April Margera Renovates Castle Bam for Airbnb
PHOTOGRAPHY BY KAT RUTT + KELSEY WALKER
Tucked away among the lush, rolling hills of beautiful Chester County, Pennsylvania, an iconic castle is getting a makeover. Well, okay. It's not technically a castle... more of a giant barn home with a turret and some funky medieval accents scattered about. But to many fans around the world, it is the one and only Castle Bam. Let's rewind for a moment: You might remember a little TV show on MTV called Jackass. They ended up making a bunch of wildly popular movies, too. A twisted son-of-a-bitch named Johnny Knoxville was kind of the ringleader. There was a lot of poo involved. Ringing a bell? If you were an adolescent coming of age in the early 2000s, you probably knew about Jackass and perhaps were a casual fan. If you were an adolescent prone to rebellious and erratic behavior coming of age in the early 2000s, you were almost certainly a fan. And maybe you were a little (a lot) obsessed. Or, maybe, inspired is a better word. Maybe you had "Hi I'm Johnny Knoxville, Welcome to Jackass!" as your voicemail on your Motorola flip phone. Maybe you skateboarded down the hallway of your parents home at 3 AM to delight in the horrified reaction on their faces when they awoke to the startling sound of polyurethane wheels on a hardwood floor in the middle of the night. Maybe you ran around town with squirt guns and eggs and beer and shaving cream and toilet paper doing god knows what to innocent bystanders, while simultaneously neglecting your homework for the full duration of high school. Maybe the cops were called a couple times. And maybe you found the whole thing entirely hilarious. Maybe.
If you're still with me, chances are you knew of another TV show that made a splash during the same era. I hesitate to call it a spinoff of Jackass, because it was really its own thing. Viva la Bam ran for 5 seasons on MTV, and was a huge hit with fans of skateboarding, silly stunts, heavy metal, and all things slightly depraved. The show centered around Jackass star and professional skateboarder Bam Margera—along with his friends, family, and various crew. The majority of the show took place at a home Margera purchased in-part for the show set, and dubbed Castle Bam. Phil and April Margera, Bam's parents, were famously victims of the ridiculous pranks that took place for years on set. April—who sat down with me a couple weeks ago at Castle Bam to chat about the home's renovation project she is working on—recalled how much of an impact the years of Jackass and Viva la Bam had on her family, "I think it was such a big part of our lives. I remember every crazy thing that happened. When they filled this whole room up with suds, it was just crazy. It was actually funny after we were done filming!" We were seated in the downstairs kitchen and living area of the home (pictured below), where in one episode, Bam and friends filled the entire room with soap suds—only to figure out that the best way to clean up all the suds afterward was to scoop them out with open umbrellas. Ingenuity at its finest!
But time marches on. Viva la Bam ended thirteen years ago. Ryan Dunn, a beloved friend and cast member of both Jackass and Viva la Bam tragically passed away in 2011. Bam's uncle and routine prank victim, Vincent "Don Vito" Margera, died in 2015. Several other cast members have ended up in rehab, jail, or both throughout the years. And Bam, in particular, has endured a very public battle with alcoholism.
However, today is a new day, and there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel. Bam is now a father to a young son, Phoenix Wolf, whom he and his wife, Nikki, welcomed to the world last December. Phil and April still live nearby, and April has taken on the personal task of renovating Castle Bam into a vacation rental for Airbnb. More than just a house renovation, this has become a healing process for April, and a way for her to give new life to the crazier, and sometimes darker, past.
"I told Phil this morning that I feel like I'm getting some kind of calm here," said April. "I think the thing that I have to get out of this, for me personally—and maybe for Bam too—is to somehow neutralize the chaos that was here. And just really bring this back to what I pictured it possibly being. I would like to share the house and experience of what I remember being good. Because it's kind of like an institution of fun... but we don't want everyone to have so much fun!" she laughed, referring to the show's notorious antics that unfolded in and around the house. While reminiscing, April said that not everything that happened on the show was a headache for her, "There were some really good things that happened here too! I think the Civil War was the best fun. We had so much fun, I enjoyed that one."
A natural creative, April was a hairdresser for 32 years, but always enjoyed painting and repurposing old furniture on the side. "When I graduated high school, I got a scholarship to hairdressing school. I really wanted to go to art school, but I didn't see where my art was going to go," she told me. Today—all these years later—April has been able to fulfill her dream of making art as more than just a hobby, and is the proud owner of Rose Hip Barn, a one-of-a-kind destination antique furniture store in Thornton, PA. Over the past several months, she has honed her skills in on Castle Bam, and is working daily to paint, refinish, and sparkle-up the home with a "light and bright" feel for its next chapter as an Airbnb rental. Make no mistake, this renovation is no small task, and April is doing most of the heavy-lifting herself. "I feel like if I can do this, I can do anything," she laughed, adding, "My parents came by and they were like, 'what year are you going to be done with this!?' You know, I'm that person who's never done. For me, it has to be perfect and it has to be exactly what I have in my head."
While April is making many major changes to the home, she fully intends to keep a good deal of nostalgia intact. The giant Heartagram on the living room wall will stay, and she plans to decorate Bam's old office with framed photos and memorabilia from the show. The driveway skatepark will stay, but only guests that have signed a waiver will be permitted to use it. She also wants to give the home some unique welcoming touches for guests, such as specially-made Castle Bam soaps, fresh-baked cookies, local recommendations, and historical information about the house. The Hobbit Hole (where CKY practices), barn, and other out-buildings will be off-limits, but guests will have access to the entire main house, plus the swimming pool, hot tub, and patio area. April feels it is important that people have their privacy while they are staying at the home, and she does not plan to greet guests while it is rented.
April talked a bit about Bam's life now, and how he's adjusting to fatherhood. She said, smiling "Phoenix is so cute, and Bam's a good dad. He's just learning the ropes, he hasn't been around little kids much. But he's feeling a little more confident, and Nikki is a wonderful, wonderful mother." April thinks being a father will enable Bam to turn over a new leaf, and give him an opportunity to grow and mature as a person. “Bam was the youngest of the group of the Jackass guys, and I think he needs to grow up... he's got that Peter Pan syndrome, where he thinks he's a kid forever. I’ve been giving him some tough loving lately, because I think I was a big enabler for a long time. I’m making him a lot more accountable that I ever have," she said, in a dead-serious way that only a mother can deliver. She explained, "As a kid, he was always busy because he was was a professional at a young age, and I was like 'don't worry about that, don't worry about mowing the grass, don't worry about picking up after yourself' ...and that was not a good thing. He was the kid who would mow the lawn, but he would mow geometric diamonds, or mow his name in cursive just to be an ass… and you couldn’t be mad at him because you were laughing!”
I think it will be a really healthy thing, not only for the Margeras, their family, and friends, but also for the fans of the show to see that there is new life in this place that was once shrouded in chaos. Chester County is a beautiful, rural-ish area west of Philadelphia, and it is an absolute treat that April is taking it upon her self to give the public this little slice of history and nostalgia to enjoy. I sincerely hope that if you, dear reader, get a chance to stay at the new Castle Bam, that you please take great care to treat it like it is your own home, and to honor and respect that fact that a lot of hard work and love went in to the process of making it a reality. April hopes to have Castle Bam ready for an Airbnb rental by late summer.