Bam Margera On How He Overcame Bulimia and Alcoholism
"One time, I ate a frozen pizza. I was so hungry I didn’t even wait to cook it, I just ate it frozen."
Bam in VICELANDs Epicly Later'd.
Bam Margera went from skateboard prodigy to Jackass star to rock band frontman to household name in little more than a decade. But by 2003, when he landed his own show Viva La Bam on MTV, Margera's meteoric rise had already become a slow crawl into darkness and away from skateboarding. While Bam experienced a number of hardships in the public eye, including the 2011 death of his best friend Ryan Dunn in a car accident, lesser known is the fact that he was also battling an eating disorder, in addition to heavy drinking, throughout his party days.
When VICELAND's Epicly Later'd chronicled Bam's return to the deck, it was clear that these demons had played a major role in the ups and downs with his health, his relationships, and, ultimately, his ability to skateboard. For a time, things seemed pretty bleak for Bam, with years spent mourning Dunn alone in his basement, with a daily regimen that consisted almost exclusively of vodka and Riptide Rush-flavored Gatorade.
Fortunately, it seems like Bam's story will not end the same tragic way it did for some of his closest friends or musicians he idolized. We spoke to Bam about his struggles with food and booze, as well as the awesome powers of ginger ale.
MUNCHIES: Hey Bam, how's it going?
Bam Margera: Good. Just getting ready for my birthday party. It was supposed to be a surprise, but I found out, so now I'm just in my castle house in Pennsylvania cleaning up and getting ready for it.
On Epicly Later'd , you talk about living on an almost exclusively liquid diet of booze. What's your daily regimen like today?
I've been good lately. No alcohol. Today, I had three little tacos [with] just chicken and guacamole and salsa, so not that bad. I had some tacos and watermelon seltzer water—that's all.
What was your daily intake when you were at your darkest?
At its worst, I would probably just wake up around 11 AM and instantly start drinking vodka and purple Gatorade; by the end of the night, I would probably have ten pints worth of it. It was pretty bad. It was weird, because there would be times where I would go on a three-day bender of drinking and then five days of not drinking. When that five days ended, I would go on a two-day bender.
Did you have a drink of choice?
No, it could be a red wine bender, it could be a vodka bender, a beer bender, Jack and coke. I don't really have a favorite drink. I just liked getting drunk. I never thought beer was delicious, you know?
How were you eating during this period?
It was pretty much the worst diet ever. It would be calories straight from booze all day and then, by the end of the night, when I was borderline blacked out, I would open my fridge and just stuff my face. One time, I ate a frozen pizza. I was so hungry I didn't even wait to cook it, I just ate it frozen. I woke up the next morning just regretting the shit out of it, because for all those calories from pizza and cheese it [should] taste good, obviously. It was just a frozen block with no flavor.
READ MORE: Eat Like a Local with Andy Roy
Did eating well help with getting back on a skateboard?
Yeah. Here's something that I really don't like talking about, but I'm going to anyway. I did not pay attention to my weight during this period. I didn't step on a scale for, like, a year, and one day I did and I weighed 230 pounds. I thought it was broken. That's when I decided to go to Estonia and just bike and hike and whatever. I didn't even want to try and skate because being that heavy, even if I did do a cool trick, at 230 pounds, I was just going to look like a sweaty meatball doing a neat trick.
So when did you finally get back on a skateboard?
Eventually, I got down to 200 pounds and went to Barcelona to film with [Thomas] Winkle and try to get some tricks on film. Winkle forgot to put the fucking hard drive with the new Spain footage in my bag, so now I'm waiting for him to FedEx it. Hopefully, it will come out soon.
How did you end up in Barcelona?
Getting back to skating was super frustrating. But I figured if I was in Europe, people wouldn't recognize me as much here; that was the hardest part. I wanted to skate, but I didn't want fans to see me suck. I wanted to skate with friends, but I was intimidated by pros. So, it was hard to figure out, but being in Barcelona helped.
Barcelona can't be the easiest city to live in if you have a drinking problem.
I would go a week to ten days without drinking, just strictly skating, and there would be that tenth day where I'd be like, "I'm in Spain and I want a red fucking wine." Red wine was the only thing I would crave in Spain, I would have a couple of glasses, but usually not more. I was tired of blacking out and not remembering being at pubs pissing all over the window. I know Jackass shit like that is funny, but at 38, you've to realize you're not some college kid anymore.
We don't often hear about bulimia from a male perspective. Any advice for young men who are seeing a harmful pattern emerge with binging and purging?
What happen with me was that I was on the Steve-O tour and we had to do this stunt called the "Tequila Stuntman." You sniff a line of salt, squirt a lime in your eye, and take a shot of tequila and then throw everything up after. There would be like 5,000 people in the audience at time, so I had to learn how to barf on command. Once I figured that out, it was all over, because whenever I felt like I ate too much or drank too much, I could just barf instantly on command without even putting my finger down my throat. If it was bread, I couldn't do it, but spaghetti easily. Spaghetti is really easy to throw up on command. Pizzas and subs were harder.
Your mom mentioned that watching your dad and uncle struggle with weight issues might have been at the root of your eating disorder.
People on the Internet would always say, "When Bam gets older, he'll be fat like his dad." I never believed in genes, or that it's in your genes to become fat. Phil eats fucking hoagies and cheesesteaks all day and that's why he's fucking fat. If I eat a salad, I'm not going to be fat like Phil just because it's my genes! That kind of pissed me off. I think the reason I started throwing up was because I learned how to do it and at the end of the night I always felt like I drank too much, and if I'm drunk, I'll stuff my fucking face with spaghetti. I would eat it, barf it all up, and it was like, I got my fill… but it was all pretty much due to alcohol.
From what we see in Epicly Later'd , it seems like wanting to be a rock star was a factor in your drinking.
When I got hurt skating, instead of sitting around and letting it heal, I decided to sip on drinks. Then I went on this rock n' roll tour, and I'm on a bus with all these rockers. It just goes hand-in-hand with rock n' roll because you can sing, play guitar or drums when you're drunk, but you can't do that skateboarding. I wound up falling into this cycle from hell. You wake up, you feel like shit, but you know if you take a shot of Jack Daniel's, instantly you're going to feel better. But long-term, you're going to go down in flames.
It also seems like you want to avoid looking like an aging rock star.
The people who I idolized when I was a kid, besides Tony Hawk and Danny Way, were drunk rock stars like Andy McCoy. I liked the way that I looked being drunk, but now that I'm older, it doesn't seem that cool anymore. When you see Motley Crüe in their heyday, in their 20s, with girls in a limo and Jack Daniel's, it looks rad. Like, "I want to be in a limo." If they were still doing that at 50, it would be so pathetic and sad. You have to grow up at some point. Nikki Sixx is still a rock star, and he hasn't had a drink in ages.
Any regrets from partying so much?
A lot of people say, "I don't regret anything, I would have done the same thing!" Nah. I think I drank everyday for three years straight and I wasted a lot of time and I probably would be a better skateboarder right now if I hadn't. I spent a year re-learning all my tricks instead of learning new ones.
It's been good. [Former Viva la Bam regular and skateboarder Brandon] Novak has been sober for three years, which helps. I went to get blood work, and the doctor said that I had really low serotonin, really low vitamin D, and insomnia. Now, I'm on this medication that makes you not crave alcohol. I was afraid to try it at first, but when I took the pill and went to the bar, I didn't know what drink to order, but I didn't want wine, beer, Champagne, whiskey, or vodka. So fuckin' A, give me a ginger ale! I didn't want any of it, just a fucking ginger ale.
Happy birthday, Bam!
To see more of Bam Margera's return to skateboarding, check out Epicly Later'd on VICELAND.