Hells Angels just need a catchy lil’ theme song
I’m not talking about a bad week in the press like Michael Jackson had, or a sorry summer in the box scores of the sort the Detroit Tigers endured.
I’m talking about a genuine image problem.
Never mind that on Dec. 4 federal officials announced the indictment of 42 Hells Angels in connection with the events surrounding the April 2002 shootout at the Laughlin River Run. Forget that the Clark County district attorney’s office is preparing a homicide case in association with the bloody brawl that left three men dead. (While you’re at it, disregard the potentially damning evidence in the form of voluminous video surveillance tapes and the undercover investigators who posed as bikers in Laughlin.)
While you’re suspending belief, put on hold all opinions you might have developed from news accounts tying the Hells Angels to everything from methamphetamine trafficking to murder.
Try to look at it from their perspective.
It’s perfectly legal to belong to a motorcycle group in this country. Why, even Ku Klux Klan membership is constitutionally protected. And what if, as some informed insiders contend, there is a good case to be argued for self-defense in the Laughlin shootout?
That means the Hells Angels will need a fair trial and an impartial jury.
Maybe I watched too many Sam Peckinpah flicks as a kid, but when I hear the words Hells Angels, I don’t think of a group of law-abiding motorcycle enthusiasts who share a common lust for the open road.
I think motorcycle mafia.
But how are they going to change hearts and minds as their day of judgment approaches?
By hiring a PR team, of course.
If it worked for the Colombian government and its cocaine cartels, it could work for the Hells Angels. If river-fouling chemical companies can spin a sweet-scented image for the media, then it should be a breeze for the Hells Angels. If the casino industry can reinvent itself into just another slice of the American entertainment pie, then doing as much for the Hells Angels should be a piece of cake.
Finding a willing PR team might not be easy. It was difficult enough to find a couple of local PR mavens willing to brainstorm the idea.
We’re not selling soap or rehabilitating Dick Nixon. This is a real image renovation.
First, there’s the name thing.
I’m thinking something more along the lines of Charlie’s Angels or even the Anaheim Angels.
But they’ve been taken.
Image consultant Mark Fierro says, “The first thing they have to do before they get to the courthouse steps is change the name. Hecks Angels has a nice ring to it.”
Publicity wars veteran Laura Herlovich concurs.
“Definitely a name change,” she says. “And it would help to change their visual image. They have to get rid of the motorcycle leathers and the hard-ass look. They need to soften their image.”
Fierro favors a whole new makeover.
“You need matching blazers with a new Hecks Angels logo,” he says. “Instead of a skull, which I always thought was kind of frightening when you’re traveling down the freeway, maybe a yuppie upscale look. A preppy look would be better. They have to withdraw from this idea of being threatening.”
Herlovich accentuates the positive: Play up the toy drives and the popularity of Harleys among doctors, lawyers and even some judges (and pray you draw one at trial).
“They can’t give up all that branding,” Herlovich says, “but they need to start curving it in a slightly different direction.”
Like away from the battles with pistols, knives, wrenches and hammers. Sounds like they should change their name from Hells Angels to Ace Hardware.
Then there’s the matter of a theme song.
Herlovich notes that the right sound can quickly change perceptions.
“Music is the true and only language of peace,” she says. “I think with the right song, anything can happen.”
Even a new image for the Hells Angels.
If only Steppenwolf had written a tune called “Born to be Mild.”
John L. Smith’s column appears Fridays in the Nevada Appeal. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295..