Festival sure to have a few wrinkles

August 15, 2002|By Kevin Cowherd

EVEN THOUGH thousands of bikers will descend on Pimlico Race Course tomorrow for a three-day festival, I wouldn't lock up the women and children and call the cops just yet.

No, what's being billed as the Harley-Davidson Open Road Tour, a modern corporate extravaganza of music and merchandising, probably won't feature your traditional outlaw biker pastimes, your drinking and brawling, your groping and pillaging.

We're not exactly talking Altamont here, friends.

This'll be more like Geezer- mont.

I say this because the average age of a Harley owner is now 45, with the largest segment of these riders in their 50s and 60s.

So instead of tossing each other through barroom windows and flipping off the cops, they'll probably be flipping open their laptops to e-mail the kids back home.

Instead of drag-racing in the streets, they'll be comparing hip replacements and stock portfolios and senior discounts at the Quality Inn.

If you see any pills being passed around, you can bet it's something like Viagra or Joint-Ritis.

I don't know how much beer-chugging you're going to see, either. But it's a cinch the Snapple concession will make a mint.

If you think I'm exaggerating here, get a load of some of the old-guy musical acts that'll be playing Pimlico: Bob Dylan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Neville Brothers, the Marshall Tucker Band, Ted Nugent and Billy Idol.

Dylan is what now, 85 years old?

And Lynyrd Skynyrd, didn't they entertain our troops during World War II?

They opened for Hope and Crosby, right?

Sure, there'll be a couple of acts that appeal to young people, namely bluegrass artist Alison Krauss and an alternative band called Default.

But I don't think we have to worry about any riots in the mosh pit.

I don't think you're going to see a lot of people with 44-inch waistlines and facelifts and a history of triple-bypass operations crowd-surfing, either.

Regarding the rather, um, experienced musical lineup, Harley head flack Steve Piehl told me the other day: "We wanted something that appealed to our current customers and [those] who will be our customers in the future."

Steve, Steve, Steve ... sure, you're trying to be diplomatic here.

But let's tell it like it is.

Half of these acts should be wearing Bermuda shorts and knee-high socks and lining up outside Miami restaurants for the Early Bird Special.

Anyway, to give you an idea how G-rated this Harley festival could be, let's go back to the last stop on this 10-city tour, Atlanta.

It was there that the great Ted Nugent, the original wild man of rock, delivered a typically killer set, only to be asked by a Harley promoter if he could refrain from using the F-word on stage.

This, as Nugent related to Sun reporter Jonathan Pitts, just about caused Nugent to blow a gasket right there.

Asking Da Nuge to keep his between-songs patter clean is like saying to Mick Jagger: "Try not to jump around so much when you sing."

So Nugent went thermo-nuclear on the poor promoter, who happened to be British, with the kind of stuffy, hoity-toity accent that makes you want to whack him over the head with a skillet.

In scathing language that included another barrage of F-words, Nugent - who politically seems to stands slightly to the right of your average Idaho militiaman - questioned whether this, uh, foreigner was the proper interpreter of the macho Harley-Davidson lifestyle.

Here's another thing about Harley riders you may want to keep in mind if you head out to Pimlico to clink Snapple bottles this weekend: They're not exactly struggling.

You know the old image of bikers as scruffy, down-and-out rebels who hit the open road to escape their problems and blah, blah, blah?

Well, check this out: median household income for Harley owners last year was $78,300.

How down and out can you be if there's a Lexus in the driveway next to your hog?

You know what a struggling Harley owner is these days?

A guy without maid service.

Look, the average price of Harley's popular Heritage Softail is $15,000, which the down-and-out tend to have only if they've just donned a ski mask, brandished a gun and robbed a bank.

And the high-end Harley Ultra Classic Electric Glide goes for 20 grand - and that's right off the showroom floor, before you add all the bells and whistles.

So there won't be too many riders on food stamps this weekend, if you catch my drift.

In fact, if you see a lot of bright lights in the Pimlico infield, it'll be all those VISA Platinum cards gleaming in the sunlight as the Harley owners shop for more gear.

What's Harley's motto again? "Live to ride"?

Maybe that should be: "Live well to ride."

This message brought to you by Joint-Ritis.

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