What Happened When I Left the Hells Angels

When George Christie was a kid in California in the mid 1950s, he caught sight for the first time of a long-haired, denim-jacketed biker, and knew that life was for him.

By the late 60s, after a stint as a reservist with the Marines, Christie was hanging out with the Questions Marks and Satan Slaves, two California outlaw motorcycle clubs that lived in the shadow of the elite: the Hells Angels. The Angels were the top of the food chain in outlaw-bike culture, and it was Christie’s dream to join the infamous club, a prospect he often likens to running away and joining the circus.

By the mid 70s, Christie had realized that dream, and in his forthcoming book, Exile on Front Street: My Life as a Hells Angel, and Beyond, he describes his roughly four decades with the most notorious biker club in American history. From founding the Ventura, California, charter to carrying the Olympic Torch in the Los Angeles games to starring in his own History Channel series, Outlaw Chronicles, Christie emerged as perhaps the definitive (if controversial) public face for a deeply polarizing group.

So it isn’t exactly shocking that he ran into some trouble with the law along the way. Among other things, Christie was charged with orchestrating a murder for hire involving the leader of the Mexican Mafia prison gang, before eventually being acquitted in 1987. And in 2011, he was arrested over the firebombing of rival tattoo parlors four years earlier, pleading guilty to one charge and doing about a year in prison. It was around this time that Christie says he decided to leave the organization he called home—a split that quickly got ugly, with rumors swirling that he was forced out after turning government informant.

VICE chatted with Christie to learn what it was like to be a Hells Angel, why they parted ways, and how his life has changed since.

George Christie brandishing the Olympic Torch in California in 1984