'Wino Willie' Forkner, biker who inspired 'The Wild One,' 78
Jun. 25, 1997
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ ``Wino Willie'' Forkner, the central figure in a rowdy motorcycle club that inspired the 1953 Marlon Brando movie ``The Wild One,'' has died. He was 78.
Forkner died of heart disease in a Santa Rosa hospital on Monday night, the Los Angeles Times reported today.
Forkner was one of the first members of the Boozefighters, a South-Central Los Angeles biker gang that earned a reputation for rowdiness on the July 4 weekend in 1947 in Hollister, a small town near Monterey.
A photograph of the event in Life magazine gave the public a menacing image of bikers. Forkner complained that the media exaggerated, but reveled in his reputation as the Original Wild One.
``The Wild One'' was released six years later, starring Brando, Mary Murphy, Robert Keith and Lee Marvin. The film became a cult classic.
In an interview Sunday night, he said he was looking forward to returning to Hollister on July 4 for the 50th anniversary of the event.
``Going to Hollister is what is keeping me alive,'' Forkner said from his home in Fort Bragg, Calif.
He had hoped to lead a motorcycle rally through the streets of Hollister at the commemoration, which was expected to attract more than 100,000 people.
Forkner grew up in Fresno, where he earned his nickname at age 12 for drinking red wine. He soon developed a love of motorcycles.
In World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps.
Forkner is survived by Teri, his wife of 56 years; three children; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.