Bam Margera’s Early Life – The CKY Crew
Brandon Cole Margera was born to his parents, Phil and April Margera, in West Chester, Pennsylvania on September 28, 1979. While he was still learning to walk he had a habit of running into walls. He didn’t seem to mind the impact and his grandfather started calling the boy ‘Bam’. The nickname stuck and he became universally known as Bam from that time onwards.
The young Bam was not wildly enthusiastic about going to high school, he later admitted that he only attended because his friend Chris Raab went there. While he was attending a graphics art class at the school he began to film a few skateboarding stunts and some sketches along with Chris Raab as well as some other friends, Ryan Dunn and Rake Yohn included.
Chris Raab was eventually suspended and Bam wanted to leave school. His parents managed to convince him to at least obtain his GED before leaving, and he did, but that was the end of school as far as Bam was concerned.
The sketches and skateboarding stunts began to grow into a larger compilation of stunts, which Bam co-wrote and directed alongside another friend who attended the same graphics art class, Brandon DiCamillo. Bam’s older brother Jess performed a few stunts for the film and was also the drummer in a band called CKY, which stood for ‘Camp Kill Yourself’. The band performed a few tunes to accompany the stunts and the film project was eventually named ‘Landspeed CKY’.
Landspeed CKY is a forerunner of Jackass in terms of content, there are plenty of skateboarding action shots and lots of stunts. Some of the stunts are quite impressively dangerous and far beyond what the Jackass crew were allowed to do for the TV series, such as the infamous dummy scenes, where a dummy is thrown onto a moving car from a bridge to the horror of the driver. There is also plenty of the inevitable juvenile humor and some bad sketches to wrap it all up. The production values aren’t too high and some of the fun isn’t that funny, but the roots of much of the Jackass format are there to see.
Jeff Tremaine was, at the time, the editor of the skateboarding magazine, Big Brother. Tremaine had been approached by Philip John Clapp Jr, an aspiring actor who had turned to writing to pay the bills. Clapp, who used the name Johnny Knoxville professionally, had come up with the idea of testing various self-defense gadgets on himself for an article. He pitched the concept to a few magazines and eventually spoke to Jeff Tremaine at Big Brother. Jeff loved the idea and commissioned Johnny to film it and write about the experience for Big Brother.
While searching for material for the video of Johnny getting zapped by assorted defensive weapons Tremaine watched Landspeed CKY and was immediately impressed with the concept behind it. Recognizing the similarities in style between Margera and Knoxville, he soon contacted Bam and Brandon DiCamillo and shortly after drafted the CKY crew into a new format alongside Knoxville.
Saturday Night Live made an offer to feature Jeff’s band of daredevils performing stunts every week, but the deal never went through. There was plenty of other interest in Tremaine’s idea and a bidding war between MTV and Comedy Central to air the show began. MTV won the contract and commissioned a new show called Jackass.
Jackass and Bam’s TV Career
Jackass the TV show first aired on MTV on April 12th, 2000 and gained a cult following almost immediately. The pointless risk-taking that the members indulged in combined with the high pain threshold of the actors impressed and appalled viewers in equal measure. The show was a talking point in tabloids and workplaces across the country before long and also began to attract a lot of negativity from those who thought it was setting a bad and dangerous example to impressionable young people everywhere.
Bam took a major role in the TV series, he was the only actor other than Johnny Knoxville who appeared in every episode, although Ryan Dunn and Brandon DiCamillo from CKY were regulars on the show too. Jackass eventually gained a cult following and enough publicity to hit the big screen, and in 2002 ‘Jackass: The Movie’ was released. It was heavily hyped, as much by word of mouth as by marketing and it sold-out the first weekend. The film was a huge financial success and spawned a multitude of Jackass copycat groups who indulged in stunts that ranged from incredibly stupid, through incredibly disgusting, to incredibly dangerous. The disclaimers that MTV plastered all over MTV episodes from the second series on didn’t please either the actors or the critics.
One particularly vocal, and influential critic of the show was Senator Joe Lieberman, he campaigned against its ‘irresponsible stupidity’ and pressured MTV to remove it from the air.
After an 18-year-old from New Zealand claimed he was inspired to douse a 16-year-old in gasoline and set him alight because of the show the pressure ramped up, and Jackass the TV show ended after three series.
All of the regular Jackass faces had a host of work offers available to them after the success of the first film and followed a variety of pursuits for the next few years. Bam had the looks, he had plenty of ideas for other shows and MTV was happy to offer him a follow-up show to Jackass.
‘Viva La Bam’ began in 2003 and ran for 5 series until 2005. It featured Bam, along with Ryan Dunn and Brandon DiCamillo up to their usual tricks. There were lots of pranks, particularly on Bam’s long-suffering father Phil, a huge man who was forever putting up with Bam’s sometimes disgusting pranks for the amusement of the viewing audience, in one episode Bam urinated on his sleeping father in Bed.
In the same year that ‘Viva La Bam’ began, Margera released the first of his three independently produced films. He wrote, directed and starred in ‘Haggard’, which was a biographical story of the troubled early love life of Ryan Dunn, who played himself. Brandon DiCamillo played four different parts and CKY crew members Rake Yohn, Brandon, Chris Raab all helped out. The film met with mixed reviews but was generally held to have some great comedy scenes and some chaotic, but original dialogue.
The first sequel to the Jackass series came along in 2006 and shortly afterward Bam became engaged to his childhood sweetheart, Melissa Rothstein, who was known as Missy. In 2007 the preparations for the wedding and the ceremony itself were filmed for a series MTV commissioned for the events, ‘Bams Unholy Trinity’.
In 2009 Bam released a book called ‘Serious as dog dirt’ that contained many previously unpublished pictures and personal writing. He continued to appear on TV in various specials and Jackass-style shows.
Married life didn’t go too smoothly for Bam and Missy, in 2009 Bam was hospitalized after a four-day drinking session, at the time Bam revealed the reason for the binge was that he might be divorcing. In 2010 he admitted in an interview with Howard Stern that he was seeing other women.
The Shocking Death of Ryan Dunn
On June 20, 2011, Bam’s great friend, Ryan Dunn, was killed while driving along with his passenger, Zachary Hartwell, a production assistant from Jackass Number Two. Ryan had been drinking and his Porsche 911 swerved off the road at high speed, slammed into a tree and burst into flames. Both men were killed instantly. Ryan had posted a picture on Twitter of he and Zach Hartwell drinking in a West Chester bar hours before the fatal trip.
Bam was in Arizona at the time of the crash and jumped on a plane to West Chester as soon as he heard about it. Journalists were there to film him as he stumbled by the side of the road, devastated by shock and grief. Fox news interviewed him shortly afterward and he was traumatized, he described Ryan as his best friend and was inconsolable. The death of Dunn provoked an outpouring of grief from Jackass fans Worldwide but also led to much criticism of him for drinking and driving. Bam and his parents defended Ryan in the media, stating that he would not have driven drunk.
Dunn may not have felt intoxicated at the time but tests subsequently showed him to have more than twice the legal alcohol level in his blood at the time of the accident.
In 2012 Bam and Missy’s troubled marriage ended in divorce, yet within a year Bam married for the second time, in Iceland to Model Nicole Boyd.
The Jackass films had run their course by now, the originality of the concept had been copied a thousand times by a whole new generation of Daredevils. After Ryan’s death there were a few TV appearances, alongside the rest of the Jackass crew for a Ryan Dunn tribute, and a stunt-based show, ‘Bam’s Bas Ass Game Show’ that ran for six episodes but only achieved a million viewers, it sank without trace after one series.
Bam got involved in a few other projects, a rap video in 2013 called ‘Bend my Dick to my Ass’ which featured the ever-resourceful Bam urinating in his own mouth amongst a host of other bizarre and clichéd scenes. It was generally considered to be a parody of rap but no-one was entirely sure other than Bam himself.
He continued with his fairly wild behaviour despite his marriage and increasing years and was involved in a fight with a rap collective known as the Glacier Mafia in an Icelandic festival in 2015, The newspapers reported that Bam was in a ‘strange’ condition but the more direct speaking witnesses all claimed he was acting like a ‘crazy man’.
Bam Margera in 2018 – What’s He Doing Now?
In 2016, Bam has returned to the TV screens in VH1’s ‘Family Therapy with Dr. Jenn’. It is by far the most depressing show he has ever been on. Bam is barely recognizable from his younger self, the weight has piled on and his voice is gravelly. His boyish good looks have long since disappeared.
Drinking has made Bam look older than his age and the years of fighting and stunts have left their mark as well. The athletically skilled skater has been replaced by a scarred bear of a man. Bam appears on the show alongside his mother April, he is open about his long struggle with alcoholism and the struggle against depression he has fought since his friend’s shocking death.
He recently opened up on the show about his suicidal thoughts and his unhappiness with his life. He said ‘I have all this s***, I have nice cars and I don’t want any of this s*** anymore. I just don’t want anything.’
Its clear that Bam is at a vital crossroads in his life, no longer satisfied by material success, the death of his good friend has opened up a metaphysical void in his life. Bam is examining not only his own life but the lives of those around him.
On the latest episode of Dr. Jenn, he said, ‘I don’t want to meet anybody new, I don’t want to be friends with anybody, even my friends are a*******.’
During an interview in 2017, Bam stated that he has maintained his sobriety since appearing on, Family Therapy with Dr. Jenn. Living in Spain, he attributes his sobriety to surrounding himself with good people and having something productive to do every day. He has started skating again, not professionally, but for fun. This lead to a renewed partnership with Element Skateboards. Element released 10 of Bam’s deck designs for their 25th anniversay.
It’s hard to see what the future holds for Bam, the days of jumping into trees and skating into lakes are gone for good, the joy of success seems to have died for him along with Ryan Dunn. There’s no doubt that any viewer of the show will be rooting for Bam to pull through, he’s still a nice guy and always will be. It’d be nice to see the tough skater who survived a thousand dangerous stunts survive this personal challenge too and get back to being his old self.