About Jesse James
Born April 19th, 1969 in Lynwood, CA, Jesse Gregory James was born a distant relative of the historical outlaw Jesse James, a cousin of the younger Jesse's great-great-grandfather. James, whose parents divorced when he was five, grew up in Long Beach, CA, where his father owned an antique shop that neighbored a large aftermarket motorcycle parts warehouse. He played football at La Sierra High School, as well as later at the University of California, Riverside, before falling victim to a career-ending knee injury. Sidelined by his injury, the 6'2" James, who could bench-press 400 pounds, became a professional bodyguard, touring the world with celebrated metal bands including Danzig, Slayer and Soundgarden. While touring, he met his first wife, Karla, with whom he had two children, daughter Chandler and son Jesse Jr.
After dislocating an elbow during a show in Detroit, he left the bodyguard business to follow his true passion for motorcycles - an interest that had started after receiving a mini-bike at age seven. He decided to begin a new career building custom motorcycles, which was already an on-again, off-again hobby. After working under several legendary custom hot rodders, including Boyd Coddington, in the early 1990s, James decided to set out on his own, despite of a lack of investors, bank loans or business partners (not counting his mother, whose garage was West Coast Choppers' first headquarters). Over time, the company and its meticulously crafted custom bikes developed a strong following, thanks in no small part to the outlaw image and natural star quality of its CEO. In 2001, producer Thom Beers discovered James during research for "Motorcycle Mania" (Discovery Channel, 2002). That production and its sequels, "Motorcycle Mania II" (2002) and "Motorcycle Mania III" (2004), ultimately all featured James.
Although his bikes cost as much as $150,000, and often required as much as a year-long wait, James' mix of quality workmanship and personality attracted big dollars and A-list celebrities, including basketball player Shaquille O'Neal, model Tyson Beckford and the aforementioned Kid Rock. James became known for tailoring each of his special-order motorcycle to the specific buyer, a process so specific that he actually took numerous measurements of the rider and factored those into the design of each bike. With its newfound visibility and financial success, West Coast Choppers' staff ballooned to over 50 people and began to outgrow its 18,000 square foot space. The attention even made the name "West Coast Choppers" a recognizable clothing brand.
Celebrities sought James out personally, as well as professionally. On Oct. 20, 2002, he married porn star Janine Lindemulder, also known for gracing the cover of the band Blink 182's more popular CDs as a nurse. The following year, James left Lindemulder while she was seven months pregnant with his second daughter, Sunny. The couple's divorce was finalized in 2004. He went on to date A-list actress Sandra Bullock after the actress arranged for her young godson, who was a fan of his, to watch the taping of an episode of his show. The unlikely coupling culminated in a July 16, 2005 wedding in Santa Barbara, CA - a marital merger which raised his profile outside the reality TV/motorcycle worlds in which he normally circulated.
Sensing his growing mass appeal, the Discovery Channel made James the host of "Monster Garage," a reality show in which he supervised teams of mechanics and engineers tasked with transforming ordinary vehicles into one-of-a-kind machines. A typical transformation was when an old milk truck was converted into a mobile milking station that could not only milk a cow, but pasteurize and dispense it by the glass. James' real life business, West Coast Choppers became an integral part of the TV program, as the "Monster Garage" team often utilized James' shop and machinery to help them meet the challenges of the weekly show. Conveniently, the warehouse that served as Monster Garage's set was located mere blocks from the real-life West Coast Choppers' Long Beach location.
During his heady run on the Discovery Channel, James found time to write a book, I Am Jesse James in 2004; become an ordained minister through the Universal Life Church; land on People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" list for 2003; and in the spring of 2006, travel to Iraq to entertain the troops. In 2009, James joined the cast of "The Celebrity Apprentice," making it farther in the reality competition than even he had anticipated. Although married to one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, the ever stoic James refused to hit up his wife during fundraising activities on the show, effectively ending his run with a "You're Fired" from Donald Trump.
In 2010, James became the focus of one of the biggest Hollywood scandals in years when, only weeks after Bullock won a Best Actress Academy Award for her work in "The Blind Side" (2009), In Touch Weekly broke the story that James had cheated on his wife with a tattoo model while she had been in Georgia shooting the very film that had brought her Oscar glory. Shortly before the story broke, Bullock allegedly moved out of the family home and pulled out of a European publicity tour for the film, citing personal reasons. After issuing a public apology of sorts without actually admitting the accusations were true, James became, for a time, the "most hated man in America," as one media outlet put it.
Over the next year, the increasingly messy events surrounding the James-Bullock scandal moved quickly. Little more than a month after the sordid revelations made headlines, Bullock filed for divorce and announced plans to continue with procedures to adopt a child as a single parent - a process she had begun with James years earlier. Not long after Bullock's divorce from James became final, tattoo artist and model Katherine von Drachenberg - known professionally as "Kat Von D" - divulged Hollywood's worst kept secret when she publicly announced that she and James were, in fact, a couple. The new year began with the first of several back-and-forth statements - usually via social media sites - by the now infamous couple. In January, James and Von D announced their engagement, with the normally stoic James uncharacteristically waxing poetic about the future joy of growing old with his tattooed betrothed. It came as little surprise to anyone, however, when cracks soon formed along the foundations of their already dubious relationship. By the summer James and Von D had separated, then reunited a month later, only to separate once more in September of 2011.
By Dan Levine
|Karla James. Mother of his two older children; divorced|
|Kat Von D. Star of reality series "LA Ink"; Kat Von D confirmed they were dating via Twitter on Aug. 18, 2010; announced their engagement in January 2011|
|Sandra Bullock. Met when Bullock arranged for her 10-year-old godson to tour the set of "Monster Garage" in 2003; married July 16, 2005 in California; reportedly split in March 2010 after rumors surfaced of James' infidelity; Bullock announced on April 28, 2010 that she has filed for divorce; their divorce was finalized in June 2010|
|Janine Lindemulder. Married from 2002-2004|
|La Sierra High School, Riverside , California|
|University of California, Riverside, Riverside , California|
|Riverside Community College, Riverside , California|
|Formed Payupsucker Productions|
|Started West Coast Choppers in a friends garage without any partners or loans|
|Appeared in the Discovery Channel's "Motorcycle Mania" documentary, which chronicled his everyday life|
|Debuted "Monster Garage" on the Discovery Channel|
|Began the nationally published Garage magazine|
|Opened the Cisco Burger restaurant, a 50's style burger stand named after his Pit Bull|
|Produced the Discovery Channel Special "History of the Chopper"|
|Appeared on the second season of "Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC)|