8:50am | Jesse James couldn’t take his eyes off of it.
Sporting an ear-to-ear grin that never disappeared for a moment, the world-famous owner of West Coast Choppers kept staring up at the street sign that now bore his company’s name. Click here for photos from the event on the West Coast Choppers Blog.
James has made an international sensation of his motorcycle designs and customizations, not to mention his reality shows like “Monster Garage” and “Jesse James Is A Dead Man.” As people have warmed to the idea of a soft-voiced, fast-driving mechanic covered in tattoos, so has the City of Long Beach, and city officials rewarded James on Thursday by renaming the street he built his reputation on from “Oregon Ave” to “West Coast Choppers Place.”
“I don’t know what to say, I’m overwhelmed,” James told a throng of television reporters and reality television camera crews. “I know I want to be the first do a burnout. Or break some kind of vehicle infraction.”
That quick, rebellious aside – and the laughter that burst from the crowd after it – is the reason that James’ star has grown as quickly and as brightly as it has in the past decade. Once considered a nuisance and a menace, James has changed public perception without changing himself (he wore his work overalls to the press conference), and it has endeared him to millions. Not even the man himself foresaw his transition from the Outlaw to the Darling Jesse James.
“I didn’t think I’d ever see this day come,” James said when I caught a rare moment alone with him. “Through all the ‘Monster Garage’ stuff and I always thought we were kind of a thorn in the City’s side. It’s nice to be seen as an asset.”
First District Councilmember Robert Garcia, who introduced James, explained.
“We’re here to celebrate not just renaming a sign but celebrating a business here in Long Beach that’s really brought worldwide recognition to our city,” Garcia said. “Mr. James has done incredible work with his staff not just with choppers [customized motorcycles] and iron but also a lot of community work. We’re lucky to have Jesse as a part of our community.”