TIME Ferguson

See the Nation React to the Ferguson Decision

Citizens from L.A. to New York City staged protests following the announcement that a grand jury would not indict Officer Darren Wilson

Should Ferguson Protestors be Person of the Year? Vote below for #TIMEPOY

TIME Crime

Wrongfully Convicted California Man Released After 36 Years

Hanline waits in a cell during a hearing at Superior Court in Ventura
Mario Anzuoni—Reuters Michael Hanline waits in a cell during a hearing at Superior Court in Ventura, California on November 24, 2014.

He was the longest-serving wrongfully convicted inmate in the state

A California man will leave prison Monday after 36 year behind bars, after new DNA evidence proved his innocence.

Michael Hanline, 68, will be released after DNA from the crime scene failed to match Hanline’s, according to the Los Angeles Times. In 1980, Hanline was convicted of the first-degree murder of J.T. McGarry, also known as Mike Mathers, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Police reports that cast doubt on the testimony of Hanline’s then-girlfriend Mary Bischoff were not disclosed to defense attorneys at the time, even though they could have been used to discredit Bischoff or indicate that Hanline may have been framed.

Bischoff’s testimony was instrumental in convicting Hanline– she testified that McGarry owed her money, that there was a contract out on his life, and that Hanline said he would “blow his brains out.” She also said she saw Hanline leaving the house with a gun and come back muddy, even though Hanline says he was home that night.

Bischoff was smoking PCP-laced pot and using cocaine on the night in question, and she was also on drugs at the time she gave her testimony, leading the judge to adjourn court.

Hanline will be released from prison, but will have to wear a GPS ankle monitor. He is also expected to appear back in court in February for a pretrial hearing, because prosecutors have not yet decided whether to re-try him.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” Hanline’s wife Sandee Hanline said. “I prayed that this day would come.”

[Los Angeles Times]

TIME charles manson

Exclusive: Sharon Tate’s Sister Says Murderers Like Manson Should Have No Marriage Rights

Sharon Tate: Recollection
Sharon Tate: Recollection

Debra Tate is the author of Sharon Tate: Recollection.

Charles Manson took away my sister's right to happiness, and to life itself—he shouldn't be allowed his own

“How do you feel about Charles Manson being allowed to marry?” A flood of thoughts and emotions immediately surfaced when Time asked me the question. I am Debra Tate, the sister of Sharon Tate, who was brutally murdered by Manson and some of his followers in 1969.

One thing comes immediately to mind: what my mother would have had to say on the subject. She would be outraged and say something to the effect of, “Manson has no right to marry, as he took away my daughter’s right to happiness, and to life itself.”

I feel exactly the same way.

The state of California has long been viewed as a liberal state, but at what point is liberal too liberal? Those who commit such extraordinarily heinous crimes against humanity should be asked to forfeit their own rights to the pleasures of life—which include marriage, the birth of children, and family relations of any kind—as they denied their victims all of these most precious gifts. Why should we as a society allow those who take away life the privilege to enjoy all that life has to offer? I really struggle with this.

At the same time it proves a point I have been trying to make to the general public for the last ten years. That being, the very fact Charles Manson can convince a 26-year-old woman to be his wife shows the power he still possesses over the young and impressionable individuals who are looking for some bizarre form of leadership.

It doesn’t matter how old or how sick he becomes. The fact is that this young woman runs a Facebook page for Charles Manson that currently has over 80,000 “likes.

So should we allow someone like Charles Manson the privilege of getting married? Absolutely not.

Debra Tate is the author of the recently released Sharon Tate: Recollection.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Laws

New Video Released for Right-to-Die Advocate Brittany Maynard’s 30th Birthday

Maynard, who died Nov. 1, became the face of the right-to-die movement

A new video released by supporters of the so-called Death With Dignity movement shows Brittany Maynard, on what would’ve been her 30th birthday, advocating for expanded right-to-die legislation around the United States.

The advocacy group Compassion & Choices has released the video, made in August, nearly three weeks after she died Nov. 1. Maynard had moved from California to Oregon in order to take advantage of a state law that allows terminally ill patients to obtain life-ending medication. Diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, she quickly became the face of the right-to-die movement, releasing several videos that advocated for more states to legalize the practice.

MORE: Brittany Maynard Could Revive the Stalled ‘Death With Dignity’ Movement

Only five states currently allow physicians to give drugs to people who have terminal illnesses. In the last few weeks, lawmakers have drafted or advanced right-to-die legislation in Colorado, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

TIME photography

The Fire Last Time: LIFE in Watts, 1966

A year after the Watts Riots in 1965, LIFE magazine revisited the neighborhood through a series of color pictures by photographer Bill Ray.

The August 1965 Watts Riots (or Watts Rebellion, depending on one’s perspective and politics), were among the bloodiest, costliest and — in the five decades since they erupted — most analyzed uprisings of the notoriously unsettled mid-1960s. Ostensibly sparked by an aggressive traffic stop of a black motorist by white cops — but, in fact, the combustive result of decades of institutional racism and municipal neglect — the six-day upheaval resulted in 34 deaths, more than 3,400 arrests and tens of millions of dollars in property damage (back when a million bucks still meant something).

The Fire Last Time: Life in Watts, 1966
Bill Ray—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image

A year after the flames were put out and the smoke cleared from the southern California sky, LIFE revisited the scene of the devastation for a “special section” in its July 15, 1966, issue that the magazine called “Watts: Still Seething.” A good part of that special section featured a series of color photos made by Bill Ray on the streets of Watts: pictures of stylish, even dapper, young men making and hurling Molotov cocktails; of children at play in torched streets and rubble-strewn lots; of wary police and warier residents; of a community struggling to save itself from drugs, gangs, guns, idleness and an enduring, corrosive despair.

In that July 1966 issue, LIFE introduced Ray’s photographs, and Watts itself, in a tone that left no doubt that, whatever else might have happened in the months since the streets were on fire, the future of the district was hardly certain, and the rage that fueled the conflagration had hardly abated:

Before last August the rest of Los Angeles had never heard of Watts. Today, a rock thrown through a Los Angeles store window brings the fearful question: “Is this the start of the next one?” It brings the three armed camps in Los Angeles — the police, white civilians, the Negroes — face to face for a tense flickering moment. . . .

Whites still rush to gun stores each time a new incident hits the papers. A Beverly Hills sporting goods shop has been sold out of 9mm automatics for months, and the waiting list for pistols runs several pages.

Last week a Negro showed a reporter a .45 caliber submachine gun. “There were 99 more in this shipment,” he said, “and they’re spread around to 99 guys with cars.”

“We know it don’t do no good to burn Watts again,” a young Negro says. “Maybe next time we go up to Beverly Hills.”

Watts seethes with resentments. There is anger toward the paternalism of many job programs and the neglect of Watts needs. There is no public hospital within eight miles and last month Los Angeles voters rejected a proposed $12.3 million bond issue to construct one. When a 6-month-old baby died not long ago because of inadequate medical facilities, the mother’s grief was echoed by a crowd’s outrage. “If it was your baby,” said a Negro confronting a white, “you’d have an ambulance in five minutes.”

Unemployment and public assistance figures invite disbelief in prosperous California. In Watts 24% of the residents were on some form of relief a year ago — and that percentage still stands. In Los Angeles the figure is 5%.

[It] takes longer to build a society than to burn one, and fear will be a companion along the way to improvements. “I had started to say it is a beautiful day,” Police Inspector John Powers said, looking out a window, “but beautiful days bring people out and that makes me wish we had rain and winter year-round.”

For his part, Bill Ray recalls the Watts assignment clearly, and fondly:

In the mid-nineteen-sixties [Ray recently told LIFE.com], I shot two major assignments for LIFE in southern California, one after the other, that involved working with young men who were volatile and dangerous. One group was the Hells Angels of San Bernardino — the early, hard-core San Berdoo chapter of the gang — and the other were the young men who had taken part in the Watts riots the year before.

I did not try to dress like them, act like them or pretend to be tough. I showed great interest in them, and treated them with respect. The main thing was to convince them that I had no connection with the police. The thing that surprised me the most was that, in both cases, as I spent more time with them and got to know them better, I got to like and respect many of them quite a lot. There was a humanity there that we all have inside us. Meeting and photographing different kinds of people has always been the most exciting part of my job. I still love it.

Two big differences in the assignments, though, was that I shot the Hells Angels in black and white — which was perfect for their gritty world — and “Watts: A Year Later” was in color. Also perfect, because Watts had a lot of color, on the walls, the graffiti, the way people dressed — and, of course, my group of bombers who liked to practice making and throwing Molotov cocktails [see slides 17, 18 and 19 in gallery].

Those two assignments documented two utterly marginalized worlds that few people ever get to see up close. There was no job on earth as good as being a LIFE photographer.


Ben Cosgrove is the Editor of LIFE.com


© Bill Ray

Bill Ray (at right, on assignment in Sikkim in the Himalayas in 1965) was a staff photographer for LIFE from the mid-1960s until the magazine’s demise in the early 1970s.

Based in New York, Beverly Hills and Paris, he traveled the world covering major events, wars and great personalities, from Elvis Presley and Audrey Hepburn to JFK, Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles, Ray Charles, Frank Lloyd Wright, Brigitte Bardot and many more. See the LIFE.com gallery, “LIFE Rides With Hells Angels.”

[See more of Bill Ray’s work at BillRay.com]


TIME Education

What California’s College Tuition Hike Says About the Future of Higher Education

CA: UC Berkeley Students Rally Against Tuition Fee Hikes
Alex Milan Tracy—Sipa USA Students rallied to demonstrate against the university's plan to increase tuition fees over the next five years at the University of California, Berkeley campus on Nov. 18, 2014, in Berkeley, Calif.

As state funding dwindles, students at public universities are being asked to pick up more of the tab

When does a public university system become one in name only? That’s the question facing California as officials in charge of the state’s prestigious, but financially-struggling university system clash over how to keep it afloat.

On Nov. 20, the regents that control the University of California system will vote on a proposal to increase tuition at its 10 campuses by as much as 5% a year for the next five years. This year’s tuition and fees for in-state students is $12,192, which could rise to $15,564 by the 2019-20 school year under the proposal. The plan was conceived and put forward by Janet Napolitano, who took over the UC system in 2013.

The fight over the tuition increase pits Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona and federal homeland security chief, against Governor Jerry Brown, a popular figure in the state who was just re-elected with a sizable mandate. Brown has said he opposes increasing tuition, and would restore some state funding cut during the recession only if it stays flat. Brown is a regent and is among a handful of those on the board who have already indicated they will reject Napolitano’s proposal.

“There is a game of chicken,” says Hans Johnson, a higher education expert at the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California. “It’s not clear to me at all how it’s going to turn out.”

Underlying the clash of big personalities is a philosophical debate about the changing funding models for public universities. In 1960, California created a lofty master plan that said higher education should be free or very low-cost for residents. “We’ve moved away from that pretty dramatically,” says Johnson. “It’s almost traumatic for California to think about it.” In recent decades, the state has decreased the share of overall public higher education costs it pays for and the system has become increasingly dependent on student contributions, among other sources, for the difference. In the 2001-02 academic year, in-state tuition and fees for UC campuses was $3,429, about one-third of the cost today. Similar trends have played out in state university systems elsewhere as well.

The recession accelerated public schools’ reliance on private money. At UC, the system receives some $460 million less per year in state funds than it did in the 2007-08 school year.

“As a political matter, state officials have made the judgment they don’t want to pay for higher education for our citizens,” says David Plank, an economist at Policy Analysis for California Education, a non-partisan research center. “What were once public universities are now private universities that receive some subsidy from the states.”

Napolitano says that if UC is to remain a world-class educational and research institution, it needs more money, no matter the source. And she says students and families will need to fill the gap left by the state. The proposed tuition increase would affect only around half of the student body. Thanks to income-based federal and state grants, about 55% of UC students pay no tuition.

Gavin Newsom, California’s lieutenant governor, has said he and Brown were blind-sided by the tuition increase proposal. The governor’s office has said Napolitano’s plan could void a plan Brown has endorsed to increase state funding 4 percent per year if tuition stays flat. Napolitano has said she never made a deal and if was one was struck before she took charge, she hasn’t found any record of it. “It was unilateral. It wasn’t anything we agreed to,” says Steve Montiel, a spokesman for Napolitano.

On the eve of today’s meeting of the regents planning board, the speaker of the California state assembly reportedly proposed directing $50 million in additional state general funds to UC to stave off increased costs for students. The proposal followed student protests at at least two UC campuses this week.

TIME Culture

Anywhere But Here

California flag
Getty Images

Our elders in California tell us this state is a global leader in higher education, but kids today can’t find space at public universities, and those who do are running up huge debts

At a moment like this, younger Californians should read Mona Simpson.

The novelist, a UCLA English professor, may be best known as Steve Jobs’ biological sister; she told the world that the Apple chief’s final words were, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” But she first made her reputation with the novel Anywhere But Here, first published in 1986 but still awfully current.

It’s a classic California tale – and a horror story about being young and being the responsibility of someone who is herself irresponsible.

In the novel, a mother, Adele August, relocates with her young daughter, Ann, from Wisconsin to L.A. The mother has dreams of wealth for herself, and Hollywood ambitions for her daughter. But Adele is desperate and delusional. She breaks virtually every promise she makes to her daughter. And so the roles reverse. Adele’s age may make her a grown-up, but she is pure adolescent. Her daughter, even as a child, must be the adult.

I’ve long carried a torch for the daughter, and not just because Natalie Portman played her (alongside Susan Sarandon) in the 1999 movie version. Ann’s exasperation with her mother’s broken promises – and her mother’s inability to acknowledge her own irresponsibility – expresses perfectly the fix that younger Californians find themselves in.

Our elders in California tell us this state is a global leader in higher education, but kids today can’t find space at public universities, and those who do are running up huge debts. We are told California is deeply committed to public education, but our elders fund those schools as if this were a poor Southern state. Our politicians trumpet recent statistics showing California leading the nation in job creation, but our unemployment rate remains well above the national average.

In the face of broken promises, the generations in California have reversed roles: Younger people behave more like grown-ups. Younger generations (I’m a Gen Xer) are driving and smoking less, and committing fewer crimes than our elders did. Our elders got more stable retirement benefits and the big run-up in their real estate values, and protected themselves from higher property taxes. We got bigger college debts and housing debts and tax bills, and are far more likely to be on budgets.

Our leadership reflects this upside-down reality. Elected officials are supposed to be creative and future-oriented, but ours are deeply conservative – in the classic sense of preserving yesterday’s gains for yesterday’s youth. Our governor, who just got reelected without bothering to offer an agenda for his next term, is 76, while our U.S. senators are 81 and 73. Even our rock stars skew older, certainly much older than their critics, slaving away on websites. At protests around the state, you’ll often find the protestors are older than the cops keeping watch.

Is this why California sometimes feels so stuck? While those who are supposed to offer new ideas are too wedded to the past, those charged with imposing new limits are young and ambitious. Voters just confirmed Goodwin Liu, 44, and Tino Cuéllar, 42, to the California Supreme Court. Is this inversion the reason we are so restrained, adopting regulations for almost everything, from grocery bags and watering plants to the hours of high school football practice?

The most frustrating part of this moment is that there’s no escaping it. In Anywhere But Here, Ann would like to run away from her mother, but she can’t. Adele has the keys to the car, literally. After they fight, Adele offers to buy her daughter ice cream. That feels familiar, too. Our elders have accumulated such wealth that we need them – to help us buy houses or fund the educations of our kids (their grandkids).

Adele never really explains herself. Being the mother, the elder, absolves her. Gov. Brown, in a late-campaign appearance, let loose an Adele-like rant after a younger reporter asked why he hadn’t offered a fourth-term agenda. “This is my 12th year” as governor, Brown said. “No one’s ever had 12 years of constant press conferences and discussions and letters and what do they call those things – state of the state speeches. Three separate inaugurations. So what don’t you know? What don’t you know that you think I could tell you now in front of all these people?”

It’s possible to fight this sort of attitude, but have you ever won an argument with an older Californian? As Ann, the daughter, says: ”Strangers almost always love my mother. And even if you hate her, can’t stand her, even if she’s ruining your life, there’s something about her, some romance, some power. She’s absolutely herself. No matter how hard you try, you’ll never get to her.”

When will California’s elders lose their hold over us? Never. “And when she dies,” says Ann of her mother, “the world will be flat, too simple, reasonable, too fair.”

Joe Mathews is California and innovation editor for Zocalo Public Square, for which he writes the Connecting California column.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME ebola

California Nurses Strike Over Ebola Preparedness

Nurses Strike
Jeff Chiu—AP Registered nurses and supporters protest outside of a Kaiser Permanente facility in San Francisco, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014.

A lack of preparedness for possible Ebola cases is symptomatic of a more general erosion in patient care standards, claims National Nurses United

Almost 20,000 nurses went on strike in California on Tuesday, ahead of national protests planned for Wednesday over what union leaders deem a lack of protection for nurses who might treat Ebola patients.

The two-day strike is organized by National Nurses United and will affect 88 hospitals in the Golden State, 86 of which are owned by Kaiser Permanente, Reuters reports. The larger national strike will involve 100,000 nurses in 15 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

“Inadequate preparedness for Ebola symbolizes the erosion of patient care standards generally,” a spokesman for National Nurses United told Reuters, adding that numerous other patient care issues, including under-staffing, have been “stonewalled and ignored.” National Nurses United is in the midst of contract talks.

In rebuttal to the union, an ad published in the Sacramento Bee by Kaiser over the weekend called the strikes counterproductive to making sure that U.S. hospitals are ready for any future Ebola cases.

“There is never a good time for a strike,” it read. “Calling one now, just as we are entering the flu season, and when the nation and our members are concerned about the risk of Ebola, seems particularly irresponsible.”

Several U.S. agencies and groups, including National Nurses United, have jostled over where to put fault after two nurses who treated an Ebola patient at a Dallas hospital contracted the virus. Both nurses have recovered, and there are no current Ebola cases in the U.S.

[Reuters]

TIME photography

LIFE Rides With Hells Angels, 1965

In 1965, LIFE photographer Bill Ray spent weeks with the Hells Angels, but his amazing photos never ran in the magazine. Fifty years later, here they are

From Jesse James and Butch Cassidy to Scarface and Tony Soprano, outlaws have always held a singularly ambiguous place in America’s popular imagination: we fear and loathe the gangster’s appetite for violence; we envy and covet his radical freedom. In early 1965, LIFE photographer Bill Ray and writer Joe Bride spent several weeks with a gang that, to this day, serves as a living, brawling embodiment of our schizoid relationship with the rebel: Hells Angels.

Here, along with a gallery of remarkable photographs that were shot for LIFE but never ran in the magazine, Ray and Bride recall their days and nights spent with Buzzard, Hambone, Big D and other Angels (as well as their equally tough “old ladies”) at a time when the roar of Harleys and the sight of long-haired bikers was still new and — for the average, law-abiding citizen — utterly unfathomable. The day-to-day existence of these leather-clad hellions, after all, was as foreign to most of LIFE magazine’s millions of readers as the lives of, say, Borneo’s headhunters, or nomads of the Gobi Desert.

“This was a new breed of rebel,” Ray told LIFE.com, recalling his time with the Angels. “They didn’t have jobs. They absolutely despised everything that most Americans value and strive for — stability, security. They rode their bikes, hung out in bars for days at a time, fought with anyone who messed with them. They were self-contained, with their own set of rules, their own code of behavior. It was extraordinary to be around.”

Ray spent some of the time with the Angels on a ride from San Bernardino (about 40 miles east of Los Angeles) to Bakersfield, Calif., for a major motorcycle rally. The Berdoo-Bakersfield run is a trip of only about 130 miles — but in 1965, it would offer enough moments (both placid and violent) for Ray to paint a rare, revelatory portrait of the world’s most legendary motorcycle club in its early days. The way in which the story came about, meanwhile, was as dramatic and unexpected as Bill Ray’s pictures.

[To see more of Bill Ray’s photography, visit BillRay.com]

“I’d done a story on Big Daddy Roth,” writer Joe Bride recalled, “a genuine L.A. phenomenon and legend in the Southern California car culture. He had a lucrative business designing hot rod-themed decals and cartoon figures. While I was wrapping up the story with Big Daddy, the Angels were in the news. They were accused of terrorizing a small central California town and being major growers and distributors of pot. Big Daddy said he knew a lot of Angels, did business with them and that they were more lost nomads than real criminals. After meeting them, by the way, my take on them was a little bit closer to the prevailing opinion than to Big Daddy’s. . . .”

“I told Big Daddy Roth I’d like to meet the Angels, talk to them about doing a story,” Bride said. “It would be a chance for them to get some recognition, and explain why they did what they did. Not long after the story on Big Daddy ran, in late 1964, Roth called and said, ‘They’ll meet you — with conditions.'” Bride met two Angels at Big Daddy’s store. They blindfolded him, put him in a car and drove into the mountains. At a bar “with what looked like 100 bikes parked outside,” no longer blindfolded, Bride met a stocky, long-haired Angel who asked if he shot pool. They played some nine-ball, and Bride beat the guy two out of three games. Bride then negotiated, there in the bar, a relationship where the Hells Angels agreed to allow him and Bill Ray to shadow them. Bride sat back, had a few beers, and then they drove him back to L.A. Not long after that, Ray and Bride began reporting the story.

Ray and Bride spent more than a month with the Angels in the spring of ’65, “mostly on weekends,” Ray remembers, “but the Bakersfield run was around the clock, three days and nights. In Bakersfield, I slept on the floor of the Blackboard Cafe — the bar that the Angels basically lived in while they were there.”

bill_ray_hells_angels_19651

“I got along with the Angels,” Ray says today. “I got to like some of them very much, and I think they liked me. I accepted them as they were, and they accepted me. You know, by their standards, I looked pretty funny. Just look at that picture of me (right). That’s some kind of a plaid shirt I’ve got on,” he says, incredulity mixing with amusement, “but that was the best I could do to try to fit in!”

“One thing about the Angels that I found especially fascinating,” Ray says, “and something I’d never given much thought to before I started photographing them, was the role that the women played in the club. The girls weren’t there in chains, or against their will. They had to want that life if they were going to be accepted by the Angels. These guys were kings of the road. I don’t think they ever felt they had to look around for girls. Girls came, and they had their pick. Then they’d tell them where to sit and what to do.”

One of Ray’s photos, in particular — slide 14, featuring a group of women (including one with what appears to be a bandaged, broken nose) hanging out in a bar while the bikers gather in a separate room — is especially illuminating. “The men were having a business meeting,” Bill Ray recalls, “and the women were definitely not invited there. When those guys were busy, the women just sat and waited. They’d smoke, drink beer, gossip, but they were pretty much just on ice until the meeting broke up. I remember, too, that many of them were surprisingly young: teenagers, or in their early twenties. They didn’t look young, though. Riding around on the back of a Harley at a hundred miles an hour in all sorts of weather will age you, I guess.”

Nowadays, when a hugely popular TV show like Sons of Anarchy brings the violence and twisted moral code of the outlaw-biker aesthetic into living rooms every week, it’s easy to forget how thoroughly (and willfully) the Angels shocked and frightened “polite” society five decades ago.

“Some of them are pure animals,” Birney Jarvis, a one-time Hells Angel who later became a newspaper police reporter, once said. “They’d be animals in any society. These guys . . . should have been born a hundred years ago, then they would have been gunfighters.”

One of the images in this gallery — slide 8, featuring two Angels locked in what appears a passionate kiss — is a graphic, surprising example of something that Bill Ray says struck him forcefully at the time: namely, the Angels’ apparent need to shock people. “That’s outside the Blackboard Cafe,” Ray remembers. “That’s the sort of thing they would do all the time, just to freak people out. As if to say, What’re you looking at? You got a problem with this?

“It was exhilarating being around them, no question about it,” Ray says. “You just never knew what they were going to do. You’re always kind of on edge, because — think about it — these people have a lot of time to waste. They don’t punch a clock, so they fill the time drinking beer, smoking pot, screwing around. There was always a sense that anything could happen at any minute. Things could go from lighthearted to tense to really scary pretty goddamn quick.”

Why wasn’t the Angels story published in LIFE, after Ray and Bride spent so much time not merely reporting the story, but putting themselves at serious risk inside this notoriously insular, die-hard gang? According to Bride, “George Hunt [LIFE’s managing editor] said he didn’t want to run a piece on ‘those smelly bastards.'” Bill Ray, meanwhile, recalls that “a lot of stories were killed back then because of one remark by an editor who didn’t like the idea. George said we weren’t going to run it, and that was that. I wasn’t in the meeting,” he adds with a laugh. “Editors went to great lengths to keep photographers out of discussions like that. They knew the argument would never end.”

Ray vividly remembers the moment he truly felt accepted, or as accepted as he was ever going to be, by the Angels. In a confrontation reminiscent of a famous scene in Hunter S. Thompson’s classic 1966 book, Hell’s Angels, when Thompson was almost stomped to death by bikers, Ray says that “he got in a bit of trouble one day, in a bar. Some bikers — guys who weren’t Angels — saw me taking pictures. They didn’t like it, but they didn’t realize that I was a sort of mascot of the real tough guys. I’d been shooting the Angels for maybe a week at this point. I was about to be attacked by one of these guys when a Hells Angel standing next to me made it clear that if a hair on my head was touched, the other guy was a dead man. From that point on, I felt . . . well, not safe, because I never felt safe with those guys, but as if I’d passed a test, somehow.”

Ray stresses that while the Angels he spent time with smoked pot, and he once saw them “beat the holy hell” out of some other bikers behind a bar, he “never saw these guys involved in anything deeply illegal. Then again, they always had plenty of money for gas and beer. They lived on their bikes — that is, when they weren’t hanging out in bars. Their money had to come from somewhere, but none of them ever worked.”

(Today the FBI contends that the Angels and other gangs — specifically, the Pagans, Outlaws MC and Bandidos — are deeply involved in extortion, drug dealing, trafficking stolen goods and other criminal activities.)

“There’s a romance to the idea of the biker on the open road,” Ray says. “It’s similar to the romance that people attach to cowboys and the West — which, of course, is totally out of proportion to the reality of riding fences and punching cows. But there’s something impressive about these Harley-Davidsons and bikers heading down the highway. You see the myth played out in movies, like Easy Rider, which came out a few years after I photographed the Angels. You know, the trail never ends for the cowboy, and the open road never ends for the Angels. They just ride. Where they’re going hardly matters. It’s not an easy life, but it’s what they choose. It’s theirs. And everyone else can get out of the way or go to hell.”

Ben Cosgrove is the Editor of LIFE.com

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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