An overview –Wino Willie Forkner and the true story of the rise and fall of a motorcycle club.
This story starts in 1937 and the establishing of a motorcycle club on the west coast of the USA. Some bike enthusiasts started a motorcycle club that focused on racing and having a good time together. The club was the 13 Rebels in California. A young man by the name of William Forkner, or better known by his nickname Wino Willie, got to know these guys and soon joined the ranks of the 13 Rebels MC.
Then came the war and a lot of the Brothers went to fight abroad. Some stayed home and did the best they could from where they were at. Wino Willie signed up for duty despite the fact that he had a family and could have stayed home. He did his time in the service in the South Pacific being a part of a bomber crew. When the war ended the service men returned home, marked by war and what they had seen.
They had survived and were ready to have some fun. Let the adrenaline flow and go race, party, and just plain –LIVE! Or like Wino Willie himself said in an interview, "I already know how to die, now I need to figure out how to live...real quick."
During a wild weekend at El Cajon where they had some races going on, Wino Willie got bored by the racers who still were a bit off after the war. Wino proclaimed that he could do better than that and went to get his bike together with a fellow called Blackie. Blackie chickened out but Wino crashed through the gates and joined in the races. Soon he was in the lead, going fast in the lead for a few laps until he crashed. Hey, this is no fairytale.
The guard closest to Wino ripped the coil wires of his bike and Wino, still drunk as hell, stood there trying to kick the fucker for a while. The guard was J.D Cameron, at that time, a member of a more "serious" club. Wino got thrown in jail over the incident and was left there to rot by his club Brothers.
When he returned, they got on his ass at the club meet so Wino took off his club shirt, "nastied" in it, and threw it away. He was going to start his own club. A club that knew how to party.
Wino Willie gathered a few of his closest friends and together they formed a new club. The new club was, despite what some might claim, still close with the 13 Rebels. They were all friends from a long time ago and all hung out at the same bar in LA, the All American. The story goes that the new club got an "antisocial" name coined by the two things the serious clubs were mad about, drinking and fighting. Jim Cameron, who was an original member claim that the name came from fighting the booze...fighting a hangover. They all had a laugh about that, and the name stuck.
There are lots of stories about those days and some are even written down in magazines and in books. The problem with books is that they often are censored to fit the agenda the writer might have. ... The complete and full stories will probably never be known to the public because they were told by the original members themselves, and not too many have been given the privilege to sit down with them on their terms to listen and enjoy. Luckily, a few of us have and we will try to keep the stories going around the campfires like these stories should be passed on. These guys were the real deal, close as hell, and with no egos to boost. They were Brothers; Brothers like Brothers should be with a bond no man could break. The original club had three chapters in their heyday and they will forever be a piece of history that no one can duplicate and will never be tainted with the modern BS that is going on. Nor will the modern stuff ever have anything else in common with these chapters but stealing the name. But back to my story...
Due to their "antisocial" name they were not allowed to compete at the races so they had to come up with a solution. The solution was a new club they called the Yellow Jackets MC. That club was strictly a racing club and Wino and the boys competed under that name for years.
By the late 50's the original club was gone. Wino Willie was once asked in an interview what had happened and Wino replied, "Life I guess..." He explained that people had gotten busy raising families and just making a living so the MC thing faded away... as the racing days were over for the original members, the Yellow Jackets also faded away.
Wino Willie lived his life as he had always done, raising his family and keeping close ties with his old friends while making a living as a truck driver. At that time, he started working for J.D Cameron, the brother of Jim Cameron that was also a member of the original club. JD was actually the guy who ripped the coil wires off Wino's bike at the races back at El Cajon. At that time, they could not stand each other, but as they got to know each other they developed a friendship stronger than anything else and they kept that friendship alive and strong to their death. Wino Willie moved further up the coast and became a fisherman in Fort Bragg, CA. He still enjoyed going to runs and riding, partying with his friends, and putting on small gatherings at his home in Fort Bragg.
Then Easyriders started doing articles on Hollister and how the whole biker thing got started. They soon started investigating around Wino and the boys as they were legends, a part of the modern folklore. The stories were still being told around the campfires and people wondered whatever happened to that club. Their whole idea of what a club should be struck a chord among the true bikers of the world. People who wanted to get back to what it was really about...motorcycles and brotherhood.
As they investigated and got to know a few of the original members, they had an idea of throwing a reunion party for the original members at their 40th anniversary. They managed to gather a lot of the old-timers that were still alive. Hell, even John Roccio from the 13 Rebels was there, now wearing a green and white jersey. He was always there with the club but stayed 13 Rebels as he and his brother were racing in the big leagues. JD John was there even though he never was a part of the club before. All the legends was there, Jim Cameron, Jim Hunter, Gil Armas, Lance Tidwell you name it...The party was great, the original club members really enjoyed themselves and were thrilled about seeing each other again after all these years.
When the party was over, Wino started thinking about the old days and had a hard time letting it go. He talked it over with JD John and together they decided that they would reform the club based on Wino Willie's personal claim to the club. Every original member had equal rights to the original club so Wino Willie decided he would form a "new" club based on his personal rights. He entered an ad in Easyriders Magazine where he asked people who were interested in carrying on the legacy and being a part of the club to contact him. A lot of people answered the call and a lot of new chapters sprung up. There were old time bikers who knew what it was all about as well as, new people without a clue. The new club spread all over and there were chapters abroad in Germany and even in Brazil.
The club soon grew too big for one man to handle and people were voted in to represent the different areas they came from. Still the club followed biker protocol and voted like it should be. One man, one vote. The club got its new president and a time of turmoil followed.
Soon the club voted in patches and the "Bluto" patch was coined. Due to a lot of internal conflicts, a few other styles were used down the line. After the establishing the national and all of the trouble with Bluto in charge, the club split into factions. There were members wearing the skeleton hand patch , a patch where the center patch was a bottle being grabbed by a skeleton hand (later to be stolen by the nats and made into little patches you can buy from them and put on your vest. A lot have done so, and have no clue whatsoever about what it stands for) and the bottom rocker was territorial. Some had territorial bottom rockers with the "Bluto" bottle. On the west coast they wore grey and white for a long time. The two words were separated with a star to differentiate them from the ones wearing the national sanctioned patch. To get away from all of this, they removed the territorial rockers and started wearing a EST 1946 rockers to show all other clubs that they had no claim to territory, nor did they mess with other clubs and their business...how things have changed.. Hell, I'm getting ahead of myself so let's go back to the story...
There was soon too many different people pulling the club in different directions and Wino decided it was time to let go of the club and allow someone who had the time, to do the formalities and run the club. He was sure that the people had respect of his wishes and would run the club under his guidelines. Wino Willie believed in the good of man and in good faith, he offered up the lead of the club. Two members of chapter 39 (now 69) asked to take over and Wino Willie agreed. This would happen if they would follow the intention and history as a non-profit organization of brotherhood and biking. The two individuals agreed and Wino Willie signed over his personal rights to chapter 1, Fort Bragg to them. To make this legal they bought the rights for the amount of one dollar. Wino Willie and JD John were to be permanent on the board to supervise and as advisors to the club.
Not too long after, the two members copyrighted the logo of the club, even though they had no rights to do this. They only owned Wino Willie's personal rights to his chapter, not to the whole club. Soon after, they put the organization together as an Inc. and issued stock for sale in the club. They kept 26% each for themselves and offered the rest up for sale. The board was now to vote according to how much stock each individual owned. This was the end of the club as a club. It now turned into a business venture where some people opted to get as much money out of its members as possible. Gone was the one man one vote rule. All that was left was a corporation that was trying to get the dues from its members and telling them what to do without any say. One of the two owners suddenly died and in some mysterious way, the guy still alive ended up with ALL of the shares! They did not go to any of his Brothers or to his family. The shares were passed on to the one left based on an "agreement" between the two members. Few believed him, but they let it happen. Now one individual had 52% of the shares in the club and consequently, all the power that he needed. In fact, the rest of the stocks were worthless at that point.
Wino Willie was dedicated to make things right and tried to stop what was going on. By his side were California and some other chapters. This was prior to them selling out and when they still had pride and dignity. Wino Willie and JD started a fight to get the club back and make everything right for its members. After dealing back and forth, the individual whose name we won't mention here out of respect for Wino Willie's memory, offered to sell the club back to him for $14,641.
Wino Willie had a talk with JD John and they agreed to pay the ransom and get their club back. When the deal was done, he pulled out in the last minute leaving Wino Willie stranded.
A fight to bring the club back on track did not lead anywhere. Even though they were on the Board of directors, they claimed that they had no say and that it was only honorary. The fight kept on and quite a few tried to turn things around. This was before e-mail so everything went through phone calls and letters. Somehow a lot of these letters and information never got through and the Inc. was kept an Inc. selling stock; choosing business over the choice to be a motorcycle club. It even got to a point where Wino Willie's followers wanted to make things right the old way, but Wino heard it through the grapevine and put his foot down. Wino did not want anybody to do time over him so he asked everybody to back off and leave it be. Life's too valuable to waste over trash like robbers, thieves and liars.
Following this, many letters were sent to Wino Willie where he was being threatened by them taking him to court, calling him several things I will not repeat here, and generally just trying to kick him out of the club. All of this is being kept from those who stay true to Wino to this day. Wino even made a video to have his last say about the club before he pulled out. He issued a statement that he left the club and joined the 13 Rebels again. He also wanted to ensure that his name and JD John's name was not be associated with the club in any way or form. The "club" to this day doesn't listen and are still trying every angle to make even more money on his name.
In 1996 JD John died and in many ways ended Wino's fight to make things right. After the way he was treated and grief stricken by his close friend passing, it was too big a thing to change. He kept on trying to the very end and had even planned on going back to Hollister for the 50th to celebrate. Sadly he passed away only two weeks prior to the rally and without being able to change the club that he had fought for over the last ten years. He passed away knowing that his dream was crushed by people with no respect for his legacy and wishes. But the flame still burns and we are many who have not forgotten and will keep that fire alive.
The Inc. now tightened the grip on the club and a lot of chapters and members started leaving the club, as the truth about what had happened surfaced (ask how long the senior member in the club have been there...where are the others?).
Some left for other clubs, some restarted old clubs with ties to Wino Willie's old club, and some started new clubs based on Wino's original ideas and with his blessing. What was left of the old club started to be a joke. Some chapters tried to stay away from the National and refused to join. All the charters were issued by Wino Willie himself a long time before the new guys were even in the club, making them untouchable and with no way for the Inc to revoke their charters. Europe and California did not want to join in, but after a sell out from a new CA chapter up north, the West Coast fell and joined Nat and changed their patched into the green and white national sanctioned patch.
Soon Europe decided to leave the club and only two chapters lived on for a while, but refused to give in to the Nats. Never a part of the Inc., they wore a separate patch, first the skeleton patch worn in Conn and Europe, and later the original bottle with rockers and state rocker. When they were in a dialog with the Nats, the Nats played many angles and their solution was to try to make other clubs do their dirty work. They put an ad in a German biker magazine claiming that there were no real chapters of that club in Europe. That was kind of strange since Wino Wille issued the European charter to Germany in '88. In Europe this would have brought hell down upon the two chapters left and would probably have cost a few people's lives; not that the National cares about that.
It was too bad for them that these two chapters had close ties with many of the big clubs and the big clubs were informed of the situation ahead of the ad in the magazine. Also, the fact that they had established following protocol and not by sending some patches in the mail to the local HOG chapter, made them untouchable. This was the final straw and the two last "renegade" chapters patched over to a real biker club a short time after with the blessing and support of the big clubs. This is something that they would have done sooner, but it was impossible until the Inc. demonstrated for all, that they were not a MC anymore. Proving it over and over and even putting it in black and white in a magazine. The Inc. should be given some credit though, they have made brotherfucking into an art form and I doubt if they will ever change. Some claim it is history now, that things have changed...but it has not and knowing what the "club" stands for, will you still support and be a part of it?
Things went on for a while with people leaving well enough alone, but it's never enough for some. The fact is that living a lie is dangerous because there is always someone looking for the truth. By late 2000, the Inc. decided to bring the club back into Europe. The problem was that the biker community knew the old members of what once was a MC wearing the same name. They knew what had happened and what the Inc. were about. There was really no way to establish as a part of the club world. The solution was to patch over people that had no knowledge about what had happened in the Inc or in Europe before, or maybe they just didn't care...
The Inc. and some of their chapters claim to have no problem with other clubs and respect and stay out of their business. This is not true anymore and it seems like the Inc. has its hands full of attempting to keep their own people in line. It seems like there might be an agenda within their own club to "take over" the power of the club and bring it back to the state where it originated.
A National Chapter that state they have no claim to territory has chapters now claiming territory and "putting people in their place". Members of their organization go around banging heads of people true to Wino Willie and his family when they outnumber them, then hide and send other clubs to take care of things when they actually have to man up. Some want to wear a diamond while at the same time allow cops into their "club." Are the cops supposed to look away while their "club" brothers do the dirty work? Calling cops to settle their agendas on some issues, and then asking bigger clubs to take care of their problems on other issues. Money is going back and forth dealing with enemies of each other. These are dangerous times for those with heartburn over what happened to Wino Willie. His legacy lives on in other clubs; the original club is tainted and destroyed forever by greedy selfish people that only look out for themselves.
Another chapter in the History is about to be written and it seems like only time will tell if "good" or bad forces will win. For those of us who've left and quit chasing a dream with stars in our eyes, we found a real home where the legacy lives on.
We will carry the word to a new group of Brothers to ensure the legacy of brotherhood and biking continues to develop...