No, I’m no Angel: Digging Into the Hells Angels Clubhouse on 3rd Street [PHOTOS]

Posted on: January 2nd, 2014 at 11:00 am by
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The tale of two at South Dakota’s annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Gregg Allman sums it up nicely: No, I’m No Angel, but on a cross-country trip, my dad and I decided to attend the Rally. Always down for an adventure, we pulled into Sturgis (in a Volvo) and felt all eyes upon us.

1) They thought we were a couple (which I am still in therapy for) and 2) we weren’t on or accompanied by a motorcycle. Darting off to the closest novelty store, we bought our Sturgis t-shirts to blend in.

Didn’t work.

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Sturgis Rally

But in the Badlands, you gotta live it every day!

It’s the price you gotta pay. Off to the National Park for a breathtaking hike. While there, a man came up to us, leather-clad and scowling at the car (going with that theory: mad at the car, not at the odd couple) and growled “nice license plate.”

My dad, hardly one to back down from, er, anything (?), “Yeah, what’s it to you?” Great, Dad, thanks. He replied “I’m from New York, too” and with that he turned and showed us the back of his black leather vest (mind you, it was 100 degrees out). And there it was, the trademark Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (“MC”) flaming skull.

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“New York? Brother!  Nice to meet you!”  Handshakes and hugs ensued. New Yorkers are truly f*cking awesome. I love our city!

We chatted up and made a new friend; let’s just call him Charlie. He ensured that we would no longer be outsiders at Sturgis!  Plus, Charlies’s Harley was bright yellow and I got to ride it…

Fine. You’re right. I didn’t ride the pretty bike. I got to stand next to it.

Charlie was a really nice guy. He said when I had a break from school, I should stop by the clubhouse in the East Village and say hello. I obliged, but unfortunately our paths never crossed again.

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It got really hot. OFF with the leather.

Their building intrigued me simply because it’s a building in New York.

Thus, here we are – a little history of 77 East 3rd Street, the Hells Angels Clubhouse in New York City.  77 has been standing resolute since 1899, but the Hells Angels didn’t move here until 1969. The first floor became the clubhouse and the upper five floors contained residential apartments, the majority of which were/are occupied by members.

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New York Times: Dec. 3. 1899

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New York Times; 1901

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New York Times: 1944

In 1977, Birdie Ruderman sold the building to The Church of Angels, a not-for-profit-corporation. No longer just tenants – 77 East 3rd had become entirely Hells Angels.

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In 1983, The Church of Angels added Sandy Alexander to their deed (as tenants-in-common). In the ensuing thirty years, not a single real estate transaction has occurred concerning 77.

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What was once described by the New York Times as a “ramshackle” building is now a pretty spiffy block where neighbors “think this is the safest block in New York, and it’s because of them. Because people don’t want to mess with them. People don’t break into cars on this block. If I’m shopping and they’re out, I feel safe.”

Here’s a video featuring Sandy Alexander and the Lower East Side from Hells Angels Forever:

As for the goings-on of the motorcycle club, there are a plethora of books for you to peruse.

My focus is clearly the building itself and its decor, therefore I must bring up Big Vinny because of the tribute to him that hangs in plaque form above the door. It reads:

IN MEMORY OF BIG VINNY 1943 – 1979

“WHEN IN DOUBT KNOCK EM OUT”

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Big Vinny

He allegedly killed Mary Campbell by shoving her off the roof of 77; he was freed due to lack of evidence only to then die from a stab wound to the spleen some years later.

Check out this photo from 1982 of an abandoned tenement on 3rd street near the clubhouse and its tribute to Big Vinny along with some other images of the clubhouse and surrounding area through the decades:

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A.F.F.A: Angels Forever, Forever Angels  is a Hells Angels acronym. Oakland MC and NYC MC etc. tribute to Big Vinny; Photo: Dave Glass

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March 1971. Copyright: Librado Romero, NYT

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July 4, 1980

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December 1993, Copyright: Sara Krulwich, NYT

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Unknown Year

Interlude for some brief hog history. From the Harley museum website, “Even Harley-Davidson can’t fit 100-plus years of history into a single museum.”

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Several sources confirm that in the 1920s the official Harley-Davidson company racing team, the “Wrecking Crew,” had a living pig for their mascot. Whenever any Wrecking Crew member won a race they took their little buddy for a victory lap. The acronym H.O.G. stands for Harley Owners Group which Harley-Davidson created in the ’80s to “promote a lifestyle alongside its products.”  A hog is also a synonym for Harleys and now you know why.

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Ray Weishaar and the Harley hog. Copyright: American Motorcyclist Association

Most of the Harley Motorcycle Clubs I researched no longer have hogs (the animals). Probably a PETA thing.

Back to the clubhouse:

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2009

The “H” and “A” at the top of building are gone.  There are at least ten security cameras in their place from top to bottom.

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2013

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2013

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2013

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In recent news, the MC is battling to keep their building. You can read more about that here. Short history on the outside looking in. More history yet to be told from the Angels themselves.

‘Til we meet again.

Ah, New York. My stunning and gritty, sparkling and filthy, tremendous, transcendent metropolis. You were forged by the keepers of secrets and those secrets I plan to find and reveal, one brick at a time. Bless up.

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