Revival: The Return of Bam Margera

Six years after the tragic death of his best friend Ryan Dunn, Bam Margera is getting sober and teaching himself how to skate again in the process.

There are few skateboarders who’ve reached the level of fame that Bam Margera did. After bursting on to the scene in the late 1990s as one of the most talented transition skaters, Margera gained notoriety in the world of skateboarding for his insane video parts, which combined his progressive skating style with a sprinkle of suicidal stunts.

Margera would drop in on a nearly vertical ledge and make it look simple, and in the next moment he would set off fireworks in his parent’s bedroom. He represented everything that a teenager wished they could do, and many lived vicariously through Bam. His innately charismatic personality quickly propelled him to the top of the skateboarding world, and it seemed as though Margera was going to be a mainstay as one of the faces of skateboarding for years to come.

However, most people would not even mention skateboarding if they were asked about Margera, as he is much more recognizable to the average person for his involvement with the “Jackass” films and his reality show on MTV, “Viva la Bam.” There was a time in which it was difficult to turn on the TV and not see something that Margera was involved in. Producing this much non-skateboarding related content obviously took Margera’s focus off of skating, and soon enough he was not skating at all. With a seemingly endless stream of cash rolling in, and the world at his fingertips, Margera spiraled into an even more dangerous lifestyle.

For years, Margera entertained millions of people by doing ridiculous stunts and never being afraid of the consequences for his actions. While he was a celebrity, it was literally his job to be an asshole, so taking that extra step in everything that he did could be justified. However, once “Jackass” ceased to exist, and “Viva la Bam” was cancelled, Margera had to find something to do with his time.

What does a person do when all they knew was how to make people laugh when a camera is running, and suddenly the camera is taken away? For Margera, and many other members of the original “Jackass” cast, the sudden lack of a spotlight was a difficult thing to cope with. Steve-O’s struggles are well documented, and he was fortunate enough to get sober before it was too late. Ryan Dunn, Margera’s best friend and fellow “Jackass” cast member, was not as lucky. Dunn tragically passed away in a car accident in 2011, and his death marked the moment in Margera’s life in which things took a turn for the worst.

For the next six years, Margera was rarely heard from. Understandably, the sudden passing of his best friend made the public eye much less appealing. He turned in every direction for a way to cope; he moved constantly, buying houses and cars to distract himself. He already had a problem with alcohol before Dunn’s death, but Margera admits that the tragedy exacerbated his bad habits. In an interview with Vice, as a part of the Epicly Later’d series, Margera says, “Whenever we filmed anything, it would always be me and Dunn brainstorming about how to be funny, and now I don’t have that anymore? What am I gonna do? Crack open a drink.”

It was not until last year that Margera began to realize how far he had let himself sink. He had always been conscious of his appearance when he was in the spotlight, but had gained a significant amount of weight in the five years since Dunn passed. Finally, Margera decided that it was time to change his life for the better. In order to force himself to lose weight, he moved to Estonia for a full year, and dedicated himself to hiking and riding his bike every single day. In the process, he decided he wanted to try and get sober, as well. He knew that this would be the toughest thing he had ever done, but he was finally motivated to try and get better; he was not going to waste his opportunity.

In early 2017, video surfaced of Margera skating a mini-ramp. It was the first footage of him on a skateboard in years, and his fans collectively let out a sigh of relief, as no one was sure that Margera would ever skate again. While he will never be able to match his ability from when he was at his peak, Bam is still able to grab your attention when he is on a skateboard. It is the same charisma that made him so popular when he was just a kid; even though he is such an asshole—on purpose—it is nearly impossible to hate Bam Margera.

It is fitting that Margera is not relying on the traditional methods of recovery for alcoholism, because he has always done everything his way. Margera believes that he was so reliant on alcohol because he had nothing else to distract him, and his history supports this to some extent. Even if he was abusing alcohol during his time in the spotlight, it was not able to consume him, as he was able to put his attention and effort toward other things at the same time.

Bam is visibly frustrated with himself for not being able to skate as well as he used to, but every time he releases footage there is exponential improvement. Longtime fans will appreciate that he has returned to FDR Skate Park in Philadelphia, which was the home to most of Margera’s best footage from back in the day. Granted, he is not flying ten feet up the wall like he used to, but he is slowly relearning all of his old tricks. Hopefully, with the entire skateboarding world behind him, Margera can stay healthy and possibly inspire others who are struggling with similar issues to do the same.

Patrick Murtha, Eastern Connecticut State University

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Patrick Murtha

Eastern Connecticut State University
New Media Studies

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