Indian Larry

A Legend on Two Wheels

Tom Zimberoff


“The Stunt” Laconia, New Hampshire / ©2004 Tom Zimberoff

Indian Larry rode alone. He would join no bike club. Not even the Hells Angels were nonconformist enough for him — and they coined the term “1%-ers” fifty years ago to make it clear to everyone else that they were outlaws. Larry further clarified his determination with a prominent tattoo: No Club Lone Wolf. And he was no Indian. No one remembers who first tagged him with that moniker, but he used to cruise Brooklyn on a chopped Indian motorcycle in the 1980s when he was the go-to guy for wrenching on that classic bike brand. It stuck.

Born Lawrence DeSmedt in 1949 near West Point, New York, Larry grew up near the United States Military Academy where his father was a custodian. The illiberal father did not abide the son’s grimy passion for dismantling machinery to see what made it tick. He reprimanded young Larry harshly for spending too much time in the garage and not enough time with his schoolwork. But Larry resented the nuns at the Catholic academy where he had been reluctantly enrolled. More than once, he felt obliged to explain away his bruised knuckles to his family, saying they were the result of fistfights instead of revealing that his hands were rarely spared the rod by sadistic sisters who would also lock him in a closet for misbehaving. Finally, at sixteen, he rebelled, less in adolescent exasperation than desperation. The natural desire of a son to please his family took a perverse turn. Because he was expected to do no good, he set out with a vengeance to do bad.

“Way Out Daddy-O” gas tank painted by Robert Pradke with a shout out to Rat Fink ©2004 Tom Zimberoff

Larry rolled with a nasty crew. They committed armed robberies, hijacked trucks, and did drugs. “The worst thing,” Larry said, “was that those guys were dirtbags, and I was their ringleader.” He was a high school dropout with rap sheets in four states by the time he got nabbed at age twenty-three, robbing a bank. He was tried, convicted, and sent to “Sing Sing” state prison in Ossining, New York, while still recovering from the crease in his skull, put there by a cop’s near-fatal bullet during that attempted heist. Locked in a cell, he sought redemption with the resolve he once mustered toward anti-social rage. He earned his GED, read every book his mother sent him — she had…