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October 9, 2015

American Chopper: Celebrity Build (Billy Joel)

by Joel Keller, posted Apr 26th 2006 10:31PM
Billy Joel's getting a bike made by the TeutulsYou know, I used to watch American Chopper now and again because I kind of liked the Teutuls' act. You know what I mean: Paulie Sr. is the gruff but lovable father that is always barking out orders and issuing empty threats; Paulie Jr. is supposed to be the heir apparent to the Orange County Choppers empire, but doesn't seem to want it or care; Mikey's the comic relief. Then, of course, I found out that, like most reality shows, the yelling and tension is mostly made-up. By then it didn't really matter, though; I had stopped watching because the formula started to get tiresome to me.

But then I read in my local newspaper (yes, they still print those) that this episode, which first aired on Monday, would be a celebrity build for my favorite singer, Billy Joel, and that Billy would be a complete pain in the ass. Oh, boy. The prickly "my way or the highway" Teutuls mixed with the "delicate genius" of the Piano Man? This was one I had to watch.

The first thing I was looking for from this episode, of course, was some erratic behavior by Billy. As a fan, it pains me to know that Billy has lately become better known for his automobile accidents and "wine rehab" than his music, and I was wondering if anyone at OCC was going to have the stones to kid him about it. No such luck. And since Billy's cleaned up his act (and gotten married to a woman who's 30 years his junior -- nice job!) he was straight as an arrow, paying strict attention to the details he wanted on his "Billy Bob" version of a vintage Indian bobber.

Boy, did he pay attention to detail. He's a bike builder and collector himself, so he knew exactly what he wanted, giving the OCC boys more instructions than they were used to getting from a client. They all rolled their eyes and made jokes about "Billy Boy" when he wasn't around, but they knew that if the bike wasn't right, their A-list client was going to put his foot up someone's ass. So they made sure to fulfill his many, many requests.

I wonder, though, if the guys were "directed" to put on some pieces that weren't quite right so Billy could come over, look at the rough build, and make those two pages of changes he left behind. I mean, at one point, they put on an eye-shaped tail light even though Paulie Jr. told the guys that Billy wasn't going to like it. Also, it seems odd that they all bitched about how "simple" the bike was at the start, especially Jr., and by the time they finished, they all came around and said how cool the project was. That didn't really ring true to me.

Anyway, of course there was a tension point: the "fire engine red" powder coat for the frame and some of the parts came back in two shades of orangey-red. The parts were so orangey-red that the tank and rear fender, which were actually painted fire-engine red by another vendor, had to be repainted to match. Now on my screen, I couldn't really sense the shade difference, but it was obvious to the OCC crew, as they couldn't stop complaining about it.

But they put the bike together anyway, figuring if Billy doesn't like it, they'll just keep it. But somehow at the "last minute", Paul Sr. finally decides to have the biggest lighter-colored parts painted by their paint guy to match the darker-colored parts. The narrator mentioned that the shop had cut a deal with a new powder-coating vendor who gave them the first few jobs for free. Huh. Maybe they should go back to the old vendor.

Anyway, the Teutuls get the bobber back together and bring it to a Billy show in Syracuse, where it is dramatically revealed to him on stage. Of course, he loves it. Would there have been any other ending?

Now, because someone decided to expand this episode to two hours, the producers needed to provide some filler. Some of it was funny. After Billy tells the boys not to put any piano graphics on the Indian ("Oh, God, deliver me from piano keys. Everyone sends me more freakin' ties and scarves with piano keys on them... I hate piano keys."), Mikey and Jay decide to take an old beater and make Billy a bike with everything he didn't want on it: piano keys on the tank and tires, a microphone sticking up from the handlebars, a tip cup, and a $3 Casio keyboard mounted to the tank. What's interesting is, the joke bike actually took a lot of effort to get it to look the way Mikey wanted. If he only applied himself with the real projects as much as he did this one...

Anyway, when Billy comes around to the shop to check the progress, they reveal the joke bike to him first, saying that it was his finished bike. Of course, Billy had a nice laugh, but gave Mikey that "happy, asshole?" look that Mikey, a huge fan, fully expected him to give.

The other filler was some scenes backstage at one of Billy's MSG shows and a trip to Billy's Long Island estate to ride some of his bikes. Of course, all the filler made the episode drag quite a bit, but I give Discovery a pass; it's not often that they have a show with a superstar guest, and I guess they wanted to take advantage of it.

Anyway, it was a pretty enjoyable episode. Will I start watching American Chopper again because of it? No. But it's always good to see the regular-guy persona that Billy always seems to project. He meshed well with the rough crowd at OCC and wasn't at all intimidated by them. And I liked seeing the Teutuls again; maybe if I come back in another couple of years, I'll enjoy them like I used to a few years ago.

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john hambrock

I love to watch OCC. I like the interaction, and to see the thought, and end result of some bikes, WOOOH! But recently I visited the OCC site. The Models in the site are Paul Sr., Paul Jr., & Mikey, it's cool. I was disappointed to find out though, when I wanted to order the OCC boxer's, it was just a boxer pic. I expected to see Paul Jr. in boxer's, it was not the case. I decided not to order till later maybe...JH

April 27 2006 at 7:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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