Since he left us in 2004 many articles and books have been published to honor the life and work of Indian Larry. As good as they may be, none of them contains such a deep investigative work to help understand a very complex and talented man as this Special Commemorative Issue written by Chris Callen, publisher of the grassroots magazine Cycle Source. It takes more than nice pictures spread on glossy paper and a few anecdotes to really understand an artist, any of them. And it’s especially true when you assign yourself the task of making the public at large understand why Indian Larry DeSmed became much more than a celebrated builder, an inspiration and a custom culture icon for the generations to come.
This book is not about his custom bikes, but about the man, the reasons for his art expressed in hand-fabricated choppers and much more. Chris Callen starts his narrative by looking at Larry’s troubled teenage years, at his parental denied first passion for mechanical matters, at letters to and from his family, at his drug abuse, at him being thrown to jail for 2 years for bank robbery, at his discovery of philosophy and learning how to weld while he was serving time, at his decisive encounter with his companion Bambi, at his contribution to the New York Chopper Scene in the East Village, at the creation of Psycho Cycles, at decisive meetings with English Don then Paul Cox, then at his switch to a new shop called American Dream Machine where in 98 he met Keino Sasaki, leading in 2000 to the creation of his own Brooklyn business called Gasoline Alley. Then the time when Indian Larry became a household name by being invited by Jesse James to join the ride in TV show Motorcycle Mania 2, then participating to a Biker Build-Off series.
It can be quite surprising to many that a talented custom motorcycle builder like Indian Larry could be called “The Chopper Shaman”. Larry, an intermediary between the human and spirit worlds? Able to treat illness and capable of entering supernatural realms to obtain answers to the problems of the human being? Yes, because even if the man was very far from perfect, with a very both complex and rich personality, with a tough growing up, living a hard life, wrestling with demons and fighting hell, he eventually got a spiritual awakening to become a serene man to teach others how to handle life…and build cool Choppers.
So, to understand the Shaman, Chris Callen met with his mother, sister, friends of the good and bad times, his companion, his co-workers in the shops where he improved his skills then shared them with others at his “Gasoline Alley” Brooklyn shop. Under eccentric ways Chris discovered a simple man in constant pursuit of knowledge to answer his own philosophical questions, always faithful to himself and to his own surprise amazed by the sudden celebrity he got through TV. From a very little space under the stairs (only 5′ wide by 18′ long), Indian Larry was able to produce some of the most acclaimed, choppers, demonstrating that hard work, talent & passion, not sophisticated machines, are the main necessary ingredients to produce superb creations. To many he remains a custom motorcycle building inspiration, but after reading this Chris Callen Indian Larry Special Edition, you will be convinced, like me, that Larry became legendary for many other reasons than only his mechanical abilities. This Special Issue is a must read and it is illustrated with some never seen before pictures of renown photographers like Mike Lichter, Timothy White, Clay Patrick McBride and Tom Zimberoff. Pre-ordered copies are being sent today (you can still order online at Cycle Source Magazine). In newsstands at Barnes & Noble beginning of February.