Homer and Nita Qualls set off from Tustin on Sunday morning with the idea of visiting their son, Lynn, in Corona. But the guy at Lynn's motorcycle shop said he was at a party in Coal Canyon. So, it being Father's Day and all, Homer and Nita decided to find the party.
What they found were 300 members of the Hessian motorcycle club gathered under the trees at the Coal Canyon Stables in Yorba Linda with their Harleys. Guys whose idea of a Sunday in the country was drinking beer and whooping it up with a band called Smut. Guys with tattoos and beards and shirts that said things like, "Ride to Live." Guys who called the Qualls' son "Tombstone."
"This is my first time," confessed Nita, sporting the only polyester slacks in sight. "I really can't believe this. Boy, they have weird hairdos and clothes."
But Homer, a retired automotive mechanic decked out in Bermudas and a golf shirt, grabbed a beer and said he was glad to see the guys Lynn used to bring home after school to work on their motorcycles. "I know a lot of guys in the club," he said. "He likes this kind of thing, and as far as I'm concerned, whatever turns him on . . . he's old enough to know what he wants to do."
So Homer and Nita had a quick one with Tombstone and quickly faded into the boisterous scene that was the Hessians' first bash to raise money for two club members accused in the 1980 execution-style slayings of two fellow Hessians and a woman in Westminster.
Raffle tickets could buy a chance at several dozen door prizes, ranging from custom motorcycle wheels to exhaust systems, or the grand prize, a rebuilt 80-cubic-inch Harley-Davidson, the motorcycle that one bumper sticker proudly proclaimed was created by God on the eighth day. T-shirts offering a chance to "Support Your Local Hessian" were $10.
The Hessians, who founded their club in Costa Mesa and who now claim several hundred members throughout Southern California and Nevada, are no strangers to legal defense. Orange County police blotters over the years have attributed a wide variety of rapes, robberies, shootings, beatings, illegal drug transactions and other mayhem to wearers of the skull and dagger.
But Sunday was, in many respects, an attempt to strike back, public relations style. Hessian leaders, pouring Cokes and Seven-Ups almost as liberally as the Budweiser, said they are fighting not only an unfair public image but constant "harassment" by police.
"You got long hair and a beard, you're automatically a murderer and a rapist. I got picked up for armed robbery one time, and hell, I wasn't even in the state. They had me for felony cultivation one time, and all they found was one damned seed," complained Danny Akers, who lists his place of residence as "Riverside, Bellflower, Lakewood, wherever," and who sports a pair of violet sunglasses to match his Harley, the "Purple Haze."
Ron Sims, a Las Vegas heating and refrigeration worker and part-time Hessian, grumbled: "I probably pay in the neighborhood of six to eight hundred dollars a year in fines, tickets, impound fees, just for the privilege of riding my motorcycle in the city."
Sims said he and his wife, Annie, a veterinary technician, came to "socialize" and to support the effort to raise defense money for Thomas (Tommy) Maniscalco, 40, and Daniel (Shame) Duffy, 41, who have been held in the Orange County Jail without bail since March, 1984.
Witness Accompanied Killers
The two men were arrested in the 1980 fatal shootings of fellow Hessians Richard Rizzone, Thomas Monohan and Rizzone's lover, Rene Mily, after an investigation that partly corroborated the story of a gang member who claimed to have accompanied the killers to the Rizzone house in Westminster.
"For myself, I feel they're simply having to deal with a system that's prejudiced against them," said Sims. "I came because I figured if you're not part of the cure, then you have to accept the fact you're part of the problem."
Explained Don (Ropeman) Worthington: "When people are in a predicament like Tommy and Shame are . . . if they don't have somebody on the outside helping 'em out, it just seems like the system gets 'em caught up in a Catch-22 kind of thing."
Hessian members helped put Maniscalco, a practicing attorney, through law school so he could help the club guard against "police harassment," Worthington said. "He was beatin' them at their own games with their own rules, and they didn't like it."
Club members say they find it hard to believe that Maniscalco, who was one of the founding members of the club with Rizzone, known as "Rabbit," and one of Rizzone's closest friends, would have killed him.
"Sure, we have arguments. But we don't kill our own people. If a brother of ours killed one of our brothers, he'd be out," said Frank (Wild Mouse) Rundle, one of the founding Hessians in 1968, who arrived at Sunday's event with his wife, a registered nurse, and 8-year-old daughter.