A group of men with an enthusiastic interest in motorcycles, leather, and we have to own up to it, a leaning toward homosexual and S/M sex, got together on May 10, 1970 and formed a club on the model of others in cities across the United States and Europe. Examples from Los Angeles (The Satyrs) and Motor Sports Amsterdam suggested a framework for such a club to build on, and under the initial leadership of Ron Barret, The Centaur Motorcycle Club was established in Richmond, Virginia, and the distinctive and striking emblem of the white centaur displaying the banner with CENTAUR emblazoned on it, over the Richmond identification below, soon became a recognized and respected icon.
It was not long before it became apparent that there were in fact more members of the club who hailed from the DC Area than were in the originating city and so the Centaur MC relocated to Washington, DC, and dropped the “Richmond” part of the back patch. (Since the Spartan Motorcycle Club was already in Washington, this created a friendly rivalry that persists to this day.)
With the increase in Membership and activities, like a modest run to a private estate belonging to one of the members, the traditions that were forming began to create a characteristic personality for the club, which for several years was under the strong leadership of Marvin Edwards.
In 1971, the first “Olympia”, following the classical Greek theme, was just a small gathering and took place after only a year’s existence for the club. But the AMCC declared there would be no major run in 1976, the bicentennial year, the “mini-run” was held at Bob Thayer’s with bike events in the pastures at “Overlook” in Lorton, VA and buffet serving around the pool. But “Olympia” has grown from its humble tented beginnings attended by some 25 or 30 eager bikers, through sometimes irregular intervals to its present shape and size, settling at an event that draws about 300 people to a cabined campground in Pennsylvania every two years on Labor Day weekend.
Ideological differences arose in the membership and disagreement as to the purpose of the club, a condition that is neither surprising nor unusual in any organization that must develop and grow, or atrophy (as many have done), and led inevitably to changes in membership and shifts in leadership.
An austere attitude to seasons, bike events, gave way to a more varied and colorful emphasis on ceremony and pageantry though this in no way allowed for its inclusion under the sobriquet “Show Club”.
Smoother waters to sail in were brought about under the diplomatic presidency of Ed Stanley and continued under leadership of the dynamic and much admired Tony Bachrach.
For one reason or another, relocation of members in New York, San Francisco and other far flung cities, the number of men in the club declined and by the early eighties had dropped to a mere handful, but then Bachrach seized the opportunity to acquire sponsorship of a popular event known as “Leather Cocktails” which itself having started a decade before as a small formal and semi-private annual event at the Waldorf Astoria in New York had outgrown its origins, and was, as it were, captured on the road and became reined in as “Leather Weekend” in 1985, when it was attended by a competitive event for the title of “Mr. MidAtlantic Leather”, the winning candidate of which is sponsored by the club and sent on to Chicago for the “International Mr. Leather” title. This too has grown from an unassuming event held in a bar to a gathering of thousands of Leatherfolk from around the world meeting annually to celebrate and reaffirm their mutual brotherhood.
Along the way, the Centaur Motorcycle Club has participated in a wide variety of philanthropic and social fund-raising events, notably as a Director of “Brother Help Thyself”, an organization originally comprised of representatives of the Capital Area Board of Leather-Levi, Motorcycle and other local clubs, and originally founded to support the Gay Men’s VD Clinic, but now giving financial assistance to a much broader spectrum of deserving applicants; all the while continuing a serious approach to these events with an innovative and diverting sense of amusement and enjoyment.
Losses to AIDs may have sobered and chastened the club but its general attitude of commitment and strong sense of brotherhood have contributed to it retaining an honorable place in the community, with strong guidance from likes of the imaginative Hugh Gage and the aggressive leadership of John Rocco, and successive presidents thus ensuring the continuation of its vital force.
At this time of writing, the club’s membership numbers hover in the thirties, remaining so for the past decade. As the characteristics change with the goings of the old guard and the coming of the new, those transfusions of fresh ideas and enthusiasm, together with regard for the traditions established are the lifeblood of a club that looks confidently into the 21st century.