DOING THE FIRST 1200
Born To Ride TV Celebrates 1200th Episode
BY ERIC VICIAN
As Born To Ride prepares to celebrate their 1,200th television episode with a mega bash on March 31st in Plant City, they reflect on what has gone into making the world’s longest running biker and motorcycle TV show that reaches millions of viewers every week. To help put this accomplishment into perspective, consider that Born To Ride has been on television for nearly a quarter century while some of the most popular TV shows of all time ran for a couple of hundred episodes. For example, the 1970s gave us M*A*S*H, that spanned 256 episodes. In the ‘80s, we raised a toast to “Cheers” 275 times. And in the 1990s, before we counted Facebook friends by the hundreds, we watched Ross, Rachel and the rest of our “Friends” 236 times.
Below is a compilation of conversations with BTR Founder and Creative Producer, Ron Galletti; Vice President, Deb Galletti; Multi-media specialist, Seth Wuertz, former Editor, Clark Hodges, who became the Voice of Born To Ride and Wayne Witczak, the Director of Development for Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, about their memories of the past 1,200 Episodes of Born To Ride!
WHAT DID YOU SET OUT TO DO FOR EPISODE 1?
RON: We just started riding a lot and got into the fever of riding motorcycles. We put our bikes in bike shows and noticed that those people were fanatical, and they were buying clothes to match their bikes and we said we need to document the biker lifestyle and BOOM, Born To Ride was born!
I did interviews and said, “We’ll be right back after a word from our sponsors” – and we didn’t have any sponsors. Every weekend we went riding with our friends and one time we had a camera guy join us.
I made a Born To Ride logo that read “It’s Coming” and faxed it to every motorcycle dealer in Tampa Bay. I bought the TV time. I had a goal and had to do it. We just started going to their shops and talking about their stores. I was just running and gunning trying to pull things together. I didn’t know a lot about motorcycles, I just had that vision.
AS YOU CELEBRATE 1,200 EPISODES, HOW DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR LONGEVITY COMPARED TO SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR TV SHOWS IN HISTORY LIKE CHEERS (275 EPISODES), MASH (255) AND FRIENDS (236)?
RON: It’s been a commitment and when you’re committed to the motorcycle industry, it goes by fast but it’s also a commitment to the business. It’s been running its course and every so often you feel where did the time go? Was it that good or was it that bad? We have a duty to document the biker lifestyle in a proper way. We choose to help others with the power of the media we have. We’re still breaking down stereotypes 20 years later and I’m proud of that. I have to thank Attorney Fran Haasch for her continuing support to our biker community. Her continued commitment to Born To Ride as we document the lifestyle in a proper manner.
DEB: The journey has been exciting. We began covering the mechanical aspect of the motorcycle itself and the builders. Then it went into the public service and social aspect of motorcycling. Now we’re getting into the lifestyle and social aspect for the motorcyclist. The community leans on us and looks to us to give them advice because we have seen the growth and changes in the industry such as when the helmet law was repealed. (In 2000, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was featured on BTR when he repealed the mandatory helmet law allowing anyone over 21 to ride unprotected if they had adequate insurance coverage). There was a big question about how the insurance companies would handle a claim if you didn’t wear a helmet. We provided riders with education on this subject. We continue to educate the community about the many charities that are biker-based so they understand who and what they are supporting. That’s how we’ve evolved into today. Now we have it all flavored with a new culture of riders, motorcycles, events and the traveling lifestyle with motorcycles. We were reality TV before Duck Dynasty!
WHO ARE SOME OF THE MEMORABLE CELEBRITIES WHO HAVE BEEN FEATURED ON BORN TO RIDE THROUGH THE YEARS?
RON: Hulk Hogan, Brutus the Barber Beefcake, James Gandolfini, Katey Sagal and the Sons of Anarchy Cast, Bruce Dern, Krista Grotte, Jeb Bush, Willie Nelson (who, along with his band, wore Born To Ride shirts while performing at the Strawberry Festival), Steven Tyler, Evel Knievel, Paul Teutul and the Orange County Choppers family, Sonny Barger, Jesse James, Indian Larry, Arlen Ness and so many more!
But one day Hulk Hogan rides into one of our events in Clearwater with his entourage and I said, “Holy Shit, it’s Hulk Hogan” and he comes up to me and says, “brother what can I do for you?” We walked out in the middle of a crowd of bikers and cut promos and he was putting us over so big for about half an hour. He believed in us and that was a great feeling. We just came on the air a few months at that time in 1996.
DEB: My favorite interview was Evel Knievel. I knew everything about him. He was a big part of our family growing up around the TV. In prepping for the interview, he was perfectly clear what he did NOT want to talk about. Everyone has seen the interviews over the years with a very highly strung Evel and I was nervous about interviewing the biggest name in the country. But it turned out Evel was a genuine biker, a marketing genius and it was a very good interview. He even complimented my interviewing skills! It was an honor that he obliged us the time. He was thankful and recognized us for our efforts. I knew we were on to something big.
HOW HAS THE BORN TO RIDE FAMILY GROWN THROUGH THE YEARS (INTERNALLY AND EXTERNALLY)?
RON: We had kids (Emily and Ronnie, a.k.a “Bruiser”) after we started Born To Ride so they had to be in. We took them on the road. Our kids saw the respect. They learned that working hard and helping others gives you a better outlook on life.
I can’t tell you how many people came up to us in Sarasota at Thunder By The Bay this month and asked us how are your kids? We watched them grow up on Born To Ride and that Christmas special when they were this big etc. … and that tells me we are doing the right thing and touching people and they care about family. And they like the fact we care about their family and the biker family. Our kids are teens now and are great kids and we attribute that to the exposure of the great bikers. The people who work for us are our family too. We need them. I try to get them to the level of my passion. They have grown with us and we are family.
DEB: It’s such a brotherhood and a sisterhood. You have a lot of riding clubs that stick together and ride together and help each other. Collectively they support us and we support them. We have all grown together to help each other. Many biker-friendly establishments stay open during Christmas and Thanksgiving, so a biker always has someplace to go and someone to be around. That’s family. We raised our children in this environment, and they saw all the great things bikers have done in this community year after year for total strangers. We are proud to see them do that now for others in their circle of friends. The people in our office that help us make this happen every day and are our family too. They grow personally and contribute so much in their own special way. We have a lot of fun working and becoming old people together lol. (That’s an inside office joke!)
CLARK (Started working for BTR in 1998 after they had been on the scene for a couple of years and stayed for more than 15 years. He called the Galletti’s “such visionaries.”): I was impressed with all the ideas that Ron had. I learned real quick what Ron wanted and it became almost like osmosis. And Deb was a natural interviewer who never needed a script. I’ve worked with TV personalities and Deb was the best I’ve seen at interviewing. Communication was the key. I did the intros and commercial voice-overs. I was in the grocery store and somebody came up to me and asked if I was the voice of Born To Ride and I said, “Yes, how did you know?” And they said they watched the show and recognized my voice. Glad I was a part of this history.
SETH: The technology growth has been incredible. We went from VHS to Mini DVD to CD to purely digital and we’ve gone from standard definition to high definition. We have better resources for footage and graphics and animations. The flow is different, it has a more up to date feel. The average person has the ability to look at something and know that it’s dated. It’s an amorphous thing from font types to color schemes and we keep trying to be current with what’s trending. If you were to look at a show back in the ‘90s you would see things reminiscent of that era, even down to the 4:3 aspect ratio and now we have animated bumpers in HD where before it was just text.
WAYNE: (He has known Ron for more than 20 years. Both of them graduated from Brandon High School in the early 1980s. They are now partners helping the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches that have been providing help and hope to children in need for 61 years.)
We just seemed to connect on a very parallel way in that he’s a great family man and wants to give back to his community. He always tries to work some kind of social responsibility into everything he does. We seem to feed off each other in raising the level of enthusiasm and connecting people. He’s a connector of people. Debbie also. She’s got a huge heart for children, obviously a dedicated mom. Even to the extent of Bruiser and Emily – I’ve watched them grow up and become good little citizens in the community doing community work. They have decent family core values that parallel the values of the Youth Ranches – like integrity, honesty, and compassion. He’s not just a friend, he’s family.
HOW HAS THE CONTENT OF THE EPISODES CHANGED IN 1,200 EPISODES?
RON: The foundation is still the same – it’s the lifestyle of motorcycles and the people who ride them. Diversity is huge, what’s going on in the industry, what’s hot right now and even footage in the can that’s newsworthy. I want to make badass content with kick-ass commercials and hopefully, people will support the message we are putting out there. We care.
DEB: Women riders have changed the landscape and content tremendously. Back 20 years ago riding motorcycles was mostly about men. There were only a handful of women that actually rode their own, and they were considered badass. Now women of all walks of life are riding and have their own riding groups. Motorcycles, accessories, apparel are all designed with the female rider perspective. Women are contributing so much to the biker community, they are supporting so many charities, they have added style and fashion, they make a huge economic impact on the industry. And guess what? They are even more badass today!
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH THE NEXT 1,200 EPISODES?
RON: I’ve seen a lot of change, but I think the next 1,200 episodes is still searching for that ultimate relationship with the bike and the road. It’s out there and we’re going to keep highlighting people. It’s sort of like that surfer looking for that ultimate wave – when he finds it, he’s done or the painter who says that’s the best painting I’ve ever done. No! For me as a biker looking for the ultimate road, I hope we don’t ever find it! But to me, it’s always been about the people – power of the people to tell their story and their passion for what they love. Thank you to everyone who has been and currently is a part of Born To Ride. Thank you!
DEB: In the next few years Ron and I will become empty nesters. We have an eye on exploring and documenting the new RV/biker lifestyle for our viewers and readers. Some of our friends have already started this adventurous journey and leisure lifestyle with their motorcycles and are loving it. The whole RV lifestyle of motorcycles is such a cool lifestyle to travel and see this great country and all the great motorcycle rallies and thrill races. There’s a sport within a lifestyle. Motorcycle footprints are all over the world. We’re going to find them and document it all!
See more Born To Ride TV at www.youtube.com/borntoridemotorcyclemedia