PORTERVILLE HIGHWAY AND THE BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB (1999)

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Just past Oildale, we take the Porterville Highway cutoff. The neon of Bakersfield is behind us. Not unlike Jordan, the landscape is barren, devoid of traffic and the biggest landmark is the lack of any landmarks. Sporadically, various monolithic totems appear in the distance. On one side of the black, sticky pavement stand some porta-potties for unseen migrant field hands; on the other side, more oil derricks serve as minimalist mechanized sculptures. Inversely proportional to the desolation are the manifold historical implications of this road itself: Marlon Brando took this road to Porterville on a Triumph motorcycle when he was researching how bikers lived for his role in The Wild One. (“What are you rebelling against?” “Whaddaya’ got?”)

“This is a shortcut,” I say.

I tell BZ that Porterville Highway is a point of singularity, with a sphere of influence extending as far as the walk-in theaters of Wichita, Kansas, where it touched the id of Glen Leasher, the guy who would ultimately shoe both the Goat’s AA/Fuel Dragster as well as the Infinity jet car. Marlon Brando was Glen Leasher’s hero and inspiration, I say.

In the third act of The Wild One, there is a scene where members of the BRMC motor through Bleeker’s Cafe Bar on a motorcycle. Leasher would mimic this scene, wheeling his Triumph through the aisles of the local walk-in theater in Wichita.

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