Sonny Barger, Hells Angel Turned Sons of Anarchy Guest Star, Dead at 83

Photo: Ted Soqui/Corbis via Getty Images

Sonny Barger, a Hells Angel known for his role on Sons of Anarchy, died of cancer on June 29 at age 83. “If you are reading this message, you’ll know that I’m gone,” said Barger in a pre-written post to his Facebook page. “I’ve asked that this note be posted immediately after my passing. I’ve lived a long and good life filled with adventure. And I’ve had the privilege to be part of an amazing club. Although I’ve had a public persona for decades, i’ve mostly enjoyed special time with my club brothers, my family, and close friends … But also know that in the end, I was surrounded by what really matters: My wife, Zorana, as well as my loved ones.”

Barger was a founding member of the Oakland, California, chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and one of the group’s best-known faces. He appeared in books like Tom Wolfe’s era-defining Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which cemented Barger’s legacy as a representative of the countercultural force. Barger appeared in the biker drama Sons of Anarchy in a three-episode arc as Lenny “The Pimp” Janowitz. On the show, Lenny is a founding member of the motorcycle club SAMCRO — aligning with Barger’s real life.

Barger is perhaps most notorious for being a part of the Rolling Stones’ team of Hells Angels security during the band’s infamous 1969 Altamont concert, which turned fatal after the crowd and members of the Hells Angels became frenzied in the lead-up to the Stones’ set. Barger later blamed the band in his autobiography, Hell’s Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club, in which he claimed he had forced Keith Richards to play the concert at gunpoint.

Sonny Barger, Hells Angel Turned SOA Guest Star, Dead at 83