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Ax Men The Tragic Deaths, Legal Troubles. What Cause Cancelation?

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Tragedies and legal dilemmas that faced “Ax Men” and why it was cancelled.

There was a trend over the last couple of decades towards reality television series portraying men in dangerous jobs who risk their lives each day at work – “Ax Men” was one of these reality series. It featured several logging companies who fell trees in the forests of Northwestern Oregon, Montana and Washington State, as well as collecting timber from the rivers of Florida and Louisiana. The series provided a peek into the world of these hardy and tough fellas – most of the crew members were born with logging in their blood and were the third or fourth generation of a family of loggers.

The series, “Ax Men” premiered on History Channel on 9th March, 2008, but sadly it was ill-fated, and here we’ll uncover the tragedies, legal issues and reasons why it was cut.

About “Ax Men”

Thom Beers, American producer and writer known for “Deadliest Catch”, the popular 2005 series featuring the perilous lives of Alaskan crab fishermen, was the executive producer and narrator for “Ax Men” in 150 episodes from 2008 to 2016; it spotlighted teams from several logging companies working together and competing against each other to see whose harvest produced the highest yield. Not only did they operate through inclement weather and harsh conditions, but also faced daily stressors and challenges that come with the job, such as accidents, injuries and mechanical breakdowns.

What made the show even more entertaining was the banter, clashes between individual personalities of strong characters, who each have their own methods and solutions to such problems, the scandals and legal issues, controversies, and of course, the competitive nature of the show.

Ax Men” started with four companies of logging crews, and approximately 25 others joined over the 160 episodes which aired in several countries around the globe. In 2015, the series won the Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing, but fate played its hand, and crew members were confronted with some fatal losses.

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“Ax Men” loses Jimmy Smith

Jimmy Smith, an army veteran, the founder of S&S Aqua Logging based in Aberdeen, Washington State, had the bright idea of salvaging perfectly-preserved logs that had sunk to, or got stuck in riverbeds. He started the business with his son, James. Jimmy appeared in “Ax Men” from the 2nd season in 2009 until the 6th season. His motto was, “Recovering the forest of yesterday to save the forest of tomorrow”.

Jimmy fought a lengthy battle against cancer. His son, James, took over when Jimmy’s illness weakened him and rendered him incapable of working, and became the new captain of their boat, “Logzilla”. Jimmy passed away on 1st November 2012 at the age of 56 leaving behind his two sons. The 7th season’s premier episode, “All or Nothing” was dedicated to his memory.

The tragic death of “Ax Men’s” Bart Colantuono

William Bart Colantuono was with the R&R Conner Aviation Helilogging crew, airlifting logs by helicopter from regions that were impossible to reach by road. Bart had had 25 years of utility and military helicopter experience behind him and so was a seasoned pilot; he appeared in the 2nd & 3rd season of “Ax Men”. He was also the author of the book, “Helilogging in a Sucker Hole“, which is described as a fast-paced read featuring the trials and tribulations of helilogging and keeping the business afloat – or in this case, airborne.

History Channel described Bart’s role as “a smart pilot who isn’t afraid to take risks… and views helicopter logging as a competitive sport. He competes against himself, against the machine and against the weather.”

On 17th November 2013, whilst airlifting logs in the Oregon forest, it would seem that Bart was aware there was a problem with the helicopter because he released the logs sending them crashing down. After in-depth investigations, it is believed that the rotor had broken causing him to lose control and he was tragically killed when the chopper plummeted to the ground and crashed upside down. Bart was 54 years old, and left behind four children and his fiancé. The episode, “Axes and Allies” in the 7th season was a dedication to his memory. Bart’s demise is the only death publicized as directly related to logging operations.

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Gabe Rygaard, the face of “Ax Men” passes on

On the 16th September 2016, owner of Rygaard Logging, Gabe Rygaard, was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident in Port Angeles, Washington State; it was reported that he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. This was a huge shock for his colleagues and all their fans, as Gabe was probably the most well-known face in the show, having been present from the beginning, having just taken over the business from his father, Craig.

On 23rd June 2016 the Rygaard family had called for support on his Facebook page as Gabe was in the running for the position of Clallam County Commissioner, whereby he would manage trust lands that had been mismanaged, and create more jobs. Sadly, Gabe didn’t get the opportunity to achieve his dream.

Stacey Robeson, deceased at a young age

Stacey Robeson was a yarder operator and worked for Pihl Logging, operating machinery that hauled the logs from the stump to the collection point. It was a shock when he died at the age of 38 on the 15th December 2018 leaving behind his wife, Angela and three children. Although it was initially assumed that his death was the result of a logging accident, the cause was never made public. The final premise was that he died of a heart attack.

The death of Dwayne Dethlefs of “Ax Men”

Dwayne Dethlefs had worked for years in the logging industry in Washington State, Oregon and Alaska, and came out of retirement in July 2019 to help Pihl Logging – he featured in six episodes during the 10th season. Dwayne, who operated a chainsaw, made some funny and interesting comments during the show, but he was also almost clipped by a falling tree, which the loggers refer to as being in a “barber chair”.

Dwayne died at home on 6th December 2019 aged 60, cause of death unknown. He left behind his son and daughter, and four grandchildren. His son, Dustin, also appeared in the 2nd season and got into some tight situations. Dustin currently runs his own company, Timberscape Industries and is still felling trees. A friend posted a tribute about Dwayne stating, ‘He was the carbon copy of what a true logger is and should be.’

Tragedy befalls Jesse Browning of “Ax Men”, and later a hoax

Jesse Browning, a member of the Browning Logging crew, appeared in several episodes of “Ax Men” along with his brother, Jay. Jesse and his wife D’Ette, were confronted by a terrible tragedy in 2010, when their four year old daughter, Ashlynn, was mauled to death by one of the family’s two Rottweilers. Subsequently, the dog was euthanized.

In 2016, word spread that Jesse Browning had died in a car accident in Montana. This was simply a rumour that had started off as an internet hoax, and was completely false. The Browning brothers are still hard at work in the forests to this day as can be seen from their Facebook page.

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“Ax Men” face scrapes with the law

On 13th March 2009, just a year after “Ax Men” launched, S&S Aqua Logging were served a search warrant by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Washington State for not having a permit and so illegally salvaging timber from the Hoquiam River in Washington State. Jimmy Smith, S&S Aqua Logging’s owner, mentioned in the show that the warrant stated the logs were worth approximately $10,000. The Public Lands Commissioner, Peter Goldmark claimed the logs were public property and formed a necessary role in the preservation of the ecosystem. The DNR’s Fish & Wildlife Habitat Programs director, Greg Hueckel, pronounced that permits were granted to remove logs that were obstructing waterways, and not usually for timber harvesting.

It was also discovered that Jimmy Smith had been milking the system for disability benefits, and had cashed in an excess of $50,000 in fraudulent medical benefits.

In 2009 Mike Pihl had an accident while under the influence of alcohol and rolled his Jeep. His three children were in the car and sustained injuries, but thank goodness none were fatal. He was charged with felony assault.

Shelby “Swamp Man” Stanga, who had appeared in 51 episodes between 2009 and 2016, was arrested In October 2014 for having cut down his neighbor’s tree some years prior.

The big question is ‘Why was “Ax Men” cancelled?’

On 3rd May 2016, Gabe Rygaard posted on their Facebook page: ‘We are sorry to say that Ax Men will not be returning for a Tenth season. Thanks for All the Support from our Fans.’

Yet sadly he never lived to see it revived on 10th July 2019 as “Ax Men Reborn”. The10th Season was short-lived, and only ran until 12th September 2019. Thereafter, History Channel never commented on why the show was permanently axed.

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Does anyone ever think about the initial process that wood goes through to deliver furniture and fittings to create cosy home comforts? This show gives people a window into this unknown world, and was initially acclaimed for its authentic representation of a logger’s life and strife. Yet at times, “Ax Men” was accused of staging the events, and for over-sensationalizing the drama.

Their fans contemplated several reasons why the show had got the chop. It’s demise could have been as a result of increasingly bad reviews, and low ratings due to their audience becoming bored and dwindling. Or was it because of the Covid pandemic that made filming difficult, and created all kinds of logistical problems?

Then there were the legal issues and controversies relating to cast members, the environmental impact and the public’s distaste of the logging industry. Perhaps the safety concerns associated with accidents and injuries could have led to History Channel incurring legal liabilities.

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The ultimate crunch was increased production costs and lack of finances for a show that was getting predominantly negative reviews. Let’s also consider that possibly the era of reality TV shows portraying tough men in dangerous jobs has simply fizzled out.

Either way, whether you missed seeing “Ax Men”, or are an avid fan who would like to watch it again, the good news is that the first six seasons are available on DVD. Or better still, you can grab a couple of cold beers, put your feet up and observe on History.com how these men slogged it out through all 10 seasons of  “Ax Men”.

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How Amy Slaton is Coping with Her Divorce and Raising Two Sons?

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The first season of “1000-Lb Sisters” gave viewers a beautiful life story between high school friends who went their separate ways after graduation, met a few years later, declared their love for each other, eloped, and then invited their loved ones two years later to witness as they vowed to spend the rest of their lives together. Sadly, their union was doomed to fail. Amy Slaton and Michael Halterman are currently embroiled in a court battle to end their marriage, and determine how the once fan favorites will share the custody of their two children. Typically, divorce proceedings and custody battles are difficult for the parties involved – here is how Amy is coping with her divorce and raising the children.

Amy and Michael

When “1000-Lb Sisters” premiered on TLC in 2020, Michael was the picture of devotion. At the time, Tammy lived with the couple – she’d just undergone a significant transformation after her surgery, and can walk by herself, but things were different in the beginning. Her weight made walking and other physical activities difficult for her. Therefore, she was confined to a wheelchair and needed help with mobility. Michael graciously allowed Tammy to live with them so Amy could help take care of her. At times, he took on the responsibility of caring for his sister-in-law, who wasn’t easy to deal with according to fans, when Amy was not around or needed a break. Michael waved his green flag further by sacrificing his free time with Amy, driving her to errands and her sister to her appointments, and cheering Amy on as she dieted, exercised, and struggled her way through weight loss until she reached a safe weight to carry their first child.

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The Last Straw

Michael’s stint as the show’s resident saint and model husband lasted until the second season, when their first child, Gage, was born. According to Amy, he left all household and childcare responsibilities to her, and didn’t contribute financially towards household expenses, since he was unemployed. Things got worse, but it was only after the birth of their second child, Glenn, that fans confirmed her accusations. Michael tested positive for Covid-19 while Amy was in hospital for Glenn’s birth. After leaving hospital, she went to live with her sister, Amanda, until Michael recovered and tested negative.

Amy returned home with a newborn and a toddler to a dirty house that hadn’t been cleaned since she left for the hospital. Meanwhile, Michael admitted that his symptoms were an occasional but mild headache. A frustrated and exasperated Amy, who had barely recovered from a rough birthing experience, had to clean the house while taking care of two children and healing from a c-section, much to the chagrin of fans, who called out Michael’s behavior, and agreed with Amy, who confessed that she felt as if she had three children.

Several other moments in the season showed Michael disinterested and oblivious to Amy struggling to take care of the children and the household. One particular incident riled-up viewers and had them supporting Amy’s decision to leave Michael later on in the show. Amy and Michael were hosting her family in their backyard. As they sat eating, both children started fussing; Gage was crying and Glenn was hungry and screaming his lungs out for a bottle. The whole time, Michael continued to enjoy his food, oblivious to his crying children as his sleep-deprived wife tried to calm them down. Amy complained that Michael was having fun with everyone else instead of helping her calm downone of the children. It took the intervention of Amanda to calm down the boys by helping Amy with Gage, while she fed Glenn and changed his diaper. The incident drove Amy closer to her threshold.

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For Amy, the straw that broke the camel’s back came in February, when Michael got angry and became violent. On the fateful day, Amy had prepared the children and gotten herself ready to go out and have lunch with Tammy. However, Michael was opposed to the idea, leading to the argument that ended the marriage. In the middle of the heated argument, Michael started throwing things around, prompting Amy to call 911. As their marriage disintegrated, Amy accused Michael of hitting the boys and pulling their hands, neglecting his financial obligations to the family, and making her take on all the chores. She later filed charges against Michael for domestic violence, and requested the court to grant an emergency protection order.

Divorce and Custody Update

With their marriage broken irretrievably, Michael filed for the dissolution of his marriage to Amy in March. Around the same time, Amy filed an order for protection, seeking to bar Michael from having any contact with Gage and Glenn. However, Michael fought the order, claiming that he’d shared the caregiver role for the two children with Amy since their birth, and had the right to see them; he also hoped that the court would allow him to share custody with Amy. She relented soon afterwards, and amended the order to allow Michael to see the children, but petitioned the court to make his contact with them supervised. The judge ruled that Michael could see the children on the condition that he was accompanied by his mother and sister.

In April, one month after filing his divorce petition, Michael returned to court seeking a civil restraining order against Amy. He wanted the order to prevent him and Amy from being within 500 feet of each other or each other’s residence, and prevent either party from talking about the specifics of the divorce and child custody petitions in public or on social media. He also sought a parenting schedule that would divide the children’s time between him and Amy, and petitioned the judge to issue an order allowing him into his and Amy’s house to pick up his personal items.

The divorce and child custody cases are ongoing, with the (former) couple set to attend the next hearing on 1 June 2023. For now, Amy has withdrawn the charges she filed against Michael for domestic violence. The court has temporarily also granted Michael’s request for shared custody. The couple is allowed to communicate through text messages that are monitored by the court, to arrange pick-ups, drop-offs, and other issues related to Gage and Glenn. However, Amy is opposing Michael’s request for permanent joint custody, arguing that the children need consistency, and alleging that Michael is relying on his mother to take care of them, instead of parenting them himself.

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Life After Divorce

Amy and Michael’s divorce isn’t final yet, but she’s coping well and ready to move on. According to recent posts on social media, she is powering through the end of her marriage with a positive attitude and a transformation of her life. A major hairstyle change is a typical indicator of rebirth in a woman’s life, and Amy is no exception. She recently colored her hair a vibrant purple, that makes her stand out and draws all eyes to her. The bold hair color goes well with the confidence and positivity she is emanating, as evident in her new pictures. She’s taken to posting bright pictures of herself all over her social media, and captioning them with positive and uplifting messages of hope, the courage to start over, and turning pain into power. She isn’t afraid to use bold and provocative soundtracks such as Lexy Panterra’s “Bad Bitch” to accompany pictures and videos of herself.

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Amy’s dedication to her children hasn’t wavered. She spends most of her time taking care of the boys, who adore her as seen in the snippets she shares of her time with them on her social media. She’s driven by her own childhood, during which she encountered abuse and neglect from her mother, and her vow to ensure that her boys are assured of her love for them. Besides loving them, she’s teaching them independence and responsibility, as evidenced in a video she shared recently of Gage helping her clean the house with a toy vacuum cleaner. While she devotes most of her time and energy to the boys, Amy is taking time for self-care and self-love. Occasionally, she shares pictures and highlights of nights out with her friends, with whom she has fun and lets loose, before going home to her boys.

Ultimately, Amy is happy to be raising her two boys as she and Michael face off in court to finalize their divorce, and determine how they will parent their children. She’s updated her bio to declare herself a single mother, and seems to be enjoying her life without Michael. With her family and friends rallying around as her support system, there’s little doubt that she’ll continue to thrive.

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What happened to Sugar Bear? What’s he doing now?

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Whether you loved or you hated them, there’s no doubt that the stars of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Child” became some of the most unforgettable faces of reality TV in the past decade. Starting with the family’s simple way of living, their personalities, or how all of that contrasted with Honey Boo Boo’s goals as a pageant contestant, there was simply no way to ignore the charming and sometimes-controversial endeavors of the Shannon and Thompson families.

It’s been a long while since “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” left TV screens for good, but its stars keep making headlines for a variety of reasons, except for Sugar Bear, the family’s patriarch who has surprisingly been living a toned-down life for some time now.

So where is Sugar Bear now, and where has life taken him after the show’s cancellation? Stay here to discover all!

Where Is Sugar Bear Now?

It’s been a while since we last saw Sugar Bear on TV, but he hasn’t completely fallen out of the spotlight. A couple of years after the cancellation of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” in 2014, the spin-off “Mama June: Road to Redemption” successfully premiered on TLC, featuring almost the entire Thompson and Shannon families in it, with Sugar Bear included.

However, Sugar Bear, whose real name is Mike Thompson, has been absent from the newly premiered sixth season of “Road To Redemption” in 2023, and his presence in the past fifth season was scarce as well. This comes after Sugar Bear’s relationship with his daughter Alana – ‘Honey Boo Boo’ – became distant in recent times, along with his divorce from his second wife Jennifer, and other romantic splits he’s gone through since then.

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Other than that, Sugar Bear’s health has been improving since undergoing a couple of cosmetic procedures, including dental surgery in 2022. Although his social media hasn’t been active since mid-2022 and no news about his possible future projects on TV has been revealed, everything points to him moving forward with his life, regardless of the hardships he’s encountered along the way.

Abuse Accusations

Even though Sugar Bear gave the impression of being a dedicated family man, in recent times that has been denied by his children. According to an interview that Alana and her older sister Lauryn ‘Pumpkin’ gave to the Dumb Blonde podcast in 2022, Sugar Bear abused his daughter and step-daughters physically and emotionally.

In the case of Pumpkin, she recalled the time when her step-father threw a set of keys toward her at 14 years old, injuring her eye in the process: ‘I had to get a buckle put on the back of my eye and stuff like that. It just started to get progressively worse,’ she said. This incident was featured in “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”, but described as an accident back in the day.

Regarding how the family hid the abuse from the show’s staff, Pumpkin affirmed that some of the abuse occurred while filming. One of the incidents she recalled during the interview was when Sugar Bear threw a lotion bottle toward one of the staff members and almost hurt her seriously. He also allegedly behaved ‘very mean’ towards everyone in the family, including his blood-daughter Alana, to whom he was sometimes unkind due to the fact he wanted to have a boy and not a girl.

All in all, it seems that more and more drama keeps being unearthed from “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”.

Does He Keep In Contact With His Children?

Due to the complicated relationship between Sugar Bear and his children, it doesn’t come as a surprise that they’re mostly not in contact with each other these days.

Signs of the growing distance between him and his family were already evident in the earliest seasons of “Mama June: Road to Redemption”, back when jealousy-related issues with his then-new wife Jennifer affected his relationship with Alana. Later on, Mama June’s drug issues left a teen Alana in the charge of her older sister Pumpkin, instead of Sugar Bear.

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As seen in the fifth season of the show, Sugar Bear ultimately gave full custody of Alana to Pumpkin and her husband Joshua, but affirming his daughter was ‘the only thing he had’ and felt that giving away her custody was ‘basically signing her out’ of his life.

Alana doesn’t seem to hold her father in high regard; as she told Entertainment Tonight in 2022, she felt that Sugar Bear’s emotional outbursts weren’t genuine, saying ‘He just wants folks to feel bad for him’, and also admitted that she doesn’t reply to his constant efforts to get closer to her, feeling that he had waited too long to strengthen their relationship.

Besides his estranged relationship with Alana, it doesn’t seem that Sugar Bear is on better terms with the rest of his adopted daughters either.

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Health Scare

Though Sugar Bear is fortunately healthy these days, it hasn’t been long since he went through a serious health scare. In mid-2022, he went on a makeover mission, changing things about his body with which he hadn’t felt comfortable, as a way to celebrate his 50th birthday.

However, just when he went to improve the condition of his teeth, his dentist found white spots all over his lower gums, signaling the possibility of buccal cancer. According to TMZ, Sugar Bear feared that his decades-long taste for tobacco could have resulted in serious health problems, thus making the situation even scarier.

Nonetheless, in the end not only did a specialist determined that Sugar Bear fortunately didn’t have cancer, but he was also able to get new teeth to replace his rotten ones. He reportedly also underwent liposuction and got fillers, botox, and a hair transplant.

While the results of his makeover were visible in some of the photos he shared on social media, the most important part was to know that he was healthy.

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What Happened To His Relationships?

While many people remember Sugar Bear from his time in “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”, when he was still together with Mama June, by the time the show premiered in 2012, the couple had been together for several years, with him as a step-father to Mama June’s three daughters from previous relationships and as a father to Alana, who they welcomed in 2005.

However, it didn’t take long from there until things between Mama June and Sugar Bear came to an end, effectively parting ways in 2014. Though she moved to other relationships, Sugar Bear remained single for a while before meeting a woman named Jennifer, with whom he tied the knot in 2017.

While Jennifer is well known for her appearances in the earliest seasons of “June Mama: Road To Redemption”, she and Sugar Bear didn’t have an easy path. As seen in the show, the couple faced several crises, most of them related to his alleged unfaithfulness. The couple eventually went their separate ways in late 2021, but didn’t reveal the reasons behind their split, as reported by TV Shows Ace.

In May 2022, Sugar Bear officially started dating Heather Rood, a nurse from Maine. Though it’s unclear where or when exactly they met, the couple seemed to be over the moon for the longest time, before Heather broke news about their split in May 2023, affirming it was her who chose to walk away, but left details about the cause of their split unclear.

What Will Happen To The Show?

Though “Mama June: Road To Redemption” has been longer on TV than its predecessor “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo”, the show has also seen the family distance themselves from each other, especially when it comes to Mama June’s drug issues and Sugar Bear’s estrangement from his daughters.

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So far, Sugar Bear hasn’t been seen in the still-airing sixth season of the show, and no positive news about his possible return to TV has been revealed. Though this doesn’t necessarily mean that Sugar Bear will be gone from the show forever, his absence gives a hint of the status of his relationship with his daughter.

While it’s positive that Sugar Bear has been improving certain aspects of his life in recent times, whether those changes also include reconnecting with his daughter Alana has been an unsolved issue for a long time.

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What happened to Orange County Choppers after “American Chopper”?

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Orange County Choppers (OCC) is probably the world’s most famous custom motorcycle manufacturing company, revered by bikers around the globe as the birthplace of builds that completely changed the game. However, under the surface of creative ingenuity and brimming passion lay a greatly strained relationship between father and son.

It’s precisely this rift between the two that made the series all the more remarkable, adding a massive elements of reality TV to an already very absorbing documentary show. Paul John Teutul Sr. (often called Senior) and Paul Michael Teutul Jr.’s (often called Junior) co-operation produced one-of-a-kind machines that stunned the world, and their lack thereof left audiences scratching their heads as to why they even worked together.

From its inception in 2003 to the time it first stopped airing in 2012, “American Chopper: The Series” continually made headlines across numerous media outlets, and consequently a lot of money for its parent network, the Discovery Channel. With the addition of just a few cameras on their premises, Orange County Choppers from Newburgh, New York, went from a private business to a global sensation.

The time bomb that the company was built on eventually had to implode, splitting up the fabled father-son duo and starting another, perhaps even greater story. Far from being an end to the saga that captured the world’s attention, the temporary finish of “American Chopper: The Series” paved the way for both of the Teutuls to rise to even greater popularity.

Chasing their own legend

The start of the crumbling of “American Chopper: The Series” was the culmination of Senior and Junior’s fights, which over time seemed more and more to have stemmed from actual hatred and unwillingness to listen. Their last and biggest altercation even involved physical violence, with Junior smashing a chair on the floor and kicking the door into the wall on his way out of Senior’s office.

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It all started when Junior was more than 45 minutes late to work yet again, which made Senior furious. He told the camera crew that he was completely done with letting this behavior continue, building himself up to even greater anger as the son slowly made his way to his office.

Junior wasn’t really having any of that, so he replied in kind with the same shouting volume, ultimately bursting out with rage and trashing parts of his father’s office. He stormed outside without a word, as the father yelled at his back that his contract was terminated. Junior expressed relief at this statement, and left the premises, never to return.

A truly independent OCC

Although Senior generally ruled his business with an iron fist, it wasn’t until Junior’s departure that his father achieved complete freedom in his builds, since the other Paul had a very different idea of what their bikes should look like.

This variety in taste seemed a promising factor at first, as the audience expected them to combine the styles and build truly remarkable machines. However, it only served to further the already significant family rift, birthing issues for both of the design masterminds as they clashed over the tiniest of details.

Senior finally built bikes with complete creative liberty, which greatly pleased the fans who preferred him from the outset. Conversely, those who mostly rooted for Junior found it hard to support the show without him, which led to mixed overall feelings regarding the continuation of “American Chopper.”

With that, the potential customers of OCC were also split between the company and Junior’s brand-new business, Paul Jr. Designs (PJD). Whereas before everyone who wanted a legendary bike would give Senior a call, it was now a question of taste in a true old-vs-new fashion, with Junior preferring to push the limits of what is considered a motorbike, while his father stuck to more conventional methods, and still greatly attractive old-school aesthetics.

Consequently, it became apparent that the two businesses were semi-direct competitors, which is a discomfort that OCC had never had to deal with prior to Junior leaving it. In spite of the father and son not working in the same space anymore, their rivalry became even stronger, pushing both of their creative drives to even greater lengths.

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It’s thus undeniable that OCC entered a new age post-2008, with its builds becoming perhaps more iconic than at any other time, as the work was further streamlined thanks to very few arguments among the staff, as well was Senior trying his hardest to outdo the younger talent.

Worthy of mention is the fact that Junior wasn’t the only one who left, as several other important and highly skilled workers went to join PJD in the years following its creation, including the unforgettable MVP of custom bike building Vincent DiMartino (Vinnie), as well as Cody Connelly and Michael Teutul. This outflow of talent most definitely took a toll on OCC, which was forced to resort to brand-new employees.

Blood against blood

In 2010, “American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior” gave hope to the fans that the series will continue for many years to come, but they were let down when it was brought to an end only two years later. Still, throughout those 56 episodes, it was evident that both father and son had reached a new understanding of chopper building, outdoing the supposedly impossibly high standards that they had set while working together.

Many prominent choppers were featured throughout the spin-off, such as the St. Jude Bike, built by Senior at OCC to honor and support the efforts of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital from Memphis, Tennessee, which is a non-profit medical corporation centered on extremely debilitating children’s diseases, such as leukemia and various other cancers.

The Geico Bike was proudly revealed as one of PJD’s first designs, created for the GEICO Philanthropic Foundation, which has empowered numerous charities throughout the US, and helped them support diverse communities.

“American Chopper: The Series” was canceled alongside its spin-off in 2012, leading many to believe that this was indeed the end of OCC’s dominance on the TV screen. However, their next appearance was just around the corner.

OCC, and OCC alone

“Orange County Choppers” premiered on CMT, on August 18 2013, with a pilot that lasted two hours. It featured even more advanced builds than was previously thought possible by the fans of the franchise, with a new creative director to help steer the team to ever greater creations.

Evan Favaro was said by many viewers to be the second-best addition to the crew, aside from Junior himself, who was definitely not returning at that point. Regardless of his son’s absence, Senior was more determined than ever before to push the limits of chopper design and revolutionize his craft yet again.

While the builds were undoubtedly impressive, the series’ second season never really took off, and so it finished with the airing of its eighth episode on 11 January 2014. Thinking that this was actually the end, the fans were greatly surprised by the 2014 “American Chopper” special episode, entitled “American Chopper: Shaq Bike”, created to showcase the process of OCC building a chopper for the legendary NBA player Shaquille O’Neal.

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Although not very significant on its own, the special was the first time after Paul Jr.’s split that OCC almost entirely took over “American Chopper” and its spin-offs, which most likely would have happened, if only the series had continued. 2014 was beginning to spell the true end of the saga, but then 2018 rolled around.

The long-awaited return of “American Chopper: The Series” took place on 1 Mar 2018, featuring the 11th season. Unlike earlier, Senior and Junior were working together again, although not to the point of anyone believing the father would absorb the son’s business. The episode entitled “Welcome Back” opened up the ten-year anniversary, not showing much collaboration between the Teutuls early on.

However, it was later revealed that their relationship became much healthier over the years, probably due to each having their own unrestricted creative liberty. It was also not out of the question for certain work to be relegated to the other party throughout tight deadlines, making OCC and PJD partners as much as competitors.

The focus was still very much on the shops’ individual projects however, as fully mutual ones were definitely a thing of the past. The only exception is their collaboration on fixing the old New York Yankees chopper, which Junior requested from OCC after the machine had been severely defaced and sold into scrap.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B03NXjchpXv/

Things seemed to be looking up for both the franchise and the Teutul family, leading fans to trust yet again that the series had a long and bright future ahead. There was even hope that the shops would eventually merge, and OCC would have its second in command as before, but without the aggressive arguments that defined the first six years of the show.

To their customary misfortune, it became obvious after the 12th season’s finish on 2 April 2019 that no new episodes were in the making. The only reasonable conclusion was that the age of “American Chopper: The Series” was truly over.

The farewell was presumably made easier by the ultimate two-hour special that came out on 28 July 2020, in which OCC and PJD came together to build a bike from scratch – something that had never happened in the entire history of the series.

The two protagonists were the same, but a lot had changed over the years, and OCC was moving its HQ for the first time in 17 years. This provided a bothersome time constraint for the Teutuls, as they had only eight weeks to build a chopper deserving of their legendary repute for ABC Supply Company, the biggest roofing enterprise in the country.

OCC’s trials and tribulations

Aside from the world-famous series, a few other negative factors combined to bring OCC to where it is in 2023. It became clear over the years that Senior’s talent for building unparalleled choppers didn’t really help with much else, as he fell on hard times upon Junior’s departure.

For example, a bankruptcy fraud lawsuit haunting the Teutuls from as early as 2003 culminated in mid-2007, draining energy and resources from an already spent Senior. In essence, it was alleged that he and the sons fraudulently filed for bankruptcy after selling assets of one son’s company to that of another.

They were accused of abusing the right to declare bankruptcy so as to avoid paying the significant costs incurred by transferring all the assets, and it was said that they owed upwards of $1.3 million to the damaged parties. A settlement of $500,000 was eventually reached, with the cash being given to the accuser by OCC.

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In 2018 there was a brand new bankruptcy filing by Senior, in which he stated that he was making only $15,000 per month, stating that he owed approximately 50 creditors almost $1.1 million, with his total wealth numbering $1.8 million. He also listed the family home for sale, but had great trouble finding a buyer.

As if that weren’t enough, he had lost another lawsuit in 2020, paying photographer Scott Gunnells almost $260,000 for using his artwork without consent. One particular photo that Scott took was printed on various merchandise items by OCC, and was shown on screen in the series multiple times as well.

OCC into the future

For the aforementioned reasons, a decision was finally made in early 2020 to move the business to new premises, in St. Petersburg, Florida, right next to the famed Bert’s Barracuda Harley-Davidson store. The new location allowed Senior to expand into other ventures as well, fulfilling the lifelong dream of turning OCC into a lifestyle brand, instead of just a chopper workshop.

The facility was named OCC Road House & Museum, featuring the standard work area and retail section, as well as several amenities one wouldn’t normally expect near a chopper store, such as a restaurant, billiard hall, concert pavilion, and museum. The facility has been operating at full steam since late June 2021, attracting perhaps even bigger crowds than during the heyday of the “American Chopper” franchise

Their website is mostly dedicated to the restaurant service, but it also lists the frequent one-of-a-kind events that take place on the premises, such as live music performances at the concert hall, and biker get-togethers that are attended by chopper aficionados from all over the country.

All in all, in spite of the numerous obstacles along the way, it can be said with some certainty that Senior has got over his monetary woes, and found a place under the bright blue sky for OCC, which is well on its way to becoming an all-encompassing brand.

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