It is a rare and rainy day in Ojai. The showers are a welcome sight but make finding the home of Richard La Plante, playwright and director of Outlaw, George Christie’s one-man show, a little tricky. It also gives one more time to wonder what to expect from Christie, the man who was once called the “Al Capone of Ventura.” He is the stuff of legend, an outlaw who led the Ventura chapter of the Hells Angels for 35 years — the longest tenure ever, spanning seven U.S. Presidents. “Most [Hells Angels leaders] either quit or are ‘dispatched,’ ” Christie says.
On April 11 and 12, Christie will embark on a bold new adventure when he takes the stage at the Rubicon Theatre in a show about his life in, out and beyond the infamous motorcycle club.
Driving down a quiet country lane, suddenly two men, Christie and La Plante, are spotted in a window. They’ve been on the lookout and start waving. The scene is unexpectedly warm and welcoming, and it’s the first tip-off that there’s more to Christie than what one might have read in a magazine or seen on the History Channel’s Outlaw Chronicles. True, he’s led what he himself calls a “heavy life,” one that’s been marked by controversy, loss, violence, run-ins with the law and rival outlaws and periods of incarceration — including a year spent in solitary confinement. Yet when you sit with him and share a pot of tea, all preconceived notions and predetermined questions fly out the window like a Harley riding into the sunset. To begin with, the man with a life experience that would crush most people is a gentleman and a natural storyteller.
In Outlaw, Christie tells his story his way. It’s not embellished and it doesn’t serve anyone else’s agenda, such as that of a TV series or even his own memoir, Exile on Front Street. Of publishers and producers, Christie says, “They would ask, ‘Can you do this and can you make this change?’ ” Outlaw is different. “This is ours,” Christie says of his and La Plante’s collaboration. “It’s profound and emotional. It’s been very cathartic for me.”
In the play Christie reflects on a lifetime that could fill a hundred biographies. The play spans his life, from his childhood growing up in Ventura County to his initiation into the Hells Angels, his reign as its leader and public face, and how he came out the other side. More than that, though, Outlaw is about the evolution of a man during a time and culture that don’t really exist anymore.
“That’s what interested me,” says La Plante. “The human side of it. Not the other side. What got me wasn’t a particular club. It was a particular man.”
“This is about self-discovery,” says Christie. He mentions an interview he did with the Los Angeles Times in 1984. “It’s funny. At that time I wasn’t exploring about myself. I was living it. I was in my early 30s. I’m not thinking about what got me here. I’m thinking, I’m here and I’m having a hell of a time.”
What about now? Perhaps the show has something to do with reflection and redemption. It also has to do with capturing a moment in American history that’s passed, complete with the music and images of the era.
The outlaw isn’t gone, though. When asked how he feels about getting up on stage, Christie says, “It’s like being in the action again. There’s no net. Don’t look down. I’m looking across. I used to say that all the time to the new guys in the club. We’d be going somewhere and we wouldn’t know what was going to happen and I’d tell them, ‘Don’t look down. Look across.’ ”
All eyes will be looking at Christie at the Rubicon and the venues to follow. “There’s nobody that could fill his place on stage,” says La Plante. “No one.”
Outlaw onstage April 11 and 12 at the Rubicon Theatre, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura. For tickets and more information, call 667-2900 or visit rubicontheatre.org.