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Shocking both the cast and fanbase of the popular prank franchise "Jackass" (MTV, 2000-02) would have seemed an impossibility, but the deranged stunts perpetrated by one of its core members, Stephen "Steve-O" Gilchrist, frequently left that hard-boiled subset aghast. Though the "Jackass" series and films were built around outrageous, dangerous stunts, Steve-O's participation sunk to new depths of depravity with each subsequent project. He gleefully subjected himself to self-mutilation, extreme pain, animal bites and debasement for the delight of his friends and fans, which in turn generated more opportunities for Steve-O to maim himself on "Wildboyz" (MTV/MTV2, 2003-06) and a series of DVD releases. Unfortunately, Steve-O's life was even more out of control than his onscreen antics, and by 2008, he was hospitalized for drug and alcohol issues and a suicide attempt. He emerged from the experience sober, if not entirely matured, as evidenced by his participation in the blockbuster film "Jackass 3D" (2010). Regardless, Steve-O remained one of the most potent examples of celebrity excess, though thankfully, without the all-too-often sad ending that accompanied such stories.Born Stephen Gilchrist Glover...
Shocking both the cast and fanbase of the popular prank franchise "Jackass" (MTV, 2000-02) would have seemed an impossibility, but the deranged stunts perpetrated by one of its core members, Stephen "Steve-O" Gilchrist, frequently left that hard-boiled subset aghast. Though the "Jackass" series and films were built around outrageous, dangerous stunts, Steve-O's participation sunk to new depths of depravity with each subsequent project. He gleefully subjected himself to self-mutilation, extreme pain, animal bites and debasement for the delight of his friends and fans, which in turn generated more opportunities for Steve-O to maim himself on "Wildboyz" (MTV/MTV2, 2003-06) and a series of DVD releases. Unfortunately, Steve-O's life was even more out of control than his onscreen antics, and by 2008, he was hospitalized for drug and alcohol issues and a suicide attempt. He emerged from the experience sober, if not entirely matured, as evidenced by his participation in the blockbuster film "Jackass 3D" (2010). Regardless, Steve-O remained one of the most potent examples of celebrity excess, though thankfully, without the all-too-often sad ending that accompanied such stories.
Born Stephen Gilchrist Glover in Wimbledon, England on June 13, 1974, Steve-O was the son of Richard Glover, an executive with Pepsi-Cola, and his wife, Canadian-born Donna Gay. Due to his father's business obligations with Pepsi and later R.J. Reynolds and International Nabisco Brands, Steve-O and his sister, Cindy, spent much of their childhoods shuttling between South America, the United States, London and Toronto, Canada. As a result, he did not receive his U.S. citizenship until he was 14, and was nearly deported at the age of five due to an oversight in filing legal immigrant documentation. Steve-O grew up as a child of privilege, but his parents' affluence did not provide a happy upbringing. His mother suffered from alcohol addiction throughout his childhood and teenage years, which in turn had a devastating effect on his own life. He recalled being given alcohol by his parents as an infant to soothe him during long plane flights, and partaking in a family holiday tradition of allowing children to enjoy an alcoholic beverage of their choice at the age of eight. By the time he was 12, Steve-O was binge drinking, and added hard drugs to his diet by the time he was a teenager. Those issues would, in turn, infuse a reckless attitude towards his well-being. Drugs, drinking, and risking his life while executing dangerous amateur stunts became his sole focus. A stint in a rehabilitation facility at 18, enforced by his mother in an attempt to keep him out of jail, did not cure him of his addictive tendencies.
After completing high school in London, Steve-O attempted college studies at the University of Miami, but dropped out after a year. He then turned to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in the hopes of working for the famed circus. However, he failed to land a job there, so he returned to Florida to work at the Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop, the largest daily flea market in the world, where he performed as a member of the Hanneford Family Circus. After hours, Steve-O would continue to pursue amateur stunts at local parties, and shot amateur videos in hopes of landing a job as a stuntman in Hollywood. His homemade videos eventually made their way to the offices of Big Brother, a sardonic, freewheeling skateboard magazine headed by Jeff Tremaine and featuring such future "Jackass" stars as Johnny Knoxville and Chris Pontius among its editorial contributors. A story about Steve-O accidentally setting his face on fire during a stunt made the pages of a 1997 issue of the magazine, which led to additional features and an appearance in their 1999 video release, "boob." The magazine's previous video, "Number Two" (1998), featured Knoxville testing out self-defense equipment, including stun guns, on himself, and the segment would serve as the nucleus for "Jackass." Steve-O's apparent willingness to subject himself to any level of pain and degradation won him a spot in the new MTV show's cast.
"Jackass" quickly became a hit among young viewers and more liberal-minded critics, who found the show's blend of cringe-inducing violence and potty humor a natural descendant of classic absurdist physical humor like the Three Stooges or the Tom and Jerry cartoon shorts. However, the stunts executed by the cast were real, as was the pain and humiliation they endured, which pushed the show closer to the darker edges of carnival acts or freak show exhibits. Steve-O's contributions underscored this brutal element; though other members of the "Jackass" cast had their shocking moments, like Chris Pontius' penchant for nudity and childish costumes or Dave England's willingness to defecate on camera, Steve-O took the degradation of his own body for laughs to jaw-dropping lengths. Over the course of the series and the subsequent theatrical film releases, he lit his head on fire, allowed his buttocks to be used as a dartboard, snorted wasabi, and most alarmingly, stapled his own scrotum to his thigh, which he dubbed "the Career Ender." Incidents such as these helped to develop a rabid fanbase, and Steve-O fed their need by releasing "Don't Try This at Home" (2001), a compilation of harrowing early stunts and newer material. That same year, he toured in support of the DVD, performing several of his more outrageous bits before a live audience. In 2002, he was arrested for executing the "Career Ender" at a club in Louisiana, which was the first of numerous legal problems he would incur over the course of his career.
That same year, "Jackass" ended its tenure on MTV, and its cast filmed a feature compilation of new stunts that they believed would provide a fitting conclusion for fans. However, "Jackass: The Movie" (2002) earned $60 million at the box office, which re-ignited critical and audience attention in their antics. MTV, which had generated animosity within the "Jackass" team over censorial issues, began courting its individual members for their own shows, and in 2002, Steve-O and Chris Pontius were reunited for "Wildboyz," a "Jackass" take on nature shows which featured the duo risking their lives with real wild animals. Again, there appeared to be no dangerous situation that Steve-O would avoid: he and Pontius dressed as seals to swim with Great White sharks, and later wore zebra costumes near a pride of lions in the Sahara. Steve-O also subjected himself to a scorpion sting, and accomplished the impossible by topping his "Career Ender" by piercing his cheek with a fishhook and trailed behind a boat, attached only by fishing line, in shark-infested waters. The show was a major hit for the network, and generated two more volumes of "Don't Try This At Home," including 2003's "Out on Bail," which focused in part on his 2003 arrest in Sweden on drug possession charges.
Over the next five years, Steve-O would divide his time between big and small screen appearances with legal troubles caused by his increasingly out-of-control behavior. In 2006, he reunited with his "Jackass" castmates for "Jackass Number Two," which included his jaw-dropping fishhook stunt from "Wildboyz." The film earned an even bigger box office take than its predecessor, and led to appearances on mainstream projects like "Blind Date" (syndicated, 1999-2006) and "The O.C." (Fox, 2003-07). Most, if not all of these efforts, were overshadowed in the press by reports of outrageous behavior while intoxicated, including public urination on the red carpet and nudity at a 2006 Oscar party. In 2007, he starred in his own short-lived series "Dr. Steve-O" (USA, 2007), in which he attempted to make men "braver" by putting them through ridiculous challenges.
Steve-O's inability to rein himself in got the best of him in 2008, when he was kicked out of MTV Studios for public intoxication and rude behavior. He was there with his "Jackass" cohorts to promote the launch of their website, as well as the debut of a rap video he filmed for a proposed music project. The following month, following an arrest for cocaine possession, Knoxville and others staged an intervention after receiving an email from Steve-O that intimated that he was considering suicide. Under the advisement of psychiatrist and reality show star Dr. Drew Pinsky, Steve-O was placed under 14 days of psychiatric care, where he slowly began to gain understanding of his issues. He completed his stint in rehabilitation and attempted to launch a substance-free career.
In 2005, he appeared as a contestant on the eighth season of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2009), but struggled to compete due to the extensive toll his stunts had taken on his body. He was eventually eliminated in the show's sixth round. That same year, he released "Steve-O: Demise and Rise" (MTV), a one-hour documentary special about his life of addiction. In 2009, he appeared in "Jackass 3D" (2010), which proved that while he had beaten his substance issues, his passion for crude and dangerous stunts continued unabated, as he demonstrated by allowing himself to be launched in the air while inside a Port-A-Potty filled with excrement. The film was the most successful of the three "Jackass" features, and broke fall theatrical release records.
Following the success of "Jackass 3D," Steve-O gained a respectable worldwide following as a stand-up comedian, though his act paid tribute to his past by setting his hair on fire at the end of each set. He also became an avowed vegan, and participated in the NOH8 project, which protested California's Proposition 8 and its attempt to ban same-sex marriages. In 2011, he toured Canada and Europe with his stand-up act while promoting his autobiography, Professional Idiot: A Memoir. He was among the first to express public grief over the death of his "Jackass" co-star Ryan Dunn, with whom he had made an appearance on "Minute to Win It" (NBC, 2010- ) just days before the June 2011 car accident that claimed his life. In the wake of Dunn's passing, a distraught Steve-O cancelled a week's worth of stand-up performances.
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