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To Hell and Back

5 Oct

By David Castagno

SAINT AUGUSTINE- 6:30 PM.  As I sit down on my porch and begin to write this article, I realize that writing a profile on someone who seems to be larger than life, both metaphorically and physically, has its difficulties.  But in attempt to truly show the life of a musician, Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club President, ex-convict and virtual giant has lived, one must understand that in the eyes of the 6’5” Howard Irvine Coones, better known as Rusty, life is a gift that must be taken one day at a time.

Rusty Coones was born in the agricultural city of Madera, California about 25 miles from Fresno, California.  Coones father, who was a pilot, owned a crop dusting business in the rural farming town and taught Coones how to fly at a young age.

By the time he was 11 years old Coones had received his first guitar and at age 12 began to ride dirt bikes.  At 19, Coones had abandoned life in Madera and ventured south on an old Harley Davidson Panhead.  Coones stopped in Orange County to work with his uncle in the plumbing industry and never left.

As mentioned before, Coones is a Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club President.  In fact, he is the founder of the Orange County chapter, and is the current President of the San Fernando Valley chapter of the club.  But due to club regulations and rules Coones is unable to talk and go into detail about club life, events and history.  But being part of the notorious motorcycle club certainly has had an effect on his life.

In 1982, Coones went to prison on drug and illegal firearm charges.  After serving two years in prison Coones was released and returned to Laguna Beach, California, where he operated numerous custom car and motorcycle businesses.

Four years later Coones met his future wife, a half-Italian, half-Mexican Southern California native, Katherine who goes by KO.“Rusty is Rusty,” says KO “He is very real.  What you see, hear and feel from Rusty is what you get.  He impacted my life from the first day I met him”

Shortly after his release from prison, Coones met his current business partner Rodrigo Requejo.  “I met Rodrigo (Trod) when I got out of prison,” says Coones. “He had a metal fab shop and I had a motorcycle company. After we met we combined our two businesses and we both brought individual talents to our company.”

The company that Coones is referring to is Illusion Motorsports, which Coones purchased in 1998.  Coones, Requejo, and KO keep Illusion Motorsports running on a daily basis.  They have customized bikes for the Wounded Warriors foundation and even designed a bike for Kurt Sutter, the creator of the hit television show “Sons of Anarchy.”

“Kurt is a real easy guy to work with,” says Coones.  The two were first introduced through a mutual friend of KO’s.  But Kurt is not the only celebrity that Coones calls a friend.  Jesse James, famous for numerous endeavors, including his hit television show Monster Garage, is a long time friend and fellow bad boy of Coones.  “I met Jesse over 20 years ago, he was a metal fab guy. I  actually had him do some work for me on my Illusion bikes when I first bought the company.”

But unfortunately in 1999, just a year after purchasing Illusion Motorsports, Coones was arrested and charged with taking part in a massive drug smuggling operation.  Coones was firm in saying that the Hell’s Angels had nothing to do with it and that he himself had no real hand in it.  He was simply the person who introduced people to one another.  There were 15 people arrested that day including Southern California drug lord John Ward and deputy district attorney, Bryan Kazarian.  After pleading guilty to one count of drug conspiracy, Coones was sentenced to just over eight years in a federal penitentiary.

While Coones was away, KO took charge of Illusion Motorsports.  “Life for my wife was tough while I was in prison,” says Coones.  “She ran the motorcycle company, kept it going till I was out. KO supported everything she could, and she had help from a few good friends.”

One of those few good friends was his al Jesse James.  In the first few seasons of Monster Garage, Jesse can be seen wearing t-shirts that say “Free Rusty.”  This was James’ subtle way to show support for his good friend.  James also made a custom motorcycle just for Coones, so that he had a motorcycle to ride after he was released from prison.

These days when he is not working on Bikes or doing toy runs with the club, Coones is playing lead guitar in his heavy metal band “Attika 7.”“Attika 7’s music first was inspired from inside the prison walls at a federal prison in Oregon, a lot of the music was written there,” says Coones.

But aside from bikes and music Rusty and KO Coones, lead a normal life.  They have a Chihuahua name Chili and enjoy home cooked meals.“As for the future,” says Coones “the book is still being written. Hard work is what we are doing, and having a lot of fun as we go.”

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