The roar of Harley-Davidsons overpowers Kiss’s “Rock and Roll All Nite” blaring from the radio inside the garage turned clubhouse.
NBC’s The Voice is muted on the T.V.
Thin green, white and red strips line the top of concrete walls.
Along the back wall, Joe Kicks and Philly stand in front of the large mirrored emblem of Italy tacked onto black painted drywall talking to three young men at the bar.
Both sport black leather vests over black t-shirts and baggy jeans. Kicks’ worn Levi’s are held up by a black studded leather belt that clinks against the thick chrome chain hanging from his front pocket.
“The gang’s here,” he sings in a thick New York accent checking the large security camera monitor above the TV.
A stampede of heeled boots click their way to the gated front door of the clubhouse as the engines putter to a stop.
Exhaust fills the air. The lot that was vacant less than ten minutes ago is now guarded by a row of Harleys and a few Japanese sport bikes. All have a black glossy finish.
A customized King Classic Harley sporting “FC HOG” on the New York license plate is at the head of the pack. The burly rider takes off his hard black helmet, replacing it with a flimsy leather fedora.
He dons a leather vest on top of a leather jacket on this 55 degree autumn Saturday night. When he turns around there are a number of pins and novelty patches decorating the front of the cold leather. One patch laying against his heart on the right breast lapel reads “Founder” above the “President” patch. On the right side, “Morte Prima Disonore” is spelled out in large green letters. Death before dishonor.
His dark features give him a permanent scowl underneath a graying goatee. Frank Cascello hugs and kisses each man as they meet him at the garage door.
“Yo, Frankie C.”
“How’s it goin’, Kicks?”
“Slow man. Frank Spikes made sausage though.”
Frankie C. heads straight to the steaming aluminum trays of potatoes, vegetables and sausages on the table at the back of the clubhouse next to the bar.
The small clubhouse belongs to the Sons of Italia Motorcycle Club.
“We eat well and we play hard,” mutters Frankie stuffing a large portion of the hearty meal into a hoagie.
With blonde hair, petite frame and obvious curves, Pamela Anderson walks into the clubhouse on this typical Saturday night. No one runs over to take a picture or get an autograph because she is not the Pamela Anderson of Bay Watch. She is just Pam, Tony the Prospect’s girlfriend from Mt. Sinai, N.Y.
The 63-year-old widow has been coming to the clubhouse with Tony Gallo since he started his “hang around” time in the summer. Gallo limps in with a cane behind Anderson and hoists himself onto the bar stool next to her. He had gotten into an accident the week before which left him bike-less and lame.
“You know I would yell at ya fo’ being late,” barks Frankie C., spewing peas back onto his paper plate. “But you’re injured so we’ll give ya a break.”
Gallo sports a leather vest like Kicks and Philly but the only thing ironed onto his back is “MC” and “New York.” “Prospect” is labeled on his right breast above his “Sons of Italia” and Italian flag patches. At the next club meeting, Gallo’s membership will be voted on.
The other full members with matching emblems as the mirror, a large silhouette of Italy colored in with green, white and red stripes, keeping “MC” and “New York” company on their cuts walk a little taller with more authority.
They have long since finished their month of “hang around” duties.
To earn the “Sons of Italia” insignia they had to stand in Gallo’s shoes. Each member spends anywhere from six months to a year as a so-called prospect before they earn their membership into the club.
“The only way you become a full patch member is it’s gotta be unanimous. Everybody’s gotta say yes,” says Frankie C. “If one guy says no, he’s not ready yet.”
Nearly six months ago, Frankie C. took over the club from the crumbling Italians Motorcycle Club. The Italians built the clubhouse but failed to get it off the ground after dissension between ranking officers. In August, the imposing Frankie C. made a deal with the remaining members to join his new club.
Frankie C. has been riding his entire life. After growing up going off-roading with his father, he started with sport bikes at the expense of his mother’s formally dark Italian locks. He went through a series of Japanese bikes. Then, he bought his first Harley-Davidson chopper. He has been riding Harley’s ever since.
“A Harley is an American-made bike,” said Frankie C. “It’s not a Jap bike club. It’s a Harley club.”
Frankie C. had a vision for a true-blue American Harley Motorcycle Club—the Sons of Italia. The union worker Teamsters Local 282 by day and biker by night established the club in 2010 on the notion that bikers don’t have to be “bad guys.”
“We’re just regular guys,” says Kicks. “We drink beer, watch The Voice and talk about bikes.”
Kicks makes a Jack and Coke for Philly, the Sergeant-at-Arms.
“I make the best Jack and Coke,” says Kicks. “It’s all about balance.”
Anyone else visiting the club would be expected to leave a tip in the pitcher on the bar.
Members of motorcycle clubs have bad reputations for a supposed ruffian, outlaw lifestyle. So, while the Sons may look like the guys from the TV show, Sons of Anarchy, they are a family club. They are the 99 percent not the 1 percent.
“That’s our goal: to help the public in whatever we can like fundraisers,” says Frankie C.
During the summer, the broad-shouldered Philly rolls out the Italian ice cart and Frankie C. serves cannoli with the rest of the club to raise funds for needy families on Long Island and in New York City.
“We’re a family club. We’re not out there trying to beat up people—we don’t do that stuff,” slurs Frankie C., his accent becoming a bit thicker. “We’re gentlemen—with bikes, you know what I mean.”
On Saturday nights though, the guys wear their patches, they drink and they barbeque.
“Our membership keeps growing,” Frankie C. says proudly. Even though we’re called Sons of Italia, you don’t have to be 100 percent Italian to join the club.
“If, you kiss an Italian once in your life, we might consider you.”
The right corner of his mouth twitches, trying to muster up a smile. Even when he’s joking, the scowl never leaves his face.
Only six months after Frankie C. merged with the Italians, the group has grown out of the small garage. They have begun looking for a larger location to serve as their clubhouse.
After their club meeting Wednesday, Gallo saunters out of the clubhouse without the help of his cane and dials Anderson.
A long pause.
“Well are you going to make me guess or just tell me?”
“You just got yourself a biker boyfriend.”
“Oh, joy,” says Anderson with an obvious, light-hearted roll of her eyes.
The following Saturday, the same three men sit at the bar. They are wearing black leather vests with bottom markers reading “MC” and “New York.”