Hells Angels Founder Sonny Barger Dies: ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Fans Remember His Character in Touching Tributes

by Caitlin Berard

Earlier this week, Sons of Anarchy fans were shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Hells Angels founder Sonny Barger and SOA star, who died at the age of 83 following a “brief battle” with liver cancer. Before his death, Sonny penned a heartfelt farewell to his friends and fans, which was then posted on Facebook to announce his passing.

“If you are reading this message, you’ll know that I’m gone,” Barger wrote. “I’ve asked that this note be posted immediately after my passing. I’ve lived a long and good life filled with adventure. And I’ve had the privilege to be part of an amazing club.”

“Although I’ve had a public persona for decades, I’ve mostly enjoyed special time with my club brothers, my family, and close friends,” he continued. “Please know that I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer. But also know that in the end, I was surrounded by what really matters: My wife, Zorana, as well as my loved ones. Keep your head up high, stay loyal, remain free, and always value honor.”

Fans Pay Tribute to ‘Sons of Anarchy’ Star Sonny Barger

Upon news of his passing, tributes poured in all across the internet from fans who remembered Sonny Barger not for his controversial past but for his contribution to television history as Lenny “The Pimp” Janowitz in Sons of Anarchy.

“Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear about his passing! He was amazing in SOA as Lenny the Pimp! RIP Sonny!” one fan wrote on Reddit. “Regardless of what you think about what Sonny did in real life, we almost definitely wouldn’t have Sons without him,” another added. “Live long and ride free old-timer. RIP Sonny Barger,” a third fan said on Twitter.

Hells Angels Founder Claims ‘SOA’ is ‘Nowhere Near’ Reality

Sons of Anarchy followed the fictional motorcycle gang, SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original). In Season 3, however, the series paid tribute to the real deal by giving Hells Angels founder Sonny Barger a cameo role.

In the cameo, Barger played Lenny “The Pimp” Janowitz, the founding member of SAMCRO. And though Sonny praised the series, he revealed that Sons of Anarchy isn’t even close to depicting the reality of a motorcycle gang.

“We watch it every week,” he explained in a 2010 interview with TV Squad, as reported by Motorcyclist. “It’s a nice show and it seems like everyone likes it. But it’s nowhere near my everyday life.”

In the same interview, series creator Kurt Sutter explained motorcyclists’ reaction to the show. “They completely get it,” he said. “They get that it is a TV show, and [Barger] totally understands the need for dramatization and the need for it to be bigger than life.”

“But he appreciates the fact that we try to keep it real,” he continued. “He appreciates the fact that we try to paint the other side of the lifestyle — that it’s not all blood and guts, that it’s ultimately about family and camaraderie.”