6.
  7. ^ a b Nathan Southern. "Sonny Barger: Full Biography". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. Archived from the original on September 28, 2012. Retrieved February 15, 2012.
  8. ^ a b Sonny Barger at IMDb
  9. ^ Independent Feature Film Dead In 5 Heartbeats by American Motorcycle Legend Sonny Barger
  10. ^ Dead in 5 Heartbeats (2013)
  11. ^ DEAD IN 5 HEARTBEATS (movie review) | Forces of Geek: the only pop culture site that matters

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]