What does it feel like when someone that you look up to does something wrong? When one of your role models, a hero of yours turns into a bad guy overnight?
I thought I would never be able to answer these questions, or even find a day when I might have to. My thoughts go back to a night that I saw a little boy treated very bad by his hero. I was at a Alice Cooper concert at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. I remember standing outside by a large RV bus that Alice Cooper was in waiting to get a picture of him. As the door of the bus opens out comes Jake “the Snake” Roberts with some bimbo looking chick. This kid, a boy, around 10 or 11 walks up to him and asks for an autograph. I watched as tears ran down the boys face after this creep that once was a superstar pushed him aside saying “not right now kid”! The poor kid was so upset.
Recently, I had one of my heroes turn bad guy. It hurt the kid inside of me, while the adult part is furious. Billy Lane a famous chopper builder that has been on Discovery channel shows like the biker build-off and monster garage lives and works in my hometown of Melbourne, Florida. Billy owns Choppers Inc. so I go there quite often to photograph his work and occasionally even the east coast chopper kingpin himself.
Over the past few years of doing this I came to admire Billy’s work and style. It felt good to see and document his work from scratch to finish. One day while I was at the Choppers Inc. shop, my wife and I got to meet Billy Lane and take pictures with him. That was one thing that I really respected about the man was that he was very approachable as a celebrity. I never seen him not take the time to at least acknowledge his fans when they came to visit the shop. Many days I have seen entire families come to the place hoping to see Billy in person. Almost always they would walk out with a bag full of tee shirts, posters and books as souvenirs of the day they visited Choppers Inc.
On Tuesday September 5th, I learned that Billy Lane was involved in an accident. My first thoughts were of him getting hit on one of his bikes. However, as I read the article in the Florida Today newspaper, I found that Billy Lane was injured. It was Billy that had carelessly crossed a double yellow line on A1A trying to pass 2 vehicles that struck and killed a 56 year old man riding his Yamaha motor scooter. He also had a passenger in the truck with him that worked at Choppers Inc. that was injured. Both Billy and the passenger were released from the hospital after being treated for their injuries. While the man, Gerry Morelock who was riding his motor scooter was killed instantly. It is alleged at this time that Billy was not only driving reckless, but he may have been impaired by alcohol as well. Shame on you Billy! To take the live of a brother in the motorcycle community by being careless is bad enough. But if you had been drinking to the point that it affected your decisions? I along with many other of your fans are discussed with you.
I took a ride today out to where this incident took place. I was thinking that maybe it was a case were there was broken lines and it turned into a double yellow before one could get back over. That is not the case at all! The area where this happened is not only doubled line, it involves turning lanes as well. It would be hard to say that it was bad timing or a case of not enough time to get back over. No one should pass in this area at all. This was no more than a case of total disrespect and negligence. I have lost all my respect for this man. To make matters worse, Billy has not come forward to his public and the members of the biker community to make a statement. It is more as though he is in hiding and makes the incident look even worse, if it could be.
One thing that has come out of this for me is a big lesson on making choices. I learned that we must take our time in making a choice remembering that when you make a wrong choice the outcome can effect many lives. Billy made the wrong decission passing in that area of A1A and it cost a life, the life of a motorcyclist. His choice will also have a effect on others like me. People that respected him and looked up to him as one of the best chopper builders in the world. People that looked at Billy Lane as a hero and celebrity. That has all been lost now by making a poor choice. A choice to do what? Save a second or two on your way home that was only a mile away. What a shame that now you must hide from the people that once loved you.
My greatest sympathy and prayers go out to the family of Gerry Morelock for the needless end of his life. And to Gerry Morelock, rest in peace.
I also pray for Billy!! I don’t hate him, I hate what happened.
I know that it was not intentional and that Billy is having a very hard time dealing with what has happened. I wish that he would just come forward and say something. Maybe, if he did, his fans would have a better understanding.
This incident has caused a great deal of loss. My sincere hope of healing goes out to all.