Riders – November, 2008

BRAD PITT, WEST FLAVOR – by Riccardo Romani

Brad Pitt is a real man, not a plastic face actor, just an image, when nothing is for real: he’s committed to tough battles and he gives a hand to the ones unable to care for themselves. Even on a bike, he knows what he’s talking about: he owns 12 bikes, some very peculiar, all of them have a story (and used to leave behind the paparazzi)

He’s a fan of Wild West stories, so when asked about who are today’s cowboys, he didn’t hesitate: “Bikers champions. They have courage, adventure spirit, curiousity. If Valentino Rossi would have lived two centuries ago, he could have been the perfect cowboy”.

Brad Pitt grew up in a famous place, because there’s the craziest wind on the planet. Springfield, Missouri. In geography books it’s described as “the wildest city of the Universe”. A place for tough guys. One moment it’s so hot, it seems to be on a grill, one moment later, an iced blade hits you in your flesh. That’s the way the Wild West is, baby.

In history books, Springfield is famous for the duel, officially recnognized as the first one, between Wild Bill Hickok and David Tutt Jr. And once, there was a copy of the Statue of Liberty, that they used for hanging dozens of guilty rascals, and some blacks, too.

If you are a curious and sensitive little boy, how can you resist the legends of such a place?

Brad Pitt wears the West spirit like a dress, with a sort of melancholy that simply doesn’t go away. Last year he played in and produced a very good film, maybe just too sophisticated to be really aprreciated in the States. A final and dark western based on the life of Jesse James, the bandit who with his robbery adventures put the state of Missouri on the map. A complicated man, tortured, violent, a crazy example of that brutal land. Another cowboy, was JD, the character Pitt played in Thelma & Louise, who had fame and success after just ten minutes on the screen.

Of those men, the frontier men, Pitt has engraved in his soul all the good aspects. A basic coherence, a sometimes dry and rude way to express his beliefs, the urgency to prove himself, and the passion for rides. On a two wheels, of course. He has a very personal and intimate relationship with bikes.

“I own a number of bikes. I have a few choppers, I’ve got a really low one with a huge wheel in front of you. It’s like to be like Slim Pickens on a rocket in the movie Dr. Strangelove. I’ve got some sport bikes, very aggressive, and some enduros which I never wash, they are always covered in mud.”

He also has great respect for the mechanics behind the scene, the ones creating the bikes’s assett, he thinks of them as sculptors, true artists.

Hollywood is full of movie stars who bring you in their garage, proudly showing you their bikes collection. Old Indian, powerful japaneses, personalized Harleys. But you instantly know it’s only artist makeup, there’s a persistent smell of chloroform, the bikes seem like they haven’t hit the road for ages. And then there’s Brad, the one with an obsession.

He owns at least a dozen. Choppers, one Ducati, one Suzuki, probably one BMW touring, more than probably an old vintage Vespa. A Ducati SR4 was recently donated for charity. Last december for his 44th birthday, Angelina gave him a Harley-Davidson Shovelhead, worth $ 100.000 with special chassis and tank. Three hours later he was already on the steet, trying to get in touch with the new jewel. Recently the other option is a MV Augusta Brutale, with it Brad seems to play with the paparazzi waiting outside his home, chasing him around Los Angeles. And here you are, the cowboy in him, the wild wind of Missouri playing on the curves of Pacific Palisades.

“Between us, actors and paparazzi, it’s a dirty sport, almost bloody. They don’t respect us, so we don’t respect them. At times it’s pure hate. Lately things have worsened a lot, they are always on my tail. And this is one of the reasons I’ve decided to use bikes a lot more. It’s what I always did since I was a boy, and I can drive like anyone else, with my helmet on, no one knows who I am, I can stop near a car with the glass down and listen at their radio. I don’t want to feel like I’m in a cage. I’ve grown up this way, free, and I don’t want to that give up. And there’s a practical side too, changing lanes quickly means you can leave behind the paparazzi. You can hear them behind your back, in their powerful cars, talking in code on their walkie-talkie, chasing you to your home, yelling to each other advises in order not to loose you. I want to make it clear, I know it’s part of the game. But I think it’s a ugly situation, particularly when it becomes a threat to my family, and it feels so incredibly good when I’m on a bike, leaving them behind”.

It’s a modern Wild West where no one gets killed, but dignity and decency. It’s a life style for some, an obession for others, who swallow gossips as a miracle medicine.

“Things work this way. You’re a famous guy and your face obliges to a goal. To many it’s difficult to believe I’m a normal guy, that I try to live a normal life. A father, trying to do his best. A guy who stays home at night with his family, and that in the morning he fixes breakfast for all. I know that this must be a little disappointing for someone, but reality is always disappointing if you have unrealistic expectations. The only sorrow is sometimes I’d like to talk less about celebrity and more about what is wrong in this world”.

There’s one thing Brad cares a lot about, and not because he needs more publicity, but for that practical sense typical one more time, of the frontier man.

“No one knows better, growing up in a place so exposed to nature whims, what it feels like to have nothing.. In New Orleans happened something so cruel and incredible, and after three years no one did anything. To build homes for the homeless, functional and economic, it’s something I though of immediately, and I was fortunate enough to have met so many enthusiastic supporters. I’m not Superman or someone special. I do believe I am a priviliged human being, who has a life much easier than many others, and the family who has lost anything could have been mine, if my life would have been different. They too had the american dream in mind, they payed their taxes, they worked hard. When I was young we have been in the same position and someone helped. Although
this governement, the critical political and economic situation, americans are loyal and supportive people, the people are the best part of this country”.

Last year Time magazine listed him as one of the 100 most powerful people in the world, motivating their choice in a simple way: “He uses his fame and the spotlights to make visible people and problems otherwise unknown”. His friends refer to him as a reliable, loyal, trustworthy, reserved man. With George Clooney and Matt Damon he co-founded an organization to make people aware about the people slaughters around the world. He helps and donate to HIV reseach foundations. He has a maniac adoration for Lloyd Wright and italian architecture, and an insane fever for Moto GP (Bike World Championship) that he follows (maybe the only american) with the same hunger as a teenager baseball fan.

“We are public personalities, we shouldn’t have idols to venerate. But I have one that’s bigger than all the rest and you know who he is”. Valentino Rossi. A bright light in his eyes every time he can talk about him. You have almost the impression that as perfect his life can be, he’d trade it for the one who’s living the champion from Tavullia. Maybe just for one day, just the time to drive one Grand Prix. “I would give anything to be like him. He’s the fastest man on earth. That guy is a real magician. He would be capable of hypnotising me. It doesn’t seem possible, because he looks like he weights only 30 kilos, but he has speed and balance. He can lay on the track, next to his bike, but without falling, holding in his hands a very powerful device. It’s a dance, it’s pure art. Rossi won so many championship titles without bragging. He remains calm, filled with a sense of internal balance that doesn’t seem human, he escapes mortality. Valentino is like Lance Armstrong, but on faster two wheels. For me, watching him in action, is like reading poetry!”.

A rough, irresistible poetry. Something for tough people, grown up with wild wind that cuts the face. Stories for modern cowboys. Brad and Valentino. Maybe, stuff for a movie.