Freeloader Rides a Hog

At Harley-Davidson's Nightster Launch Party

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The Event: Harley-Davidson's Nightster Launch Party
The Date: May 3, 2007
The Venue: The Emerica Showroom, New York
The Crowd: Drawn from the ranks of Vice magazine, Emerica shoes and Fuse Marketing's young, hot influencers
The Food: Food? Harley doesn't do canap├ęs.
The Drinks: Budweiser and Dewar's were alcohol sponsors, but Harley-Davidson cares about you: Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The Swag: As if, though one lucky raffle winner did get to take home a Nightster motorcycle.

Freeloader apparently was born to be just a little wild.
Click to see larger image

When Harley-Davidson throws a party, the velvet ropes are black and covered in barbed wire, the music careens from Led Zeppelin to gangsta rap to everything in between, and the crowd is, well, not your parents' crowd. Freeloader counted the number of baby boomers present on one hand -- and that's exactly what Harley was hoping for.

The Nightster is a smaller, sleeker and less expensive (a $10,000 Harley?) motorcycle than its siblings and is aimed at the East Village crowd. It was not a hard target to hit.

More than 900 people RSVPed for the party, which was held at a venue that could hold 400. We swear it hit that maximum an hour in. It was also no guarantee that anyone wearing Harley paraphernalia worked for the company or even owned one of its motorcycles -- no, it was more like a Fashion Week homage to the designer at hand.

No ZZ Top beards here, no leather chaps and no excessive beer bellies. The required accessories at this party were tats (large; colorful; and the more, the merrier); piercings (large, monochromatic and multiple); and skateboards. Attendees had their choice of hats or spiky, bizarre, expressive hair (yes, more than one person was -- ironically? -- channeling Sanjaya). Considering the company was trying to tap back into the present-day "Easy Rider" alternative culture, we'd say they had a captive audience. A DJ and ginger beer didn't hurt either. Neither did the doobie someone lit up early on.

Although quickly obscured by the crush of people around the one bar, the party also sported a photo journal of eight skateboarders' cross-country skate-park road trip on Harleys. The kicker: Seven of them already owned Harley motorcycles before being asked to be the youth influencers of the brand.

Freeloader admits to being influenced. We had a chance to sit on the Nightster and pretend to rev the engine. For three seconds we could have been a modern-day urban superhero on that bike. Then we saw our photo and realized the worst: We looked scared to death.

Not even Harley could fix that.
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