photoBALLARD: What's up, my friend? I have a stack of contact sheets in my hand from when we first met, and, dude, you're in leopard skin panties the whole time.
Steve-O: Nice. Now, if I remember correctly, we met when I filmed the cover shoot for Big Brother on stilts. I was on fire and my buddy Simon Eddie was ollieing off the house over my head through the fireball, and the unicyclist guy was going through my stilts.
photoBALLARD: Yeah, we kind of met there, but we didn't get to hang out until we went to Florida to film you for Jackass. That was when you did the worm-through-the-nose stunt, and rode your unicycle off the roof into the gator pit.
Steve-O: Johnny Knoxville was there and we were filming with Manny.
photoBALLARD: Yeah, the whole crew wasn't there yet.
Steve-O: It was just me and Knoxville. That's when we did the waxing my eyebrows off, and snort the worm bit.
photoBALLARD: It's all right here on these contact sheets. And you did everything is those panties.
photoBALLARD: I want to know about the panties. What did you call those things?
Steve-O: I called them "The Cheetah".
Steve-O: Yeah. It wasn't a thong: to call it a thong would be wrong. It was a Brazilian cut men's bikini with cheetah print. I'm not even clear that it was cheetah print, perhaps it was leopard skin, but I always called it The Cheetah because I identified as a premature ejaculator, and the cheetah is the fastest land mammal. So that's why I called it The Cheetah.
photoBALLARD: How did The Cheetah come into your life?
Steve-O: The first time I ever wore it was when we went swimming with sharks. It was an idea that first came from Danny Way. He said, "Dude, we'll go fishing and we'll catch a blue shark; when we have the blue shark on the line, you jump off the boat and hug it." I submitted that idea to Jackass, and the way that we finally did it was to go and film with nurse sharks. We found this tourist operation where they would bring families, babies, and everyone to swim with the nurse sharks. So thousands of people, I believe, had done it before without ever getting bit. I remember when we got there and were on the boat getting ready to hug nurse sharks; they presented me with The Cheetah, and I put it on for the first time. As they were talking to us about what it was going to be like with the sharks down there they said, "These are the most docile sharks. The only thing they said was 'Do NOT wave your hands right in front of their faces, because that'll make them bite.' So we go down there, and we're swimming around and it's so funny how in the footage I'm right up to the shark face waving my hands, and the shark goes whack and bites my finger. That was the first time I ever swam with a shark, and I was bitten by a nurse shark, making me one of the few assholes in the world who have ever managed to be bitten by one of those. That was my introduction to The Cheetah. From that point on, I wore it basically for everything. I think that as far as memorabilia goes for me, The Cheetah is probably... Well, if there was a most valuable piece of memorabilia, I would say it's probably The Cheetah.
photoBALLARD: Did you save any of them?
Steve-O: Any of them? There was only ever one. I wore the same one every time, dude. There was never a back-up cheetah. There was only ever one: The Cheetah. I wore it all the way through the first movie. And when we filmed the Big Son of a Jackass ending, where the whole cast was transformed into old men, Chris Pontius and I were the only ones wearing bikinis: I was wearing The Cheetah and he was wearing a thong, so that meant we were the only two guys on the cast that had to have actual prosthetics all over our bodies to make our chests all saggy like old men. Everybody else was cool to just wear clothes, but we had prosthetics all over our whole body because we were wearing our little skimpy get ups. And when we got done filming, and had to get the prosthetics taken off, they had this remover stuff that they put all over us. That stuff got on The Cheetah, and The Cheetah just crazy expanded: it became virtually unwearable, because something about that prosthetic remover just made the elasticity just go away. And so it was all blown out. I have put it on for a few things over the years, but for the most part it's just tucked away in my little Steve-O museum.
photoBALLARD: Wow. So The Cheetah is retired.
Steve-O: I retired The Cheetah, yeah. It's come out of retirement a couple of times for photos shoots, but it's not particularly wearable.
photoBALLARD: Wow. That's amazing. I thought you would have went through a hundred of those things.
Steve-O: Nah, dude. No.
photoBALLARD: Did Danny get that one for you then?
Steve-O: No, no, no. Danny didn't get me any bikinis. Danny was the one who came up with the idea for hugging sharks.
photoBALLARD: Do people ask you about The Cheetah, or bring it back?
Steve-O: It comes up from time to time. It was 2002 when we made the first Jackass movie, so I retired it 18 years ago. So it's really only in the early Jackass stuff. It was very prominent throughout the TV show and the first movie. As we are having this conversation, I thought to bring The Cheetah to my picture framer and get it all framed up. But then now I'm second guessing that: I think The Cheetah should make a comeback.
photoBALLARD: Were you ever embarrassed to wear The Cheetah?
Steve-O: I was always pretty happy to run around in The Cheetah. I can't think of a time I was embarrassed.
photoBALLARD: Do you attribute any of your success to it?
Steve-O: Sure. I mean, it was a big deal, man. There was something about The Cheetah. A regular Speedo has just one panel on the front, which mushes you flat, it's not very flattering. But with The Cheetah... it was two panels with a seam, and the seam is sewed up right down the middle of the front, which creates sort of a pocket. It allows you to have a bulge. It pokes you out there, and it actually makes it appear as though you're really packing more junk, in a particularly aggressive way that really pokes you out there. It just made it a little bit more abrasive for a lot of people to just stick your junk out the way it did, so it definitely was a noticeable, and memorable thing. I wore it all the time. I think it was a big part of my gimmick.
photoBALLARD: Looking through all these hundreds of photos of you back then, it was really clear: The Cheetah really stood out.
Steve-O: Yeah. You know what, Ballard? It wasn't just a contribution to my success, it was the sole reason. Without that, without The Cheetah, I would have been nothing. Not even a flash in the pan. I never even would've flashed. Without The Cheetah there wouldn't even have been a spark.