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These Sons Of Anarchy Actors Were Part Of The Hells Angels In Real Life

For seven action-packed seasons, Sons of Anarchy took viewers on a joy ride through the world of the titular outlaw motorcycle club — that is, if we consider joy rides to include drug smuggling, weapons trafficking, prostitution, and enough killing to wipe out the population of a small town. Along the way, fans got to know the lovely members of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club's Redwood Original chapter, affectionately referred to by the acronym SAMCRO. In addition to the colorful cast of characters, viewers got to see some pretty cool bikes on Sons of Anarchy — because an action-crime drama series about a motorcycle club that didn't feature motorcycles would seem a bit lacking in authenticity.

When it comes to authenticity on Sons of Anarchy, series creator Kurt Sutter did his level best to keep things as real as possible, short of actual murder. But fans have pointed to some mistakes in Sons of Anarchy, as fans are wont to do. In order to keep things as accurate as possible in portraying life in an outlaw motorcycle gang — or OMG as the United States Justice Department used to call them (OMG, LOL!) — Sutter enlisted his first real-life member of the Hells Angels MC as a technical consultant, after which several were cast in roles as recurring characters. 

Here are the Sons of Anarchy cast members who were in the Hells Angels in real life.

David Labrava played Happy Lowman on Sons of Anarchy

Before taking on the role of your favorite hitman and the club's sergeant-at-arms, David Labrava was initially hired as a consultant for Sons of Anarchy. According to FX (via archive.org), "David was hired to be the technical advisor at the show's inception, and after Kurt Sutter met David, he cast him on the show, and he has served both roles ever since." In fact, Labrava even co-wrote episode 10, entitled "Hands," of Sons of Anarchy season 4, which, FX notes, TIME called the best episode of the season. In addition to being a screenwriter, Labrava is also a tattoo artist and mechanic, whose work has been featured in national automotive magazines.

But Labrava was hired for the role of technical consultant for his extracurricular activities; he was, at one point, a fully patched member of the Hells Angels. He was arrested on felony drug charges in Missoula, Montana, in 2008, during the Hells Angels' annual run, according to the Missoulian. Labrava put the outlaw life behind him in April 2019, when he announced on Instagram that he was parting ways with the MC amicably. "Full of Respect, I want to say, I am no longer a member of the largest motorcycle club in the world, The HELLS ANGELS M.C. The only club I am a member of now, is the Human Race. I have chosen to leave the club in good standing, honorably, of my own free will. I am no longer a patch holder. I am no longer in the patch holding set. I am now what is considered to be a civilian," Labrava's caption read in part.

Rusty Coones played Rane Quinn on Sons of Anarchy

The Hells Angel with the second-most mileage on the show is Rusty Coones, who played SAMCRO member Rane Quinn in 25 episodes, according to IMDb. Per the OC Register, Coones hooked up with the Sons of Anarchy crew when Kurt Sutter and series star Charlie Hunnam attended an open house at Illusion Motorsports, a custom motorcycle shop Coones co-owned. Sutter was apparently impressed enough with his work that he commissioned a custom bike that was featured in the third season's DVD extras, in addition to a bike he wanted for himself. In fact, as Quinn, Coones rode his own custom 2013 Hellrazor, the most expensive bike featured on Sons of Anarchy.

Aside from his ability to build badass bikes, Coones was, at one point, the president of the Hells Angels' San Fernando Valley and Orange County chapters — we imagine it's a tough sell casting a biker with a real-life resume like Coones' as a Prospect, which is probably why Quinn was first introduced as the Nomad charter president before eventually becoming a member of SAMCRO. As the OC Register reported in 2012, Coones had done two stints in prison by that point — and we hope none further since — spending time behind bars "first for drugs and guns and later for conspiracy to distribute an illicit chemical used to make methamphetamine." Coones reportedly purchased Illusion Motorsports in 1999 and was arrested for the drug-conspiracy charge shortly thereafter; his wife Katherine kept the business running while he was in prison so he would have a driving purpose when he came home. 

Chuck Zito played Frankie Diamonds on Sons of Anarchy

Chuck Zito's path to the set of Sons of Anarchy was a littler different than that of most folks who appeared on the series. His name was first attached to the show in a sentence that read something along the lines of "Former Hells Angel Chuck Zito sues FX over Sons of Anarchy, claiming it stole his idea for a motorcycle drama," because that's what happened in June 2010. According to Reuters, Zito's lawsuit was based on the claim that he had an "implied-in-fact contract" after pitching a show in 2004 and that he was due $5 million as a result. Kurt Sutter rebutted the lawsuit in a 2010 blog post that made creative use of profanity and ridiculed Zito's claim. The main kernel fit to reprint reads thusly: "Having the f**king idea is not the show. There have been dozens of outlaw motorcycle tv dramas pitched in the last ten years. None of them has made it to series, except SOA. Because they sucked." Zito's lawsuit proved unsuccessful, as a judge ruled in FX's favor in summary judgment in December 2011, per The Hollywood Reporter.

We assume they all got past that at some point because Zito went on to play Frankie Diamonds in eight episodes during Sons of Anarchy's fifth season. But prior to the lawsuit and his run on the show, Zito previously appeared as Chucky Pancamo in 46 episodes of the prison drama Oz, which sounds suspiciously like typecasting, given that he spent six years behind bars in real life, according to the New York Daily News. Prior to that, The AV Club reports, Zito founded and served as president of the Hells Angels New York Nomad Chapter.

Ralph Sonny Barger played Lenny Janowitz on Sons of Anarchy

Lenny 'The Pimp' Janowitz may have the least amount of screen time among Hells Angels members who appeared on Sons of Anarchy, but don't let that fool you; he's the real deal, whether we're talking the character or the actor who portrays him. In the show's canon, Lenny is a member of the SAMCRO First Nine, which, as the name implies, makes him a founding member and true Redwood Original. Lenny only appears in three episodes of the series, between the third and fifth seasons, but it's clear he's still involved with the MC, even though he's in prison for killing three agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Hells Angel Ralph "Sonny" Barger brought Lenny to life on the small screen, but reportedly played a part in big-time mayhem in real life. According to the Phoenix New Times, Barger — president of the Oakland, California, chapter — spent three and a half years in prison after being convicted of "conspiring to violate federal explosives, firearms and arson laws, and using stolen law enforcement intelligence reports on rival clubs." According to the case against him, Barger allegedly planned — alongside other members of the Hells Angels MC — to kill members of the Detroit-based rival Outlaws MC as part of an ongoing turf war surrounding the methamphetamine trade.

Barger was also one of the Hells Angels members present for the notorious Altamont Free Concert in 1969, for which the MC was hired to provide security and which resulted in four deaths. Barger's account of the day — initially offered in his book, Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and The Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club — was excerpted by the Criterion Collection, in which he blamed the Rolling Stones for the resulting mayhem: "Mick and the band's egos seemed to want the crowd agitated and frenzied. They wanted them to beg, I guess ... I could no longer picture the Hell's Angels playing the part of bodyguards for a bunch of sissy, marble-mouthed prima donnas ... They had accomplished what they'd set out to do. The crowd was plenty pissed off and the craziness began."