Band Of Brothers

Band Of Brothers

Photography by M. Sharkey

In 1964, the year the Empire City Motorcycle Club came into being, New York City hosted the World’s Fair; the Ford Mustang, the sexiest car ever made, began rolling off the assembly line; and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, making it illegal to discriminate based on race, religion, or sex, but not sexual orientation. New Yorkers were still several years away from transforming the gay liberation movement with the riots at Stonewall. Indeed, there were very few places on earth where a group of gay men could convene and feel free.

“We kept a low profile,” says 81-year-old Emil Solis (not pictured), who joined ECMC with his partner, Bill, in June 1965. “It was a very dangerous time. People had jobs and apartments. There was no protection. You could be fired or evicted if your boss or landlord decided so.”

SLIDESHOW | EMPIRE CITY MOTORCYCLE CLUB

For some, the rewards of membership were worth the risk. While these bikers certainly share an appreciation for the hyper-masculine — the leather, Levi’s, and muscular motorbikes — the real appeal, then as now, is the camaraderie. Eddie Murphy, a retired New York City police detective and a member of the ECMC for nearly two decades, says, “If any one of us is in trouble or needs something, we’re there. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.”

EmpireMotoClub11

Top row, left to right: Eddie Murphy,
Michael Conley, Ed Caraballo, Joe Mitchell, Chaz
Antonelli, Giorgio DeAlmeida, Earl Driscoll, Mark Wind
and Scot Michael Laney. Bottom row: Darryl Smith, Gary
Papouschek, Will Cordero and Gene Knox

Top row, left to right: Eddie Murphy, Michael Conley, Ed Caraballo, Joe Mitchell, Chaz Antonelli, Giorgio DeAlmeida, Earl Driscoll, Mark Wind & Scot Michael Laney. Bottom row: Darryl Smith, Gary Papouschek, Will Cordero & Geno Knox

“The most important part is the sense of family and belonging and brotherhood,” says Mark Wind, 67, a psychologist with a practice in Manhattan and the club’s longest active member. Wind joined the ECMC in 1975, when “the stereotype for being a gay man was being effeminate,” he says. “It was important for me to break that stereotype, just as becoming a gay professional was important to me at a time when being gay was linked to very fringy-type people.”

Ed Caraballo, 46, the current president of the club, likes to think of it as a celebration of masculinity. “It’s being who I am, being comfortable with who I am. In order to be sexy, you have to feel sexy. You have to be confident. You have to feel sure of yourself. People are attracted to that.”

If, in the 21st century, the American road can still liberate us the way it once mythically did, then the motorcycle is the ultimate ticket to freedom. For many of us, the romance of losing oneself this way begins as soon as we learn to ride a bicycle. Most of us grow up and abandon ideas of navigating winding roads at high speeds on nothing more than two wheels. But for a brave few, the thrill of the open air and the rush of the wind feel as close as the polished chrome machines in the garage.

FOLLOW M.SHARKEY on INSTAGRAM

>>>CLICK THROUGH FOR MORE PHOTOS

EmpireMotoClub04

Ed "Evil Ed" Caraballo (b. 1968)

2007 Harley Davidson Dyna Wide Glide

Favorite part of being in the club: “The camaraderie and brotherhood from my club brothers. There is a bond among us that makes you feel right at home whenever we’re together.”

Ed Caraballo

EmpireMotoClub03

Darryl Smith (b. 1967)

2012 Suzuki Boulevard C50t cruiser

Favorite part of being in the club: “It's the comradeship we have together. We are more like a family… we talk about things in our lives, experiences, etc.”

Dream ride: “Riding from New York to California, taking in all the sights."

Darryl Smith

EmpireMotoClub05

Eddie Murphy (b. 1949)

2013 Harley Davidson Fatboy Lo

Favorite part of being in the club: “Riding, Events, Brotherhood. To me brotherhood is difficult to describe. It’s a deep love and feeling you get when you know you're with a group of guys that always have your back. They will be there when you fall to pick you up both physically and emotionally. Other clubs feel it when they are with us. It’s like being a teenager hanging out on a park bench sharing stories, laughter, memories. It’s an amazing feeling being with all my brothers in ECMC.”

Eddie Murphy

EmpireMotoClub06

Chaz Antonelli (b. 1966)

2004 Yamaha Road Star, 1700 V-Twin with custom work

Favorite part of being in the club: “The close camaraderie and brotherhood — essentially they're my family.”

Dream ride: “A European tour.”

Chaz Antonelli

EmpireMotoClub07

Scot Michael Laney (b. 1958)

2003 Harley Davidson Dyna Superglide (100th year anniversary model)

Favorite part of being in the club: “Being on the road, the camaraderie with other riders and being with a group of men I know will have my back.”

Scot Michael Laney

EmpireMotoClub08

Mark Wind (b. 1947)

1996 Harley Davidson, Road King (FLHRI)

Favorite part of being in the club: “Camaraderie.”

Dream ride: “Renting a Harley in Maui, Hawaii and touring the island.”

Mark Wind

EmpireMotoClub09

Gary Papouschek (b. 1963)

2005 Kawasaki z750s

Favorite part of being in the club: “The brotherhood, the riding, the fun destinations and events at the other end of our ride.”

Dream ride: “One: to rent a motorcycle in Berlin and travel to Prague. Two: Travel north to Maine, catch a ferry to Nova Scotia."

Gary Papouschek

EmpireMotoClub10

Will Cordero (b. 1984)

1994 Kawasaki Vulcan

Favorite part of being in the club: “Brotherhood and riding.”

Dream ride: “A Harley Wide Glide would be my dream motorcycle. My dream ride would be San Diego to San Francisco on the coast.”

Will Cordero

EmpireMotoClub12

Giorgio DeAlmeida (b. 1963)

2009 Harley Davidson Rocker C

Favorite part of being in the club: “Riding with my brothers, feeling of freedom and attending charitable events.”

Dream ride: “Definitely Trail of Mountain Spirits Byway, New Mexico.”

Giorgio DeAlmeida

EmpireMotoClub13

Joe Mitchell (b. 1975)

2011 Suzuki M109R

Favorite part of being in the club: “Brotherhood and rides.”

Dream ride: “Along Pacific Coast Highway into the North West.”

Joe Mitchell

EmpireMotoClub17

“We kept a low profile,” says 81-year-old Emil Solis (not pictured), who joined ECMC with his partner, Bill, in June 1965. “It was a very dangerous time. People had jobs and apartments. There was no protection. You could be fired or evicted if your boss or landlord decided so.”

Motorcycles Rotators

SLIDESHOW OF IMAGES OF EMPIRE CITY MOTORCYCLE CLUB

Latest videos on Out

From our Sponsors

READER COMMENTS ()