Killing Yourself to Live

Balls to the Wall With Bam Margera & His Crew

photo: Greg Miller

Another major player in CKY, Raab Himself, a disheveled, raspy-voiced 23-year-old who looks like a cross between Steven Tyler and Jeff Spicoli, met Bam in junior high. He recalls with fondness Bam's instigative spirit back then, and works himself into a frenzy describing an incident in high school that got him kicked out for several months.

"We got suspended for a day, and everybody had taken a test the day before, so we had to take it in the next room. Bam rips the biggest fart—so loud they heard it next door! So I was like, 'Dude, what if I take a shit on the teacher's desk?' And he was like, 'Dude, there's no way you'll do that!' I figured, if I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it out of control—I'm gonna do it in the hallway! So I took a shit in the teacher's coffee cup and I threw it all over the lockers." But he did have some regrets. "My favorite janitor in the whole world, I was so cool with her, she had to clean up my shit, and that fucking sucked!"

Pranksters prepare for fall in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
photo: Greg Miller
Pranksters prepare for fall in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

To say this was the behavior of a deranged, disturbed child who was desperately in need of some Ritalin and serious counseling would be only half the story. "The whole reason I did that," says Raab Himself, "was because every teacher I had used to say that I'd never make it anywhere, that I'd never do anything with my life, that I was an idiot, a moron. I did it to fuck with them, to get above them." Since then, he's received a bachelor's degree in finance, but his love for public defecation hasn't waned a bit. In the video CKY 3, he gives a stellar performance, downing 18 Ex-Laxes and shitting himself while jogging through a suburban neighborhood wearing nothing but a jockstrap.

But Camp Kill Yourself is more than just a bunch of fucked-up kids releasing testosterone and other bodily elements. It's a performance-art/stunt collective, an acting group, a kick-ass band (known as CKY), and a production company. It's a creative, tight-knit group of friends who have turned doing what they love into a lifestyle. And Bam Margera is their leader—and he's become a wealthy one at that.

Since turning pro as a skater several years ago, Margera has toured with Tony Hawk, landed major sponsorship deals through skateboard and sneaker companies, and teamed up with Johnny Knoxville on Jackass—all of which has earned him more money then he ever imagined. "When Jackass came out, everybody was like, 'What? That kid Bam on Jackass has a pro board and shoe?' And they just bought all of it," explains the 23-year-old Margera. "I really don't have to worry about money anymore—I'm getting over a million dollars for the Jackass movie." And he's not afraid to spend it: He's purchased a $400,000 home for his parents, as well as a Ferrari, two Audis, and a Hummer for himself.

Bam Margera could become richer and even more famous—at MTV's Video Music Awards in late August, for instance, he and Johnny Knoxville were chosen to present the Best Rap Artist Award to a worldwide audience. They did it, of course, by stapling the envelope to Steve-O's stomach and then ripping it free and announcing, "Eminem!" as Steve-O's stomach bled. (Even the rapper looked a little taken aback.)

But don't assume that Margera will follow in Knoxville's footsteps to Hollywood. "If that's working for him, then good for him," says Bam. "But I don't want to move to California, I really don't want to have anything to do with it." He still lives in West Chester, remains loyal to his friends, and continues to put most of his effort into Camp Kill Yourself. The group has released three videos to date through their CKY label, with a fourth on the way. Bam's brother Jess, who appears regularly in the videos—often getting slapped upside the head or pushed into traffic medians while inside shopping carts—provided some of the exceptional soundtrack music for the videos with his band CKY. As the success of the videos has grown, so has the band's success—which was the intention all along. Recently, they signed a deal with Island Records.

Still not content, Bam and the boys have taken on the new challenge of feature films. Their debut, Haggard (slated for national release sometime this fall), stars the usual suspects, and it's a dark comedy about a guy (based on the true story of a CKY member) who keeps trying to get back together with his ex-girlfriend against the advice of his friends, who all know that she's sleeping with just about every other guy in town. It may not win any awards, but it's not bad either, and it definitely shows promise—the cinematography, acting, and directing seem well above average for a first effort, and the dialogue is sharp and believable.

As with all the other CKY projects, Bam funded this one himself. "I spent every goddamn penny I had on that movie," he says. "I had about $300,000 but I needed another $100,000, so Adio Shoes [one of his sponsors] loaned it to me. But I really wanted to do it, and I didn't want it to be half-assed, so I was willing to spend whatever it took." And like the other projects, it was an all-CKY deal. "He had the chance to have real actors come in and do it," explains cast member Naked Dave (his role is self-explanatory). "But he was like, 'I want my friends to do it, we're going to do this, and we're going to make a good movie out of it.' "

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