Jesse James knows he could very well be the most hated man in America and he's okay with that. The CEO of West Coast Choppers used to be known as the biker dude from 'Monster Garage' and then more recently as the spouse of Sandra Bullock. But that all came crashing down last year when almost immediately after Bullock won the Oscar for 'The Blind Side,' the tabloids broke the seamy story of James' epic infidelities. A mere year later, the two are divorced and James is living with his three children by two ex-wives and about to get married a fourth time to tattoo artist, Kat Von D.
The biker mogul capped off a week of promotion for his memoir, 'American Outlaw,' by chatting with PopEater about the timing of the bombshell book, the origins of his screw-ups, whether he really tried to reconcile with Sandra, his guilt that he "decimated" his kids' lives and he brushes off criticism that he's rushing into another marriage.
"It doesn't matter if I wait, it'll always be to too quick to the public," he tells us. "I could wait ten years and everybody will say, 'How come he's rushing into it?' It's one of those things. At this point I don't think I'm going to be able to do anything right in anybody's eyes ever again, except kill myself or disappear, then people will be happy I guess."
Did you get this book deal before or after everything happened?
After. I'd been offered several times in the last few years to write a memoir and I never really thought about it. I thought I had to be really old to do that and I went through such a big life change and I wanted to close the chapter and I thought if I could put it in the form of a book I could move on and not have to talk about it anymore.
What was it like being the most hated man in America?
I think I still am today. It feels pretty good because I just ate good Greek food in New Jersey so not too bad. It was definitely trying at times to try and keep my head on my shoulders and try and take care of my kids.
You had a very dysfunctional childhood.
It gives you resentment, guilt and trust issues and all that stuff. How you treat your kids definitely affects how they turn out later in life. I kind of learned that later on while I was still making mistakes and it's kind of made me a better Dad knowing now and making sure I don't transfer the same stuff.
You had a really promising football career and your Dad screwed it up by letting you get arrested.
No, I screwed it up myself. I had the choice between right and wrong and I made the wrong decision. He didn't do anything to keep me out of jail, let's put it that way. He didn't do me any favors or say, 'Hey that's my son I'm going to protect him.' That time I was stealing cars.
You have no contact with him.
It's probably been the better part of ten years. He's never met any of my kids or anything like that which is kind of sad. I think if I'm a grand-parent there's nothing that will keep me away from my grand-kids. He sells my childhood photos on eBay. Our problems don't have anything to do with fame or anything, it started when I was a kid.
You were a bad kid.
I was. Man I look at my my kids now and they're angels, their biggest problems are so minute compared to anything I went through, it makes me very happy.
You write that you didn't feel that Sandy loved you.
That's all from me because I never loved myself. I never thought highly of myself. I never considered myself successful or anything.
Did you want to reconcile with Sandy?
I tried to keep things together for the kids as much as possible. I think the public waved their hand and dictated what should happen.
Was your screwing around not really about sex but a subconscious effort to sabotage the marriage?
Yeah I think so. There wasn't any kind of ulterior motive. It was just a mistake. I was kind of caught in my own bullshit. I never thought about the repercussions, there was some fear there but I didn't have my head on straight.
I didn't realize the adultery had happened months before.
Yeah the tabloids made it sound like it happened the day before the Oscars.
I imagine it must have been a little surreal for a working class guy from Long Beach to be hanging around at Hollywood functions.
It just taught me a lesson I need to stay hanging out with the people that I''ve been around and accept me and don't judge me, that's bikers and mechanics and stuff like that. It's the kind of people that mainstream media looks down on, those are my people and I need to get back to that.
I think it's very sad that you adopted Louis together and now you have nothing to do with him.
Yep, it is kind of sad.
If he was your biological child I don't think that would happen.
That's true. It's just a life lesson, everything I've been through, and what's been put in front of me is to teach me something and I think it's made me a better dad and a better mate to my fiancee and made me think about making wrong decisions again and make sure I do things right.
It's also sad she doesn't see your kids anymore.
It's like every other divorce, that's what happens.
Ever worry that you're getting remarried too quickly?
It doesn't matter if I wait, it'll always be to too quick to the public. I could wait ten years and everybody will say, 'How come he's rushing into it?' It's one of those things. At this point I don't think I'm going to be able to do anything right in anybody's eyes ever again, except kill myself or disappear, then people will be happy I guess.
Do you think people who are in happy marriages don't cheat?
Or if they're not happy in general. If you're not a happy person you're going to look for something that makes you happy or you perceive will make you happy. What I did forced me to work on myself.
You checked into rehab soon afterwards. Why?
I just needed help. I was feeling pretty horrible, not suicidal or anything like that. I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown and I couldn't function for my kids and I just needed some help and I really didn't know where to go. There were 60 paparazzi sitting outside my home, my shop and the kids school every day. I had nowhere to hide so I just needed a break and try to figure it out. I really felt like I was going to snap and sock one of those dudes. I just hit the pause button and gave myself some room to breathe.
What did you learn in rehab?
That everything you go through as a kid affects you later on in life whether you want to believe it or not. I never ever thought there was any kind of connection. I thought that was bullshit. I thought I'm alright, I've got a successful business, I'm a big, strong guy, none of that stuff affects me. Guess what? I was wrong.
Do you feel guilt for what you've put your kids through?
Well, I feel guilt, I feel guilt that I decimated their lives and the marriage to Sandy and all that stuff but kids are surprisingly resilient. I've never tried to hide anything from them. I'm 100% devoted to them and they're happy and healthy and thriving. They're all getting straight A's in school, they're good, strong kids so I think despite what a f*ck up everybody thinks I am and a terrible person I must be doing something right because my kids are pretty awesome.
What do you say to people who say you shouldn't be talking about this.
Well I don't know, the last few day have been pretty bad because I've been pretty beaten up in the media, it's kind of reminding me how things were a year ago, maybe all those people are right and I should go back and hide in my shop.
You did 'The Apprentice' with Scott Hamilton, and years before you had actually stolen his car.
I talk to him all the time now. He's a good friend and a good dude. When he fired from 'The Apprentice' I went downstairs and met him outside and I told him that I was sorry and he said, 'You know what Jesse, you'll always be my favorite thief and I forgave you for that a long time ago.' You can't imagine the weight lifted off my shoulders because of that, making a mistake as a kid and being able to make amends as an adult, it is an incredible feeling. There's a lot of rotten stuff that I've done that I've never been able to fix, to do that was pretty good.
Have you tried to apologize to Sandy?
Did she accept it?
That must have felt good.
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