Joe Bruno on the Mob – The Hells Angels

I’ve heard a lot of bad things about the Hells Angels in my lifetime, and I want to set the record straight, based on my experiences with them.

First off, branding all Hells Angels as drug dealers and worse, is like calling all Italian/Americans like myself — members of the Mafia.

I know the Hells Angels have gotten a lot of bad press lately, with the murders of Jeffrey Pettigrew and Jonathan Bacon, the shooting of Larry Amero, and the arrest of Cesar Villagrana. But as far as I’m concerned, these are isolated incidents and in no way indicative of the behavior of the vast majority of the Hells Angels.

I grew up in Manhattan’s Little Italy, which northernmost boarder is Houston Street, just three blocks from the Hells Angels Manhattan headquarters at 77 East 3rd Street. I’ve always felt that the Hells Angels were to their neighborhood, what the wise guys were to my neighborhood. You might not like them personally, and maybe some of them committed crimes, but they kept their neighborhoods safe. Going back to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, Little Italy, and the area around the Hells Angels headquarters, were the safest neighborhoods in the five boroughs.

And you’d think with the close proximity of the two groups, both sometimes known for violence, that there would have been problems between the two factions. But to my knowledge, and I lived the Little Italy area for 48 years, the Italian/Americans and the Hells Angels got along just fine, because we basically left each other alone. We practiced mutual respect, which is much needed in our world today.

In the 1970’s and the 1980’s, there was an Italian/American after-hours joint on 2st Street, just off First Avenue. Many times I’d be cruising in my car through the neighborhood with my friends, looking for a parking spot, so that we could spend some quality time in the social club. And many times, while looking for that parking spot, we’d pass the Hells Angels headquarters, where a few Hells Angels were congregating outside their club. They knew who we were, and we knew who they were. We’d wave a greeting to them to them, and they’d wave back.

No trouble. No animosity. No “What are you doing in our neighborhood?” nonsense.

And as far as I know, this peace has continued until today. (I moved to Florida in 1995)

In fact, when Robert DeNiro, who was born and raised on Bleeker Street and hung out in Little Italy, was starring and directing the film “A Bronx Tale,” he hired several actual Hells Angels for the classic bar-fight scene, which was supposed to have taken place in the Bronx’s Little Italy.

Sure, there’s bad apples in the Hells Angels. But like the Italian/Americans in Little Italy, most Hells Angels are law-biding citizens, who just like to enjoy the camaraderie of a biker gang.

Frankly, stereotyping an entire group because of the actions of a few of its members, no matter what group, or no matter what nationality, is not what America is all about.


5 Responses to “Joe Bruno on the Mob – The Hells Angels”

  1. I’m really glad to read this, as my husband is a club with a reputation. It makes me cringe when I see Gangland run their little documentaries because I know it is yet more stuff that people are going to think me and my husband are in to. Thanks for this piece.

    – PBOL Bird

  2. Irish/Latina Says:

    Thank you Joe Bruno… As I live there… Thank you for everything that you have said… I wish this would set the record straight! Thanks again!

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