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No pain, no fame: Stuntman Steve-O suffers for his art

For a man who makes a living stapling things to his body, literally throwing himself to animals and hurtling himself down hills and into immovable objects, the worst pain MTV stuntman Steve-O has ever felt was having an infected tooth removed.

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For a man who makes a living stapling things to his body, literally throwing himself to animals and hurtling himself down hills and into immovable objects, the worst pain MTV stuntman Steve-O has ever felt was having an infected tooth removed.

Fans of the outrageous masochist can expect more vivid displays of pain and endurance when the "Wildboyz" co-star stops at Playmakers Friday night on his aptly titled "Don't Try This at Home Tour."

"The show is a horrifying display of alcoholism and self-mutilation," says Steve-O, as if reciting a tagline.

At 4:30 p.m. East Coast time, it's the stunt man's third interview of the day, but the first he's done outside of his bed. Instead, he answers all questions while in the bathroom.

More than just a bacchanalian beat-down, the fall guy, born Stephen Glover, views the show as a freedom to express himself outside the confines of MTV, which airs the stupefying dares of "Jackass" and global exploits "Wildboyz," which also feature "Jackass" alum, Chris Pontius.

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"It's a forum for the things I was never allowed to do on MTV. The set list is comprised strictly of acts that were forbidden by MTV. You can pretty much trust me that I know what (ticks) off MTV," he says. "The stage will be covered in blood, (urine) and vomit and broken glass."

For all the cleanup after the show, he doesn't feel like he's ever gone too far.

"I like to consider myself a fairly moral individual. Some things are just wrong," the 30-year-old says. "As long as it's at my expense and I can handle the consequences, it's not wrong."

His view becomes more cloudy when audience participation comes into the picture.

"There's another issue when you're bringing guys out of the audience onstage and kicking them" in the groin, he says. "We establish that they want to be kicked.

"It's not that we're hurting these guys. We're just granting them their wish, which is not morally wrong."

The provocateur knows how to get under skin, both his own and someone else's. In 2002 the star faced obscenity and battery charges after a Houma, La., show.

Terrebonne Parish officials weren't impressed by one of the stuntmonger's signature moves, "The Butterfly," in which he staples his scrotum to his thigh. Steve-O was also accused of organizing a stunt in which a 19-year-old audience member was knocked unconscious after agreeing to let a bouncer throw him on his head.

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The felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors in 2003 and Steve-O made a pretrial agreement to accept probation and complete charity work.

The issue prompted head "Jackass" Jonny Knoxville to call Steve-O an "American hero."

First Assistant District Attorney Mark Rhodes disagreed, but said in a statement that while a tape of the event, "shows that, although the performance is objectionable, it is more than likely protected under free speech when conducted in front of paying adult patrons."

The threat of a bayou big house left a bad taste in the performer's mouth, calling it a "creepy little backwoods parish."

He's also had a video of his exploits banned in Ontario, which he said only helped strengthen is fan base.

"Generally, if you try to tell kids what they can't see, they're going to get their hands on it. ... Banning is usually is the dumbest idea possible," he says.

Steve-O says people would be surprised to the crowds drawn to his onstage antics.

"It's not all dudes. I'd say the gender breakdown is more like a Slayer concert," he says. "There'd be a lot of chicks at a Slayer concert, but there's five more dudes. Maybe not Slayer, maybe like M'tley Crüe or something."

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Drawing concert crowds isn't bad for a man who flunked out of college and joined the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College "to bring legitimacy to my home video buffoonery."

The risqué entertainer worked for family audiences in circuses and on cruise ships until his taped hijinks caught national attention and the "Jackass" crew came calling.

While his post-circus career has kept him busy, he misses the anonymity of being a clown and the lack of pressure.

"Had I been in the circus all my life, I never would've peaked. It's nice to be in the spotlight, but what comes with it is knowing you won't be in the spotlight anymore," he says. "It never really occurred to me that once something came out, that it was out. That it was old. That it was over."

While the end of his hijinks aren't in sight, he knows he'll eventually slow down.

"I don't have any intentions on hurting myself the rest of my life," he says.

After that, he envisions writing or producing, but he's wary of following Knoxville's footsteps to Hollywood, where Knoxville stars in the new John Waters movie, "A Dirty Shame."

"As long as I don't have to act like anybody but myself, I'm into it," he says.

Which is as simply stated as his overall philosophy.

"I just try to keep out of hospitals and jails, and other than that, get away with as much as you can."

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

If you go

What: MTV Jackass: Steve-O "Don't Try This at Home Tour"

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Playmakers, Fargo

Tickets: $24. (701) 235-7171

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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