A lot of people view their co-workers as being a kind of extended family. Here at MTV, though, the madmen of “Jackass” really are part of our gang. They’ve taken over our studios, filled our prime time with outrageous spin-off programs and used their original half-hour show as a launchpad to worldwide fame.
So it was with an especially heavy heart that we reported on “Jackass” star Ryan Dunn’s death in a high-speed car crash in June. His untimely passing is #7 on MTV News’ Top Newsmakers of 2011 list, indicating the world seemed to share in our appreciation for Bam Margera’s bearded best pal.
Dunn, 34, the go-to guy for outrageous stunts that even such stalwarts as Steve O weren’t willing to try, died while bombing down the highway in his sports car near his Pennsylvania home after a night of drinks with friends.
Not only did many of our readers write in with fond remembrances of Dunn, but pals Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine shared their grief, along with everyone from motocross racer Carey Hart to the MTV brass.
With his kind, soft eyes and up-for-anything attitude, Dunn was described by many of his co-stars and cohorts as the kind of guy who would do anything for a friend. Many of you shared your stories of meeting him and confirmed that he was a person who loved life and brought a little bit of joy to everyone he met. As always, we tried to paint a deeper picture than the one you may have gotten from the mainstream press.
When we sent a reporter to Dunn’s hometown of West Chester , we spoke to some of his neighbors and those gathered at a makeshift highway memorial. They too spoke of a kind-hearted soul who always remembered everyone he met and, well, just seemed like a good dude who really appreciated the life his fans had allowed him to live.
And yes, once the details about his death, along with that of passenger Zachary Hartwell , came to light, they served as a cautionary tale about the dangers of drinking and driving . Police determined that Dunn, a notorious speed demon, was driving his 2007 Porsche between 132 and 140 mph in a 55 mph zone and that his blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit in Pennsylvania.
A recent MTV special gave a loving overview of Dunn’s life, told through his many TV appearances and the memories of his co-stars and friends, following his career from his early years in Ohio to some never-before-seen clips from “Viva La Bam” and “Jackass.”
His friends said Dunn liked to marvel at the kind of life he was able to lead thanks to his willingness to dive into pools of poo and ride BMX bikes off roofs. And though we will miss him, he left behind the best legacy we could ask for: laughter and joy.
MTV continues our Best of 2011 coverage by looking back at the biggest pop-culture stories of the year. As we count down the newsmakers that mattered to you most, also check out our Best Artists , Best Songs , Best MTV Live Performances and Best EDM Artists of 2011.