April Margera and her family became famous for being pranked on her son Bam’s show Viva La Bam but on Family Therapy with Dr. Jenn the mother and son faced their demons. In an exclusive interview with VH1, April opened up about the state of Bam’s sobriety, her enabling behavior, and how her husband Phil responded to their treatment.
What was the entire experience filming Family Therapy with Bam like?
Actually I was really afraid because Bam was kind of out of control. I really wasn’t sure exactly how all of that was going to play out and the fact that we were sharing a room, because it’s tight quarters and we didn’t know who else was going to be in the house, we just decided its better to go with the known than the unknown. That was kind of of different. I think all along I thought I was going for Bam and it was all about Bam but I actually learned a lot about myself and the tendencies that I have really done all my life. Being the oldest child of four, you take charge more, I see it a lot even in my oldest granddaughter. I think that that I tend to try to control everything and take everything on myself and I think I blame myself for everything wrong that would happen, in or out of my control.
I learned that about myself staying in the house and I loved the group that we were with. They were so great. The Dash brothers were so nice, I really enjoyed their company. Brittany and Brianna [Dejesus]] were great, even Dina and Michael [Lohan] were very fun. Um, Sister Patterson and Tiffany [Pollard] you know, definitely a different dynamic, a little scary and really out of my wheelhouse but still very interesting.
Did you think they were putting stuff on for the cameras?
Well, honestly when I first meet them [Sister Patterson] was very kind to me right away but before she really knew who I was she was kind of reading my vibe and I was like, “Oh my gosh, what’s this?” Through a lot of the histrionics and some of the stuff I was like, “This has got to be an act. I mean this has got to be put on for some ungodly reason.” I thought maybe they were trying to get their own show. It crossed all of our minds but I gotta tell you, if I was going to light myself on fire I wouldn’t want to look like that. I wouldn’t to say half of the stuff that [Sister Patterson] said so I wasn’t sure whether, maybe she really has some issues, maybe [it] isn’t put on. I mean we all swung back and forth, so many times. We all were like, ’She can’t really like thinking this way, can she?’ I mean when you’re looking at an ultrasound, the baby is there. I couldn’t understand that whole thing.
It sounds like you bonded with lots of your housemates. Have you kept in touch with anyone since the show stopped filming last summer?
I keep in touch constantly with Dina and Brittany. I also have been in touch with Damon, Bobby, and Jeremy. We all kind of stay in touch. Dina and I on the phone, and the rest on Facebook or texting, just always checking in with each other. Even Michael, he has checked in several times to see how Bam is doing. It was really kind of a good group.
How is your relationship with Bam now that you’re home? Are you using what you learned in therapy?
We have a much better level of communication. I’m not afraid to say things to him when he’s messing up. I’m not afraid to come right out and say, “Look, you need to start thinking about this again.” He actually stayed so good for like, four months and then he hit a little bit of a speed bump because you’re surrounded by people who you’re sometimes not trying to be around and they sabotage you. I’m not saying that he’s not taking responsibility for himself but the first thing that happened was he was doing a big art show and do you know somebody actually just gave him a Coke and it was full of booze? Like what kind of a friend is that? Then it kind of kicked off like a day tear and then he caught himself. He goes for long stretches and then he hits another speed bump. I feel like he’s right on the edge of it. He wants to build a new skate park and he’s going to go do it but we’re trying to work really hard with each speed bump trying to get through it and trying to negotiate how [he] feels. I think we have better tools to work with. It was a two and half, three week thing. An instant fix? No. Is he the guy to go to rehab now? He is considering it. We’ve talked about it. He’s considering it. I think the lines of communication are much better and he’s starting to figure out why he’s doing all of these things.
How often do you see him right now?
I see him almost every other day. He lives nearby. He has a new home which has really helped the dynamic. I think the house that he was in, which was the show house [from Viva La Bam,] was just really destructive. Can you imagine filming a show and all your friends are surrounding you at all times. They’ve all left. One died. And you continue to live in this shell of a show set? It’s just not good. So that has helped a lot, to get him out of that. That made a big change I believe. I really feel that he is on an upswing. He is figuring it out. He was always so far ahead of everybody else in thought and when he was a kid he did more than most adults. I think in the maturity department he was lacking a little bit. Sometimes he just says the most amazing things and then something really completely stupid.
Are you more aware of your behavior now that you’ve gone to therapy?
I’m very aware of my enabling habits and some I have corrected and some I have not. I know that I should probably just say, “Do not call me if you need help,” or hang up the phone but I’m just not made that way. I just can’t do that and I kind of feel that I can do more good by talking him through it and trying to put out the fire that he’s addressing at the time. As far as the enabling, I have to say, I’ve had more of the group say to me about the smoothies [that I made.] I just want to set the record straight that, first of all that is what I do, on a daily basis. I’m just that person. I don’t like to see a lot of waste. We were in a house with not a whole lot to do except swim and hang around and sit around and I’m a doer all day. I work hard all day long and when they we’re going to pick out all this fruit and this perfectly good almond milk and juice and there was no drink in the refrigerator and it was like 100 degrees? I’m like, I’m just going to cut that fruit up instead of you guys chucking it and I’ll just make smoothies and then we have something cool to drink by the pool. That was it. That’s why Bobby was like, “What?!” [when Dr. Jenn said it was enabling behavior.] He knew that story. You’re only seeing part of that cut.
With that said, do you think Bam is less dependent on you now?
I think he’s doing a lot more for himself, we’re not caving in so much. For instance, he calls and he goes for some reason I don’t have hot water at my house, now normally I would jump in the car or I would call my brother-in-law to go out and see what’s wrong. Now, I’m like go downstairs there is a power box, you need to open it. He’s like, I don’t know what that looks like and I’m like figure it out. Go downstairs and find the switch and the one that’s not all the way over is the problem. You just need to turn it on. “I don’t know how to do that.” I said, “Well, than I guess you won’t have hot water.” My husband was like, “Whoa.” That probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to anybody else but it is around here.
Why was the decision made for just you and Bam to come to Family Therapy without your husband Phil? Was that your decision or production’s?
It was really surprising because Bam has had many offers for many shows and he has turned them all down. He was asked to do Dancing with the Stars, he was asked to do Celebrity Family Feud. All the things I wanted to do. All the things I wanted him to do. So, when he said, “I think I might want to do this Family Therapy I was like, “Seriously, you want to do that?” He said, “There’s only one catch: I will only do it if you go with me.” I said, Well, what about daddy? I’m working I have a business I can’t go.” He says, “I will only go if you can go.” I said, “Why? I don’t understand.” He said, “Because you will call me out on everything bad I do and nobody else will.” So when he said that I just made arrangements to go out and do it knowing full well here at my age everybody watching, I couldn’t look worse if I tried. It was hot and like we were in the pool cause the air conditioning wasn’t working too good in the house. It’s hard for me to know that my clients and people that I know are watching the show and I couldn’t look worse and I’m crying and it’s just, “Oh, my gosh.” I wouldn’t do that for anybody else but Bam.
Do you think the experience has opened Phil’s eyes to his part in Bam’s behavior?
Yes, it has a lot and Phil and I have had this conversation. Just to give you some background, Bam was a professional skateboarder at age 15 and Phil handled that money and how to invest it all from an early age. Bam was only 15 and he was traveling everywhere, busy all the time, he literally had no time to even like fold his own laundry and put it in a backpack before he was off again. It’s just was one of these things that perpetuated itself. Once it gets bigger we’re going to hand over all this stuff to a kid who was 15? It’s almost like you hired your dad to be your accountant. We’ve watched out, we don’t want to trust somebody that could rip him off. I just want to make sure that my son’s money is my son’s money and it’s all protected for him. That’s the most important thing that Phil and I wanted to do, to make sure that he had the money that he earned and that all his taxes were paid.
It’s not the control thing so much. We’re his mom and dad but then professionally [Phil] runs the business of Bam. We make sure fan mail gets out. We make sure it gets answered. We take care of the Make a Wish Foundation [requests] and all of that. We make sure that the business of Bam is taken care of through out family. It took a village to keep that going in the heyday of Bam.
What is the worst prank Bam ever played on you, on camera or off?
That “Blue Kitchen” really did suck a lot, I mean it really did. People always ask me, “Is that really what he does to you?” Oh, yeah. They hit it hard when we least expected it, on a Sunday, in the middle of the night when they weren’t even in town. When I came down and saw that blue kitchen…I couldn’t believe that they I didn’t light it blue or pretend that it was blue. They painted that whole thing and everything in it blue including my husband. Bam said, “I’m sorry I had to do it because my audience would know if it was fake and I can’t fake it.” Right after I put all the landscaping in, seriously it took so long to get it, and then like two weeks after I enjoyed it, he dug it up for a mote and a castle door. I could just go on and on. We have firework marks in the carpet, we have ice pick marks in the woodwork. I mean how do you explain this to people.
Have you ever played a prank on Bam to get even?
I remember playing one prank on him and I can’t even remember what exactly what it was, but we thought it was like a funny little prank. He hates it when he’s not in charge which is also every funny because, and I talked to Johnny Knoxville about this and a couple of people on Jackass: if you watch [pre-Jackass videos] the CKY videos, and if you watch Viva La Bam, Bam is always in charge. He is kind of like the announcer man who’s funny. He’s the comic commentary to what he makes his friends do. He’s very uncomfortable doing the things himself. Like watch the Jackass movies, he is not comfortable in a pit of snakes. He is not comfortable getting blown up. His commentary is what’s funny and that what’s Bam does which people don’t understand. He’s funny at making his friend do that stuff. That was what was funny and I think he felt uncomfortable with things coming at him.
Did you become close to those guys? Did you and Ryan Dunn have a close relationship?
Yes, he always used to call me his second mom. He said, “I feel comfortable here. Show me that iced tea recipe again I love this freaking iced tea. I’m like it is not rocket science. It is easy.” I would show him the simplest tea the way I made it. I loved him. When he moved here he was just this sweet kid, who I think his mom didn’t feel connected anywhere else they lived and it was this instant click when he moved to West Chester. I could tell him anything.
What’s your favorite memory of Ryan?
He would come in and if I were making something he would just put his finger right in it and then tell me some gross thing that he did. He’d go, “Hey, did I tell you that I just sat my butt down on an ice block and half the hair on my body stayed there?” And I’m like, “Thank you so much for sharing.” It was just funny dumb stuff like that. I remember he and Raab would bring me Mother’s Day gifts on Mother’s Day, which I thought was so sweet. They practically lived at my house. They ate there, lived there, and slept there. It was whole group of them.
Does Bam keep in touch with any of the guys from that whole Jackass and Viva La Bam group?
He does. He keeps in touch with Raab and Rake [Yohn]. He’ll see them occasionally, but they’re all married and they have kids and they’ve gone off.
Is it hard to live a regular life in West Chester, PA? Are you still recognized constantly for being Bam’s mom?
Well, we’re really simple people. When the show first came out, it was impossible to go anywhere and we realized what big celebrities go through. I mean we couldn’t go to the beach, we couldn’t go to the boardwalk, and we couldn’t go to a restaurant. I couldn’t even drive without being bombarded off the road by beeping kids and cars. It was a weird couple years to think that anyone would even go crazy from seeing us. Shopping was a nightmare. We used to go at like 10:30 at night when no one was really in the store cause you couldn’t get though there. The years have passed and people they’ll still say, “Oh my gosh, your Bam’s mom” or “How do I know you?” That’s always so sweet. My grandkids are like why do people always take pictures with you and Pop Pop? So last year, when they were old enough to see the Viva La Bam series we sat them down and showed them several episodes and then I said to them, “What do you think? Scarlett, my middle granddaughter says, “It sucks. It sucks a lot.” And I go, It does?” and she says, “I guess we missed the mote and we missed the elephant and we missed the fun. We missed it all. It’s so not fair. All the fun happened before we were ever born. I thought that was so funny.