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The Boozefighters lost a very good friend recently. Charlie Bailey was a patch holder from way back. He told me that he was only eighteen in 1947 and wasn’t in Hollister for the so called riots, but his life as a biker spans decades. As a writer I love hearing my treasured Boozefighters stories and Charlie held a special place in my heart. He always came to Johnny’s with Big Jim, aka Frogman, whose alias divulges another story for another time. He and Jim, along with Dozer, Charlie’s Chihuahua mix, always made a beeline to greet me when they got to Johnny’s. I refer to Dozer as a mix because he had the longest scruffiest fur I’ve ever seen on a Chihuahua. He was Charlie’s constant companion and never left his side. There was the occasional dash down the bar to have a sip of someone’s beer or kiss a pretty girl. I’m talking about Dozer, not Charlie.

As I point out in my memoir, Miracles and Grace in an Unlikely Place, the lack of a rally gave me time to visit with my Boozefighter friends and I came to cherish them dearly. Charlie and I sat down on my patio one Fourth of July weekend and had a wonderful visit. Not only was he a biker, he was also a champion bull rider. He took his last ride two months before we sat down together in 2008, which means he would have been 80 at the time. He was skinny as a rail and looked like a good wind could knock him over, much less a 1,800 pound bull. It’s not surprising that he got hurt on that ride and it was his last. He told me that he hoped he’d ride again but he figured it was about time to give it up. “You think,” was my response.

I was wondering how a man of such small stature came to be so tough. He informed me that he was an Air Fighter in the Marine Corps. He had so much to share with me and I planned on visiting him to get some of his tales down on paper as soon as time would allow. Sadly, I’ve missed that window so I’ll share a colorful story he proudly told me on that July 2008 afternoon.

Charlie asked if I’d ever heard of Betty Rowland. I hadn’t but according to him, and my internet search, she was known as “Burlesque’s Ball of Fire.” She was a redhead of course. Charlie patted me on the leg when he told me that he was always partial to redheads. I can’t recall where he said he hooked up with her, but he told me that she went for a ride with him on his motorcycle and her beautiful long red hair got stuck in the spokes at one of their stops. He said it practically yanked her off of the motorcycle. It’s a darn good thing they weren’t flying down the highway or he would have had the distinction of killing off one of burlesque’s finest ladies. One of the pub’s patrons came out with a pair of scissors and Betty went wild. “You can’t cut my hair,” she yelled at him. Apparently that long red hair made her a ton of money and cutting it would have been like breaking one of Ginger Rogers’s legs. It took a couple of understanding and patient gals three hours to untangle her mane but they managed to get it out of the spokes, sacrificing only a few strands. It’s quite possible that the fear of what could have happened put an end to the relationship. Charlie said she was a wonderful and beautiful lady and he was obviously proud to have known her.

Charlie might have been small in stature, but as a person he was larger than life. I’m glad that I got to spend time with him and his lovely daughter in Fort Worth, Texas last year when I went to the Boozefighters National Convention. Bridgett moved her father into her home in San Antonio to take care of him a year and a half ago when his health was in serious decline. She gladly drove him to the convention, wheelchair and oxygen tank in tow, where his brother Boozefighters attended to all of his needs. We enjoyed a meal together which included a lot more story telling, but I’d left my tape recorder in my hotel room. If I’m going to succeed as a writer I’d better break that nasty habit.

Charlie will be sorely missed and my heart will ache a little when I see the Frogman come in without him. Remind me to tell you how Big Jim got that name.


2 Responses to We will miss our Boozefighter Charlie Bailey

  1. COL Peter Coldwell says:

    He passed Feb 28th 2013, I was honoured to have known him for the last 18 months of his life. He shared some great stories. RIP Warrior!

    • Charisse says:

      I was privileged to spend lots of time with Charlie listening to his stories. I miss him too. We are losing so many of the originals. All Boozefighters should take the opportunity to talk to Dago and enjoy her stories every chance you get. These folks are the key to so much history and we don’t know how long they will be with us. God bless and thanks for sharing, Cat

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526 San Benito Street
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