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Sons of Anarchy ride into Lathrop
FX show cast draws thousands of bikers
Sons of Anarchy cast members, from left, Theo Rossi (Juice), a fan, and Charlie Hunnam (Jax) pose for a cell phone photo. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

LATHROP – You aren’t going to find the California city of Charming by looking on any conventional map.

But for several hours on Sunday afternoon, thousands of bikers and fans of the motorcycle club the “Sons of Anarchy of California Redwood Original” – the fictional group portrayed in the fictional town in FX’s cable TV’s hit action/drama ‘Sons of Anarchy’ – blurred the lines between reality and fiction as they ascended on Eagles Nest Harley Davidson in Lathrop to meet some of the key members of the cast.

Charming might as well have been right outside that front gate.

And in a sense it was.

Show creator Kurt Sutter – who portrays the incarcerated “Big Otto Delaney” serving time in Stockton during portions of the season and was one of the six cast members there to greet fans – wrote the script to portray the city as one within the confines of San Joaquin County.

While the town itself appears to be located close to the foothills – with the rugged terrain and quaint remoteness providing a stark contrast for the home of what some would consider to be an outlaw motorcycle gang – several of the scenes were shot in Lodi and in surrounding areas and references to the town as well as Stockton and other Northern California cities such as Escalon are quite common.

So regardless of what colors the bikers were wearing on the back of their “cut” on Sunday, this show was their show – this town was their town.
They too came from far and wide to be a part of the action.

Traffic along Harlan Road began to slow considerably as bikes backed in to open spaces to create what seemed like an endless line of gleaming clear-coat and polished chrome, and the majority of the neighborhoods around Eagle’s Nest were completely filled with fans who poured into the parking lot of the Lathrop Harley dealership.

What made Sunday the most special, however, wasn’t the fact that the star of the show was signing autographs and posing for photos with fans, but that this was the only promotional stop that FX had planned prior to the premier of the show’s second season on Sept.8.

The sheer number of people waiting in the mid-day heat was mind-boggling for a cable network show that had only one complete season under its belt (although it was an incredible season, and Sutter had writing credits on the amazingly complex FX series “The Shield.”)

Even though I’m not a parent, it’s suffice to say that this definitely isn’t a kids show – the amount of drugs, guns, sex, violence, and questionable language is close to rivaling that of rivaling just about any season of “The Sopranos”.

But it’s the underworld aspect and the complex adult storyline that makes “Sons of Anarchy” such an undeniable draw.

“In The Shield”, Detective Vic Mackey forces the viewer to make moral decisions about his own questionable behavior – whether bending the rules and in some cases flat-out breaking the law in order to get dangerous criminals off the street.

The Sons takes on a Shakespearian approach to its storyline with Jackson Teller – more than likely portraying the young Prince Hamlet – caught in a struggle over his own convictions that differ from those of his Chapter President (Jax serves as VP) who also happens to be his deceased father’s best friend and the current husband of his wife.

And amidst all of the plot twists, the action sequences, the monumental build-ups, and the exceptional acting we get a glimpse of what the life of an outlaw biker might actually be like.

From the looks of the lot and the line at Terry Davis’ dealership on Sunday, the portrayal of the one-percenters (a term used to describe outlaw bikers after the American Motorcycle Association said that 99 percent of all motorcycle riders were upstanding citizens) didn’t offend the real club enough to keep them from coming to get their autographs and their photos.

After all – this was our outlaw motorcycle club situated right in our backyard.

And that was more than enough to bring out the masses.

To contact Jason Campbell e-mail, or call (209) 249-3544.