'Monster Garage' may be gone, but Jesse James is still building bikes
By Christopher Rocchio, 01/19/2007
Five seasons and 80 episodes of Discovery Channel's Monster Garage and a new marriage to Hollywood actress Sandra Bullock might have made West Coast Choppers CEO Jesse James a celebrity, but he insists some things still haven't changed.
"I'm still the weirdo on the corner who builds bikes," James told Stuff magazine in its February 2007 issue. "What does it mean to be a celebrity, anyway? It's just math. The number of people that know me is greater than the number of people I know. It doesn't mean I'm better or anything. It's just the power of television."
Monster Garage had its series finale last June, so while James may be out of the television spotlight, he's still well-known to bikers across the country. From wanting to exceed Kid Rock's design expectations to customizing a ride for himself that fits him perfectly, James is still a busy man these days, claiming, "Every bike I build is my new favorite." One of his recent favorites is a bike he did for Keanu Reeves, who starred in Speed with Bullock, James' wife since July 2005.
"I was like, 'Man, I wish I had a bike like this," James told Stuff about his concoction for Keanu. "It's chromed out with black paint. There's nothing gaudy about it; it's just supersanitary and bitchin'."
James' great-great-grandfather was a cousin of legendary American outlaw Jesse James, so the custom vehicle builder does have a wild side. Throughout high school he did security at Ascot racetrack in California and also worked security for local bands, which eventually landed him a gig as a bodyguard on tour.
"Slayer was definitely the wildest [band I toured with] as far as fans getting kicked in the teeth and doing damage to arenas -- all these angry kids trying to take it out on their seats," James told Stuff.
After breaking his arm "really bad" at Harpos in Detroit, James said he realized his job wasn't fun anymore. So he created West Coast Choppers in the mid 1990s and located it in an 18,000 square-foot shop, which has since grown into a 250,000-square-foot series of art deco warehouses in Long Beach, CA, restored and modified to house the operations for the company best known for selling chopper-style motorcycles.
"When I started West Coast Choppers, I still worked at night as a bouncer in Anaheim and built bikes during the day. I guess things took-off pretty fast, but it seemed like it took forever," James told Stuff.
Currently, James said he likes to spend time with his three children -- Chandler, Jesse Jr. and Sunny -- who are from his previous two marriages before he met Bullock. In April 2006, James opened Cisco Burger just down the street from West Coast Choppers. The '50s-style burger stand is named after his beloved pit bull and features Kobe beef burgers, low-fat burritos, organic veggies, and biodegradable wrappings.
"I still live where I grew-up, so I know everybody, and the way people treat me doesn't change," James told Stuff. "What could I do now that would outdo what I already did? Now I dig hanging with my kids."