Written By: Anton Sawyer
From Presidents to current pop-culture influencers, I’ve tried to look at those whose shadow casts the largest in the American landscape and focus my attention that way. This begs the question of why I’m covering a D-list has-been like Bam Margera?
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Yes, I’ve covered him before, but that was more of an overall warning to Jake Paul. This time Margera’s antics—a summertime lawsuit brought towards his former Jackass compadres—is something I have had personal experience with, and his response to the entire situation vexes me quite a bit. Today’s piece is going to look at this litigation, how ridiculous it is in the grand scheme of things, and how for those of us who have suffered mental health issues this scapegoating over personal accountability is the complete dilution of a powerful message.
Margera’s lawsuit against Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Tremaine, Spike Jonze, and other production companies associated with each person was filed in a Los Angeles Superior Court in early August 2021. The entire case hinges on a wellness agreement that Margera signed, and a promise to remain sober if he wanted to be involved with the filming and production of “Jackass: Forever.” Having been an attendant of at least four rehab stints, it was a trip to one he made in 2019 that brought about the need for these wellness documents which Margera ultimately signed.
In the lawsuit, it claims that the day after he arrived in rehab Knoxville, Tremaine, and Jonze arrived with the sobriety agreement and other conditions which would allow Margera a place back in the fold. The suit also alleges that the three men told Bam that if he didn’t sign it then and there, he would “face instant termination from the Jackass franchise.” Furthermore, his legal team claims it required him to take three breathalyzer tests a day, two urine tests a week, and regular hair follicle tests. Additionally, the suit states that the document mandated that he take “several pills” every morning while “a doctor hired by Paramount” watched him do so via FaceTime. If he missed a drug or alcohol test, failed one, or refused to take the medication Paramount’s doctor allegedly prescribed him (which, aside from “pain medication,” is unspecified in the lawsuit), he would be cut from the Jackass franchise, the suit claims.
According to the lawsuit, Paramount hired Margera to work on “Jackass Forever” in March of 2020, and he spent the next several months developing ideas and shooting scenes for it. But in August of 2020, Paramount fired Margera on the grounds that he had violated his wellness agreement, the suit states. George Azadian, the founder and president of Azadian Law Group, said he hasn’t seen anything like the sort of wellness agreement Margera describes. He did note that it’s somewhat common, and certainly legal, for employers to require employees to stay sober—both on and off the job. “I've done thousands of employment-setting contracts and never come across this sort of wellness agreement,” Azadian said. “But it's not unheard of that there would be a contractual provision saying, ‘You're going to remain clean.’” It’s worth noting too that Margera’s suit doesn’t include a copy of the wellness agreement that he says he signed.
When asked about the lawsuit and its fallout, Margera’s friend and former co-star Steve-O called the whole thing “absurd.” He continued, “everyone bent over backwards to get you in the movie, and all [Bam] had to do was not get loaded." He added, “I have no idea how he managed to get anybody to file a lawsuit.”
With my background in music, I understand just how key that last line is. Let me explain.
During the mid-2010s, I worked in the music business for four years—both as a journalist for the duration and a Public Relations (PR) representative for the last two years. I worked for both statewide and nationwide publications and during that time I interviewed/reviewed over 250 artists playing in venues ranging from 150 people capacity clubs to 2,500 seat theatres. Between the writing and the fact that I went on a coast-to-coast North American tour in 2016 with one of the bands I represented, I lived in the clubs for that period.
What Steve-O and Azadian said is true. I’ve seen up-and-coming acts that were about to bridge the gap from clubs to mid-sized arenas/amphitheaters, to bands who were past their heyday (but could still sell a few thousand tickets everywhere they went) all have to go through the same thing. Margera is not the first person where a member of a collective (band/act) who is unable to keep it together and has now become enough of a liability that the check-writers have to intervene. Though not in every case, band members will usually give more leeway to one of their own. But when those who have a financially vested interest in the act starts to see the bottom line being impacted, they will intervene quickly.
Wellness contracts like this are somewhat common, even for those who haven’t hit (former) mainstream relevance. There have been a number of occasions where I would interview/cover an act, become friends with some of the members, and then not see those same members on the next tour because of some issue that was too detrimental to ignore. Margera is at this same point where the liability (insurance, business, personal) was too much and those in charge had to put a rein on him.
I know this feeling.
Because I am a drug addict who has been able to go to counseling, open myself up, let someone poke around, and execute the painfully needed steps to take accountability for my past transgressions that this article is coming out today.
Margera’s use of his addiction and finger-pointing to remove his own guilt qualifies him as a human puke, and is the antithesis of everything that the concept of self-awareness in recovery promotes.
There are things you have to come to terms with if you are going to be truly open to bettering yourself as a person. I don’t want to get into a pissing contest about whose pain is worse, or think that how one person is able to find respite from addiction and other mental health issues is for everyone. We all have our own cross to bear, and it’s not my job to ask what type of wood the one Margera carries around is made with. But I will share one quick example to give you some level of depth to where I’m coming from, and how I can relate.
In my early 20s, I was a severe crystal meth addict. Covering up depression, anger, and self-loathing, meth was my drug of choice at the time. What made this all the worse was the fact that my dealer was a very close friend of mine, along with being a pill-runner for a cook. This meant he had an army of shoplifters to snatch the ephedrine cough medicine from grocery stores, bring them to him, and he would deliver it to the cook. His status, along with our friendship, led to an outcome that was twofold; he would share his meth with me to try before a sale, and he would get the meth in its pure, oil form. Not dried, not cut, nothing. After a couple of years of this relationship, I was heavily addicted. One of the worst situations I can recall was once taking the last line I had and cutting it on a mirror with a razor in the kitchen of my apartment. I was trying to be so careful, delicate, as my dealer had made it clear to me that we would not have any more for three or four days after it was gone. The razor caught the mirror and shot the remaining powder directly into my kitchen sink, landing in a puddle of water. It was ruined, and I lost control. I ended up on my floor, my back slid up against the wall next to the refrigerator, pulled my knees up to my chest, and cried for quite a while.
It’s times like these where I empathize with people who have had similar experiences but aren’t able to confront the worst demons they have ever known. Some people aren’t equipped to handle it, or in a lot of cases, they just don’t want to.
Using addiction, emotional pain, and self-sabotaging behaviors are what Margera has made a career of doing. For the longest time he has been able to use some form of justification for his actions, but I think that train has hit the last stop. From his constant barrage of videos that he continues posting in an attempt to garner sympathy by looking like a drug-addled mess, to his attempts at pleading his case to anyone that listens, it’s really sad. Even sadder though is the number of people who may be afraid of coming out to get help for their own issues because of fear that they “don’t want to look like that guy,” or have their own addictive experiences seem trivial in comparison.
I can’t imagine Bam obtaining this level of self-awareness when it comes to how his actions impact others. And at the time being, I don’t see him being able to repair the potential side-effects from his actions—whether it be towards others or himself.
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