Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 15, 2011; 3:43 AM
Motorcycle show revs up with custom bikes and memorials
January 15, 2011 by AMD World Champs
Washington Post Staff Writer
In the final hours before the doors opened to the public, the vast hall had the ethereal quiet of an art museum, a near silence even as it filled with magnificent machines.
If the starter buttons on all 550 of those machines were touched at once, the roar might blow the roof off the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
But the custom motorcycles that are the centerpiece of this weekend’s Progressive International Motorcycle Show were rolled quietly into place until the red carpet held about 20 of them.
Befitting the museum-like hush, each was a work of art that demanded the admiration even of those who hold no affection for their roar and the lure of open highway that stirs the wanderlust in bikers.
The cost of the custom paint jobs alone on these machines exceeded the price tag of most of the stock bikes in the surrounding displays.
Lloyd Hardy, who won the custom competition at last year’s show, invested about $12,000 in the intricate artwork that adorned his metallic green bike.
Just like paintings hanging in a gallery, each two-wheeled piece had a name: Tangerine Scream, Fire, The Snake.
And each had a story that reflected its creation and its artist’s intent, but none more so than Blue Angel, which sat midway down the row.
Painted blue with an adorning sculpted silver pattern that defies description, it is a masterpiece that needs a tour guide to point out the subtle refinements through which its story is told.
That guide would be Sylvester Brown, Blue Angel’s owner, who rolled it into place alone Friday.
He points out the police shield with wings on the rear fender, the badge that almost blends into the fuel tank beside a football and the classic masks of tragedy and comedy.
And on one side, so delicately drawn that one has to draw close to make it out, the outline of a man hunched in contemplation like Rodin’s “The Thinker.”
That man, Brown explains, is his brother, Wesley.
Brown’s brother, a Maryland state trooper, was gunned down outside an Applebee’s restaurant in Prince George’s County on June 11.
“So, now when I ride, I think of him as my guardian angel,” Brown said. “I wanted to do something in his memory, so I began working on this.”
Blue Angel also carries the memory of their sister, Shateea Brown, and her son, Andre Colbert, who died in a house fire a few years ago. She was nicknamed “Smiley,” so the comic-tragic masks are for her. Andre loved football, hence the ball.
On a sunny Saturday in June when they buried Wesley Brown , the hundreds who gathered to mourn him were led by a group of teenagers from the same troubled Seat Pleasant neighborhood where the Browns were raised.
They were from a group Wesley Brown started the same year he became a state trooper. Called “Young Men Enlightening Younger Men,” the organization provided mentorship intended to help boys escape the drugs and violence on the streets.
On Saturday, those teenagers will troop into the convention center wearing red T-shirts for a look at hundreds of motorcycles – and one special one.
Sylvester Brown has taken over leadership, now that his brother is gone.
“I’m just trying to bring attention to the group, because I do it all myself now, and we’re always short on funds,” Brown said. “These are kids who really need a chance.”
Brown still lives in the house he shared with his brother. The Blue Angel lives there, too.
“I don’t really go upstairs in his room too much,”
Brown said as he wiped away the last fingerprints from his shining machine.