Growing up, my friends and I would make these dirt ramps for our bikes behind our houses. In the process of digging and packing the dirt, we would reach a point where no one would dare even try to ramp over our creation.
We would sit halfway on and halfway off of our bikes, letting a group cowardice resonate. Then, we would go back to our nice suburban homes where safety wasn't a question but a given.
At home, we would watch MTV and see a group of people who never sat idly by on the edges of their bike seats or any other kind of seat. They seemed invincible to all things gross and daring and maybe oblivious to common sense. This is why I am sad to see one of the members of the Jackass group leave us.
Around 3 a.m. Monday, Ryan Dunn died after he apparently crashed his car and it burst into a ball of flames. While the official cause of the accident has yet to be determined (investigators believe speed might have been a factor, according to TMZ), a photo that he posted on Twitter showed him drinking in a bar before hitting the road.
Before the theatrical release of Jackass 3D last year, I got a chance to interview Dunn in Los Angeles along with other members of the cast including Dave England, Ehren McGhehey, Wee Man and Preston Lacy. I can remember Dunn walking in and taking a seat in the very middle of a table filled with college journalists. He owned the room and was a definite leader in this cast of daredevils and tricksters.
In re-listening to the recordings of the interview, I am reminded of how funny he was and how he occasionally talked over everyone else, interjecting punch lines into the conversation. His contribution made listening to the interview now more like overhearing a group of close friends fully engaged in conversation.
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Most of the conversation had to with Jackass 3D itself, of course. But a couple of quotes from Dunn dealt directly with his own feelings about life and living.
When asked why he did stunts, he replied "I never had the yearning to hurt myself. I just have the yearning to make people laugh. So whatever tools I have to make someone laugh, I use them. That just happens to be hurting myself."
And, in light of his fatal accident, a tragic line: "Just do it. It is either die now or die boring later."
Perhaps there is a life lesson in this latest tragic Hollywood death and the circumstances around which it has occurred. I'm just sad to hear it has happened to someone I once met and found so entertaining.