26 years ago I was working as an in-house freelancer at People, and it was a mostly stifling gig, lemme tell ya. The only really “good” thing occured in early ’98 when a married staffer and I began a torrid love affair. The unrelenting emotional anxiety, stress and sensual, deep-navel nirvana lasted until September ’00. Anyway…
Sometime in the late spring of ’97 I pitched a story about the 50th anniversary of the alleged 1947 Hollister motorcycle riot, which inspired Lazlo Benedek‘s The Wild One (’53) and launched that iconic image of a hog-striding Marlon Brando with the shades and motorcycle cap.
The idea was that a team (myself and another People reporter) would attend the annual Hollister 4th of July rally and interview as many bikers as we could, and try and cobble together some kind of historical perspective piece that would commemorate the first time that mainstream Americans had heard about rowdy, beer-drinking ruffians rumbling around and agitating the locals.
People‘s New York editors approved the trip and off we went. And we gave it our very best, interviewing 20 or 25 bikers plus taking snaps and running all over town. But the article we turned in wasn’t punchy or throttle-y enough, they said. The New York editors were almost angry at us for not slamming it home.
I figured later on that we should have borrowed someone’s pickup truck and organized a dynamic tracking shot of 50 or 75 bikers motoring down a Hollister country road a la Brando, Jerry Paris, Gil Stratton and Lee Marvin. A single photo speaks a thousand words, etc.