- Matthew Schniper
- BIG supporter John Owens (left) and director/producer Leon Melas are working together on the TV pilot Steel Therapy.
As hands fly into the air to claim assignments such as purchasing lumber and researching building code, black leather chaps in plastic patio chairs squeak like clean Tupperware.
Leon Melas swoops around, filming the 20 or so meeting attendees, elated by the material he's gathering.
"I love these guys," he says, with one eye still glued to his viewfinder.
At this weekly gathering of the Business Independent Group outside the Roadhouse Bar and Grill in south Pueblo, members are assuming duties to help construct a handicap ramp at a local building.
Jaime Granillo, who recently completed the finishing touches on his Roadhouse, is among the group of Pueblo bikers who've formed BIG, a charitable organization of concerned motorcyclists who lend their time and energy to local volunteer projects. A Roadhouse grand opening in late August marked not only their emergence from the egg of the biker's haven, but possibly the start of a much larger bikers' movement across the country.
BIG supporter John Owens is setting out, cameramen in tow, with the lofty aim of fueling a nationwide movement through a reality television series he's pitching called "Steel Therapy."
"In a way, it's going to be like merging small clans into tribes, creating a nationwide unity of bikers through 'Steel Therapy,'" says Melas.
As the show's title implies, there tends to be a lot more to biking than just racking up mileage. Much the way Phaedrus pursued values in Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the "Steel Therapy" crew intends to find and document the spirit of America and what makes it great.
From the back of his Harley, Owens wants to inspire grassroots efforts of caring for one another, particularly the elderly, sick and less fortunate.
At home in Pueblo, for example, Owens wants to know why there's plenty of money for water fountains -- "art sculptures" -- and none for urban children to acquire football equipment and jerseys.
Granillo was alerted to the shortfall when a mother approached BIG, perplexed that her son had to sell sno-cones to raise money for the team. Part of the pilot episode will capture Owens and the hulking bikers marching onto a school field and surprising the kids with equipment Owens purchased.
"We're going to tackle everything from local government to border issues and rising gas prices," says Owens. "This show won't just be for bikers."
Owens solicited the help of his friend Melas, a director and producer known for his work in 2002 on "American Fighter Pilot," a reality series that followed the lives of three Air Force pilots in training.
Melas and Owens began shooting principal photography for the "Steel Therapy" pilot episode in Pueblo late last month, and are confident that their brainchild will grow into a phenomenon.
"Steel Therapy" isn't just an idealistic pipe dream for Owens; it's a spiritual quest to which he believes he has been called. By diving into the symptoms and issues of each community through which he passes, Owens hopes to root out some of their underlying causes.
"As the show's motto states, our work is about the ride, the cause and, ultimately, the journey," Owens says.
Whether Hollywood will end up biting the "Steel Therapy" hook is something only time and patience will reveal.
-- Matthew Schniper