I had a chance encounter with Indian last year, at the Rumblers car show in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I guess when a guy has "VENGEANCE IS MINE SAYETH THE LORD" tattooed on his adam's apple, backwards, he isn't generally sending out a Howdy Neighbor! vibe. Still, I got over the initial hesitation, introduced myself, and tossed him a few bike questions. Despite the outward appearance, he was gracious, friendly, a bit zen-like.
No arrogance, but he certain earned the right to it. It's hard to overstate what a rock star he was among chopperheads; if there is a Mt. Olympus of Grease, he was its Hephaestus. While others might be content to churn out bolt-together shlock, Indian insisted that his bikes remain pure, down to their hand-laced spokes. He wrestled raw steel with the most ancient of techniques -- gas torches and shot bags and hammer welds -- creating machines that were simple, fast and dumbfoundingly beautiful. And he rode them with all the panache that he used in their creation, literally surfing the bikes at highway speed, standing atop their hand-formed solo seats. Look Ma, no hands.
Yes, it was that trademark stunt that killed him. And yes, I know, it was stupid. Especially without a helmet. But spare the safety lectures; the next time you buckle yourself into your 5-star safety rated, side-curtain-airbag transpo-appliance, think about Indian Larry and remember those glorious and stupid stunts you did on your Sting Ray, and how great it felt to risk it all.
Ride on, Indian.
[Brief update on 12/7/2004: I'd like to thank all of you for your nice remembrances of Indian Larry, which I will forward to his Gasoline Alley family. Unfortunately, with several thousand views a day and nearly 200 comments, this thread was starting to exhaust my TypePad bandwidth limit. As a result, I have cleared all the comments older than 2 weeks and saved them in a separate Microsoft Word file. If you'd like to view them, click here. ]
PS - If the 'Cole' who posted on this thread on 11/25 is Cole Foster from Salinas Boys, please drop me an email dude...