While busting into the limelight in the early 2000s by hosting his hit TV show, Monster Garage, Jesse James has gotten an outlaw reputation, breaking rules (and many hearts) along the way. Known not only for his TV show, Jesse's biggest venture is his custom motorcycle empire, West Coast Choppers, that sadly closed down in Long Beach after Jesse's falling out with Sandra Bullock, leading Jesse James to move to Austin.
Jesse Gregory James was raised in Long Beach, California, around his father's antique business. Jesse didn't really have a parental figure during his childhood, as his father was constantly busy and his parents had divorced. He often got into trouble stealing cars and tearing them down in his teens. In 1992, he opened West Coast Choppers out of his mom's garage. Since these humble beginnings, Jesse James has become a household name when it comes to custom motorbikes, with clients including such celebrity names such as Shaquille O'Neil and Diamond Dallas Page along with a huge roster of other WWE stars.
Since his fall from the limelight, Jesse has been doing well keeping out of the pages of People magazine, all the while still maintaining his business ventures which include not only his famous motorcycles but his own production company and clothing line as well. Jesse James isn't a man to be kept down and has risen again after a crippling blow in his reputation that would destroy most careers. But with Jesse's unique brand of boldness, he's seen as less of a monster and more of a troubled man who has had some troubled times like any other person.
25 He Builds Firearms Too
Jesse James doesn't only like to build motorcycles, he likes to build some of the nicest custom weaponry in the country. Perhaps the neatest build he's done as a part of his Cisco 1911 series is called the Lady Liberty. Using original pieces of handrails off of the famous New York statue, Jesse has built 3 handguns, which sold for $85,000 a piece. This business also brings in some big names, as he's built guns for Angelina Jolie and former Texas Governor Rick Perry.
24 Was Sued For Not Building A Cadillac
Micheal Jones from Nebraska sued Jesse for a breach of contract. Jones hired James' company to customize a 1949 Cadillac Sedanette with a budget from $250,000 to $350,000. Though Jones made the required payments by the spring of 2007, no car was produced. When Jones asked if it could be ready for it to compete in the Don Ridler award for car-building creativity, James told him the job could cost upwards of $700,000! Whoa! That difference was enough to send James to court, with jones seeking $422,680 in damages. as well as interest and court costs.
23 Bodyguard For Concert Tours
Before he found fame in motorcycle building, Jesse James was a bodyguard for a few years for bands such as Danzig, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Soundgarden. After about a year on tour with these guys, he began to take on other managerial responsibilities, as well, which began to weigh him down. Though touring the world and attending different motorcycle shows on his off time helped him develop his style which his bikes today are known for, when coming home a month after a stage dive had gone wrong during a White Zombie concert, Jesse quit.
22 “Jesse James is a Dead Man” Comic Book
“Jesse James is a Dead Man” is a show where Jesse performs dangerous stunts. Though the show only lasted a couple seasons, Marvel produced a limited line of one-shot comics that were offered for free in stores to promote and introduce the show in 2009. The comic book features Jesse James ablaze on the cover, which was done by Dennis Calero. The comic was written by Mac Foster and illustrated by Jackson Hebert and Kristin Sorra.
21 Rough Teen Years
Since his parents split when he was four years old, Jesse stayed with his father, who was a dealer on top of his antique business. Since his teens, Jesse's relationship began to degrade with his father, who had taken in a woman and her kids, leading to an abusive relationship between them that came to a breach when Jesse was accused of burning down his own house. Of course, Jesse's dad, Larry, denied it all in an interview with Inside Edition.
20 West Coast Choppers In The Mid-West
Though when the original West Coast Choppers shop in Long Beach, California, had been closed after Jesse's troubling divorce with Sandra Bullock, Jesse has since reopened the motorcycle shop in Dripping Springs, Texas. Here, he works a smaller operation but still delivers the world-class work that Jesse James is known for. His bikes are still some of the most desired by riders and fans alike, and you can still have one built for you by the outlaw himself.
19 Has Been Married 4 Times
His marriage to Sandra Bullock is a very well known and documented—if tabloid magazines are anything to go by—but what is largely unknown is his other three wives that he's had since 1991. First was Karla James, to whom he was married from 1991 to 2002 and has had two children with. Another child came from Janine Lindemulder, whom he married in 2002 and divorced a couple years later. Then there's Sandra, from 2005 to 2010. And finally, his current wife, Alexis DeJoria, who is a professional drag racer.
18 Broke "Monster Garage" Rules
The rules for the show are that “the monster must appear stock, the team will get $5,000 bucks for parts. They will have 7 days and nights.” If they completed the build, they would get a $5,000 set of Mac tools. Often these rules were followed pretty closely, with usually only one out of the crew not completing their part of the project. The best example of Jesse waging war against the producers of Monster Garage (by breaking all the rules—classic Jesse) is the PT Cruiser wood crusher build that Jesse built in one day.
17 Dreams Of 200MPH
During his time at Monster Garage, Jesse James' has had eyes on the 200-mph club. He spent years building some of the coolest cars for the show and working with many different teams, including one full of well-known customizers who have built their own unique and well-known cars. With the experience from such builders, Jesse's dream has never come to fruition, though, as the closest he came was a jet car build out of a Celica that only went 185 miles per hour.
16 Co-Owner Of Cisco Burger
While with Sandra Bullock, they owned Cisco Burger, a restaurant that Jesse named after his deceased pitbull. The burger joint promoted eco-friendly food that didn't have any sort of preservatives and served nothing but old-school burger charm to the people of Long Beach. Since then, the Long Beach location has closed down, and though prospects have been made for the restaurant to be a franchise, they are unfounded, since the only thing that remains of the burger joint is a social media page that hasn't been updated since 2013.
15 Has Worked For Boyd Coddington
After his time at Performance Machine, Jesse James worked for Boyd Coddington in the late-80s, where he further refined his welding and fabrication skills. It's during this time, he says in an interview, that he started to make his own fenders after work. He tells about how he made $700 in salary per week from working at Boyd's shop compared to making $15,000 a week, “Welding in my garage at night.” This was the last job he had before fully diving into just custom motorcycle work.
14 Got His Break In “Motorcycle Mania”
Before TV, Jesse James was working on the West Coast Choppers empire. It was a documentary by Discovery that was made about Jesse James and his company that got him onto the home television screens and into the limelight. He was then offered the job as a host on Monster Garage where his career on the small screen really took off and led to Jesse establishing his own production studio, Pay Up Sucker! Productions.
13 Runs Pay Up Sucker! Productions
On top of West Coast Choppers, Jesse runs Pay Up Sucker! Productions which has worked exclusively with the Discovery Channel, bringing them “History of the Chopper”, a love-child of Jesse's I'm sure, and “Iraq Confidential “ a rebuild of a HumVee that Jesse James and the 181st Transport Battalion built together in 2006. The HumVee has since been donated to Soldiers' Angels, a military support non-profit organization. Also, he has produced a movie about Jesse James' time racing in Lucas Racing Off Road series.
12 Was Heavily Fined In 2007 For His Motorcycles
In 2007, Jesse James was fined a whopping $271,250 by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which states that the motorcycles made between 1998 and 2005 were letting off 10 times the legal limit of hydrocarbons. In an investigation, his custom bikes were found not to have the proper emissions equipment. Jesse claimed that he tried to comply with CARB by reworking all of the bikes found to be in violation to follow the EPA standards, but CARB declined and stated they were only interested in the cash settlements.
11 Grew Up Around Father's Antique Shop, Which Was Near An Aftermarket Harley-Davidson Parts Manufacturer
Before Jesse got into his teens, his dad and he were close. Jesse would hang out at the antique shop that his dad ran in a shared space with a few other shops, including an aftermarket Harley-Davidson parts manufacturer. This shop serves as the basis for what would become a lifelong obsession. He got his first motorcycle at age seven, which further propelled his passion for motorcycles and he ended up tinkering on them a lot in his garage during his teens.
10 Completed His First Motorcycle Exhaust When He Was in High School
During freshman year of high school, Jesse went to work on his first custom exhaust system in his mother's garage. Driven by his love of motorcycles, he completed the exhaust, but due to Jesse's need for things to be perfect, he immediately threw the exhaust away. His custom work would come back into his life, after his football career fell flat and he quit touring the world with bands as a bodyguard, when he was then hired by Performance Machine.
9 Is A Well-Known Prankster
Jesse is known for liking a good joke or prank, pulling a bizarre prank on the boys at Gas Monkey Garage during a feud between them and Jesse. He had a few of his buddies in the Bandito Motorcycle Club unload a dump truck full of horse manure in their parking lot, a favor which they returned with a fake "help wanted" sign that was flown around the Austin Speed Shop, causing much confusion among people who called looking to get hired.
8 WCC Started In The Corner Of His Mom's Garage
Now a multi-million dollar company that has been noticed and beloved worldwide, his enterprise has its roots at home. Like many great customizers throughout history, Jesse James started as just a tinkerer who had a little spot in the corner of his mom's garage, where he made fenders in his free time until he was noticed by his old employer who ordered more fenders than he could handle, leading to a situation where he had to hire, then fire, his first employee.
7 Is An Ordained Minister Through The Universal Life Church
During an episode of Monster Garage where the crew is building a Chevy Suburban to be a mobile wedding chapel complete with pipe organ. Jesse James (along with Minister Donald Barnes) became an ordained minister himself online and so he should actually be referred to as Reverend Jesse James. Of course, I'm sure Jesse doesn't care about this title all too much and most likely forgets that he did it at all unless it's brought up, but it's a nice piece of strange information, nonetheless.
6 Earliest TV Show Appearance
According to IMDb, the earliest time that Jesse James appeared on TV was in Season 5 of Modern Marvels in 1999. During an interview with Graham Bensinger, Jesse claims to have been on local channels before this debut on Discovery Channel, but I haven't been able to discover any specific shows or channels. It was this appearance, along with the documentary made about West Coast Choppers on Discovery, that really made his career take off.
5 Stole Olympian Scott Hamilton's Green Porsche 911 Targa
When Jesse was young, he tinkered on motorcycles and played football in high school, but he also partook in less-than-legitimate extra-curricular activities like stealing cars. One car, however, he stole was from Olympian Scott Hamilton, who had bought a special green-on-green Porsche 911 Targa only months before Jesse stole it and stripped it down to the axles. On The Apprentice show, Jesse James dodged offers to be on the show until he heard Scott was on it, and he waited until Scott got fired off of the show to promptly apologize.
4 Jesse James Raced In The Baja 1000
In 2011, Jesse James participated in his Chevrolet Silverado trophy truck in the Baja 1000. Over a period of three days, Jesse fought for top position, beating NASCAR legend Robby Gordon but losing to the McMillin family with father and son team of Andy and Scott finishing 1st and Mark and Daniel finishing 4th. Jesse finished 7th at 16:24:02 with an average speed of 42.68 mph. He then produced a movie that featured some of his time in the race, as well as some time in the Nevada desert and off-roading in both Germany and England in his trophy truck.
3 Helped Build And Tune His Wife's NHRA Funny Car
Since marrying his new wife, professional drag racer Alexis DeJoria, Jesse has been said to be seen tweaking on her car every weekend before races. I don't find this hard to believe since Jesse is no stranger to high-powered motors. He couldn't fit in more with a pit crew. With Alexis approaching 40, she has been considering her family and the amount of abuse she has taken over the years from accidents, and Alexis has recently retired.
2 Built A Motorcycle For Shaq
Among a list of celebrities, Shaq and his motorcycle are the most asked about, usually considering Shaq's immense size. Jesse explains that he had Shaq sit in a riding position, and he then used computer software to measure Shaq and get the bike to the right size for the oversized man. According to Jesse, Shaq says that this is the only bike that makes him feel normal. Shaq states that even though he told people he paid $155,000 for the bike, he only actually paid $55,000, stating that he was only trying to make Jesse look good.
1 Refuses To Paint Any Bike Yellow, Even Turned Down An A-List Celebrity
Jesse's whole thing has been about not really taking much flack from anyone, although he certainly causes enough of it from time to time. From time to time, a person that Jesse doesn't like will ask for a bike to be made and Jesse will simply turn them down. The biggest turn-down was to Sylvester Stallone, who had just purchased a Yellow Corvette and a Yellow Ferrari and was looking to have a yellow bike made to match. Jesse refused him twice, saying, “Yellow” is the universal color for chicken.”
Sources: Discovery, Biography, and West Coast Choppers.