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Danny Oakley

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Danny Oakley: Danny first started BMX racing in 1965 in the Baldwin Hills area, above Ladera Heights, and later, in Malibu in Southern California. He helped to establish organized BMX racing in early 1970, and retired in 1981.

Danny was instrumental in establishing organized BMX racing, and numerous tracks in Southern and Northern California, during a time when organized BMX did not formally exist. A few such tracks are The Downhill Track of Baldwin Park in 1970, Malibu in 1971, Landels Park & Hamann Park in 1973, and The Downhill Track of Mount Tamalpais in 1974.

Danny Oakley, a true Legend of our sport, raced for such legendary teams as Bikette & Dirtmaster, Rick`s Bike Shop, Silver Shield, MotoPRO, Speedo, and Mongoose. He was instrumental in forming Pro Products, Inc., MotoPRO, and Speedo. Moreover, Danny was instrumental in designing products for Pro Products, Inc., MotoPRO, Speedo, and B.M.X. Products, Inc., Mongoose, including the infamous Moosegoose, a 20 inch BMX race frame Danny designed for taller riders, and racers (Danny is quite tall himself).

He has conducted BMX Racing Clinics, and Demonstrations in the United States, and in Europe. He has participated in NBA, UBR, NPSA, NBL, CBA and ABA sanctioned races. Danny raced and won numerous titles, and championships, such as 4 Time, West Coast Champion, 6 Time, Northern California Champion, NPSA National Champion, and NORA CUP, to name a few. Danny was one of the racers that was featured in the BMX episode of the well known national TV show, CHiPs ( 07/15/2010) Used with permission

Gary Haselhorst (Tuesdays 10) interveiws Danny Oakley (06/08/2008) Used with permission

When you get an interview like this it does not need an intro. I had no idea Danny was going to take us back into the 60s for his starting place in BMX and then ends with updates on NASA. WOW!

Danny, What track did you start racing at? What were your local tracks and how did you find the sport of BMX?

I started racing at Baldwin Park, located in the Baldwin Hills area, above Ladera Heights, in Southern California. The track went through a number of Variations from 1965 (when I first started racing, informally, of course), until it was refined. I helped in establishing organized BMX racing in early 1970, by working with the Parks and Recreation Department to formally hold races there at our Downhill Track.

For me, Baldwin Park was mecca, it was so vast, you could ride all day, and explore different types of terrain and inclines, (imagine Saddleback Park, if you have ever ridden a motorcycle around and through the entire Park, you know what I am trying to convey). Back in Malibu, I had not found a place of this type, yes, my parents let me build a race track on our property and hold races, but it could not hold a candle to Baldwin Park, and Malibu had some exceptional places, thus venturing over to my relatives in Ladera Heights was heading to mecca...

My local tracks, in those early days (1965 to 1972), included Baldwin Park, and Malibu, (my backyard track, and the Dryer's backyard track). Shortly thereafter, Malibu Country Club, and Palms Park became some of the local tracks I raced. Beyond the local framework of where I was currently racing, I found my way to other tracks in Southern California, including Indian Dunes, B.U.M.'s Long Beach, Escape Country, Soledad Sands, Yarnell, Randall Ranch, and then it happened, it all came to a screeching halt, my parents said we were moving to Northern California, oh geez, you're kidding me, right!!!

You see, moving to Northern California was pretty traumatic for me, I found solace in my passion for riding and racing (including all the technical aspects of development regarding my skills and my bike). In Northern California, I needed to start from scratch once again. I started by talking to Parks and Recreation Departments, Police Activity Leagues, and other organizations to get organized BMX racing established (where to build the track, how to build the track, race formats, etc). I started this in such locations as Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Campbell, San Jose, Santa Clara, etc.

I found the sport of BMX, well, BMX found me, actually, I believe we found each other. From the first day I taught myself to bunny hop, to wheelie, to jump, I wanted to share this with my friends, from there, it turned into competition, and the rest is history...

Did racing come easy for you? How long did it take to get results the big sponsors were looking for? What year was that?

Did racing come easy for me, well, coming from a racing and technical background, racing is in my blood... Simply put, I believe it is in your approach to life, if you truly have a passion for something, then it may seem easy, as you are not quite aware of the emotional and physical investment you are making.

Getting the results the big sponsors were looking for, is an interesting question and viewpoint. You would need to determine when the "big sponsors" started to exist in our young sport of BMX. By 1975, I had already won numerous championships and titles throughout the years, which brought a big sponsor to my doorstep.

While on Silver Shield, on a race day, I was approached by an individual who wanted me to help form a Company and a Team, that went on to become Pro Products, Inc., MotoPRO. Pro Products, Inc. was to be a distributorship, initially, for Redline, Webco, Motomags, etc. MotoPRO was the team. I raced a Redline with Motomags. Then, the owner thought that we should make our own products, the fun for me was being able to design, develop, race, and win with, and on my own designs. This was the first Company and a Team I helped form, there was another that would follow...

Your results as a racer earned you a spot on the Mongoose team and landed you a spot in their ads promoting the product. When did your ride for them? Who asked you to ride for them? What other teams did you ride for?

My results as a racer earned me a spot on the Mongoose team and landed me a spot in their ads promoting the product, well, that is an interesting viewpoint. Looking from the outside, I can see the validity of that viewpoint. The reality is Skip Hess Sr. and I knew each other long before Skip asked me to join him at B.M.X. Products, Inc., Mongoose.

At B.M.X. Products, Inc., Mongoose, I found my second home, and my second family. Skip Hess Sr., Bruce Smith, and Mike Hodson, were always so caring, so encouraging, so supportive, in every way that family can be, I will carry those cherished memories all the days of my life. I enjoyed designing my own frames (Prototype Supergoose Frame & Prototype Moosegoose Frame), and components, racing them, along with racing production bikes, which B.M.X. Products, Inc., Mongoose was known throughout the world for its unequaled quality.

I conducted BMX Racing Clinics, BMX Demonstrations, promoted B.M.X. Products, Inc., Mongoose, promoted the sport of BMX Racing (family participation, values and sportsmanship), designed/built BMX race tracks, and organized race formats in the United States, and in Europe, for Skip, Bruce, and Mike. These were some of my contributions for 5 years, until my retirement in 1981.

The other teams that I raced for, besides B.M.X. Products, Inc., Mongoose are:
Bikette & Dirtmaster
Rick's Bike Shop
Silver Shield
Pro Products, Inc., MotoPRO

What top 3 results come to mind as your favorites from racing BMX?

I believe that you are asking about race wins, if this is the case, then:

6 Time, Northern California Champion
4 Time, West Coast Champion
NPSA National Champion

With the trauma of moving to Northern California, at a time when my friends, my racing, my life, was in Southern California, these accomplishments became a showcase in my life for the elemental drive of rebuilding something that meant so much to me. Please understand that I truly enjoy Northern California, this is my home, but it was the shock of being uprooted from everything I knew and loved, at that time. To this day, I have heard people ask if I am NorCal or SoCAL, let me think about this for a moment, I'm SoCal, wait, I'm NorCal, geez, I'm So-Nor-Cal!!!

Who would you consider the top 5 racers from your racing days? Who did you like to see on the gate with you?

There were so many exceptional racers from my racing days, that it would be unfair for me to qualify only 5. You need to understand, that from when I started racing, until my retirement in 1981, there were a number of top racers that I personally knew, that were deserving of recognition.

I do thank you for the opportunity to shine the spotlight on someone who is deserving of recognition:

Ronnie Haase, rode for Canyon Cycle Center, aka CCC (Canoga Cycle Center). Ronnie was fast, smooth, and there are just not enough superlatives to describe how naturally gifted he was as a racer, and a good friend.

If you are talking strictly about the starting gate aspect, and about having fun on the starting gate, then I would have to say the early days with John George, Neil Bonds, Perry Kramer, John Palfreyman, Bobby Encinas, Marvin Church, wait a minute, I just mentioned my old teammates (John G, Neil B, Perry K from B.M.X. Products, Inc., Mongoose, & John P, Bobby E, Marvin C from Rick's Bike Shop), anyway, we used to slingshot the gate, I mean, we would pull back in anticipation, loft the front wheel and our chainrings would sometimes clear, sometimes we would flip over the gate and down the hill. It was like watching gunslingers lined up side by side, and yes, sometimes, shooting yourself in the foot...

Have you followed the sport of BMX over the years? How does it feel being able to watch BMX in the Olympic Games?

After my retirement in 1981, I helped Skip, behind the scenes, at B.M.X. Products, Inc., Mongoose, with fun projects, until Skip left in the late 1980s. It hurt to see the fluctuations that occurred with BMX Racing over the years, for whatever reason. It was interesting to see that the sport has spawned many mutations, from freestyle, dirt jumping, vert ramp, park, etc.

And NOW, BMX Racing in the Olympic Games, in China no less, fantastic! I am so glad to see BMX Racing finally reach the world stage. This is a great sport and I am so proud to have helped in some small way.

Who were the riders you liked to hangout with back in the day? Have you kept in touch with any of your old BMX friends?

Perhaps, I can qualify this from back in the early days, it was great to hang out with Ronnie Haase, flat track through the school hallways with Thom Lund and Tom Finnvers, visit and ride with Richie, Judy, Brenda, and Brandy Lee, go watch Doug Takahashi compete in karate, fly down fireroads with Mel Stoutsenberger, go over to the Palfreyman's house and motorcycle shop, fly up these crazy vertical wall jumps with Marvin Church, spend time with Marvin's dad, Marvin Sr. in the garage working on designs, Marvin and I heading over to visit with David Clinton, and Bobby Encinas, ride and discuss designs with Scot Briethaupt, hang and laugh with Perry Kramer, Neil Bonds, and Byron Friday, riding with John Wells, Peter Harrigan, Terry Barker, and Fred Thomas, driving to Southern California with Kevin Ridling, riding and jumping with Scott Clark, riding and doing tricks with Bob Haro, visit with Jeff Bottema, Clint Miller, talk to Stu Thomsen while looking at the rubber chicken on his helmet, having Tinker Juarez, Jeff Kosmala, and Kenny Nachman over to the house, taking trips with Bryan Curnel and playing golf, discussing aspects of life with John George, having heart to heart talks with Greg Hill, to name but a few...

It has only been since this past February 2008, that I have re-connected with, and am still re-connecting with my old BMX friends, and some new ones.

Greg Hill & Liz with Nancy & Danny Oakley at Bellflower, CA, 2008

Thank you to Greg Hill for the prodding to get out and attend a BMX event. I went to the ABA Summer Nationals in Roseville, CA, on July 12th, 2008. This was my first event like this since I retired from BMX in 1981. All of the people we met made Nancy and me feel so welcome, they were all so kind to both of us the entire day and evening. Thanks to gOrk of Redline Bicycles, Scott Barrette, (gOrk's brother, and owner of Patriot Bike Shop), Randy Schaffner, Bill Curtin (ABA Track Director), BA Anderson (ABA Vice President), Bernie Anderson (ABA Owner) & his Wife, Ronnie Anderson, Eric Rupe, Mike Redman (phenomenal announcer), and Cheri Elliot.

What have you kept from you BMX days? any cool things the collectors would like to hear about?

I gave back my race bikes, components, etc when I would leave each race team, I believed it was the right thing to do. I kept a few race uniforms, kept a few special trophies, after donating the majority (more than I can count).

I recently received my Prototype 21" Top Tube Supergoose Frame as a gift from Warren Eales in Melbourne, Australia. Warren & Rick Coolidge have a website for the true Mongoose Connoisseur, Warren, thank you so very much, for letting my baby make the "The LONG Journey HOME!".

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Danny Oakley & his Prototype Supergoose Frame, 2008

What is Danny into these days? What do you do on the weekends? What are your Hobbies?

My priority in life has always been my family. I have been with the love of my life, Nancy, for 18 years. I am truly blessed to have and belong to such a caring and loving family, they are my sanctuary... I have been retired for a number of years now. Weekends, weekdays, it's all the same when you're retired... Even though I am retired, I continue to consult for NASA, and Stanford. I thoroughly enjoy flying planes, riding bicycles, and going for walks, and hiking.

I am not sure if any other big BMXer works for NASA so that seems very cool that's where you ended up!
What do you do for a living? What is it like working for NASA?

Again, I have been retired for a number of years now. Even though I am retired, I continue to consult for NASA, and Stanford. Working with NASA has been, and is very rewarding. I would like to tell you about some of the exciting projects, but you don't have the proper security clearance..: )

As we speak, steps are being taken to return to the moon, and venture to Mars, this, thanks in part, to the extraordinary efforts of the Apollo Program Team, which my parents were part of. Now, we are working on the Constellation Program Team, the similarities are eerie, the Ares V Rocket system (Saturn V Rocket system), the Orion Crew Module (Apollo Command Module), the Altair Lunar Surface Access Module (Apollo Lunar Excursion Module). The Apollo Program Team had the "Right Stuff"...

Apollo 11 Lunar Landscape, 1969.

Danny, if I'm not mistaken, you were one of the riders in the "CHiPS" BMX episode. I can't tell you how many times I kept an eye out for that episode. If that was indeed you, any stories you'd like to share about it?

Yes, I was in the CHiPs - CHP-BMX - March 3, 1979 (Season 2, Episode 21). It was an all day affair, a rather substantial production, cast, crew, equipment, a few Team Mongoose racers, and few Team Jag racers. There were so many nice people that day that I got to meet and talk with. Watching the director, the writer, and the script supervisor discuss and choreograph the scenes prior to filming was fascinating. The way they would film out of sequence was similar to filming a movie, but because this was TV, the pace was much faster once they had decided they were ready to film.

Getting to know a little about Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox was fun in so many ways... Somehow, planned or unplanned, a number of fans showed up outside the fenced area and were exceptionally vocal from time to time, or so I thought, until Erik and Larry casually moved in that general direction, and then all at once, turned, smiled, and waved, and then the noise was deafening! You could tell that those two were having fun with that... and rightly so, they earned the privilege of notoriety.

I was talking with someone on the crew when I was lassoed (cowboy style, with an actual lasso) by Larry Wilcox, yes, it startled me, and when Larry said, "hey Danny, come on over here, I want to talk with you", I thought, excellent, Larry Wilcox knows my name, DUH, my name was on my Mongoose jersey!!! No, that wasn't the last time I got lassoed that day, but it was all in fun. Talking with Erik, Larry, the production crew, and other cast members, they all came across as down to earth and friendly.

The scenes we were filming were pretty wild in their own right. There was this one scene where John (the director) came over and explained how he wanted us to act, (this is the portion where you see Team Mongoose racers (yes, I'm in there!) cheering while the big race is going on. Once John felt he was done explaining, he walked back next to the camera, and promptly yelled, "ACTION"! Well, after he yelled, "CUT", you got the sense that it was not exactly what he was looking for. John came back over and discussed the scene he was looking for, going into a bit more detail. Just as John was starting to walk back towards the camera, Bryan Curnel (my Mongoose TeamMate, and good friend) said to me, "Danny, wouldn't it be easier to have some riders on the track that we can see", when I heard, "ACTION"! What you need to understand is that we were standing in front of the camera and crew, NO big race was going on, NO riders were on the track, there was just a camera staring back at us, that's
Hollywood in all of its grandeur...

Danny Oakley & Anthony Sewell at Bellflower, CA, 2008.

Another particularly memorable scene was when Anthony Sewell lands in the mudhole... I mean, you had to be there to believe it! I'm there with Anthony, when John and his people are discussing how they would like to choreograph the scene, and I'm thinking to myself, am I hearing this correctly. They wanted Anthony to launch off this jump (a water hole jump), and crash in the water, well, MUD! The 1st take looked good, Anthony came off the jump and crashed in the mud, sounds good, right, wrong... John wanted something with a bit more flair... The final take was a sight to behold, Anthony (with a fresh
uniform) at speed, flew off the jump, and while separating from his JAG bike, lands face first, superman style, in the MUD! "CUT", "PRINT IT"... Anthony, you're my hero!!!