Sterling Hayden was a customer of BMW of Marin. The mechanics had performed some minor repairs on his R25/3.
At some point, he opened with an unusual request. He wanted to store his bike in our shop. He explained that he had lived in a train caboose that had been converted to a home. The IRS had confiscated it because of taxes that he owed. He was afraid that they might try to take his bike too. He got lucky because nobody ever came to confiscate it.
I never forgot one comment he made about the IRS, “after what I did for them.” I had no idea what he did.
Sterling would come in from time to time and take his bike out for a ride. Over time I learned that he was a well-known Hollywood actor. He mentioned that he was in one movie with Marlyn Monroe.
In early 1975 I sold BMW of Marin to Bill Nephew. I learned later that Bill would cut out newspaper articles about crimes done by black people and paste them into a blank album. It was his “hate book.” Sometimes he would leave the book on the front counter where a customer might see it.
Sterling Hayden announced that he wanted a twin-cylinder BMW. He wasn’t going long-distance touring, so he only wanted a basic bike. Bill sold him a Labitsky Special, which was a highly tuned street bike. It was overpriced and not what Sterling needed. At that point, my former shop manager, Rod Miller, quit working there.
It was only later that I learned more about Sterling Hayden. In WWII, he had been an assassin in France. His primary job was to kill people that were influential to Hitler. His first kill was a woman. He survived his time in France and never once spoke about his role. The Sterling Hayden I knew was soft-spoken, mild-manned, and not a braggart.
Updated 30 March 2023