I was sitting around Eddie Paul's place one day talking to Doomsday, Dirt and the boys about the movie "Leopards," which is a brilliantly acted drama about outlaw bikers who save a young boy from the evil influence of a street gang.
Well, no, the movie isn't out yet and in fact hasn't even been produced, but there isn't a doubt in my mind that it will be brilliantly acted at such time when acting is required.
The reason I am certain of its impending excellence is because Doomsday, Dirt and the rest of the horde are the actor-bikers who will perform in "Leopards," and they are not likely to appreciate any advance comment that is less than favorable.
There are no heroes of journalistic principle in a room filled with outlaw bikers an hour before feeding time.
I knew the moment I entered Eddie Paul's house in El Segundo that the movie would win high praise when the first person I saw in the room was Lonnie.
Lonnie is 6-foot-1, 320 pounds and has the general demeanor of something that snorts and paws the ground. At first glance, I thought he was a water buffalo.
Then I looked to my right, and there was Oz, 6-foot-2, 270 pounds, heavy, steel-tipped boots planted like Frankenstein's feet on the wooden floor.
Eddie Paul said simply: "Meet the boys."
There were five of them, and they looked me over in the same manner a great white shark might observe a wounded sea lion. I could detect . . . well . . . hunger in their eyes.
The reason I was there in the first place is because Eddie is a friend and the author of "Leopards." He suggested I might be interested in some of the people who ultimately would perform in the movie.
I have known Eddie for a long time and while I realized this would not be the kind of gathering where we sipped white wine and discussed cinema verite , I didn't expect Dirt and Doomsday, either.
If, however, there was a flash of apprehension when the door closed, it passed quickly. The bikers, while not pussycats, aren't man-eaters, either. They just look that way.
True, they're all members of outlaw clubs, but they're actors, too, having ridden their choppers in movies like "Mask" and "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure."
Doomsday is the nickname for Wayne Anderson, and Dirt, the nickname for Doug Curtis. The others are Bill Reid, Lonnie Parkinson and Chris (Oz) Oswald, with the Frankenstein feet.
Eddie, who used to customize cars for movies, brought them together when his interest in film became more than simply that of a creator of vehicles subsequently smashed or eaten for visual effect. Right, eaten. Eddie invented the edible auto.
"Streets of Fire," which is described as a rock fantasy, was their first job.
Eddie was hired to ride a Harley-Davidson in the movie, and when he heard they needed some outlaw bikers, he remembered a gang whose members once surrounded him while swinging heavy chains over their heads. It's the way they tease.
"The movie called for them to be clean-cut," Eddie remembers. "They all looked like this."
He gestured to the people in the room, who were long-haired and bearded.
"The hardest thing I ever had to do was to tell them to shave."
"Afterward," Oz said, "we had to re-introduce ourselves to each other."
Their association has since grown to participation in their own movie, in which the bikers will more or less play themselves. The bad guys are members of a street gang trying to persuade a kid named Joey into joining them.
As Eddie tells it, the bikers go after the gang and kill three of its leaders in order to teach Joey a moral lesson. Makes sense to me.
Eddie will also direct "Leopards."
"We trust him," Parkinson said, shifting his 320 pounds into a more comfortable position. "We know he'll do right by us."
"If he doesn't," Doomsday said solemnly, "we know where he lives."
A little biker humor there. I think.
Part of the purpose of the movie, as I understand it, is to alter the image of bikers from madmen to guys who only kill what they eat.
"People are afraid of us at first," Lonnie said, "but after they get to know us, they realize we're not going to tear out their hearts."
But if you ever want to rob a casino," Oz added, "send us in first. Every guard in the place will be following us."
When they first appeared on the set of "Streets," the production crew thought they were extras made up as bikers. They yelled at them and dragged their choppers out of the way when necessary.
Under normal circumstances, even touching a biker's Harleyinvolves a consequence roughly similar to a hangman's noose being slipped over your head.
The bikers did nothing, but when everyone discovered they were real, Eddie recalls, "It was, 'Sir, would you mind moving your bike?' No more yelling."
"We're really nice guys," Dirt said.
And the acting in their movie will be of a quality equivalent to the best performances of "Hamlet." Don't take my word for it, though. Ask Doomsday.