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It was only 10 p.m. on a Friday night in early December, but the Double Play bar in Potrero Hill was almost at capacity, teeming with a couple hundred bikers who had roared up 16th Street on massive, gleaming Harley-Davidsons. The bikers had parked their Hogs illegally on the sidewalk, and swaggered to the door past yellow police tape that had been put up as ironic decoration. Inside, the place was a sea of testosterone and leather. A horde of burly bikers, some holding their helmets in their hands, were crowded around the bar, pounding whiskey or beer.
They had come from all over the Bay Area to a party hosted by the Devil Dolls Motorcycle Club, one of the first and few female outlaw biker clubs in the nation.
The Golden Gate Fog Hogs Motorcycle Club, which ardently supports the Devil Dolls, arrived first. It was followed by the East Bay Dragons and a half-dozen other clubs. The infamous outlaw bikers, the Hell's Angels, blew into the party last, fashionably late. The various club members all kept their leather jackets on so it would be obvious which organization they represented, but they intermingled as they milled around the bar exchanging war stories from the road.
A few women motorcyclists showed up too. Pulling their fingers through their windblown hair, they approached the Devil Dolls to ask about how to join the club.
As a band of foxy outlaw biker babes, it wasn't hard for the Devil Dolls to entice people to attend their party. They know they're a novelty, and they love the contradiction of applying lipstick in their rearview mirrors and then riding your ass on the road.
But the girls are also a savvy bunch, and they had thrown the party to celebrate their most recent merchandising coup: the release of their second annual Devil Doll calendar.
The calendar, featuring club members and their friends on their own big, bad bikes, is an attempt to make it clear that a woman's place is not on the back seat of a motorcycle.
To ensure that their party had that certain outlaw edge, the Devil Dolls had promised the partygoers that the Dolls would beat the shit out of somebody -- in the form of a staged bondage show.
So when Devil Dolls Co-President Jessica Evans, a striking blonde wearing a tightfitting leather corset, moved to the front of the room, the bikers instinctively sensed a commotion. They began pushing to get a better view.
Evans brandished a long, slender leather whip in her hand as a waifish, weepy man stumbled forward dressed in rags. The crowd moved in closer, almost jeering.
"Do you use your turn signals when you drive?" Evans demanded.
The bondage victim pretended to be frightened, and shook his head.
Evans turned to face the audience, horrified. She began lashing the pathetic man on his chest and shoulders, yelling, "Bad! Bad!"
"Do you stop at red lights?" Evans asked.
The whipping boy shook his head, and Evans, disgusted, continued to beat and chastise him.
"Do you go to the Gap or Starbucks?" Evans asked, finally.
He nodded his head weakly, and the whip cracked. The man fell to his knees, whimpering. He was taken away.
The audience sneered. Some chuckled.
The beating over, the crowd dispersed. They went back to swilling beer and nibbling on bite-size pieces of focaccia. The music was turned back up, and members of the Devil Dolls headed to different corners of the room to play party hostess.
Throughout the night, the five members of the Devil Dolls would sometimes catch each other's eyes from across the room and give each other a little smile, giddy with the success of their party. They had drawn almost every motorcycle club that mattered to their celebration. Everyone was having fun, wearing too much leather, drinking to excess, and buying their merchandise. For the Dolls, the night was a victory.
As outlaw biker parties go, it seemed tamer than one might imagine: There were no barroom brawls, and other than the whipping boy, nobody got hurt.
The Devil Dolls, though, are the first to admit that they are not outlaw bikers in the stereotypical, 1960s, Marlon Brando sort of way: They don't terrorize small towns or smash beer bottles over the heads of their rivals. Sure, they go by names like SheWolf and Calamity. They hate cops, like all outlaw bikers, and among their ranks are an ex-con, some recovering alcoholics, and a couple of social drug users. They may curse like outlaws, and swagger like outlaws, and ride like outlaws, but they aren't the Hell's Angels. They just date the Hell's Angels. They are, after all, girls.
Even if they don't raise real hell, they do raise eyebrows, and for a group of misfits they're doing pretty well for themselves. They know their club is going places. They can feel it. They've got their own Devil Dolls Web site and merchandise. They have fans around the world, who call themselves "worshippers." And on their leather jackets, they sport the rare and coveted three-piece patch of a recognized outlaw club, a prize that few men's motorcycle clubs dare to wear.