Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, September 17, 1969




  The man, the myth, the motorcycle, the series.  "Then Came Bronson" debuts on television.


  The first TV series to feature a motorcycle as one of the main characters.  Previously, there had been series made with a dog (Lassie, 1954), a horse (Mr. Ed, 1958) and a car (My Mother the Car, 1965), but never a bike.  Michael Parks starred as the protagonist, James "Jim" Bronson, a newspaperman who becomes disillusioned after the suicide of his best friend Nick (Martin Sheen, yes that Martin Sheen) and, after a heated argument with his editor, he had enough of "working for the man."

  In order to try to cleanse his soul, Bronson becomes a vagabond, a nomad, searching for the meaning of life and seeking all of the experiences life has to offer.   Mile after mile, he shares his values with the people he meets along the way and lends a helping hand when he can.  Bronson drives a Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle and, as such, he was viewed by some as a romantic version of the solitary cowboy wandering the American west.  The motorcycle had previously been sold to Nick by Bronson and after it is left at the suicide scene by his friend, Bronson buys it back from the widow.

  Though the opening promises a journey of self-discovery, the premise of each episode is that Bronson enters someone else's life at a crucial point and acts as a catalyst for change.  When Bronson encounters an Amish community, for example, a local boy becomes hot for the outside world and steals Bronson's motorcycle to run off to Reno, Nevada.  Jim and a few biker friends track down the boy and cut off the fingers on his right hand (just kidding but, he should have).  In another episode, located in Reno, Nevada, Bronson meets his cousin Eve on her wedding day and lends her money for the wedding service, but she runs off to the casinos and blows it.  "Rotten whore." Jim curses.

  Jim Bronson was committed to pacifism and often redirects an antagonist's anger into self-examination (similar to what David Carridine would do on "Kung Fu" three years later in October, 1972).  Always, like a true catalyst, he rolls out of every episode unchanged.

  The show was sometimes accused of being a knock-off of the movie Easy Rider, but the "Then Came Bronson" pilot actually preceded the release of that movie (TCB pilot-March 24, 1969, ER movie-July 14, 1969).

  The first three episodes, including the end credits scenes, were shot in and around Jackson, Wyoming.  The premier pilot movie was also shown at the town's then only theatre to give the locals a sense of what the series was about, since they were shooting in town and at many of the popular local spots.



  Bronson's bike was a 1969 XLH 900cc Harley-Davidson Sportster.

  The fuel tank is illustrated with the Eye of Providence, a.k.a. the All Seeing God or the Back of a Dollar Bill.