Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Follow up on Filippo Tenerelli

I have done quite a bit of research on Filippo Tenerelli since Eviliz's last post on him which was contributed by Ole JC. I didn't go solo with my research either but had input from Patty, Ole JC, Trilby and a few comments that were made by our readers. 

The issue for me was to try to determine whether or not Filippo was indeed a Gypsy Joker and I now have that answer.  I certainly have not found all the answers to the questions surrounding Filippo but have learned a bit more about him.   There was a bonus, too, another bit of ES/BS came to light, read on!

One of the first things I did was to send for Filippo's death certificate.  From this I learned that he was 23 years old when he died, his birthday was November 4, 1945.  He lived in Culver City with his parents at the same address which is on his naturalization papers.  He was born in Italy and had been in the US for 10 years.  His parents were Giovanni and Caterina Tenerelli both of whom were born in Italy.

He was a tool and die maker who had held that job for three years at a place named Randall Company.  The company made airplane parts.

The address of the motel where Filippo died was 636 N. Main St. Bishop CA.  Upon looking up the address on Google maps I found  there is now a Holiday Inn at that address.  So I searched for and found a vintage postcard with a picture of the motel that used to be in that spot.  The postcard is from 1959 but I suspect that 10 years later when Filippo checked in it was much the same as on the postcard.

Next I started reading what others had written online about Filippo.  Most was the same everywhere but there was a post by someone at Cats' that said Filippo was a Gypsy Joker with the name of Dago.  Cats replied to the poster that Sanders mentions a Gypsy Joker named Dago in the first edition of his book, in the chapter that Sanders wrote about The Process that was removed in subsequent editions.  I checked and Sanders did mention Dago, page 115 if you have that edition.  Those posts are here-

Trilby told me about a new book out by Meg and Phil Cross who founded the San Jose chapter of the Gypsy Jokers.  The book is called "Phil Cross: Gypsy Joker to a Hells Angel".  Phil was the club photographer, among other things, and the book has dozens of pictures.  And bless Phil Cross, there is a picture of Dago!  He is the one sitting on the bike in the picture.  (If this is a subject that interests you, I definitely recommend the book.  )

Phil did not date the picture of Dago so off to find a history of the bar, Chateau Liberte, where the picture was taken and I found that here-  This bar has a very interesting history involving the rock musicians that played and recorded there.

The bar had a couple of "Chateau" names before it was known as Chateau Liberte and became a biker bar.  It did not have that name until 1971.  So, since Filippo died in 1969 he could not have been Dago who was the Gypsy Joker.  This journey was a bit of a rabbit hole, but it was a fun rabbit hole and it is probably just as important to verify and document the misinformation as it is to verify and document the  truth.

To learn with absolute certainty if Filippo was or was not a Gypsy Joker, regardless of a nickname, I decided to contact Phil Cross.  Phil sent me a reply which should put this to rest.... forever.
Hi Deborah,

I'm glad you enjoyed the book.

In answer to your question, Dago's name was Donald Ragante, and there was no Gypsy Joker named Filippo Tenerelli.

I have no problem with you posting my photo of Dago at the Chateau.

One other thing you might post is that Ed Sanders statement that the Gypsy Jokers were "heavily into the occult" is complete bullshit.  We could have cared less about any of that shit.  We rode, partied and fought, and that's what we lived for.


Phil Cross