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It’s a sunny Sunday afternoon and dozens of people are browsing among the shelves at Borders Books & Music in Union City, Calif. But this isn’t your typical day in suburbia. Milling around among the soccer moms and blue-haired retirees are troops of big-bearded, tattooed guys in black leather and petite women in oh-so-revealing black tank tops. Bikers all, they’re here to see Ralph “Sonny” Barger, the legendary founder of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club who’s signing copies of his best-selling autobiography. In the midst of this unnatural cultural mix stands Sacramento sole practitioner Fritz Clapp, who brought these two worlds together on this particular day. He’s Barger’s personal attorney and, believe it or not, the Hell’s Angels’ intellectual property lawyer, paid to scare off anyone who dares infringe on the club’s two registered trademarks — the Hell’s Angels’ name and the organization’s classic death’s-head logo. Over the years, Clapp, a biker himself but not a member of the Hell’s Angels, has threatened or sued, among others, Gotcha Sportswear, Marvel Comics and a Southern California porn producer who made a film called “Hell’s Angel: Demon of Lust.” On this day, however, the genial 54-year-old is overseeing Barger’s book signing, chatting amiably with both the fiercest-looking bikers and the chirpiest store officials. He’s at ease in both worlds, showing off the social skills that enable him to appear in court in a suit and tie in the morning and hang out that night with Barger, a guy one St. Louis newspaper dubbed “the biggest badass of them all.” It’s not the life Clapp — born in Tulsa, Okla., and “not from the wrong side of the tracks” — had envisioned for himself, and to this day his biker pals still make his 79-year-old mother, who lives on Maui, uncomfortable. But, he says, his life’s not half bad. “I’ve pretty much always liked to follow my own thing,” says Clapp, decked out this day in tan camouflage pants and a black T-shirt with flames on the sleeves. “I’ve wanted to do things well for people and causes I care about. And I don’t think of my friends as scum of the earth.” That philosophy has taken Clapp to Europe and back on Barger’s extended book tour and it’s now taking him to Hollywood. Clapp and producer Ben Myron — whose most recent movie was 1999′s “The Mod Squad” — are collaborating on turning Barger’s memoirs — “Hell’s Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club” — into a major motion picture. Besides finding money as a co-producer on the project, Clapp also has to make sure the film — already hyped by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter — comes out better than 1967′s “Hell’s Angels on Wheels,” starring Jack Nicholson, and the B-grade “Hell’s Angels ’69.” The Angels didn’t like those movies and have been suspicious of Hollywood ever since. “They had no creative control,” Clapp says. “And as the Hell’s Angels have matured, they’ve not wanted that to happen again.” They’ve also learned the proper way to go about protecting their trademarks. It’s one thing to tell some guy to take a Hell’s Angels emblem off his jacket, Clapp says, but it’s another to take on an entire company. “It wasn’t feasible for the Hell’s Angels to go beat them up,” he says. “They needed a lawyer.” Clapp, who rides a red 1995 Harley Davidson with a custom frame, got the job in 1992 while working as a lobbyist for the Modified Motorcycle Association of California, a group that fights restrictive legislation such as the helmet laws most bikers hate. The club’s charter chapter in Oakland, Calif., interviewed him, and he won the members over with his plainspoken manner and take-no-prisoners attitude. “They grilled me on several things, including asking what I’d do if someone infringed on the club’s trademark,” Clapp recalls. “I told them I’d send a cease-and-desist letter, and they said, ‘What if they persist?’ and I said, ‘Well, I’d sue their ass.’ And that was the right thing to say.” Like most bikers, Clapp is wary of the cops, which was evident at the Union City book signing as he glared at the five police officers stationed at the store’s entrance. And that means a lot to Hell’s Angels like James “Guinea” Colucci, a tall, gruff guy with long gray hair who looks as if he could take on the entire Union City police force by himself. “I hate the f—ing FBI, and so does he,” Colucci, the Hell’s Angels’ Oakland-based chief financial officer, growls during the book signing. “He’s a no-nonsense lawyer.” Clapp says the Hell’s Angels’ fearsome reputation is well-deserved, but that at the same time they live by a code of loyalty and honesty that mainstream America can respect. That’s true, says James “Jamie” Sutton, a San Rafael, Calif., sole practitioner who defended the Hell’s Angels in criminal cases in the 1980s. “What you find are a bunch of guys who have regular jobs, but like to go ride bikes on the weekends,” he says. “But it’s also a brotherhood of some considerable strength, and it’s bound together pretty tightly.” Clapp had to prove his mettle with a tough case his first year with the club. New York-based Marvel Enterprises Inc. had begun publishing a new comic book titled “Hell’s Angel.” After the company virtually ignored his cease-and-desist letter, Clapp filed suit in federal court. “But rather than answer [the complaint] and defend, they filed a motion to dismiss, saying the Hell’s Angels had no good will to protect,” Clapp says. “The whole theory of trademark law is good will, so if they say you have no good will, it’s a slap in the face.” To make matters worse, Marvel hired a high-powered New York law firm that came out gunning. “Boy, was I nervous!” Clapp says. “It was my first big case for the Hell’s Angels and I was facing this megafirm bringing a case on a novel theory. I would have been in the toilet with my clients if I lost.” Fortunately for Clapp, the mediator in the case sided with the Hell’s Angels. Marvel then changed the comic’s name to “Dark Angel” after only five issues and ponied up $35,000, which the Angels donated to Ronald McDonald House Charities. The donation was the mediator’s idea, Clapp says, because Marvel was balking at paying money to the Hell’s Angels, of all groups. “But we got what we wanted,” Clapp says. Carol Platt, Marvel’s director of intellectual property and publishing rights, didn’t respond to telephone calls or e-mail inquiries. Clapp’s next big case for the Angels came against Irvine, Calif.-based Gotcha Sportswear, which had put a death’s-head logo on surfer hats. “It had been clearly copied,” Clapp says. “Not every skull with wings is actionable, you know.” Clapp says he won the case by producing an editorial cartoon by then- Sacramento Bee cartoonist Dennis Renault, which showed a death’s-head logo on a generic drawing concerning helmet laws. “That was evidence that it was publicly recognized [as the Hell's Angels' logo],” Clapp says. “If it can be satirized, you have to know what the underlying thing is.” The federal court judge agreed, Clapp says, and Gotcha settled for an undisclosed amount. The Hell’s Angels also have sued a New York-based clothing company for selling a high-end leather jacket called the “Hell’s Angel” and a recreational manufacturer for putting a Hell’s Angel bomber plane on a snowboard. Both settled. The leather jacket case got written up in Adweek, Clapp says, and that “did more good than 50 cease-and-desist letters. It got the word out that we were not kidding around.” Clapp’s home base is an office on Arden Way in North Sacramento, Calif., a working-class neighborhood of small businesses that looks like it’s seen better days. Shuttered shops abound and businesses like Sammy’s Family Restaurant sit only a block from places like Goldie’s Adult Video. It’s the perfect neighborhood, though, for an intellectual property lawyer with a down-home manner and an unorthodox outlook on life. Clapp graduated from nearby McGeorge School of Law and received his license in 1981. “I could have made a living if I moved to Santa Clara, but I didn’t know that at the time,” Clapp says. “And I liked Sacramento, so I stayed and, oh well … .” That decision is fine by Anne Cox, director of the Children’s Protection & Advocacy Coalition, a group that tries to protect kids from pedophiles. Four years ago after seeing a story about Clapp in the Sacramento Bee, she asked him to represent her and has had no regrets. “He seemed rather direct and he seemed to be a resilient person and a little fighter,” she says. “I really liked that spirit.” Clapp represents Cox on all fronts, and has helped her shut down Web sites that encourage child pornography. “She really goes after pedophiles and pornography with a vengeance,” he says. Clapp handles a few other cases now and then, but these days most of his time is devoted to Barger. And that’s a lot of work. He put so much time into Barger’s book that he’s the first person ghostwriters Keith and Kent Zimmerman listed in the acknowledgments. Clapp helped by writing the foreword and doing things like preventing one editor from inserting “the F-word” into the text a lot. “Sonny doesn’t really talk that way,” Clapp explains. The book tour has been time-consuming, with part of it in Europe and a portion following the old American Route 66. And now the work on the movie is getting so hectic that it looks like Clapp will have to move to Los Angeles. But he doesn’t really mind. “Doing good work for a boring celebrity,” he says, “wouldn’t be as fun as doing good work for an exciting celebrity like Sonny. He’s an American legend.” Barger didn’t return telephone calls for this story. But Clapp says the famed biker — who talks through a hole in his throat as a result of cancer surgery — is one of the two people he cares about most in the world. The other is his mom. Even so, Clapp sometimes has to look around and laugh out loud. “I didn’t anticipate that representing the Hell’s Angels was going to be the pinnacle of my career,” he says. “I couldn’t have imagined that even if I’d taken drugs.”

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