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Jesse James was CEO of West Coast Choppers before it closed in 2010, and was in a heavily publicized relationship with actress Sandra Bullock.
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James apprenticed under custom motorcycle manufacturer Ron Simms. James then opened his own shop, West Coast Choppers, first in his garage and then out of a tiny shop in Long Beach, California. Building a custom motorcycle is a labor-intensive and expensive process, and James struggled to makes ends meet during West Coast Chopper's early years. Money problems prompted James to have the words "PAY UP SUCKER!" tattooed on his palm.
James' fortunes changed for the better in 2001, when the Discovery Channel chose West Coast Choppers as the focus for its multi-part documentary, Motorcycle Mania. Cast into the national spotlight by the film, James developed a celebrity clientele that further elevated the profile of West Coast Choppers.
James has since designed and built custom motorcycles for stars such as Tyson Beckford, Kid Rock and Keanu Reeves. His crown jewel is the 11 1/2-foot long, purple and gold behemoth of a bike he built for Shaquille O'Neal. James has since expanded his business ventures beyond motorcycles to include a West Coast Choppers clothing line, Garage magazine, and a fast food restaurant named Cisco Burger.
Following the success of Motorcycle Mania, the Discovery Channel tapped James to host the reality show Monster Garage (2002-'06). The show tracked James and his crew as they attempted to convert vehicles to perform functions their manufacturers never imagined. In one episode, for example, James and his company converted a school bus into a pontoon boat. James later returned to reality TV in 2009, when he competed on behalf of the Long Beach Education Foundation on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice.
Despite his remarkable career as a custom motorcycle manufacturer and businessman, recently James has received more press for his turbulent personal life than his professional achievements. James and his first wife, Karla, married in 1991 and had two children: Chandler and Jesse, Jr. They divorced in 2002, and that same year James married adult-film actress Janine Lindemulder. The two had a daughter, Sunny, before divorcing in 2004. A year later, James married superstar actress Sandra Bullock. They stayed together until 2010, when their marriage collapsed amidst tabloid scandal.
Shortly after Bullock won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in The Blind Side, rumors surfaced that James had carried on extramarital affairs with model Michelle McGee, among others. James admitted the affairs, earning public ire for his betrayal of the widely beloved Bullock. Shortly after the news of his affairs surfaced, James' reputation took a further hit when a photograph surfaced showing James performing a Nazi salute. James and Bullock divorced in June 2010.
A contrite James is currently working to get his life and career back on track. He recently spent 30 days at Sierra Tucson, an Arizona rehabilitation facility where he received treatment for anger management, sex addiction and overcoming childhood abuse. Asked in a recent interview what motivates his recovery, James answered, "a vision of a better life and a better future, if you can squint and visualize that, that's the basis for recovery. When I can squint and see amazing, happy kids and myself as a decent person and the person I should be, then that's—that's when I can smile and know okay, everything is going to be okay."
© 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.
© 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.
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