If you’re at all familiar with my F-level YouTube fame, you know me as the guy who did all those Tony Soprano tribute videos. “The Sopranos” is my favorite dramatic series of all time and it really killed me when the show ended in 2007. So part of the fun of those clips was trying to keep the show rolling like it never ended. That was the driving point for me (the vids continue to do very well in views, which I’m grateful for). But once a 51-year-old James Gandolfini died of a heart attack in Rome in 2013, it sorta took the wind out of my sails and the desire to keep making videos featuring Tony Soprano channelings waned. Although I did revisit the crew recently when news came out that creator David Chase had revealed the “truth” about Tony’s fate (he hadn’t).
After “The Sopranos” ended, I knew in my heart that no show could ever replace it. Until Kurt Sutter’s “Sons of Anarchy” came along. Only this time something happened that went much deeper for me. This wasn’t just some badass soap opera about a motley crew of motorcycle enthusiasts. This show was hitting me on a GUT level. And I eventually understood why.
My father, Brian Walton Koch (also pronounced “Cook”), was violently killed in a car accident one month before I was born. Brian was 21-years-old. He was also a cop. Details surrounding his death remain ominously uncertain to this day. What is fact is that he had not been drinking but possibly speeding as he swerved off a dark country road in East Lansing, Michigan and crashed into a tree that crushed his car with him inside it.
Brian was a beloved dude in that town. He was known.
(I love how there’s a hippie on a unicycle on the same page as my dad’s DEATH notice!)
“Sons of Anarchy” features a young man named Jackson “Jax” Teller who’s father, John, was killed when Jax was 15. In the first season, Jax happens upon a hidden manuscript his dad wrote about SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original), an outlaw biker organization he co-founded with his Vietnam buddy, “Piney”. The book lays out John’s vision of the club and how it had lost it’s way over time. Jax attempts to re-instate his father’s hope to return the club to legitimacy. Unfortunately for Jax, times have changed and he’s up against his evil stepfather, club president Clay Morrow, who, over the years, virtually destroys the club and leads it to ruins for reasons that are beyond selfish and reprehensible. I don’t need to explain the whole series to you, but it strikes me as haunting that – while I don’t possess a book written by my dead dad – I do have a great many pieces of memorabilia from his short life that my beloved, late grandma Betty saved for me.
I even had a brutal stepfather in the 70’s who would beat the crap out of my mother and me! Remember Clay pummeling Gemma in season 4?? That struck a TERRIBLE chord within. He even kinda looked like Ron Perlman, my then-stepdad!
Piece of shit. I never utter his name. No idea what became of him.
Now, while my father inevitably joined the Lansing Police Department, that’s not to say he wasn’t a bit of a hell-raiser himself. Especially in his formative years. I mean, just LOOK at this roster of offenses from the Lansing Public School system:
Like me, my dad was a class clown and a trouble-maker. But he also loved women and vehicles built for speed, too. Like those dudes in Charming. (That said, I don’t see Bobby Munson dressing in drag anytime soon. Although he did channel The King in full E regalia! Hey! What happened to that storyline??)
Wait, is that a PIPE in his mouth, on top of everything else?? Brian Koch, man. Who WAS that dude??
It’s okay. I mean, even though I never knew Brian, I inevitably wound up having an amazing “new” stepdad named Thom. He was a cop, too, for a spell, and is actually the fella who turned me ON to “Sons of Anarchy”. I haven’t spoken to Thom on the phone in a good, long while. But hopefully we can resume those play-by-plays now that season 7 of SOA kicks off tonight. I hope so.
Oh! I almost forgot this juicy bit:
In 1992, I wrote and acted in a play about a group of young bikers who’s fathers were all true outlaws. We ran the show at the Little Victory Theatre in Burbank for 6 weeks. We even rented a Harley-Davidson bike that we kept on stage and the gnarly biker dude who rented it to us pulled me aside one night and told me I’d gotten it right. He was a former Hell’s Angel. To this day, I think that play was about fathers and sons. Something I never really understood. And with that cast and the bonding we did, I also think that play was about my first, sincere exploration of Brotherhood.
I played California Sunset, a wheelchair-bound, narrator-type character who’d lost the use of his legs after a motorcycle accident. See, this is why I don’t ride electric horses. My wife is too worried I’m gonna die or get paralyzed. Man, do I miss these locks, though. Fully conditioned and NO gray!
Yeah, brother, it’s gonna be a REAL rough ride saying goodbye to “Sons of Anarchy”. It gets inside me, that show. Works me over. I always cry during it. Because it makes me think of my family. Dad. Mom. Myself. Even my two wild uncles, Steve and Patrick. And I love all the cultural Irish aspects of the thing. And the killer soundtrack. And the rebellious acts. And the skulls. But like a divorce or death, I will simply mourn…and pray to God Sutter mounts a prequel.
So here’s to all you members of the Dead Dad’s Club. Sláinte!
WINE PAIRING: Why, a 2009 Anarchy, Unconventional Rhone Blend from Paso Robles, of course!
I also drank my morning coffee out of THIS mug today…