I bought Jesse James’ memoir American Outlaw on iBooks yesterday and read the first 150 pages or so. Then I skipped to the part where he met Sandra Bullock and tried to explain and justify his terrible treatment of her. The beginning of the book has him telling the story of his childhood and teen years. It reads like fiction and it probably is. Jesse is always the hero, and he has a ton of tall tales about how he boosted cars, robbed restaurants, beat up rivals who had it coming, but still was the star player on the football team and won the girl. Of course the crimes that teenage Jesse was finally busted for were stealing a candy bar and lifting some cameras from a photo store. It’s actually a decent read, if you think of it like a work of fiction told from the protagonist’s point of view.
The part where Jesse describes how he met Sandra and wooed her at first through e-mail is actually pretty sweet, I’ll admit. There’s his self centered douchiness permeating his writing, but he seems to really care about her and you can tell that he loved her. He had a good ghostwriter and the story flows well and is pretty interesting. It really didn’t change my opinion of him at all though. Here are some of the parts that stood out for me.
On his attraction to Sandra Bullock
Maybe it sounds like a load a crap, but the truth is, from the start, being around Sandy made me want to be a better guy. Whereas with Janine I was always riding that wave of her attention, watching myself reflected in her eyes, with Sandy, I saw her watching the world, and wondering how she could contribute. The better I got to know her, the more I wanted to be by her side, doing the same thing.
On how he cried to Sandra about his childhood
“I… I grew up in a really hard situation,” I said. “I don’t tell people about it very often.”
Sandy looked at me deeply, with real sympathy in her eyes. “I promise you, if you want to confide in me, I will never judge you for it, Jesse…”
“I grew up scared shitless of my dad,” I continued. “He punched me and blacked my eye. When I was fifteen years old, he accused me of burning down our house and I got into such a big fight with him that we would have literally killed each other if we hadn’t been pulled apart.”
“Oh, Jesse.” Tears were starting to well up in Sandy’s eyes. “I had no idea.”
On how he asked her to marry him
“Hey,” I said to her, “I’d like to talk to you. Do you have a second?”
“Sure. What’s up?”
“Well, I… I just wanted to… I wanted to know if you’d marry me.”
She looked at me, amazed. “Are you… serious?…”
“Oh my God,” she said. “I… wow. This is a surprise. Yes… I will marry you. I love you.”
On how he ended up cheating
You’re trapped, I thought suddenly. It came out of nowhere, but you’re trapped pretty good, aren’t you?
Before I met Sandy, I’d romanticized the stable, calm married life: the idea of me finally growing up. But now I missed… talking shit, cracking jokes with my no-good friends. Too many people knew me now. I couldn’t escape…
Mentally at a loss, desperate for something to make me feel like I had some sense of freedom, I ran through the list of things I could do to assert independence over my life. Infidelity, unfortunately, was at the top of my list.
Glosses over all the skanks and strippers, doesn’t get into details
I’m into sex, but contrary to whatever biker stereotype got built up around me, sex is mostly a cerebral experience for me. If there’s no personal connection there, then it’s sort of pointless.
But with that said: I still did it. I screwed around behind Sandy’s back, and the whole world came to know about it.
Tries to justify his behavior, says he was a mismatch with Sandra
I can’t go back, and I can’t save my marriage. What I can do is try to understand why I did it….
As [Sandy and I] got to know each other better, I think we both came to realize that we really were a bit oddly matched. Sandy wasn’t rich [growing up], but she came from a middle class family – she’d grown up singing in a choir with her mom. I’d grown up with a dad who sent me hookers in the middle of the day…
The more important factor, though, was the fact that I’d grown up in an environment where love hadn’t been shown to me on a regular basis. My dad had torn me down every time he could, and my mom had been pretty absent. Now I had a great woman who was telling me she loved me, but that didn’t mean I was in any shape to believe her. Sandy was an actress, after all. I think in the back of my mind, I always told myself she was pretending…
I never really trusted Sandy… I felt like sooner or later, she was going to see the real me. And then she’d leave me. Well, figured, if I was going to be left, then I wanted to make the first break.
Acts like it didn’t matter if he cheated once or a bunch of times
I transgressed against the vows of my marriage, and it doesn’t really matter whether I did that ten thousand times or just once. Once you’ve lied, there’s no taking it back. There’s no way to erase the deceit that you’ve created.
Explains his Nazi salute photo
The photo had been taken at a party at my house ten years before: I’d been given the cap by a buddy of my dad’s, Barry Weiss. Barry rented a building in Gardena to a guy whose job it was to make costumes and uniforms for films like Schindler’s List and Band of Brothers. The cap was a reproduction, something he’d given to me as a joke. In a moment of stupidity, I’d put a couple of fingers over my top lip to form a Hitler mustache, and had thrown up a Sieg Heil. You could tell by the goofy expression on my face that I was anything but serious.
[Transcribed from American Outlaw by Jesse James]
Radar has some quotes from the book where Jesse admitted to Sandra that he cheated. When he broke the news to Sandra before it was about to come out in the tabloids he only owned up to one affair, not the handful of women who came out of the woodwork afterwards. She walked out of his office crying and he didn’t see or speak to her for weeks afterwards. I have nothing but respect for Sandra.
You know, I see this guy’s appeal, I really do. He’s the wounded bad boy looking for a savior. Only his stories are trumped up and he’s a lying S.O.B. To him it doesn’t matter if he cheated once or a bunch of times, and he never owns up to any of that anyway. He’s either the poor victim or the hero, just behaving as he knows how and never really admitting the things he’s done.
Photo credit: WENN