Inspiring Others To Live The Dream
Article & Photos By: Chopper Charlie
Originally Published In The April 2016 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Mann, undoubtedly a legend in the motorcycle community, is best known for his art depicting chopper riders in scenes which many of us have lived first hand. For those less fortunate David’s art leaves others inspired to live the “dream”. Born in Kansas City, MO on September 10th, 1940 he quickly found his artistic inspiration through the hot rod community. After graduating high school, Mann moved to California and soon discovered his love for the motorcycle culture. There he turned his focus to choppers and the chopper lifestyle we all love as much as he did. His paintings often depicted riders in scenes involving a kindred spirit such as a trucker or a horse back rider. Others showed riders beside characters who look down their nose at the wilder side or D “free” side of society. Often his art would include an officer of the law or the upper class “squares” who don’t agree with or understand the lifestyle. Mann continued to inspire riders with his creative depictions of the life until his death on September 11th, 2004. However, his legend lives on and his art will not be forgotten.
11 years after his death on December 13th, the 12th annual David Mann Chopperfest took place in Ventura, CA. The morning of the event was not unlike any other. Vendors scrambled to set up their tents in hopes of selling the goods they were peddling. Professional and garage builders alike pushed or rode their creations onto the grassy area reserved for the bike show and fleets of other folks hurriedly unloaded armfuls and truckloads of old parts onto fold out tables in the swap meet arena. But soon the atmosphere changed and the feel of a SoCal motorcycle subculture enveloped itself around the event. Vendors and artists from around the country were there to show off their talents, and not one left me unimpressed. Will Ramsey from Faith Forgotten Choppers was there with his incredible creations.
Rene Chavez stopped passersby in their tracks with his ability to resurrect a vintage helmet into a perfectly fitting and simultaneously attractive brain bucket. Jessi Combs and Theresa Contreras with Real Deal gave welding lessons to little girls and boys and Kayla Koeune from Inferno Art Studio showed off her motorcycle inspired paintings to prospective new clients. Icons such as Sugar Bear, Panhead Billy and Russell Mitchell casually walked around. There was so much talent present that my head was turned at every corner reminding me of the caliber of this event. Alongside these professionals were countless aspiring builders coming into their own with garage built customs. Shovels, Pans and Knucks littered the show area creating a (literal) chopper heaven. Each bike reflected the character of its builder and left no doubt about the skills of the person behind the wrench. My personal favorite, and this is going to surprise some, was a blue Knucklehead named “Stardust”. I don’t typically go for bikes like this, a bit too fancy pants for my taste, but it was just really well done. Bordering on, but not crossing into gaudy, the entire machine was meticulously detailed with engraving, subtle creative twists on otherwise simple mechanisms and an absolutely flawless sky blue paint job. The proud owner of this bike, Andrew Ursich, went on to win best of show and was invited to the Las Vegas Artistry in Iron Show.
On the opposite end of the spectrum I witnessed the result of someone’s need to, how do I put this nicely, clutter a motorcycle to the point that I can only assume they ran out of room on the shelves in the garage so decided it best to just mount all the extra garbage on the bike and call it a chopper. Folks, more often than not less is definitely more. Thankfully that was a rarity at this event and virtually every bike was worth stopping to admire. Motorcycles weren’t the only great part of the event though. For me, there is nothing better than being surrounded by and meeting new friends from around the country. The pre-party Saturday night located at a bar called the Tavern was the place to be. Literally hundreds of party goers filled the many rooms and patios of the old Victorian home turned bar for a night of live music and good times. Though I may only see most of these people once or twice a year when we meet up at an event like this it always feels as though we have never been apart. Add in Palm trees, sunny Southern California skies and a cool ocean breeze and you have all the makings of a truly fantastic chopper extravaganza. No, I never had the privilege of meeting David Mann, but I would imagine that if he were looking down on Ventura, California that Sunday he would be proud of what this event has become. A place to express your individuality through your motorcycle and a refuge for the like minded, free spirited and often misunderstood outcasts of society.