Willie and Waylon and the Hells Angels and me

It was impossible to live in the Bay Area in the 70’s and 80’s and not be aware of the Hells Angels. A number of them were fans and showed up at the Roller Derby games and never caused any problems.  Once when Charlie O’Connell promoted on our telecasts that he now had a bar in the East Bay Area a bunch of Angels showed up at his bar to drink and show support.  Charlie told them he really appreciated it, but it would scare away his neighborhood customers.   They understood, rode away and suddenly came back; “Charlie, would you like us to wreck the other bars around here?”  Charlie thanked them and said no.

After the Derby closed we were operating BASS tickets, a computerized ticketing service.  I was out making calls and forgot that I had made an appointment with Mr Griffin and Mr. Proudfoot that afternoon until I got an anxious call from my assistant that the two men were waiting patiently in my office in Oakland.  I told her to tell them I was sorry and would be there as soon as I could. When I walked into my office there were two fearsome looking men, members of the Oakland Hells Angels.  Oh my God, was I going to get shaken down?  They politely introduced themselves as “Fu” Griffin (because of his drooping mustache and slight beard) and Deakon Proudfoot, a mountain of a man with beard and hair in all directions.  Thus began a strange relationship that went on for several years.

They explained that Deakon was doing security for Willie and at a recent concert at the Oakland Auditorium the stagehands had shut down the lights and sound at midnight while Willie was still playing.  Deakon was offended and asked Willie what could be done.  There hadn’t been a large crowd there that night and Willie suggested that Charlie Magoo productions, a name that the Angels has created to honor a fallen brother, take over the bay area appearances.  So they had gone to their friend Freddie Herrara who operated the Keystone Berkeley rock club and he suggested that they ask me to work with them. Our biggest client was Bill Graham Presents, and I knew Bill was not the biggest fan of the Angels, especially after Altamount,  but BASS had made a policy of helping promoters and I offered them my services for 5% of the profit to BASS,  plus the service charge on all tickets. Having been a promoter, I immediately starting contacting all the radio stations to find out who would be the best to work with and not just on the basis of a station buy (similar to the way we worked with TV stations for Roller Derby).  We bought little flights of time on each country station and through our computer ticket sales saw who had the best results.

We had scheduled another concert at the Oakland Auditorium.  It turned out that KNEW radio was far and away above everyone else, so I made a deal with the station manager:  if he turned over all open time on the station, we would guarantee a certain amount of dollars as a buy and they would do all the interviews, the introductions at the concert (Willie did not like that) and use their personalities however they wanted. KNEW blasted away and before we knew it the Auditorium was virtually sold out.  I contacted Willie’s manager Mark Rothbaum (you will see him in almost every Triatholon event) and he was thrilled at my suggestion to move it to the Oakland Coliseum Arena which held 14,000 (now Oracle Arena).   The show sold out in advance and I told Deak and Fu that it would be best if all the Angels and their friends stayed in the backstage area.   They agreed and it was a double celebration as Sonny Barger had just been released from prison and there was a big party backstage.  I had arranged for a Marin company that had a hot tub on a truck to be there that night and it was widely used…….wherever I went knives were offered to me with some powder on the blade…..I politely declined.

We were able to duplicate our success with a sold out Waylon Jennings concert at the Arena and another sold out concert with Willie at the Cow Palace.  Then we put them together, added other acts and sold out Spartan Stadium (30,000 tickets) in San Jose at the then unheard of price of $25 per ticket.  Mark and Waylon’s manager and everyone was thrilled. We did more Waylon, Willie, Merle concerts over the next few years throughout the Bay Area, and Fresno.

We produced one more concert for Charlie Magoo that was the best.  Mark called me and said they had an open date but were playing in Tahoe immediately afterwards and couldn’t play in a facility larger than 3000 seats.  I was trying to figure out how anyone could make money with Willie in a facility that small, when suddenly I remembered an old friend, Claude Jarman.   Claude had been the head of the San Francisco Film Festival when my film “Derby” was entered and considered the best film in the Festival.   He now was in charge of San Francisco’s beautiful and ornate Opera House, the home of the Ballet and Opera. I applied for the date, and Claude carried the day through his board.  I really wanted it to be a special event and managed to get the San Francisco Symphony’s string quartet to play in the lobby.  Also, we held out the box seats by the Grand Tier for the Angels and their friends.  It was a secure area, usually the location of the blue bloods of the Opera association.  I requested of Deakon and Fu that all the Angels and their friends dress in formal wear.  Fu loved it, Deakon hated it.

On the night of the event, Deakon showed up in his coveralls and a tux tee shirt. The string quartet (two men and two women) were in western shirts and jeans, and were the hit of the crowd.   They were mobbed as they played Vivaldi, Hayden and Mozart, reaching an audience that probably had not heard this music before.  Just as the lobby lights were flashing, a roughly dressed bearded man came running across the area towards the seats, but suddenly stopped as if struck in front of the quartet.  He listened until they ended their performance and reached across and dropped a hundred dollar bill on the group.  “We have never had a tip before”.

The concert was amazing;  I can hear to this day how Willie sounded that night in the acoustically perfect Opera House.  One of the aged ushers who had been fearful of this crowd told me “this was the most respectful audience I have ever seen.  They spilled nothing and were very polite, not like the snobs we usually get.” Mark Rothbaum, Willie’s manager, told me Willie’s career really took off again after our promotions in the Bay Area, and they were kind enough to send me a platinum record of “Stardust” for my wall when the record had such great success. I saw Willie again at the BR Cohn benefit concert two years ago a few miles up the road from where I live.  The Angels who were doing security were happy to see me and quite friendly.

I personally promoted Willie again in Oregon (for a benefit for Seltzer Park in Seaside) and Willie, Waylon, Kris and Johnny (The Highwaymen) at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland in 1991 for a benefit for the BASS Ticket Foundation, an organization we created to give away over $1 million in tickets to the underserved in the Bay Area.  Deakon attended and obviously had some heart problems.  Fu had been killed some years before in an auto accident. Epilogue:  I recently found out that on July 4th 2009 Deakon was attending the fireworks in Jack London Square in Oakland when he suddenly died…..he was 70.  He had been told 20 years before he had a very bad heart and required surgery.  He didn’t do it and to my knowledge never did.  His funeral procession of Harley after Harley was one of the largest in the Bay Area, you can see it on You Tube.

One of my memories was the night he invited me to dinner at his house which was in an African American neighborhood  in Oakland. His neighbors were delighted to have him and the Hells Angel clubhouse (yes I had a drink there) in the area because they knew no one would cause problems with the Angels around.  The house was solid stone and two things I noticed when I went inside:  the huge portrait of Adolf Hitler on the wall with Nazi flags crossed over it and the most beautiful silver dog I had ever seen.  I asked Deakon what kind of dog and he just said “Wolf”.  We had a great dinner and I asked him about the color photo of him on the wall in which he was walking down the street.  He told me the Feds had given it to him. Deakon is not the kind of person you will ever forget.  My life was made a lot more interesting by knowing him. ( subscribe free to my blogs…..enter your email in the subscription box upper right and you will get ’em when I write ’em)

By the way, check out the comments on this page….you will find them very interesting as well as a video from a television interview of the past with Fu, Deak, and also me.


32 comments on “Willie and Waylon and the Hells Angels and me

    • My favorite part of the Oakland Coliseum show happened in the box office when Deak came in to settle up with Peggy & Mike. There was $40,000+ in cash on the table and told Mike he just need a brown paper bag. Mike said I’ll get you some security then and Deak just looked at him and said “I don’t think so” and walked out with the cash.

  1. Boy, these are some great stories, Jerry.

    I originally met Deak and Fu in your office, when you had asked my business partner and I to do the ads for the 1977 show for Willie in Oakland.

    One thing I remember distinctly about Deak was that no matter what clothing he was wearing (and mostly his get-ups were basically shit-kickin’ style), he always wore pristine white-as-snow Adidas on his feet. Not boots, not working shoes, or even ratty tennies. Just those super-white Adidas … so clean he must’ve put on a brand new pair each day.

    But I remember being in your office, meeting Deak and Fu for the first time, and asking them where I should send the invoice for the ads we were doing. Deak just said, “how much?” And when I told him, he pulled a HUGE roll of hundred and thousand dollar bills out of his overalls pocket and peeled it all off in cash and just handed it to me. Saying there would be “no need” for any invoices. Stunned, I just said, “uh … OK.” (But was not crazy enough to turn down the cash!)

    AND, finally, there is one tale you may have forgotten. You told me about this, though I never personally heard it for myself. That was, if you called Deak on the phone, his machine picked up with this outgoing message: “Dis here is Deak. If you need to reach me, you can leave a message here on my electronic n—–.” I will NEVER forget this as long as I live! And I thought also, only Deak would be fearless enough to leave that message on his answering machine.

    I remember going to the concert, and having a backstage pass. So, heck, I decided to go hear the concert from back there! And, of course, backstage was filled to the brim with Angels and their “women.” I had a moment of panic, knowing I must’ve stuck out like a sore thumb. But then I realized all I’d need to do — if anyone tried to bother me — was say that I was there as a guest of Deak and Fu, and I’d be good as gold. Amazingly, I was just sort of ignored (or perhaps not so amazingly, since I was just wearing a T-shirt and jeans, and flashing neither breasts nor butt nor tattoos at anyone). 😉

    I’m sorry to hear of Fu’s death. While this is a foggy memory, I seem to recall that, when I met them, he was getting his PhD at Cal — something really unexpected, like anthropology or something.

    And the last bit of reminiscing I’d like to leave here was that both Deak and Fu were the toughest and scariest looking fellas I’d ever personally met, in my protected WASP-y young womanhood. But, truly, they turned out to be the sweetest, most gentlemanly guys in the world. They were full of sly humor and respect. I forever thank you for including me in this little adventure … though so many years ago now, it seems like it was just yesterday. (And makes me feel so young — LOL!)

  2. Hi Jerry,

    It’s been probably 25+ years since we’ve talked, but I stumbled upon your blog and this entry. You might remember me – I was Fu Griffin’s wife and worked for Charlie Magoo Productions for several years. I remember meeting you at BASS Tickets in downtown Oakland in sometime around 1978 – you were the person who taught me so much about concert promotion, from how to do a radio buy to how to do the settlement on the night of a show. I have so many fond memories of those times! The Opera House show was remarkable, and Fu was resplendent in a tux and well-polished cowboy boots. He was a classy guy.

    To clarify Suzanne’s mention about Fu’s time at UC Berkeley: he was indeed a student there, and that is where I met him – in the anthropology library. He was majoring in Physical Anthro (protohuman evolution), and I my focus was Socio-Cultural. After he died in a car accident, I went back to Cal and eventually finished my degree. Our daughter is now nearly 30, and I have 4 beautiful granddaughters that unfortunately will never know their amazing grandfather.

    Thanks for telling this story, a bit of Bay Area history!

  3. I knew Deakon and Fu since 1967- before Deakon prospected the club and Fu went to the joint after the shootout with the cops at his house. (He got a shoulder wound). Deakon used to call me Horsebarn because I lived in a dilapidated caretaker “suite” at a stable on an 80 acre property we lived on in East Oakland in ’69. (It’s now part of the park located off Keller Ave towards 35th Ave, between Skyline and Mountain Blvd). I got to be very good friends in Berkeley’s Telegraph Ave scene early ’67. Being a piano player, I picked the piano for Deakon and Fu’s
    first concert (Kaiser Auditorium) and later helped him found Proudfoot Productions. I remember his telling me about how he was going to take a bat to collect some ticket money but you talked him out of it, telling him how disputes could be handled in the
    legal world…. But I guess the implied threat of a bat could dissuade some from the legal games that
    so-called straight people think they can play with impunity… I realize it’s probably a typo, but Deakon was not 79 when he passed- even though he looked like it…. We used to joke that we spent the first half of our lives trying to kill ourselves and the second half trying to stay alive… Toward the end, Deakon would say “When I wake up in the morning,
    I look around and think: ‘Well I fucked ’em out of another day.'” How could you not love that….
    On the day he died, I saw the movie, Public Enemy,
    which had a Clark Gable movie within the movie (what
    John Dillinger watched before getting shot).
    Gable’s character, Blackie, told the warden (who wanted to commute his sentence from execution to life)
    that: “I want to die like I lived…all of a sudden.”
    Before I could share this line with Deakon, he lived it…going out “all of a sudden,” as Mose Allison might say “Living the life he loved and loving the life he lived.”

  4. Thanks Chris…..you added stories I never knew about. the paper said he was 79, I didn’t really believe it.

    I never stop thinking about the Angels that came into my life. It sure makes life more interesting when not everyone you know is a civilian. I certainly have had my share (by the way, I will be 79 next June).

    • If it wasn’t in the paper its nobodys business what my dad Fu did in his personal life tht is nobodys business OK

  5. I knew Deakon in Berkeley in 66-67 when he was a prospect. I didn’t know until just now that Deak had died. You are right, he wasn’t 79, as I remember he was about 10 or 11 years older than me, that would have made him about 72 in ’09. But they were 72 hard years. He was a good man & a good Angel in a time when the standard for being a good Angel was high. I have thought of them many times down through the years.

    • The company was named after an Oakland Angel, Ray Tinsley aka “Magoo,” a well-liked visually-challenged guy who also frequented the Telegraph Ave scene in Berkeley in the 60s and had died at work a few years earlier from what sounds like a heart attack.

      • Hi my name is Susan Tinsley and I am Charlie Magoo’s daughter. His name was never never Ray. His full name was Charles Joseph Tinsley. He and many of his brothers are buried together in Oakland’s Evergreen Cemetery. He was the first one buried there right next to that Italian Cypress tree. Sonny’s dad was also buried there one row up about 10 or so plots to west. They died about a week apart. There is nothing more sad then two mortuary rooms full of bad ass (& gentle) bikers in full mourning.
        I am also a niece of Marvin Gilbert. Marv & my dad were best friends. I am now 50 and I want to thank everyone for bringing my beloved memories to the forefront of my mind, and to set some truths. I was just a kid when these wonderful concerts were going on, but they are still an important part of my life. I remember Fu, Deak, Irish, and many others as well as the talent frequenting my home. I miss my family so much my heart hurts. Marv past in ’07 & Deak was there & gave me the biggest hug & whisperedtwhisperer thosehose in my ear, “We’re a deing breed Sweet Susie, but we lived the life we loved and loved the life we lived. Nothing is as strong as our brotherhood & we will all ride again together someday.”
        I have many stories in my head from that time long ago, and am trying to get them typed and out for others to enjoy. I am grateful to Jerry & this blog. The flood of memories is delightfully intoxicating. Please keep them coming!!!!

  6. my husband Fuzzy worked for Charlie Magoo Productions. We put a X-Mas ornament on our Christmas tree every year that is “Charlie Magoo” I’m 38 YO, Fuzzy, 66 YO! Intersting reading ! passing this page to him. =)

  7. Hello Jerry, I’m Shelleybean Deakon’s wife (widow), Deakon tried getting a hold of you to let you know how much he really appreciated what you had done for him in the music industry. You really held a spot in his heart as a friend and he wanted you to know that but was unable to contact you in the year prior to his passing. I have a picture right here in front of me of “Fu” & “Deakon” in their tuxedo & tuxedo t-shirt…. Deakon told me once “he wasn’t rich with money, but he was rich in friend’s”. People that were fortunate enough to have Deakon in their live as a friend know he was that a “Friend” in it’s entirety… He is my soul mate and I was truly blessed to have had someone “Love” me the way he did. He was an Honorable man, my world is not the same without him…. Great of you to write this blog. Deakon had a good day with friend’s and family at a barbeque, a motor cycle ride then the firework’s (his favorite holiday). Ps:oh yes, he did take care of the heart surgery and was controlling his diabetes, after many year’s of it controlling him… Shelleybean Proudfoot Oakland

    • thank you so much, Shelleybean, you have no idea how good this makes me feel. I had always meant to get back in touch with Deakon (I last saw him at the Highwayman Show in 1991 twenty years ago). We sure came from different places but i always regarded him as a good friend…..

    • Enjoyed the clip. I remember when they were getting started. I picked out a piano for their first concert at Kaiser Auditorium. I met Deakon & Fu back in ’67, before Deakon prospected and Fu went to the joint. From my 66 year old eyes- everybody looks so young.
      [If Cory reads this: Hi. Remember LBC? Would like to hear from you.]

    • Oh wow!!! That was incredible! Yes, my daddy was Magic!!! And that him, my mom, Marv, Fu, Deak, & Waylon & others are all together having the best jammin party in the sky, they’re all smiling down on us. THAT WAS BEAUTIFUL!!! Thank you 🙂

  8. Reblogged this on RollerDerbyJesus.com and commented:

    this is my most widely read and requested post….not much about Derby, but an are most don’t come in contact with….please read comments and video as they really add to it…..god, promotion is fun.

  9. Pingback: Willie and Waylon and the Hells Angels and me | RollerDerbyJesus.com

  10. we played cards with D every thurs.nite He had lots of respect for Waylon andWillie he passed on my birthday Rest in peace my friend we had good times on thurs nite will always remember you

  11. Charlie Magoo was my father and Marv my uncle. Thanks for the memories of Fu and Deek. Take a stroll through Evergreen Cemetery, sadly it has been filling up since 2007. Take care friend and be safe.
    Susie T.

    • Absolutely right. I apologize for the mistake. I don’t know how I got his name messed up. But when I realized i was wrong, I didn’t know how to edit/delete my comment. 1967 is now so long ago… Best Wishes.

  12. I worked for Nashville promoter Sound Seventy. Worked a number of shows with Waylon. Whatever happened to his Angel’s bodyguard Killer? Just curious. Thanks.

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