By Evelyn Kanter
May 22, 2009
It's been 40 years since the motion picture "Easy Rider" roared
across our movie screens, turning Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack
Nicholson into instant stars and creating a thriving culture of
freewheeling, free-spirited open-road drives on motorcycles.
The movie spawned the culture of customizing bikes, like the ones
Messrs. Fonda and Hopper drove into our psyches. The Captain America
Chopper with its flaglike stars and stripes tank, and the Billy Bike,
with its air-brushed "flames" and orange body, still inspire chopper
shops and motorcycle riders today.
Much of the iconic 1969 movie was filmed in and around Taos, N.M.,
which is celebrating the anniversary with a summer-long series of
music, art and bike events. I was in Taos in early May for the
kickoff of "Summer of Love 2009," when Mr. Hopper was named honorary
mayor of Taos. He joked about the irony that one of the world's most
famous hippies would be so honored. But we all grow up, don't we?
Mr. Hopper, who also directed "Easy Rider," told me he fell in love
with the town of Taos in 1967 when he was scouting locations for the
movie and has lived here part time ever since, including doing much
of the film editing. He said he wasn't making a motorcycle movie as
much as a comment on the cowboy way of life - good guys vs. bad guys
- and the political turmoil of the '60s, with the Vietnam War and the
assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Martin
Luther King. Also, he said, nobody had yet made a movie about the
counterculture hippie movement.
In addition to movie acting, Mr. Hopper is a respected artist and
photographer, and curator of an exhibit by artists who have been
living in Taos since the original Summer of Love, including fellow
actor Dean Stockwell. Some of Mr. Hopper's own work is included in
the exhibit at the Harwood Museum of Art in downtown Taos.
The 2009 motorcycle events begin with the biggest rally in New Mexico
on Memorial Day weekend, drawing an estimated 10,000 bikes, and
features a concert by the band Hot Tuna. The weekend of July 10-12 is
the Taos Mountain Motorcycle Rally and Music Festival, which includes
classic rock concerts, such as the "Born to Be Wild" soundtrack from the film.
On Labor Day weekend, there's the annual Bavarian Mountain Weekend
BMW Motorcycle Rally just outside town at Red River. This event
includes all-day rallies and rides along spectacular S-curves through
the mountains, high desert plains and the Rio Grande gorge, and
around Taos, through some of the same scenery as in the movie. Even
though I was in a car, not on a bike, the long, empty stretches of
road and the beautiful landscape kept me smiling. And in between,
there's an outdoor showing of "Easy Rider" at the Taos County
Sheriff's Posse Arena on June 20.
The motorcycles in Easy Rider were Harley-Davidson Hydra Glide
models, all former police bikes, purchased at auction and customized
for the film. There were four bikes - two were backup duplicates.
Today, there are hundreds, but they are replicas in automobile and
motorcycle museums around the world.
"Easy Rider" wasn't the only movie filmed in Taos. So were parts of
"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Terminator," "The Milagro
Beanfield War," and "No Country for Old Men." Go to
www.taossummeroflove.com for more information.