Night Crawler

Behind Cat's Grill & Alley Club Saturday afternoon, close to a hundred custom scooters line narrow Clementina Street and a crowd of similarly dressed men and women in dark sunglasses sip beer and peruse. Suddenly a Ford Taurus comes barreling halfway down the alley before the driver realizes it's closed off. "Don't even try it," says a thuggish-looking man in a green flight jacket and sideburns as the car revs its engine a few inches from his foot. The man glares stubbornly from behind his steering wheel before a scooterboy wads up a flier and tosses it at the windshield. Several other scooterists follow suit, crumpling paper cups with half-serious menace before the driver makes a disgruntled retreat.

This year's "Scooter Rage X" is a "weekender" offering shows at 111 Minna and Bimbo's 365 Club, a kegger in Golden Gate Park, a doughnut fest at First Kick Scooters, three organized rides, and a scooter show at Cat's Grill (hosted by San Francisco's Secret Society Scooter Club). Coming from as far away as Germany and Canada, the enthusiasts in attendance range from a 16-month-old kid from Sunnyvale to 52-year-old Secret Society veterans. Other local scooter supporters represented today are the Rally Kings, the Vespa Club, and the new all-female Hot Bitches on Toast, who have their first official meeting next week.

"Scooters are aesthetically pleasing," explains Secret Society co-founder David Dubiner, "but beyond that, there's a feeling of camaraderie. If you ride a scooter, you're going to honk and wave at someone else riding a scooter. You're more likely to stop and help out someone who's broken down. Think about it: People on scooters usually smile, whereas people on Ninjas scowl."

Today's crowd is a petri dish of '60s counterculture (except those detested hippies, of course). According to Boots-N-Booze, a zine published by Secret Society member Joel Loya, not only is there the traditional mod and the trad skinhead, there's the rudeboy, the suedehead, the bootboy, and the smoothie and the sort (that's a female smoothie). Compounding the confusion, there's also the scooterist or scooterboy, which is a scooter-enthusiast closer in attitude and dress to a skinhead than to a mod, but with a real lust for chroming his Lambretta. As one ex-mod girl put it, "Scooterboys are he-men, not pussy mod boys."

A herd of noisy young men stroll down Eighth Street toward the scooter gathering, uniformed in black flight jackets, shiny 10-hole Doc Martens, Levi's cuffed just above the boot or hemmed Sta-Prests, short-cropped hair, and half-inch braces. The first thing that comes to mind is the neo-Nazi skinhead scare of the late '80s, when Tom Metzger organized the White Power Skins in San Francisco, but upon closer observation, small black-and-red anti-swastika pins can be found nestled amid the montage of beer patches and Vespa insignias. It denotes a closer kinship to the SHARPs (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) than to their violent, white-supremacist counterparts. Other skins are wearing giant "Skinheads Stop Racism Now" logos on the backs of their jackets. "White-power skins were only a very small, unfortunate part of skinhead culture," says a 22-year-old woman from Santa Clara who sports the "fringe" haircut obligatory for skinhead gals. "Skinheads have been around since the '60s and are not, by definition, racist. Most of us listen to Northern soul and reggae." Still, there is more than one iron cross tattoo spotted at Bimbo's later that night, when over 700 people gather to see In-Citers, the Hi-Fives, and the Swingin' Utters. And tension runs high when the Utters are forced to interrupt their set several times due to scuffles in the huge pit the Bay Area band always generates.

"They're always too busy slagging each other to be any threat to me," says one Asian punk, rolling his eyes as the bouncers escort yet another boot-clad fan out the door. "We can't stop every time you fight," yells Utters frontman Johnny Peebucks. "We're not a bunch of fucking baby sitters!"

"There were only three real fights," Dubiner says, "and Stevie [the self-proclaimed Utters go-go dancer] got kicked out for trying to pants the crowd. But on the whole it was our most successful 'Scooter Rage' to date -- at least 500 of the people in attendance were there solely because it was a scooter event."

By Silke Tudor

 
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