Colors is a very hard to find, short lived mag, and predated Easyriders summer 1971 debut. It was founded and edited by Phil Castle, a biker who ran a fuel oil delivery company in New Jersey while trying to make the mag a success.
Colors was primarily focused on the East Coast bike clubs and events, as that was its home turf, so to speak. But, the money ran out before the mag caught on, and by the end of 1971 it had folded, after only five or more issues. It also suffered from poor distribution, as some newsstands, hypocritically, wouldn’t carry it, and the first issue was banned in a few states, as mentioned in one of Castle’s editorials below.
Colors was a hands-on production, by those concerned, for the love of their motorcycles and non-conformist lifestyles. It went against the odds, and flew in the face of a hostile reception by some newsstands and motorcycle shops.
One of the original contributors to Colors was John Herlihy aka Rogue, who contributed photographs, and also wrote a few articles for the mag. Rogue was a one time Airforce gunner and photographer, and was also the International President of the Huns Motorcycle Club of Bridgeport, Connecticut, four years out of the ten that he rode with them. He is on the cover of the second issue (Fall 1970), on his bike “Crazy Horse”, which was featured inside. Rogue went on to work for Paisano Publications, after Colors folded, and helped them launchEasyriders, which did catch on, and spawned many imitations. Rogue is now a well known Photo-Journalist in the motorcycle field, and has contributed photos to many mags, including Colors, Easyriders, In The Wind, Biker, Choppers, etc.
On Colors, Rogue comments –
“Colors was a good magazine, especially considering the people involved were bikers, not journalists making their living from publishing. The idea was to have a voice, and ‘Tell it like it is.’ Let people know what was going on, and in many cases, the other side of the story. The stories and information released to the news media by law enforcement and the government were often times misleading or untrue.
“It was also going to be a tool to support our efforts in repealing the Mandatory Helmet Laws and other injustices to motorcyclists. And in a way, it did do what it was intended to, by being imitated by larger publishers. The format carried over, and we were in an even better position to inform the bikers of America what was going on.”
As the title Colors, and the side bar “Motorcycle Club’s Bible” (later changed to “The Non-Conforming Motorcyclist Bible”) make clear, it was oriented to, and focused on, the outlaw clubs. And, was filled with an abundance of black and white photos of various club colors, bikes, members, mamas, hangouts, and it even had a some tech oriented articles. Its statement of purpose, and format, given in the first issue (May 1970), reads as follows:
This is your magazine. That’s right, at last someone has come out with a magazine that is not afraid to be called an outlaw magazine. We will not hide behind technical articles or motorcycle manufacturer’s sales talk on those foreign bikes. COLORS magazine will not have a 80% AMA background.
We do not care what citizens won what AMA sanctioned race or event. Instead we will feature stories, articles, pictures, and so forth of so called outlaws and clubs.
We will not exclude all foreign bikes from our pages so long as they are directly or indirectly connected to a club, as there are some pretty hot foreign bikes that have been made into some beautiful custom jobs. Nor do we want to feature only choppers as there are many outlaws who do not ride choppers.
We will print any news of your club that you would approve of, as well as pictures, articles and events having to do with clubs.
COLORS will also feature interviews, technical material and some cheesecake for you red blooded studs. COLORS will be glad to print any gripe you may have or any pictures of your bikes, club or its members if you will send same to us.
This is a general idea of the format of COLORS (your) magazine, its success depends on your help and patronage.
Another Colors editorial explains further:
Why do motorcyclists ravage the countryside, beating, raping, destroying? NOT TRUE. The news mediums pick a few isolated incidents of vandalism (and what-not), and blow these into movies or headlines. Fights are often started by non-riders testing the patience of the cyclist. As for rape; don’t tease the lion in his den, you won’t get clawed (old Chinese saying!). Cyclists do not commit more sexual crimes than other groups of society. They do not rove the streets looking for virginal daughters to rape. It’s not the bikies bag. As for destruction of property; people are confusing cyclists with extremist bombers and rioters. All one needs is to see a bike near the vicinity of the scene, and they scream, “motorcycle gang!”
Why does COLORS glorify the outlaw? We aren’t. We’re simply tired of a false image pushed on outlaws by ignorant citizens. Aren’t you?
Are these cyclists really as tough as they seem? Ask them.
An excerpt from an editorial by Phil Castle, from the second issue, explaining the problems with getting the mag sold:
We included certain things in our mag that might be considered off color in our efforts to make it more entertaining, and if we went too far we apologize even though our mag is aimed at a mature audience of bikers. Motorcycling is no place for the faint hearted.
If we wanted to exploit the outlaw we would depict him as they do in these cheap movies and so called men’s adventure mags because this is what people like to read about cyclists: violence, depravation (sic), sex, and all that rot.
. . . by coming out with the format we presented in our initial issue, we encountered the following problems that tend to disprove the exploitation accusation.
Our first issue was banned in New Jersey, Mass., parts of Pa., Conn., and Delaware to mention a few states.
The cycle shops refused to sell our magazines, except for a few righteous shops who did not fear the establishment. Advertising offers were refused even from shops whose major sources of sales were outlaw and customizing people, not to mention the cycle manufacturers. Last, but definitely not least, we were turned down by many newsstands in the states where we did get distribution. When we questioned the reasons for their objections we were told because of its contents. I noticed the shelves of these very same stands were full of books that would make the Marquis DeSade blush and Hitler gloat.
The main coverage the outlaw clubs had gotten until Colors, had been from the straight press and the sensational men’s mags that regularly featured them in fact and fiction.In the editorial above, Castle makes the astute observation that the very same newsstands that refused to carry Colors, did carry the usual men’s adventure mags, and girlie mags, which were overflowing with torture, sadism and plenty of sex, and ironically, sensationalized accounts of the outlaw bikers themselves.
Having said that, there also seems to be some ambiguity and second thought at work with Castle. On the one hand, he tries to distance the mag, and outlaw clubs, from the sensationalized accounts of rape and pillage portrayed in the mainstream media, but on the other hand, occasionally uses the term “outlaw” to describe the clubs, as that is what they called themselves. But, the very term “outlaw”, describes someone outside the law, someone who breaks laws. The less controversial phrase “non-conformist” is used by Castle also, as a way to help distance the clubs from the sensationalism.
In the first issue there is an article called “Good Guys vs. Bad Guys” that is uncredited, and is about the reports of gang rape leveled at the outlaw clubs in various tabloids and newspapers, some of which give graphic descriptions of the sex acts involved. It mentions several incidents from around the country involving “outlaw gangs” and explains at the beginning, “We object to the word ‘gangs’ as most of these outlaw clubs are as well organized and recognized as some of these AMA clubs.” But then the writer goes on to use the term “gang” throughout the article. That is until it concludes with these thoughts, “So it seems that the law abiding motorcyclists are declaring war on the girl stealing outlaw clubs. It’s like the days of old when Knights fought over the fair Damsels only to find out that the Damsels weren’t so fair.” And lastly, “Let’s face it, hard as it is to believe, there is a certain sexual attraction about the outlaw types. But then who could ever understand the female species anyway!”
The annual motorcycle races at Laconia, NH and the general biker party that surrounds it each year is well covered in Colors. Members of the staff would also go on runs with various East Coast clubs and feature articles on them.
Colors was pivotal in that the focus was on the outlaw clubs, as all the biker mags that had come before, were more technical specs articles on customizing, etc. It was the mag closest to outlaw segment of the biker population at the time.
A feature in the mag, at first called “Potpourri”, then later changed to “Rogue’s Gallery”, from which Rogue got his nickname, contained interesting photographic portraits of the bikers, their women, their colors and their bikes. The photos by themselves would make a great photographic essay of the reality of the outlaw bikers, if collected together in book form.
Another of the many interesting features contained in the mag was the “Entertainment Review”, which was bikers themselves reporting on the biker movies and the popular media’s portrayal of the outlaw clubs. In the first issue’s reviews they covered episodes of the TV series’Adam 12 and Then Came Bronson, both of which featured bikers. In the Adam 12 episode they were portrayed in an idiotic way, and theThen Came Bronson show is likened to Route 66 and mentioned because the character James Bronson rides a Harley Sportster. But the two most interesting, and revealing reviews are of, the then current movies, Naked Angels and Easy Rider.
Of Naked Angels the reviewer says, “That’s just what it is, a lot of naked angels, the female kind that is. Aside from the bare breast & buttocks there is a lot of action in the form of fights between gangs and among the main group themselves.” And, “We believe this picture to be as realistic as we’ve seen without the over playing of the sensationalism angle. We liked it.”
Easy Rider is, not surprisingly, given two thumbs up, as the review starts, “Easily the best cycle picture we have seen in a long long time and why shouldn’t it be. It is produced and written by outlaw type people, for the outlaw type audience and the like.” And concludes, “We can’t praise this one enough. If you haven’t seen it do so as soon as possible.”
Colors did have some technical articles, usually one or two at the most per issue, but they were not the main focus of the mag. Although the other cycle mags on the stands did cover choppers and customized bikes, they shied away from coverage of outlaw motorcycle clubs, with an occasional mention of them when the owner of a featured bike belonged to a club. Colors also had a “Club List” at the back of the mag, which was a list of the outlaw clubs from around the country, and got longer with each issue. After the movie Easy Rider the focus on the outlaws shifted from the clubs, and focused more on an outlaw biker lifestyle, generally outside of the clubs, but still connected to them in spirit.
Colors proclaiming itself as the “Motorcycle Club’s Bible”, helped some to consider it “the grungiest of them all” because of the outlaw slant and its cheesecake feature, “Mama of the Month” when compared to the other cycle mags on the racks at the time like Big Bike, Street Chopper, Chopper, etc.,
Colors was maverick, different from the rest, and it paved the way for the more club-friendly cycle mags to come, that took a lot from its format including biker fiction, and outlaw lifestyle, a la Easyriders, In The Wind, Iron Horse, Biker, Biker Lifestyle, Outlaw Biker, et al. All of which also would use the cheesecake pics of scantily clad or naked women with the cycles from then on.