Jumping onto season 2 of any show is weird. Jumping onto season 2 of Viva La Bam, with those guys, was an entirely different thing. It was like trying to join the Beastie Boys, or the Yankees. There is a bond there that you can’t just penetrate (ew). You have to be welcomed in. And if you weren’t, you were OUT.
I watched the CkY movies, the jackass shows and VLB season 1, so I thought I knew these guys. I didn’t. These guys were family. They went back way further than any show. They went back to childhood. You just can’t fuck with that.
I remember meeting Bam before we started the season. He was funny. Mellow. Awkward. But it was obvious that we would work well creatively, and hang/drink together just fine.
The rest of the crew were all cool. Dico was the closest I’d come to meeting a cartoon character. Funny as hell but completely nuts deep down. Rake was just a straight up nice guy. Genuine and cool and happy to be the punch line to any joke and the target of any slap, punch or nut shot. Raab was the perfect wise ass who didn’t give a fuck about anything. April and Phil felt like my aunt and uncle the second I met them. The first thing April said to me was “make it into town ok? Here’s a trick that will help: you come in Gay and leave High”. Cue laughter. For those that don’t know, those are the names of the two main streets in West Chester Pennsylvania where they lived. She loved that one. Pretty sure I heard her say it to 3 or 4 other newbies that day. Don Vito (who obviously deserves his own entire blog) was basically non-stop entertainment. Bam was absolutely obsessed with Vito being the real star of the show. And he was right.
And then there was Dunn…
It was the very first day of filming season 2. We were all in April’s kitchen. She was complaining about the blue paint she was finding in all the little crevices of the kitchen cabinets from the “Paint Phil Blue” episode in season 1 while simultaneously making coffee and breakfast for us. The only thing Ape loved more than taking care of us was complaining about us. As we are listening to Ape’s rant, in walks Dunn.
He was wearing a rainbow scarf, some shitty blazer and his amazing beard which was not yet at its peak length. He walked into the house as you would your own mother’s. And was greeted by April like a son. I instantly knew a lot about him just by the way Bam spoke to him. He wasn’t a punching bag like Rake or “point and laugh at guy” like Raab or like Novak would be years later, he was Bam’s partner in crime and someone Bam wanted to make laugh. You knew that if Bam could get Dunn on board with an idea or make him laugh, we were filming it. That was the barometer. Dunn was brash but not mean, funny but not goofy, reckless but never careless.
I introduced myself to him and he shook my hand and gave me that trademark Dunn “I don’t give a shit but i’ll be nice” smile and said “Nice to meet you”.
We barely exchanged any more words when it was time to start filming. The plan for the day was simple: Move out of April’s house and into Bam’s new “castle”. Seemed pretty straight forward…. Until we yelled “action”.
I was with Dunn as he walked upstairs to April’s bedroom. He was the cast member I was “assigned” to for that scene.
He grabbed a box filled with these old “antique-y” teacups she had packed. He got to the top of the stairs with the box, told me to hold his phone, waited for a camera to find him, and just threw himself down the entire flight, breaking every last cup on the way down. I stood there, half laughing, half shocked. I was convinced he broke a shit ton more than some ugly old teacups. I grabbed my walkie talkie and said, “we better cut, guys. Dunn fell… hard”. We cut and I ran down the stairs to Ryan and asked “you ok, man?”. He looked up at me, laughed and said “yeah, I’m fine. You ok, PUSSY?!”.
And that was the first real exchange we had. And it was all I needed to know about the guy that I would make a shit ton of tv with over the next 7 years.
Over the course of those 7 years, we would make countless episodes of Viva La Bam, (he skipped Bam’s Unholy Union other than a quick cameo at the bachelor party he didn’t want to be at and at the wedding he wouldn’t miss), and the Spike TV special, World Domination, which in many ways marked the return of the Random Hero to our little TV world. All of a sudden he was back to taking drop kicks to the head from Bam, jumping in the River Thames in his drawers, putting an 8-foot snake in Bam’s tent—All that shit was back.
All in all- I’m grateful that we got to have fun and travel the world together making these silly shows.
I remember the pirate ship episode when we roomed next to one another and stayed up drinking beers until 6am with Mike Hain, a friend and art department guy, and that’s where I heard all about Angie, the love of his life.
I remember being in Europe, Monte Carlo to be exact, and we decided to go to the casino. We had no idea it was black tie, so we stumbled in wearing our traditional uniform of jeans and a t-shirt, and somehow convinced them to let us in and play. By the end of the night we had this quiet “fancy shmansy” casino yelling and cheering like it was the god damn Tropicana in Atlantic City.
I remember being drunk in Venice Italy and bromantically shaving each others necks because we had been on the road so long we hadn’t had a hair cut in ages.
Back in West Chester I remember playing corn hole in Rex’s, checking out his new cars that he was constantly fixing or building, hearing all about his new hobby of making his own pickles…
I remember being in London, on our last shoot together, and Ryan showing me and the crew clips from what would be his last project, the indie film, Living Will, produced by friends of ours. He was so proud of it. We all watched as if it was our little brother showing us his school project.
We cheered for Ryan because he was so god damn likeable. Even in his darkest days when he was going through his shit, I’d text him “yo” he’d respond, “if this is about doing tv, not into it, if this is a hello, then hi brother, hope you’re well”.
That’s special. It may not seem it, but it is.
Then, early in the morning on some random day in June, my phone rang. I was in bed. I was hungover. On the other side of the call was my good friend and fellow Viva La Bam’er, Dooner Smith. And all he had to say was “yo man… Dunn”.
And the only word that could come out was “no…”.
He broke the news to me gently. I threw up.
Ok. That’s all I got. I wanted to write this to honor Ryan and I guess share my feelings about him. Not sure that was accomplished exactly how I hoped, but fuck it. This is what came out. I miss the shit out of him and when I think of the other people who miss him so much more, I wanna throw up again.
Happy Birthday, Dunn. We all miss you so much. Wish you were here…
I have a feeling if I asked you how you were doing you’d say “I’m fine. You ok, PUSSY?!” and I’d say “yeah”.
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