What ever happened to Jesse James?

Jesse James is a bad boy, both literally and figuratively. He is a tattooed, thrill-seeking, motorcycle enthusiast who perfectly encapsulates a certain "outlaw" archetype. But he has also engaged in actual bad behavior, from petty crime as a youth to cheating on America's sweetheart and assaulting paparazzi, which he freely and gleefully admits. So it's no surprise that he was bound to flame out hard. When the scandal over his infidelities reached a fever pitch, James not only walked away from his lucrative TV projects, he also shut down his legendary West Coast Choppers garage in Long Beach, CA and left the state for good. Aside from a few interviews and the release of a tell-all book, he's basically been a ghost since then. Here's what happened to Jesse James.

The scandal that started it all

Everyone knows by now that Jesse James cheated on Sandra Bullock; he acknowledged it in the press multiple times. Four women — including a "Nazi stripper," but more on her in a minute — came forward with accusations that they'd slept with him while he was married. It was pretty much the biggest celebrity scandal of 2010. In an attempt to save his marriage and also to understand why he had a tendency for self-destructive behavior, James went to rehab, but it was too late. Bullock was done and the marriage was over.

About a year later, James wrote his tell-all memoir, American Outlaw, which he viewed as a way to "put a period on everything and say, "That part of my life is over now. If you want to read about it, read about it. Me, I'm moving forward. I'm trying to not live in the past," he said, according to an interview with The Daily Beast. But in the same interview, James also describes how he felt trapped in his marriage to Bullock and that he never felt fully accepted, whether it was because of social commentary about how they seemed ill-suited for one another, or just being a fish out of water in the Hollywood scene. And though he attempts to take full responsibility for cheating, he says this is what ultimately led him into the arms of other women. He also recently (maybe?) implied that he wasn't the only one who cheated in his relationship. Which, uh, okay.

Michelle "Bombshell" McGee was the "Nazi stripper" who wouldn't go away

One of James' mistresses was Michelle "Bombshell" McGee, a stripper and model who was covered head-to-toe in tattoos, and who would prove to be a thorn in his side long after their affair was over. In one of her many, many interviews, McGee told In Touch (Via CBS News) that she only got involved with James because she believed that he and Bullock were already separated. Other sources alleged that McGee was going around claiming James and Bullock's marriage was a "sham" and a "publicity stunt." But all of this was McGee just getting started.

Granting interviews to basically any tabloid who called her, McGee seemed hell bent on indefinitely prolonging her 15 minutes of fame, even if it meant repeatedly tearing open the wound of a destroyed marriage and making herself look awful in the process. Not only did she bring up Sandra Bullock by name in almost every interview, she famously posed for a photo in which she was kissing the A-List actress' photo on a magazine page. She also went on The Wendy Williams Show (Via Us Magazine) and talked about how lousy James was in bed, then later resurfaced to grossly interjected herself into James' life again when he started a new relationship with Kat Von D. And all of this came after her bikini photo shoot in which she also donned Nazi paraphernalia and showed off an alleged swastika tattoo. And look, we're not trying to tear this woman down in order to make James seem like a great guy — clearly he had his own issues — but if there was going to be a way to come out looking worse than him in this whole situation, she found the way to do that.

Accusations of racism

Remember how we just got done telling you that the main mistress in James' cheating scandal may have had a questionable affinity for Nazis? Well, she vehemently denies any racist tendencies and insists that the photo shoot was a joke done at the suggestion of the photographer, but apparently goofing around in SS clothing was something else these two had in common. Just days after her scandalous photos appeared, US Weekly ran a photo of James wearing what looks like a Nazi officer's cap and doing the Nazi salute. Of course, the denials were instantaneous, but because he was already such a reviled figure, the Internet still went nuts.

James later told The Daily Beast, "I was just wearing a hat and making a funny joke. I have so many friends of color—black friends, Mexican friends. They all called me and are like, "This is so f***ed up. What are you going to do?" And you can't do anything. People see that and really think I'm a Nazi." He then cited the fact that other famous people had jokingly donned Nazi gear and it was no big deal before adding, "But none of those dudes cheated on their wife, who was an Oscar winner," once again partially placing the blame on his ex-wife's fame. Geez.

The media scrutiny surrounding the cheating scandal was too much

After many years of media silence, James resurfaced in 2015 for a wide-ranging interview on In Depth with Graham Bensinger. He talked about everything from his tumultuous upbringing to the infidelity scandal to his affinity for "beating the crap out of paparazzi" and "running their cars of the road." But one of the biggest topics he addressed was why he decided to shutter his legendary Long Beach, CA custom motorcycle shop and move to Austin, TX.

His marriage to Sandra Bullock imploded at a time when his company, West Coast Choppers, had grown larger than he ever wanted it to. With over 100 employees, payroll expenses at $415,000/month, and the revelation that employees, who also happened to be lifelong friends, had begun embezzling, James decided he needed to scale back. He'd already had amazing success in business, selling his custom choppers for upwards of $150K each, as well as slapping the West Coast Choppers brand on everything from t-shirts to keychains. He also dominated the airwaves with his groundbreaking show, Monster Garage, which essentially put The Discovery Channel on the map. According to CNN, in 2003 alone, his company reported annual revenues of $6 million dollars, so by late 2010 he was well-positioned to be calling his own shots. After closing the Long Beach shop, he retreated to a quiet, $2 million dollar estate in Driftwood, an affluent area just outside Austin, according to Austin Monthly. The property also doubles as his workplace since it has "a former recreational vehicle storage building on the grounds" where James has resurrected a new, much smaller version of his former custom metalwork empire. Sounds like he really got back to basics and maybe turned a new leaf, right? Keep reading.

Unfortunately, the cheating scandals continued

The Us Magazine interview with Michelle "Bombshell" McGee, which was the story that broke the news of Jesse James' infidelities, hit the newsstands on March 17, 2010, according to ABC News. Within 10 days James was in rehab, and just over a month later, Sandra Bullock had already filed for divorce. To say things escalated quickly would be a huge understatement. But maybe that's just how Jesse James operates, because by August 18, 2010, he and tattoo artist and long-time friend, Kat Von D, announced they were dating. And just for further clarity, that's about 8 weeks after James and Bullock's divorce was officially finalized, according to TMZ. It must have been true love— a real whirlwind romance, right? Not exactly.

Though their relationship progressed quickly — they got engaged in January of 2011 — and were together on and off for most of that year, James was allegedly still not able to control his wandering eye. In a shocking Facebook post dated November 13, 2011, Von D wrote, "Today I encountered the 19th girl to add to the list of people Jesse cheated on me with during this last year." Von D also described the relationship as "toxic," but declined to shame or humiliate James, instead taking the high road and expressing pity for him. "I think it just made me sad today to imagine him still in that dark place – where seeking validation through the attention of women takes precedence over being a good father, a sincere friend, a better coworker, and a happy individual," she wrote. That's far more generous than our own Facebook post would have been if we were in that situation.

He makes custom guns now

After scaling back his custom bike business to the point of near non-existence, James retreated into a period of creative self-discovery. During that In Depth with Graham Bensinger interview, James said that through his study of ancient architecture, design, and metal fabrication, he became interested in making his own custom gun parts. After getting tons of interest from posting one of his finished projects online, he decided to create his own niche business building handcrafted weapons, which he decided to call Jesse James Firearms Unlimited, or JJFU. (Yep.)

He got married again

NHRA Funny Car driver Alexis Dejoria is actually wife number four for Jesse James. She also happens to be the daughter of John Paul DeJoria, billionaire shampoo and tequila magnate, who you may remember from those Paul Mitchell commercials. Anyway, Paul DeJoria and James were old friends, and when DeJoria invited James to watch his daughter race, he probably didn't count on her almost instantly feeling a spark with one of the world's most notorious adulterers despite the fact that she bears a striking resemblance to both Kat Von D and Michelle "Bombshell" McGee. Nevertheless, he was cool with it. "I'm no angel. But you know, you can't change yesterday's newspapers. Knowing the man as I do, he's always been an honest man, a very honorable man. The guy has character, and I know that," DeJoria told Austin Monthly.

Alexis also admitted to her own checkered past, which helped put Jesse's messy past love life into perspective. Through their mutual love of racing and dedication to their respective passions, they seem to be enjoying each other by diving headlong into work, and staying out of the spotlight. For James, his new routine is keeping him grounded. "It's like, up early, take the kids to school, work out, work for 10 hours, then eat dinner, then go to bed," he says. It may sound boring, but it's probably much less emotionally complex than his old routine of "Wake up, cheat on my girl, eat breakfast, work out, cheat on my girl again, eat lunch, work, cheat on my girl a third time, eat dinner, watch my whole life blow up in the tabloids."

What will he do next?

Though he's content working on projects for JJFU — at one point he spent a month and a half working on a single part that ended up having to be scrapped anyway — James also told Graham Bensinger that there's talk of reviving Monster Garage, his incredibly successful Discovery show that ended in 2007. As of this writing, there is nothing in development on his IMDb, so who knows? Maybe the thought of exposing himself to being on TV again wasn't so alluring after all. But on his West Coast Choppers Official Facebook page, he's still posting loved-up photos with his wife, so all seems kosher on that front. It seems like the best thing James could do now would be to enjoy his life full of passion projects and forget about returning to fame, but something tells us we haven't heard the last of the self-proclaimed "American Outlaw" just yet.