Here’s this tour’s first acknowledgment of my inherent un-hip-ness: I had no clue who Jesse James was until the panel for his new Spike series, “Jesse James is a Dead Man.” At first, I tried to convince myself that I was wrong, that maybe I still am hip and nobody else knows who he is, either, but when I heard that he’d also been added to the line-up of the sophomore season of “Celebrity Apprentice,” it became clear that I’m definitely uncool. And to think that my reputation could’ve been salvaged if only I’d watched “Monster Garage,” the Discovery Channel series which he hosted…

Just in case you, too, are oblivious to who Mr. James is, allow me offer up this photo:

What you can’t see from the photo, however, is just how much damage has been done to this man since beginning work on this series. According to Spike TV’s Kevin Kay, James will be facing a new challenge each week that could potentially kill him, which sounds like the kind of programming that makes insurance agents run screaming. “We’ve only shot half the season so far, (and) Jesse’s already broken two ribs, his elbow, and was literally on fire,” said Kay. “It makes you wonder what Jesse will
do for a season finale if in fact he makes it that far.”

“If there’s not some danger involved with something that I want to do, then it’s kind of not fun,” said James. “If it’s really easy and safe and seems like a great idea and sensible, then to me, that’s kind of boring. Life is only a one-lap race, so I want to do everything on that one lap just to see what it’s like.”

Of the episodes he’s filmed thus far, two particularly stand out for James. “I think going to the Arctic and riding my motorcycle in minus 65 degrees on the Arctic Ocean was pretty interesting,” he said. “And then the other end of the spectrum is setting myself on fire, and it burned through my suit and put blisters down my ass crack. One extreme to the other.”

Doing the show gives him the opportunity to be a kid…a kid who participates in some really crazy – some would say stupid – activities, granted, but a kid nonetheless. “Everybody always says I’m like a 9-year-old,” James said. “Not quite a 6-year-old, but not quite a 12-year-old, just 9. And I think getting old is a state of mind. If you stop having fun, then what’s the use? As far as being stupid, you know, I like to be safe. I like to be able to do crazy stuff, but know that I’ve made every attempt from protective roll cages and safety harnesses and HANS device to protect my neck and stuff like that. So it’s not silly. It’s real serious.”

He’s quick to clarify, however, that there’s a difference between being an adrenaline junkie and someone with a death wish. “‘Death wish’ is the guy that wants to bury himself under 10,000 pounds of dirt in, like, a Plexiglas casket,” he explained. “That’s just dumb. That can’t be thrilling. It’s, like, ‘Okay, get me out of here!’ I think ‘adrenaline junkie’ is just…these things that I like to do, like race and ride motorcycles and go fast, a lot of people get killed at it. I think the common thing is no one ever talks about it, how many people die or how many people get maimed. You know, they always kind of like make it sound like it’s no big deal, maybe to hide it from their wives or something like that. Here we’re kind of putting the danger right out in the open and showing what really can happen.”

And how does his wife feel about it?

“She loves it,” he said, grinning. “She tells me every day to go out and break a leg.”

James’s kids, however, could care less. “They actually think that the stuff that I do is pretty boring,” he said. “My son was on set when we were filming one day, and I was going 200 miles an hour on a motorcycle. And every shot that he’s in, he’s got a stick, and he’s looking the other way, playing with something with the stick. He doesn’t even care. They could care less what I do. They’re pretty jaded, I think.”

“Jesse James is a Dead Man” premieres May 31 on Spike.