saturday night live vs. the hell's angels -- 5/04/18

Today's selection -- from Saturday Night by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad. When a comedy skit on Saturday Night Live used the "colors" of the Hell's Angels, members of that gang angrily decided to visit the Saturday Night Live studios:

"The only warning anybody on the 17th floor had that the Hell's Angels were coming was a frantic phone call from the security desk downstairs: The Angels just stormed through, the guard said. They were angry and they were looking for Saturday Night.

"It was a sleepy morning a few days after the Emmy ceremonies and the offices were almost deserted. [Comdey writers] Michael O'Donoghue, Audrey Dickman, Kathy Minkowsky, Neil Levy, a secretary, and a production assistant or two were the only ones there. None of them had time to react before two Angels came striding through the door and stood, looming, over Kathy Minkowsky's desk. Security was correct: They were obviously unhappy.

"The Angel who did the talking was named Big Vinnie. Vinnie stood several inches over six feet and weighed at least three hundred pounds. He wore black jeans, boots, a gold earring, a fur hat, and a snakeskin vest. His huge chest and arms were covered with swastika and skull tattoos. Neil Levy could smell him from several feet away. The only details people remember of the other Angel was that he was nearly as big as Vinnie and that he carried a large hunting knife in his belt.

"Vinnie was yelling that he wanted to see whoever was in charge of the operation, that the show had used the Angels' colors and the Angels didn't like it -- they were gonna get their f**king colors back or somebody was gonna get f**king hurt.

"Kathy Minkowsky cowered, her knees literally knocking together beneath her desk. She finally figured out what Vinnie was ranting about. There had been a sketch on the show the previous Saturday in which a gang of Hell's Angels rampaged through a suburban house singing 'Johnny Angel.' They'd been wearing the Angels' winged-skull insignia -- their 'colors' -- on their backs. The Angels, Kathy gathered, considered this bad for their image, and they considered the unauthorized use of their colors a violation of some sacred Angels code.

"Kathy choked out that she'd get somebody, got up, and ran into Audrey
Dickman's office. She slammed the door behind her and locked it. The Angels laughed at her as she ran.

'There are two of the most disgusting men I've ever seen out there!' she

"Audrey's first thought was that they must be some of [star John] Belushi's friends. When she heard Kathy's story, they called Michael O'Donoghue's extension. O'Donoghue answered, his voice calm but higher-pitched than usual. 'Yes?' he said.

'Are they in there, Michael?' Kathy whispered.

'Yes,' O'Donoghue said again, at a slightly higher pitch. Audrey Dickman decided the only thing to do was to go outside and be a witness if somebody got killed.

"There are those who claim that when Big Vinnie and his friend appeared in O'Donoghue's doorway, O'Donoghue spilled the tea he was drinking down the front of his shirt. O'Donoghue denies this. Whatever terror he felt, he recovered quickly, walking forward to compliment Vinnie on one of his tattoos. Vinnie laughed, pushed O'Donoghue aside and repeated that he'd come for the Angels' f**king colors.

"O'Donoghue did his best to nod sympathetically as Vinnie vented his
anger. O'Donoghue claims the tension was broken when Vinnie saw the pic­ture of [mass murderer] Richard Speck on his wall. 'Hey, I know that guy,' Vinnie said. 'What's his name? I like that guy.'

'That's Richard Speck,' O'Donoghue says he answered, 'and as a matter
of fact, I like him too.'

"Audrey Dickman by then was standing at the Xerox machine outside
O'Donoghue's door, pretending to do some copying.

"'Audrey?' O'Donoghue said. 'What time does wardrobe open today?'

"'About noon,' Audrey said.

" 'These guys would like the Hell's Angels costumes,' O'Donoghue said.

" 'I'm sure that can be arranged, Michael,' Audrey answered.

" 'Okay,' O'Donoghue said. 'Let's do that then.'

"The Angels left peaceably, but still threateningly, with that promise. The rest of the morning was filled with jittery rehashings of their visit for RCA's security guards, various NBC executives, and everyone else on the show as they arrived. A general alert went out in case the Angels decided to return.

"When Dan Aykroyd (who had supervised the design of the Angels cos­tumes in the first place) heard the story he was thrilled. Immediately he in­sisted that he go along to take the colors back -- no way was he going to pass up an opportunity to meet the famous Hell's Angels. Somebody brought the jackets up from wardrobe, and Aykroyd, O'Donoghue, and Neil Levy caught a cab for the Angels' headquarters on the Lower East Side.

"Levy says that when the cab driver heard where they were going he refused to take them any closer than several blocks away. As the three of them, on foot, entered the Angels' block on East Third Street, Danny said, 'Don't worry. I know how to handle these guys. Just act like you respect them -- treat them like they're true men.' "



Doug Hill & Jeff Weingrad


Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live


Belch Tree Books, William Morrow


Copyright 2015 by William V. Madison


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