As brats with an itch for attention during our younger years, we'd often find ourselves in trouble -- or institutionalized at the very least -- for doing a fraction of the things Steve-O does in public. After all, most boys don't staple their scrotum to their legs. At least not on purpose. But not only has the "Jackass" co-star turned self-mutilation and humiliation into a bizarre art form that has (for better or worse) captivated America, he's made his fame solely off of silly shenanigans.
While not necessarily a defining moment in absurdity, "Jackass" the show managed to bring out a low common denominator in entertainment. It reduced the ever-masculine role of the stuntman to that of a gross-out artist and eliminated several dimwitted kids who have fatally mimicked stunts performed on the show. And damn if it wasn't fun to watch. It's a guilty habit a bit on the disgusting side, not unlike peeing in the shower, and Steve-O has yellowed the slate on various levels.
During the '60s and '70s, Steve McQueen convinced teens looking for coolness to try crazy stunts on motorcycles. Today, Steve-O (aka Stephen Glover) drives overtestosteroned, underlaid teens to shove worms up their noses or roll around in elephant turds, among other more insane acts. Sure, chicks dig scars, but how about holes left from using one's ass as a human dartboard? (Still, getting attacked by a shark, as Steve-O does in one of his two "Don't Try This at Home videos," is a sure-fire way to get female sympathy.)
Not everyone, however, has been as open to the cause. Steve-O, 28, currently faces up to eight years in prison on charges of obscenity that stem from a nutsack-stapling stunt at a venue in Houma, La., where two bouncers later beat up someone attending the show. Lawyers are trying to get the charges knocked down to a less serious offense, and the case goes to trial early this year. "Jackass" itself was targeted by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who demanded that MTV cancel the show. (Perhaps Lieberman was thinking he was Tipper Gore and that Steve-O was Blackie Lawless?) Though MTV conceded to plaster more warnings on the show, "Jackass" eventually died a natural death when its star prankster Johnny Knoxville left.
Among the first signs of a gifted child in the making emerged around the time Steve-O was 2 years old, when he reputedly opened the door of a speeding taxi in Brazil and hung outside of it. There was a bit of normalcy while growing up, and in some instances some signs of advancement, such as learning to speak three languages by the time he was 4. Steve took up skateboarding at age 11 and was raised in five different countries, including England, where he went to high school. He briefly attended -- and alleges he sold pot at -- the University of Miami before dropping out in 1992. He aspired to be a stuntman, a move that caused a rift between him and his family.
On his own, he became a volunteer for untested drugs prior to FDA approval. Among the drugs tested was one given to pigs and cows for more muscle and less fat. "We were used to see how much we could take of it before our heart rates became dangerously high," Steve-O writes on his website. "We took lots of pills, spent much time on funky heart machines and gave a lot of blood. After twelve days confined [Steve and a friend] each had $2,000. We were stoked."
Later, he would travel cross-country, for a while following the Grateful Dead, staying at the homes of any woman he'd meet and making money by whatever means possible, including charging money for doing back flips in parking lots. When he turned 21 he bought a video camera to record flips off bridges and rooftops.
Down the line he decided to be a clown (a professional one, that is), graduating from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in Venice, Fla., and landing a gig as a circus clown aboard cruise ships. But his destiny to become one of the biggest asses this side of J. Lo came when he met Johnny Knoxville while working for Big Brother (a skateboarding magazine for which Knoxville would scribe his experiences with pepper spray and a stun gun). Several video shoots and thousands of dollars of medical expenses later, the idea turned into two seasons of "Jackass" the television series and "Jackass: The Movie," which grossed more than $22 million at the box office.
While the show helped Steve-O's popularity among wannabe bong-water garglers and cheap-thrill seekers who think vomiting can be more fun than mixing booze and beer, music is what set the stage for it all. "I would like to thank [heavy metal] for helping to ruin my attitude enough to ensure that I would never work to make an honest living," Steve-O once said. "And, ultimately, find a career in doing dumb shit."
Besides shooting the third of his home videos (tentatively titled "The Steve-O Video Volume 3: PCP Saved My Life"), the prankster is resolving legal matters, touring to support his latest home video and taking his talent to the big screen. Steve-O's appearance on the Val Kilmer-starring "Blind Horizon" (no release date) involves a scene (which Steve-O wrote) where Kilmer beats him up. The role may not land him any Oscar nominations, but if Knoxville -- who has appeared in movies including "Men in Black II" and "Coyote Ugly" -- is closing the seam between jackass and movie star, perhaps Steve-O can, too.
Until then, piercing one's butt cheeks together is a good start.