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If Johnny Knoxville was the ringmaster of the "Jackass" (MTV, 2000-2002) crew, and Jason "Wee Man" Acuña its court jester, then Bam Margera was its matinee idol and its entrepreneur. An inveterate prankster as a teenager, Margera filmed his friends as they executed skateboard stunts and practical jokes, and later released them as part of a popular video series called "CKY." The videos helped to introduce Margera to Knoxville and the "Jackass" team, who made him their second-in-command for the eventual series and wildly popular feature films. Between "Jackass" projects, Margera became a one-man operation, producing his own prank reality series, "Viva La Bam" (MTV, 2003-05) and several follow-ups, as well as directing music videos and low-budget comedies and launching his own radio program and music label. Though his career was gangbusters, his personal life occasionally slipped into toxic areas through struggles with alcohol and public altercations. But his dogged determination to make a name for himself helped carry him past most of the trouble spots, and minted him as one of the most successful independent figures in the industry.Brandon Cole Margera was born Sept. 28, 1979 in West Chester, PA, the...
If Johnny Knoxville was the ringmaster of the "Jackass" (MTV, 2000-2002) crew, and Jason "Wee Man" Acuña its court jester, then Bam Margera was its matinee idol and its entrepreneur. An inveterate prankster as a teenager, Margera filmed his friends as they executed skateboard stunts and practical jokes, and later released them as part of a popular video series called "CKY." The videos helped to introduce Margera to Knoxville and the "Jackass" team, who made him their second-in-command for the eventual series and wildly popular feature films. Between "Jackass" projects, Margera became a one-man operation, producing his own prank reality series, "Viva La Bam" (MTV, 2003-05) and several follow-ups, as well as directing music videos and low-budget comedies and launching his own radio program and music label. Though his career was gangbusters, his personal life occasionally slipped into toxic areas through struggles with alcohol and public altercations. But his dogged determination to make a name for himself helped carry him past most of the trouble spots, and minted him as one of the most successful independent figures in the industry.
Brandon Cole Margera was born Sept. 28, 1979 in West Chester, PA, the youngest of two boys by baker and accountant Phil Margera and his wife, April. He gained his nickname from his grandfather, who bestowed it on the boy at the age of three after he displayed a penchant for running into walls. School was the least of Margera's interests as a teenager, though he would meet his two closest friends, Chris Raab and Ryan Dunn, in the halls of West Chester East High School. Margera eventually dropped out of high school, and spent the majority of his time skateboarding with Raab, Dunn and a loose collective of friends whom he dubbed the CKY Crew. The group took its name from Margera's older brother Jess, who fronted a hard rock band called CKY, which in itself was borrowed from the cult slasher movie "Sleepaway Camp" (1983). Margera taught himself how to use a video camera, and soon began shooting footage of his friends while they skateboarded and carried out ridiculous pranks and amateur stunts. Margera compiled the scenes into a homemade VHS release titled "Landspeed presents: CKY" (1996), which gained an appreciative audience among young skaters. Three more films, each progressively more accomplished, from a technical sense, as well as offensive, as shown by the inclusion of a graphic homemade sex video featuring Margera and his then-girlfriend in "CKY4: The Latest & Greatest," were released between 1999 and 2002 on VHS and DVD.
The CKY video series attracted the attention of Jeff Tremaine, editor of an irreverent skateboarding magazine called Big Brother, which employed many of the individuals who later rose to fame as part of "Jackass," including Johnny Knoxville, Chris Pontius and Jason "Wee Man" Acuña. Tremaine and his staff and friends had shot their own videos for the magazine, one of which featured Knoxville testing various security devices on himself, and had begun to develop these skits into a pilot for a television series. Tremaine contacted Margera to join the project, which eventually became MTV's wildly successful and controversial "Jackass." Margera and Dunn were eventually made permanent members of the "Jackass" crew, while Raab and the others were involved in more limited capacities. The duo were among the most popular of the daredevil teams, with Margera generating considerable female appeal for his scruffy good looks.
In 2002, the success of the "Jackass" series generated a feature film, also titled "Jackass," which featured bigger, crasser and more ridiculous stunts. To the surprise of many, the film landed at No. 1 at the box office, which elevated Margera and his friends from small-screen pranksters to bona fide movie stars. By this time, the "Jackass" series had come to a close due to conflicts with MTV over censorial issues, but the network was more than happy to milk the revenues it generated from the show by reaching out to core "Jackass" members for their own solo efforts. Margera's series "Viva La Bam" was the first and most successful of the lot; carved largely from the same cloth as "Jackass," the show followed Margera, Dunn and the original CKY crew as they executed more pranks and stunts on the citizens of West Chester. The main targets for Margera's antics were his parents, most notably his father Phil, who displayed a saint-like patience in the face of near-constant humiliation. Margera's Uncle Vito, whose unintelligible speech earned him the nickname "Don Vito," also became something of a celebrity through the show prior to his arrest for sexual assault on a minor in 2007.
Margera's focus with "Viva La Bam" and the series that followed it was to recreate himself as a brand, which he accomplished with an impressive degree of success. While producing and starring in "Viva La Bam," he directed several music videos for his brother's band, as well as his personal favorites like HIM and Viking Skull. Margera also branched briefly into acting with cameo appearances in features like "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" (2003) and "Grind" (2003). His self-taught skill with a camera eventually allowed him to co-write, direct and star in the independent comedy "Haggard" (2003), which starred Dunn as a cuckolded sad sack loosely based on himself and featured legendary skater Tony Hawk in its amateur cast. In 2004, he launched his own Sirius Satellite Radio show, "Radio Bam," on which Margera and his cohorts spun their favorite records in between bouts of verbal abuse. The following year, he launched his own music label, Filthy Note, which sponsored such minor metal acts as Vains of Jenna before shutting down in 2010, and compiled two volumes of Viva La Bands, which featured music by his favorite artists.
Margera reunited with his "Jackass" teammates for "Jackass Number Two" (2006), which repeated both its predecessor's level of gross-out humor and success at the box office, and officially minted "Jackass" as a franchise. The film's success was somewhat tainted for Margera after he filed suit against his fiancée, Jenn Rivell, a single mother six years his senior who made frequent appearances in his early videos. After their relationship dissipated in 2005 over rumors that Margera had become involved with pop star Jessica Simpson, he alleged that Rivell broke into his house and stole property. The suit was eventually dismissed as speculative. Despite this experience, Margera forged ahead with his love life, which became the subject of his next series. "Bam's Unholy Union" (MTV, 2007), which followed his plans to wed his girlfriend, Melissa Rothstein, despite intervening shenanigans from his family and the "Jackass" boys. The show concluded with the couple's wedding, but failed to generate a second season due to Margera's assertion that MTV wanted to stage a pregnancy as part of the show's storyline.
Margera instead returned to independent films, directing a surreal follow-up to "Haggard" titled "Minghags," which was released directly to DVD in 2009, and "Bam Margera Presents: Where the #$&% is Santa?" (2008). The crude comedy, which starred Margera, his family, and an assortment of friends and cohorts, followed his attempt to make Christmas special for his wife by traveling to Finland and kidnapping Santa Claus. That same year, Margera countered what little family-friendly good will his Christmas movie might have generated by appearing in a non-sexual role in a pornographic feature titled "The Fantasstic Whores 4" (2008). Despite attempts to further expand his empire through establishments like "The Note," a bar and theater he opened in West Chester in 2008, and the release of a book of writings and pictures titled Serious as Dog Dirt (2009), Margera's personal life began to suffer in the face of so much activity. He was hospitalized after a four-day alcohol binge in 2009, which he blamed on marital troubles. The following year, he announced in an interview with Howard Stern that he and Rothstein were living in separate cities, and that he was carrying on relationships with two other women in San Francisco and West Chester.
Though his personal life seemed to be in shambles, the business of being Bam Margera roared back into the spotlight with the release of "Jackass 3D" (2010). Margera himself had suffered mightily for the film, having broken his shoulder and three ribs in the pursuit of stunts, and in July 2010, he was assaulted by a woman with a baseball bat outside the Note and was hospitalized for head injuries, which briefly halted filming. "Jackass 3D" exceeded industry expectations by out-grossing both previous theatrical "Jackass" films and landing the highest opening day ticket sales for a fall release in history. In August 2010, Margera and CKY toured Australia to promote the film, but instead generated headlines for being barred from boarding a plane by New Zealand security due to high levels of intoxication.
In June 2011, Margera bared his emotional side through an intense outpouring of grief following the death of his childhood friend and "Jackass" co-star Ryan Dunn, who perished in a fiery car crash. The accident, which was later attributed to a high level of alcohol in Dunn's system, generated a Tweet from Roger Ebert that essentially blamed Dunn's friends for his death, citing alcohol as a factor before an autopsy had even been performed. Margera reacted furiously to the Tweet with a profane one of his own, causing the veteran critic to express regret over reacting too quickly to the news while family and friends were just hearing of Dunn's death that morning. Margera, his wife, family and co-stars later memorialized Dunn in a private ceremony on June 22, shortly after he had visited the accident site and broken down in tears, all captured by local news cameras.
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