Pepper Massey life story could be called “All Roads Lead To The Black Hills.” From Rhode Island where she was born, to Canada where she followed her mother, to Florida where she became a single mother, to California where she arrived pennyless after a failed marriage and without the means the buy a car for transportation and consequently becoming a biker by necessity, to South Dakota that she visited for the 1st time in 1985, her life has followed a path full of personal and professional struggles but also of many huge successes making her today one of the most sought-after Motorcycle Industry Consultant.
In Los Angeles, at the age of 25, a Honda 450 was the only thing she could afford to go to work, and it’s the way, recommended by a co-worker impressed by her riding skills, that she found her first motorcycle related job, working for Richard Lester, specializing in biker rights, a business conducive to attract new clients. There, Pepper Massey started to write her first press releases and articles regarding motorcycle rights and got her first experience with public speaking engagements. In the recently published excellent book “Biker Chicz Of North America“, Pepper explains “It was not long before I came to understand that my path had brought me to a very good place. This felt like a great opportunity, possibly a career with a future, a place I might make a difference.”
And what a difference she made as soon as she understood the importance of promoting motorcycle safety riding courses, as she discovered the discrimination against motorcyclists, as she realized the intrusion of the government legislation into motorcycle rights. At MRO, at NCOM and its affiliate, the Confederation of Clubs, she created a grassroots movement and succeeded in eroding discrimination against all bikers, including patch holders. She also became a regular contributing writer to motorcycle publications such as Easyriders, Super Cycle, Thunder Press, etc.
After 11 years on this job, she resigned when she perceived the conflict of interest between her employer, the Lester’s law firm suing motorcycle manufacturers for failing to incorporate leg protectors in their models while she was assisting in the fight against anti-motorcycle legislation. Because of her high integrity, of her enthusiasm for the biker lifestyle and the solid reputation she acquired in the motorcycle industry as an excellent writer and convincing orator defending biker rights and getting positive results for them, Pepper had no problem finding employment anywhere a key player was needed to advance the cause of all motorcyclists. After choosing a 2-year retail experience opportunity at LA Laidlaw Harley-Davidson, and already a frequent visitor to South Dakota where she fell in love the high spiritual energy of the Native Americans sacred places, she jumped at the opportunity to become the Executive Director Of The National Motorcycle Museum Hall Of Fame in Sturgis.
In 2002, she became the publisher of the Meade CountyTimes Tribune where, in addition to her duties to managing and collaborating the efforts of the editorial staff, she was responsible for special Sturgis Motorcycle Rally edition content, design and promotion. Strong of all her experiences in the motorcycle industry she got another dream job as Rally Department Director of the city of Sturgis, making sure that Police, Parks and Street departments had everything in control to welcome bikers during the event. She has also created her own consulting firm and is the Fundraiser Director at Dahl Arts Center. Her path around the USA led her to the Black Hills, and now that she has found the place in the country where she feels more in tune with, no doubt that Pepper is going to travel many more roads in South Dakota, all leading in one way or the other to more involvement with the motorcycle industry, always passionately promoting our sport and defending all of us with both charm and tenacity.
Cyril. Who were your childhood heroes? Pepper. John Wayne
Cyril. When you were a teenager you wanted to become a? Pepper. Journalist. Wrote all the time.
Cyril. Tell me about your first time on a motorcycle? Pepper. Early 70’s. I was hanging with some school friends and a couple of guys rode up on bikes and began talking to one of my friends. They looked incredibly cool with dark glasses and leather jackets, all laid back on those choppers. I imagine I was staring, or maybe flirting, and one of them asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. I think I was 14 – guess what I said… I don’t remember the guy’s name, or what he looked like, but I’ll never forget the bike or the ride. Triumph chopper, the sound, the smell. Everything looked and felt different when I was on that bike. It was raked and stretched with a King/Queen seat and my knees were up around my chin. I had a sore back the next day from that bloody seat but it was one of those moments in my life that forever changed me.
Cyril. If you were not active in the motorcycle industry, what would you do? Pepper. I’d be in art world. Not much of a leap, really. So much of the motorcycle industry is about art and the creative people who design, promote and market motorcycles, parts, clothing, brands and events. If you took art out of the motorcycle industry you wouldn’t have an industry. Motorcycles are pieces of art. Bikes out of the crates are just the beginning, some would say, a blank canvas. The same could be said for the creation and design of all the aftermarket bits we put on, the cloths we wear, the ads and banners we design, and the logos that identify us as who we are. Granted, working at a community arts centre is very different from running the Sturgis rally or the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum, but the similarities are present every day from the passion and energy of the artists to the excitement of the people that embrace and admire their work. Making art accessible to people, kids and adults, who haven’t felt they have a place in that world, that’s pretty rewarding.
Cyril. What is your favorite way to relax? Pepper. Reading a book with a great Cabernet. Fire in the winter. Deck in the summer.
Cyril. What is the last music you downloaded in your iPod? Pepper. Dare I admit it, don’t have an iPod
Cyril. Best and worst quality? Pepper. A ridiculous (and sometimes annoyingly so) optimist. On the dark side I’ve have to admit that I have an interesting relationship with time. My mother once said that I was born late and that set me off in a bad direction. I don’t think it’ll surprise anyone when I state publicly that I am almost always late!
Cyril. Preferred actor and actress? Pepper. I’m certain Johnny Depp wants me to have his children. He’s beautiful, and talented. Denzel Washington, Harrison Ford, Cary Grant, Tommy Lee Jones. Strong beautiful men, and women interest me. Love Angelina Jolie and Helen Mirren, Annette Benning, Judi Dench, Meryl Streep. Can’t say I have a particular favorite.
Cyril. What are you afraid of? Pepper. Fire and the ocean. I love looking at the ocean, watching it, smelling it, but not being IN it. I’m not a very good swimmer and I’m absurdly afraid of sharks. Ridiculous as it sounds, read Jaws and then, after I was frightened out of my wits, went and saw the film! I just don’t go in the water. I was burned pretty severely as a child and have a fear of fire also. The whole fire and water thing is interesting though, don’t you think? Now if you asked me where I felt most comfortable I’d say having my two feet planted on earth. I’m a bird watcher and not afraid of flying and do it often, but have never dreamed about space and flying off into the air in search of life somewhere else. My fear of the ocean would preclude me from underwater exploration as much as I am fascinated watching the creatures that live there. I’m a tree hugger, love trees, and gardening and hiking, riding, love the creatures that inhabit it, many of the things associated with the earth. It gives me energy, grounds me and balances me. I appreciate and respect the life cycle, of four seasons, and am in awe each time the earth renews itself in the spring and then put’s itself to rest in the fall. It’s all magical to me.
Cyril. What is your type of biker? Intelligent and passionate. Pepper. I can spot a poser 100 meters away! Oh, and respect yourself enough to bathe. No dirty finger nails please.
Cyril. What is the person you would love to meet? Pepper. My father.
Cyril. We are having dinner together. Steakhouse, Italian, Thai, Sushi, French or Vegetarian? Pepper. Raw fish, Baby.
Cyril. Do you have any tattoos or piercings? Pepper. Two piercings in each ear. And one tattoo, sort of… Percy Lane stabbed me with his sharpened pencil in grade 6. He did it as a sign of affection. We never did hook up, but I always thought he was cute.
Cyril. If you would ask me to build a custom, which style? Pepper. Cruiser. FXR or FXD frame. Not too long, black matte paint w/gloss detail. Having said that… at a sport bike conference this weekend and looking seriously at street fighters.
Cyril. Which film made you cry? Pepper. Almost every film, and a few commercials! It’s a little embarrassing.
Cyril. What is your best life achievement? Pepper. Putting my daughter on the planet.
Cyril. If you would be a season, which one? Pepper. Autumn
Cyril. What do you miss most at home when you are in a rally? Pepper. My bed. I have a Tempur-Pedic. I’d be a great spokesperson.
Cyril. What was the last book you read? Pepper. Winning by Jack Welch
Cyril. Where is your favorite vacation place? Pepper. Europe
Cyril. Do you have any guilty pleasures? Pepper. Oh yeah!
Cyril. Do you collect anything? Pepper. Boxes. I have loads of little boxes.
Cyril. What was your worst buy? Pepper. Hmmmm. Don’t have an answer for this one. Sorry.
Cyril. What was the most embarrassing thing you have ever made? Pepper. Meatloaf.
Cyril. What is the best thing you can cook? Pepper. A cheese plate with grapes, salami and crusty French bread
Cyril. When was the time you were really angry? Pepper. When I was offered a “choice” between leaving and being let go at the rally department because they didn’t like my politics. And they got to put out the press release!
Cyril. What is your perfect weekend when you are at home? Pepper. Sleeping in; digging in the garden; hike in the woods; ride on a warm sunny day; sitting on the deck watching the sunset and birds feed, with a good glass of wine and a Dirt cigar; hot tub; and being made love to at least once.
Cyril. What is your preferred rally? Pepper. Sturgis. The first time I set eyes on the Hills I fell in love and I’ve never recovered. Ok, loved the TTs on the Isle of Man, so I guess I’m conflicted.
Cyril. What is the worst question a journalist asked you? Pepper. This one, Silly Goose!
For all curious minds. How Pepper was called Pepper? Her given name is Priscilla. People always wanted to shorten her name like Pris, Prissy, Cilla, Cilly, Percy, Pepsi, PM (!). A school friend was moving away and wanted to write to her. She always mispelled her name, which frustrated her and made her promise she wouldn’t anymore. Rather than learning how to spell correctly her name she decided to find a new one. She thought of things that began with a P that reminded her. Out of all the names she has been called, the name Pepper stuck. Might be because she was known to be sassy, passionate and opinionated, speaking her mind…