Chemical Candy Customs’ Scott Hoepker credits Pete LaBarbera for his appreciation of old iron.
“Pete had a couple of old Shovelheads and Panheads back then and he would always throw some wild ass parties for his biker buds,” explains Hoepker.
When Hoepker was a teenager, he worked for LaBarbera’s masonry company bricking houses. One year on a trip to Bike Week, Pete ended up in a sleepy little biker bar called Annie Oakley’s Saloon. A conversation began between LaBarbera and the bar’s owner and before the night’s over a deal was struck. The next day, LaBarbera announced he was getting out of the masonry business and moving from Texas to Florida to run the biker bar he’d just bought, Annie Oakley’s.
Hoepker always wanted to make it back to Florida and hang out at his old friend’s bar but sometimes life gets in the way of good intentions. Before he got that chance, he received a call from Tani, Pete’s son, saying his father had passed away from cancer.
“I was pretty bummed that I hadn’t had a chance to visit until a year later to check out the bar and do the Bike Week thing. Memories all came back when Rob, an old friend of ours from east Texas, and I walked into the bar and noticed a few photos of Pete on the wall. We sat down and had some laughs with Tani about the good old days and the crazy shit his old man use to get in to,” wrote Hoepker.
“When Rob and I went back to Texas that’s when the wheels started turning so to speak. Rob had always said ‘Their bar is the perfect spot to throw a good chopper event/party but they just never got around to it.’ We talked it over with Tani and have been working on this ever since. This party has a special place in our hearts so I hope to see it grow into something as incredible as the life of Pete LaBarbera,” concluded Hoepker.
And thus with the help of Gasshole Garage and VNM Horsebites, the Boogie East Chopper Show was born. Motorcycles packed the parking lot in front of Annie Oakley’s Saloon then spilled into the adjacent field. Out back, an array of customs by the invited builders filled the grassy knoll while others in the ride-in bike show crammed in beneath the trees. Cool schwag from a long list of sponsors was raffled off over the course of the day until the Left Lane Cruiser Band upped the energy levels. Between its wooden back deck, outdoor bar, and shaded grounds, the back area of Annie Oakley’s was a perfect place for a good old-fashioned chopper show of 1984 and earlier motorcycles.
With a front end stretched far enough to make Sugar Bear proud and a cab so cool it channeled the spirit of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, it was impossible to miss JP Rodman’s 1960’s style trike. Sporting a blown Knucklehead, ram’s horn bars, and dual M&H Racemaster drag tires on the back, Rodman’s three-wheeler had all the charm of an old fashioned shaggin’ wagon.
Next to it sat Steve “TheHeadChoppa” Bates latest build, a 1945 Knucklehead in a ’38 Knucklehead frame with a solid aluminum rear wheel engraved by New Line Engraving. Bates’ bike is full of fine details, from the handmade shift knob carved from an elk horn to its hand forged sissy bar to its trick horseshoe kicker pedal. “TheHeadChoppa” also brought his ultra-clean 1956 Panhead chopper to the show, a bike we featured online after seeing it at last year’s Handbuilt Motorcycle Show.
We chatted with Jason Ochoa about his clean 1955 rigid Panhead, his build featuring a 1957 straight-leg frame and a 1947 Knucklehead transmission. Bathed in varying shades of purple flake, Ochoa’s Pan included a picture of Jimi Hendrix on the oil tank and the words “Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky” engraved on the air cleaner cover. Ochoa remembers his dad playing Hendrix regularly at home on an old reel-to-reel and said the theme was in honor of his father, a Vietnam vet who loved listening to Jimi.
With a laid back vibe and a bounty of beautiful bikes, the first annual Boogie East Chopper Show at Bike Week was by all measures a big success. Organizers are already discussing doing it again next year. We believe Pete LaBarbera would be proud of the biker bash that took place in his honor at his old haunting grounds.
(Boogie East back story courtesy of Chemical Candy Customs)