US Chopper stars fly in

ON a chilly, grey April day when the seaside village would normally have a deserted, almost melancholic air, the centre of Hemsby, was already crammed with more than 1,000 visitors by 8am today.

ON a chilly, grey April day when the seaside village would normally have a deserted, almost melancholic air, the centre of Hemsby, was already crammed with more than 1,000 visitors by 8am today.

And a striking addition to the normal family hatchbacks in the packed car parks off Beach Road was an array of large, extravagant - and very noisy - motorcycles.

It was almost like a Royal visit with patient queues, marshalled by police and security guards, forming as early as 3.45am.

But the VIPs who arrived to loud cheers shortly before 10am were in fact the far from regal looking stars of one of America's biggest cult television shows, American Chopper, broadcast to British viewers on the Discovery Channel.

The reality show focuses on the Teutul family - father Paul and his sons Mikey and Paul Jnr - who run Orange County Choppers, a company making customised motorbikes that was founded in a New York basement in 1999.

All three jetted in from Germany to Norwich especially to meet their fans at Hemsby's Orange County Choppers (OCC), the only licensed outlet for OCC-branded clothing in Europe.

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The store, a former bucket and spade shop, was opened a year ago by Karl Hickey, whose firm Basic Box manufactures the clothing in factories as far afield as Leicester and Turkey.

Mr Hickey, who became sold on the idea when he saw the show on a visit to the US, said: “It is great the stars have flown in to help us celebrate our first birthday.”

Three of the dream machines - including one presented to the New York Jets American Football team - were put on display for fans to admire as they queued to meet the Teutuls.

Among those waiting to have posters and T-shirts signed were Gary and Margaret Willis and their 14-year-old son Darren who had left their home in Derby at 5am.

Series fans Claire Cobb and her son Harley, from Brighton, were staying at Pontins in Hemsby and were delighted to find out about the visit the day before.

Alex Capon, 11, a pupil at St Nicholas Priory Middle School, in Great Yarmouth, had a chopper bike shaved into his hair especially for the occasion.

Many fans, including Heath Walford, from Norwich, turned up on their motorbikes. Confessing admiration for the OCC choppers, costing as much as 200,000 dollars and bought by such stars as Will Smith and Billy Idol, he admitted his Yamaha was probably more practical for everyday motoring.

Throwing signed Frisbees into the crowd on their arrival, Paul Snr confessed they were still “absolutely amazed” at how the show had taken off in such a big way.

Recalling the simple beginnings, he said: “We were running our business making motorbikes and one day just took a call from a producer saying they wanted to do a series.”

He said he thought it was the artwork on their bikes that made them stand out.