MECHANIC TO THE STARS
Actors, producers, directors? Forget 'em. The most important man in Tinsel Town is a Harley-Davidson mechanic working to keep Hollywood rolling on two wheels.
CAMRON E. BUSSARD
WHEN THE HOT IN HOLLYWOOD NEED A BIKE FIX or just a bike fixed, they head for Bartels' Harley-Davidson in Culver City, California, the shop of the stars.
Dan Aykroyd shops there. Sylvester Stallone has a bike in the window. Arnold Schwarzenegger has purchased motorcycles there since 1980. Rock singer Billy Idol drops in. as do Gary Busey and James Caan. Actor Mickey Rourke stops by whenever he's in town.
Certainly, the many show-quality bikes for sale at Bartels’ are a draw', but those in the know are there to see mechanic Dave Fournier, a rider of 25 years who still manages to log 750 miles a week when he’s not wrenching. Fournier works on whatever bikes get assigned to him. but he personally handles the motorcycles of Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Rourke. But don't think that Fournier lets the celebrity attention go to his head. “We have a good clientele, and the way I look at it. a good clientele is part of a good shop." he says. “I don't think, boy. I've got stars."
For the most part, Fournier performs routine maintenance for many of the celebrity riders. He says. “They would do the work if they had the time. I've taught Rourke to do some of the stuff himself, but I still have one of his bikes in here all the time.”
Fournier also says that he and Rourke have a tight relationship that goes beyond just rider/mechanic. “Mickey and I work really well together." he says. “He will think up things to do with his bikes, and I simply tell him what w ill and won't work. With everybody else, he gets 'Yes sir, yes sir'but no sound advice. For example. Mickey doesn't care how it runs, as long as it is loud: It's got to be loud. I've got a straight, open pipe on the thing, but he says, ‘Can't you make it any louder than this?' "
The stars put a lot of trust in Fournier, and it’s something that he is proud of. “They're used to having their pockets invaded.” he says, “and Í simply don't like to treat people that way.” Another reason for the stars' faith in Fournier is his straight-forward, no-frills attitude. He says that a celebrity gets treated the same as anybody else who walks into the shop, w ith some small concessions. Some of the stars don't have a lot of free time, so the folks at the shop try to get them in and out as quickly as possible, or even arrange to pick up a bike and return it. For others, routine dealings at the shop can be a reprieve from the chaotic hustle and bustle of Hollywood, a kind of haven — James Caan spends almost every Saturday there.
That. Fournier thinks, explains w hy so many stars are riding these days. “It’s their release, their way of getting out from the confines of being a celebrity, always in the spot light,” he says. “They can put on dark glasses, a scarf, and away they go. No one knows who they are."
And while some may criticize the stars, accusing them of riding only because it is currently a fashionable thing to do, Fournier offers a different opinion. “Why throw rocks at somebody who wants to spend money in motorcycling? After all, these guys are making millions of dollars, and they could just as easily spend it someplace else."
But for now-. Fournier doesn’t worry too much about that. He simply smiles and says, “We are just happy to work on motorcycles." With a shop like Bartels’ that allows patrons to stroll back into the service area and talk to the mechanics, and men like Fournier who are willing to talk, there is a good chance that his celebrity customers w ill keep coming back, long after a newtrend has swept up Sunset Boulevard.