Oliver Shokouh, a Harley-Davidson dealer from Glendale, blames Hollywood movies and black leather for the stereotype of bikers as rowdy outlaws.
"The actual fact is bike riders are just like everybody else," Shokouh said. "They look different because they wear leathers and boots, just like skiers look different" in their sports outfits.
To help reverse the negative image perpetuated by Tinseltown, more than 11,000 motorcycle riders turned out Sunday for the ninth annual Love Ride, an event started by Shokouh to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Assn. From the tree-lined streets of Glendale to the main drag of Lake Piru, the riders gunned their bikes to the tune of nearly $1 million for charity.
The annual event--which began in 1983 with just 600 riders--is the largest charity motorcycle ride in the country. To deal with the expected large turnout this year, organizers were forced to switch the ride's destination from Malibu Creek State Park to the Lake Piru Recreation Area.
And while other communities around the country have protested being the site of various motorcycle-riders conventions, Piru residents appeared to welcome the invasion.
Dozens of residents lined the yards of the older, wood and stucco single-family houses along Main Street in the late morning and early afternoon to see and greet the bikers as they poured into Piru after starting from Glendale at 10 a.m.
Some residents shot pictures of the event, several waved American flags or black POW/MIA banners and a few displayed signs saying unkind things about the state law requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets, signs sure to appeal to the bikers going past.
After reaching Lake Piru, the bikers--each of whom contributed at least $40 to ride in the event--were treated to an afternoon of live entertainment, a picnic lunch and beer.
Comedian Jay Leno, grand marshal for this year's ride, and other celebrities including country-and-Western singer Dwight Yoakum entertained the crowd.
The event raised $900,000 that will go to operate six Muscular Dystrophy Assn. clinics in the Los Angeles area, a summer camp for children and for medical research grants.
One woman decked out in full biker regalia Sunday was Trudy Beach, 31, a Northridge manicurist who rode on the back of her boyfriend's Harley-Davidson.
"I wanted to feel those 10,000 bikes," said Beach, dressed in a black leather jacket, black slacks and boots for her first Love Ride. "It definitely was worth it. It really was a rush."
Beach and other women at the event appeared to nearly match the number of men, and there were also children sprinkled throughout the crowd. But this was no ordinary family-style picnic.
Shouted expletives punctuated the air and off-color humor dominated the conversation among many of the groups eating, drinking and lounging on the grass.
However, Lake Piru Recreation Area officials said there were no arrests or disturbances at the event. In addition to eight park agents, there were six California Highway Patrol officers, 15 U.S. Forest Service workers and at least 10 Ventura County Sheriff's deputies at the lake helping to direct traffic and keep an eye on the crowds, said park manager Doug West.