I can’t honestly say when I first became aware of the British motorcycle maker Triumph, but classic, vintage motorbikes have held my interest for a long time. …Once again, I have to mention my friend Michael Downing, who I just got together with again in L.A.: Way back when, in our National Ballet days in Toronto, Mike had a great vintage BMW motorcycle, and he would drive it to work wearing an equally stylin’ cafe racer jacket. …Pretty cool. Once when we were performing with the company in Artpark in Lewiston N.Y., Mike gave me a lift to a company party. I can remember thinking “this is brilliant.” Years later, there was, for a brief time, an excellent but short-lived coffee shop in Stratford, Ontario – the name already escapes me – but they had a vintage Bonneville in the window. Brilliant. This is not as uncommon as you might think: Triumphs and other vintage bikes often show up in retail spaces, a symbol of undeniable cool, and lets face it: a great selling device. In fact, on a recent visit to both Mister Freedom on Beverly Boulevard and Double RL on Melrose in L.A. there were vintage Bonnevilles in both shops. No doubt, they are objects of powerful aesthetics. …Maybe it’s simpler to just say they’re super-cool, period. They truly can be called “Moving Art”.
In 2009, I had the opportunity to visit the Moto Museum in St. Louis (www.themotomuseum.com) which happened to be two blocks from the “fabulous” Fox Theater, where I was performing in Mary Poppins. The collection there completely inspired me: Triumph, Norton, BMW, Ducati, Royal Enfield, BSA, Moto Guzzi, etc. All incredible examples of “Speed, Style and Beauty” (to borrow the title of a book on a famous car collection). My interest was peaked, to say the least: I began to take notice of classic bikes wherever I would see them. The Triumph, though, has always represented for me the classic British bike, and the flagship model, the “Bonneville” (so named for the famous Utah Salt Flats where so many speed records have been set) the ultimate in throwback cool. Apparently, Marlon Brando chose a Triumph over a Harley Davidson as his ride in 1953’s “The Wild One”, and in doing so forever immortalized the Marque. The Bonneville, which made it’s debut in 1959, is Triumph’s most famous model, and understandably so: They are just such beautiful machines.
In Ohio, I was able to check out the Bonneville at the local Triumph dealership (above). The salesman said to me “Can you ride a bike?” Me: “Uh-huh.” Him: “Then you can ride a motorcycle.” – something tells me it’s not quite the same. …I definitely need to change my threads the next time I pose for a picture on a Triumph, though – I’m not pulling it off very convincingly! Later, in Florida, I went with my good buddy Gav (Bert in “Mary Poppins”), who used to ride a motorcycle in England, to look at Triumphs in a local shop. …Good times, although there was never any plan to actually buy a bike. Bottom line: I’m not sure if I will ever be quite fearless enough to own a motorcycle. But I do like the idea of it. Gav snapped the shot of me, below, looking slightly cooler on a Bonneville “Black”. Who knows? One day… maybe. But for now, I am content to be a fan of motorcycles as works of art only. …as a mode of actual transportation will have to wait until I am a braver man!