Jews on Motorcycles

My dad, the over-protective Jew, had a couple of mantras.  One was never ride on the back of a motorcycle.  Another, never go for a ride in a small plane.

Uh-oh.  I did both.  Behind his back.

By the way, I can say Jew, because I am one.  You can’t.  I mean, if you’re not.  Just saying.

The girlfriends I made growing up were the ones who went to school on Jewish holidays, along with the other six kids in Beverly Hills who weren’t Jewish.   I don’t know why, but I was drawn to gentiles.  I’ll be making a point in a second.  I often went with these friends and their families to church, and never once, including with my own family, did I enter a temple. I wasn’t a religious churchgoer; I just sort of tagged along on a Sunday morning if it followed a sleepover the night before.  Trust me; even then, I never wanted to wake up before noon.

On many weekends, I was the guest of my best friend Susie at the Gun Club.  Yeah, that’s right, Gun Club.  A Jew at a gun club is an oxymoron.  Susie and I made an odd couple – she, the athletic tomboy, and me, the undersized neurotic Jew.  Here’s how different we were.  For her 13th birthday, Susie’s parents gave her a rifle, a Browning 22, along with deodorant, an ironing board and an iron.  She remembers walking to Kerr’s Sporting Goods, at the corner of Peck & Wilshire, across from Saks Fifth Avenue, with her rifle wrapped in brown paper, so that she could get it fitted to her size.   On my thirteenth birthday, the doorbell rang and a bouquet of red roses was delivered with a note from my dad telling me how beautiful I was.  If you want to see just how beautiful, check out the photo below!

That’s me, the 9 year old boy on the back of Susie’s motorbike!!!( I was 12)

Susie’s family also belonged to the Jonathan Beach Club in Santa Monica, where Jews were not allowed, back in the day.  I often accompanied them, ignoring the rules.  (There’s a story about Groucho Marx being refused membership at one of these anti-Semitic Santa Monica beach clubs.  He said to the committee, “My daughter’s only half-Jewish — can she go in the water up to her knees?”) Not until I grew up did I ever really know there was a difference between Jews and Gentiles.  A brief friendship with comedian Jackie Mason in my 20’s was an education in that department.

Okay, back to the Gun Club.  The Hidden Valley Gun Club in Norco.   It was here that I broke all of my parents’ rules, including shooting a gun.  That’s right, I also broke another Jewish family cardinal rule, no guns.  Lets talk about guns.  I can’t think of one gun toting notorious Jew except Bugsy Siegel who also happened to live in Beverly Hills.    My mother (not Jewish) was also careful and overprotective; equally afraid of motorcycles and small planes.  Notice how I just dropped in that my mother isn’t a Jew.  That probably explains my attraction to goyishe people.  They are half of my people.

It was on one of these weekend excursions when Susie’s mother, Dorothy, announced it was my turn to do the dishes.  My eyes darted around as I coughed audibly, “Ahem-what?”   “Your turn tonight to do the dishes,” Dorothy repeated.  “Oops, sorry, don’t know how,” I said, shrugging my shoulders, thinking I was now out of this chore.  By the way, chore was a foreign word to me.  I buried my head in the Seventeen Magazine I wasn’t really reading.  Dorothy moved towards me and stood in front of my face in a way that was demonstrative, but not abusive or threatening, and she said, “Come on, I’ll show you how — it’s really easy and I know you can do it.” She was not going to back down.  So, I did it.  Not a great job.  And it wasn’t all that rewarding, but princess could now add ‘chore’ to her vocabulary.

more “chores” at the gun club, me pretending to rake leaves

A typical day with the Lohn family at the Gun Club began with fast, I mean really fast, rides in Susie’s dune buggy.  Also, equally fast rides on the back of her motorcycle, a Honda 55; Susie in a helmet and with no license, me, wearing no head protection whatsoever.   Susie’s father, Ellsworth, a racecar parts manufacturer, and friend of Parnelli Jones and Mario Andretti, was the physical opposite of my own diminutive, handicapped dad.  A larger-than-life alpha male, USC alum and Trojans fanatic, Mr. Lohn careened through turns in the open dune buggy, pedal to the metal, as I, frozen with fear, tried not to bounce out of the vehicle and into the rocky terrain.  He never slowed as he took his hands off the wheel, grabbed his 38 Special with snake shot ammo, and began firing at rattlesnakes, blowing them to bits.  Plenty of roadkill left behind, and not from the dune buggy’s wheels.   Gentile enough for you?  There’s more.

A terror ride in the dune buggy was just the warm-up.  Then there was the Cessna twin-engine plane, which I had been forbidden to ride in.  Totally off-limits.   But there it was.  Mr. Lohn owned the plane.  It was right there on the runway, ready for us to board.  “Let’s go for a spin,” Els said.  “I can’t.  My parents told me not to,” I squeaked.  Without missing a beat, Susie’s dad insisted he was in charge this weekend and it’s fine for me to go for a ride.  And so I did.  It was fun.  (I was relieved he didn’t open the cockpit window to fire at passing geese.) Not as much fun as it would have been had I gone with my parents’ permission.  I was kind of a goody-goody.  Even though a thirteen-year old doesn’t think about mortality, I knew there must be an awfully good reason that my parents didn’t want me on a small plane.  I understand them now.  Shortly after my own ride in Susie’s dad’s plane, he sold it to one of his oldest and best friends.  A year later, the Cessna crashed in Corona and his friend died.

The Lohn family usually ended the day with a barbecue.   Els, her dad, would gig (spear) frogs in a nearby pond, and toss them onto the grill.  Talk about your fresh farm-to-table.   I ate the frogs’ legs, but Susie thought it too barbaric and refused.  You’d think it would be the other way around, but even at that age I was a thrill seeker when it came to food.  Two of my favorites since age five were escargot and frogs’ legs.

My parents went to their graves never knowing about my thrill-seeking adventures at the Gun Club.  And if my own three kids are reading this, I do not give you permission to ride on the back of a motorcycle or in a small plane.  If you want thrills, go see an action-packed adventure movie.  Or visit a trendy restaurant that doesn’t accept reservations—risky enough behavior in my opinion.

Susie’s amazing parents, Dorothy and Els Lohn

Some restaurants in New York that do not take reservations are: Freemans, Spotted Pig, Babbo, One if by Land, Two if by Sea and Il Mulino.  And, if you have a hankering for frogs legs now there is a retro French Restaurant called Le Petit Chateau in North Hollywood.  Enjoy a recipe from Susie’s mom below.
Pineapple Cheesecake

Crust – crush 18 Graham crackers and mix with 1/2 cube melted butter or
margarine. Put in pie plate.

Filling -4 small packages cream cheese (12 oz)
2 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Blend well and pour into uncooked pie crust.  Bake 22 minutes in a
350 degree oven.  Be careful the crust burns easily.  Let pie cool.

Topping – drain 1 can crushed pineapple (13oz) and fold pineapple and
3T sugar into almost 1 large sour cream.  Pour topping
over cooled pie
and bake 10 minutes.
Refrigerate pie.
Suggestion:  make one day ahead

Dorothy Lohn’s handwriting for her Pineapple Cheesecake Recipe

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28 Responses to “Jews on Motorcycles”

  1. Julie Phalen says:

    Another great story Fredde!

  2. Alice Stambler Seidman says:

    Fredde, I had no idea you and Susie had such a wild life! I also seemed to have mostly non-Jewish friends for some reason, but they didn’t belong to gun clubs! I don’t think I even would have known such a thing existed. I think the most dangerous thing I did was drive with my friend, Juniper’s, mother when she’d been drinking. Although I did ride on the back of Mark Reden’s motorcycle one time. Loved this blog! Also, I live within walking distance of Le Petit Chateau but have never been. If you ever have a hankering for frog’s legs, I’ll meet you there.

  3. Mitch says:

    Great story, Fredde. I never knew Susie was such a wild child. Those were the days. A bunch of us had motorcycles — Hondas, Yamahas and Suzukis, mostly. Apparently Jews were not allowed on Harleys, BSA’s or Triumphs. I only know of one kid who had a Triumph — and he didn’t look Jewish — so I think that’s how he got the bike, though he didn’t have it for very long. They must’ve found out about him.

  4. Adrienne. Radovich Becker says: every story u write.i am been thinking. about something.and i deside wonding wwhat u i read.and its makes my entre day or afternoôn or evening.and have a beautiful and blessed evening.and and miss u.and sending u big OXOXOXOX Love adrienne

  5. Hoov says:

    Ok … Thrill one O one. My mom absolutely made it a law NO MOTORCYCLE’S :: My brother was Bruce McNaghten ; my blood name is McNaghten and Hoover was my mom third husband who adopted me.. Side note my mom first husband died in a car crash right after they were married and another story for another time.. Mom’s second was Mr. McNaghten who was a pilot up until his passing in 1985… He was a WW II pilot and never stopped… So mom who hated little planes like your rents Wakko: had no argument about that.. Back to the motor cycle.. Bruce somehow con Mr. Hoover in to buying him a 175 Honda. Bruce love it and rode it everywhere until one night he rear ended a VW bug rear tire at about 2 miles per hour at a stop sign right in front of Paul Newman’s home… He got a couple of scrape but that was it.. Being in BH though the fire dept. with ambulance came and he took a ride to the BH client next BHHS… Now here is the kicker he was on his way to driving school that evening for a speeding ticket he gotten when he was seeing Holly Hilton.. So poor Bruce had a double whamming .. Bruce lost his driver license and was not able to drive to the Holly’s prom with her and to add salt, they made him go to this driving school… Now here’s my mom had to write an excuse to the State of California for him crashing his bike on his way to driving school.. I would love to have the excuse.. When I was 19 and in Colorado I started racing dirt bikes and went for many years before my mom found out and I was around 22 and had to sell them or they would not pay for college…. Oh well; welcome to the McNaghten ‘s misfits and Yes I am the last however I Just learn how not to get caught.. Great story Wakko. Two thumps UP.. :::: Hoov….

  6. Pauli says:

    Well, somebody ought to buy the movie rights to this blog already. Such vivid, moving images. I love that you are able to see the Fredde you were, and with such love, forgive her and be grateful for everything in your life.

  7. Craig Gordon says:

    Great memories Fredde. I remember that Mitch and I would race around on our Honda 160 street bikes and do all kinds of crazy things. One time in winter we went to Jacks – that was an Army Navy surplus store on Pico in Westwood and we bought some ski masks. Yes there we were riding our motorcycles through west LA wearing our black ski masks. (I have other ski mask stories). Anyway we had a great time on our motorcycles.

    I remember one time when I was racing Bob Resnick through the canyons and we went around a turn at a very high speed and we both almost went over the side of the mountain – it was really close. We were luck to survive it.

    I had a green mustang whose driver’s last name was Zap (not kidding) make a left turn into me at Reeves and Charleville. I was very lucky that I flew over his car and not into it. If the same event occurred today there still would be no way to avoid it – it was as if he was aiming for me.

    I also remember one time when I took out off the line at the green light to go across Beverly Drive at Charleville when a car ran the red light at Beverly Drive. He missed me. I got through the intersection so fast that he skid to a squealing stop behind where I had been.

    Motorcycles aren’t dangerous. The bad drivers, and there is no shortage of them, are what causes a dangerous situation for people on motorcycles.

    Your parents were smart for having that rule. I remember that Erik Gibson’s mom had a rule that he wasn’t allowed on any bikes. She had gone to a psychic and was told he would be killed on a bike. What is interesting is that I don’t think his older brother Paul had the same rule. This rule was just for Erik, may he rest in peace.

    Bob Resnik’s dad, who would ride around with Steve McQueen on some big bikes – Triumphs and BSA’s would always say … If you are going to ride a bike you are going to pay your dues.

    When I was in my 40’s I had an urge to get a bike and start riding again, but I didn’t. I had a teenage son and I knew better.

    I have family and friends that ride and race off road and they have a ton of fun. But although they are rare they do have accidents.

    Motorcycles are fun but you have to use great care and caution.

  8. Doreen says:

    Hey Fredde…’s your turn tonight to do the dishes!! come on over! LOL

  9. libbie aroff-lane says:

    Funny!!!!! Great story Fred! xoxo

  10. Albert says:

    If I’d known Susie’s Dad’s name was ‘Ellsworth’
    I would have gone to the prom alone…g
    BTW: I worked at Kerr’s!
    So sad, the story of friend & plane.

  11. Albert says:

    Pic of Els & Dorothy…looks like he won her and donned
    the checkered flag: The real Aurora Greenway &
    Garrett Breedlove. (Terms of Endearment)

  12. Debbie Schellenberg says:


    I LOVE your stories. How about lunch at the Jonathon Club next week? And then, we can hit the BH gun club? I will include Janet. I would love to catch up!

  13. Debbie Schellenberg says:

    Oh Freddie, forgot to mention, my Dad is a surgeon. He took my brothers and I and a few friends to the UCLA emergency room when I was in 8th or 9th grade to watch the motorcycle victims and play “count the amputees” on the way in. That was a really great way to avoid them! When I was in high school, Scott Copeland had a motorcycle (and I was forbidden as well from riding on one) and drove up to my parents house on Linden. Poor Scott…my very big and scary Dad (not like yours) told Scott that if I ever appeared on that bike again he would shoot us both and throw us into the ocean. I am not sure who was crazier…us or my Dad!

  14. Alan Duke says:

    I think I knew about the motorcycle and plane but not the gun. You have me beat on that one. Now I know why I had such a crush on Susie.

  15. gabri ferrer says:

    i got sweaty hands just reading the dune buggy part…

    and then i remembered that i thought it was great fun to get carlos yeaggy to speed over mulholland with me on the back of his yamaha after we had dropped acid. helmets? who had helmets?

  16. janet graham says:

    love this story fredde. didn’t know suzy lohn was so cool. i’m wondering where she is now and what she’s up to. keep these stories coming. you are so full of rich tales to tell.

  17. Augie Duke says:

    I knew you were a bad bad girl Mom… I love this one

  18. Peter Belanger says:

    Fredde, you were cute as a button at 13 and remain so. Damn good writing as always. I was one of the six goyim you refer to; not so bad until high school and showering. The no-bike rule was obviously a requirement to live in the city; my Dad was adamant too. The one and only time I’ve ever been on a bike was on the back of Bob Burton’s when we had to retrieve my VW bug from El Monte, where it had been towed off of the freeway in front of Ontario Motor Speedway and the California Jam. Bob had bored up his Honda 750 and it was nasty powerful. Very exciting and scary.

  19. Bettsie says:

    Great story, Fred. I guess Susie and I went out there alone for the day many times after she was sixteen and could drive us. Can’t believe we just cruised out there to play for the day and then came home. Probably cruised around looing for “baby” that night. One time her parents had left the Challenger there and Susie and I had to bring it home. I was sixteen and had to choose between Susie’s outrageous Camaro or her Mother’s new Challenger!! I drove the Challenger home and we raced all the way-young and dumb!
    But great memories!!!

  20. Eileen T says:

    Fredde, I never rode a motorcycle in high school, but just as risky, I rode with Patty Jones in Tony Ardagna’s red topless jeep with no seat belts after he had been drinking on the beach all night, speeding on PCH. I was always sick by the time we got to Patty’s parent’s house and she would give me dry toast. Hanging out with Burke, JP, Chris P, and all the other BH Catholic school was risky business! I think I remember Susie’s orange stripe and white camaro.

  21. Susie says:

    Hi Bettsie, I remember rolling the dune buggy into a ditch with you and “baby” on the back. We were at the Gun Club and needed a tow truck to get it out of the ditch. I’m lucky I didn’t kill us, considering I flipped it over on us. I was just learning how to use a stick shift. I’m a much better driver now. Fredde, do you remember us racing on Mulholland?

  22. Bettsie says:

    How about the accident on Mulholland?? What a night!
    Susie- do you facebook??

  23. caryn says:

    Eileen, Tony got drunk? Wait until I tell my brother. He almost beat Warren up the night he threw up all over the house. I’m shocked! I I had only known then what I know now.

  24. Gayle Kirby says:

    How fun to find your post about Els. My husband worked with Els back in the day and I remember what fun he was. Thanks for the little trip down memory lane.

  25. Valentina says:

    Wow, aren’t you glad you had this experience young and lived to talk about it? I’m sorry I wasn’t friends with Susie! I’m half-Jew like you but ALL my close friends at ER and BHHS were Jewish. None of them had guns, motorcycles or airplanes. That came later. I got to ride trails on the back of a friend’s dirt bike. Did my first flight in a small plane with David in Hawaii when he was shooting an aerial sequence. About 20 min in, over water, our pilot Bud insisted I switch seats with David and take the fucking wheel! Talk about terror! But he made his point; I got it that once you’re aloft, you don’t just fall from the sky when someone releases the wheel for a moment. David then earned his pilot’s license… we flew crosscountry to TX and NM, and many local wknd flights. It was great adventure, but I’m not that daring anymore!

  26. Jeff Kraus says:

    Looking for Bruce & Peter – high school reunion next month for Brentwood Academy alumni. Thank you.

  27. DeeDee Lancet says:

    Another fun ride down Fredde’s
    memory lane!

  28. Madeleine Gallay says:

    Love this. I didn’t drive a car until my 20’s, and had a red Hondo 90 in the days of no helmet, freezing ears and until my crash in the then railroad tracks, some spill but weirdly no cars behind me, thought I was immortal. Love this!!!

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