Sunday, June 5, 2011

Jesse James


It's interesting, when you think about it, that the English language has all manner of harsh, derogatory terms for unfaithful, promiscuous women. Whore. Slut. Vamp. Harlot. Tramp. Strumpet. Tart. Skank.
Not so when it comes to cheating, philandering men.
Oh, there's bounder and rake and rascal and scoundrel and louse and, of course, cad.
But, oddly, they are all words with an impish air about them, as if the lads so described just can't help themselves, as if they are just boys being boys who can't keep it in their pants.
Meet Exhibit A: Jesse James. His is by now a well-told story: The tatted-out owner of Long Beach, Calif., custom bike shop West Coast Choppers (and, he claims, a descendent of legendary outlaw cowboy Jesse James) who became a TV star on Monster Garage and Jesse James Is a Dead Man and Celebrity Apprentice, and was married to actress Sandra Bullock.
It's a story about that unlikely matchup of bad boy American biker and good girl American sweetheart, and how it all spectacularly fell apart, within days of Bullock receiving the Best Actress Oscar in 2010 for The Blind Side, when a tabloid story forced James to confess that he had been cheating on her with buxom tattoo models.
Bullock retreated to Texas with her newly adopted infant son Louis, James went to rehab and then went on the defensive, and turned up a few months later in the company of celebrity tattoo artist and fellow reality star Kat von D.
And then he wrote a book and, last month, hit the talk show circuit to tell his side of the story.
American Outlaw (Gallery Books, $29.99), co-written with Sam Benjamin, is vintage redemption material, chronicling the hard-knock life of Hollywood's current public enemy No. 1.
But in seeking closure, if indeed that was his goal, James has simply been digging a deeper hole.
While shilling the book, he appeared on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight, where he told the flummoxed Brit that Bullock's "I-adore-my-husband" speech on numerous awards shows over the years was mostly an act, because, after all, she is an actor.
Then there was his pronouncement on Howard Stern's radio show that Ms. Von D, now his fiance, is "100 per cent" better in bed than Bullock, that he never felt comfortable in the A-list world and that his latest arm candy is truly the love of his life.
Oh, he loved Bullock (and his first wife Karla and his second wife, porn-star Janine) but what's done is done and it's time to stop worrying about Sandy and start thinking of Jesse.
Most of the 350-odd pages of American Outlaw are devoted to the years before James married Bullock, and detail his misspent youth, his penchant for bad girls, his devotion to his kids and his work as a gifted gearhead.
In the final chapters are found the meat of the matter, his unease at being trapped in his high-profile marriage, of knowing that he would screw it up, of doing just that and living with the guilt until the day, Tuesday, March 16, 2010, when all hell broke loose.
He recalls the phone call from Bullock's publicist, warning him that a magazine was publishing a story about a woman who claimed to have had an affair with James, and then meeting with Bullock at his shop later that day, and telling her everything, and watching her cry, and hearing her ask him why and telling her he had no answer and sitting, stunned, as she got up, put on her sunglasses and walked out of his life forever.

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