Paul Wilson: Hamilton's Hells Angels fly the No Smoking sign

The Hells Angels have a big, menacing sign – "death's head" insignia and all – outside their clubhouse on Gage North. But what's with that wimpy message beneath it?
The Hells Angels have hoisted their fearsome insignia out front the clubhouse on Gage North. But does that little sign under it really say No Smoking? (Paul Wilson/ CBC)

This kind of thing could damage the hard-earned reputation of the Hells Angels forever. People might start calling them wussies.

Last year the Hamilton chapter moved to new headquarters on Gage North. They have surveillance cameras there, of course. And barbed wire strung around the perimeter.

So they don’t want you visiting. But they do want you to know they’re here. Hells Angels Hamilton, the sign says, in big red letters. The official "death’s head" insignia completes the picture.

But it’s the sign directly below that, right over the door, that the Angels should worry about: "Entrance – No Smoking"

What? The local Hells Angels clubhouse is smoke free?

Sonny smoked Camels

Could this be the work of the most famous Angel of all, Ralph "Sonny" Barger? He’s the California biker who back in the Sixties started organizing the club into the world-wide outfit it is today.

Naturally, while doing all that work, he smoked. Three packs a day of Camels. But 30 years ago he was diagnosed with throat cancer. They took out his vocal cords (they say he was smoking en route to the operating room) and he learned how to talk using the muscles in his throat.

He is still alive, now in his early 70s. He is now a man of fewer words, but does speak out on the dangers of smoking.

Hey, here’s an Angel now, just coming out of the parking lot.

We ask him about the No Smoking sign. He’s never noticed it before. Figures it must be a left-over from the building’s previous life. It used to be the Gage Tavern.

This Angel tells us the press are not his favourite people. "I’m not saying nothing about nothing." Except to point out that beyond that metal door is a private club. Very private. That means they can do whatever they want.

Yes, they light up here – just like bad bikers should. | @PaulWilsonCBC

You can read more CBC Hamilton stories by Paul Wilson here.