A new book chronicling the rebirth of “Rufus the Stunt Bum” is getting a storm of publicity including a two-page spread in the Sunday NY Post.
“A Bum Deal,” in bookstores Tuesday, is the story of San Diegan Rufus Hannah.
There was a time when Hannah lived on the streets and did whatever he was told to make a buck. Anything, he says, for his next drink.
But things soon escalated to the point where he was paid to fight his best friend in a scene that would appear in “Bum Fights,” a multi-million dollar film. Hannah and his friend Donny were approached on a La Mesa street corner and given money for beer if they would do a number of violent acts for the flim.
The men ran into crates, hit each other in the face, even got tattoos with the name of the so-called reality movie.
Hannah, 55, decided to leave that life when the violence and the booze nearly killed him.
“I just didn't want to die on the streets a drunk and be remembered that way,” Hannah said in a 2008 interview.
One of the driving forces for Hannah’s life-changing decision was Barry Soper, the owner of an apartment complex who befriended Hannah and eventually hired him.
“From the beginning, I did not like Barry,” Hannah told a cable television host on Monday. “I didn’t trust people in general. It took time for me to even confide in Barry.”
Those trust issues were fed by Hannah's experience with the movie. Soper didn't hesitate to use tough love on the homeless man, even going so far as to drive him to a mortuary.
"I offered him a casket, or the program," Soper said. "If he chose the program, great, you move on. If you don't, you take the casket."
Now, sober for eight years, Hannah lives in his own home in La Mesa. He's been rewarded for the time he spends talking to young people about his experiences and working to get homeless people protected by hate crime legislation.
"I like to say sometimes, it's like day and night, the change in my life," Hannah said Monday when discussing the new book.
Hannah speaks to schools, telling students not to ignore a homeless person on the street. Each one has a story.
"Just take time to speak to that person, you know, don't ignore them like they're invisible," Hannah said. "I've had that happen to me, and it's not a good feeling."
They are real people, they have a story, according to Hannah. "I'm sure they didn't grow up wanting to be homeless," he said.
Hannah lives with double vision and equilibrium problems – injuries sustained during the Bum Fights stunts – as well as tattoos on his fingers reminding him every day of his participation in the film.
Producers Zack Bubeck, Daniel Tanner and Ryan McPherson were charged with felonies for making the video tapes. They sold thousands of copies of the movie on the Internet.
In June 2003, they pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, smiling and joking in court. Then, a judge ruled that Bubeck and McPherson lied to the court, submitting false paperwork stating they'd performed 280 hours of volunteer work at a local homeless center. Judge Charles Ervin sentenced the men to six months in jail for violating probation.
For both Hannah and Soper, the book offers the promise of something good coming out of so much suffering.
"I hope this book will make a difference," said Soper. "If they read it, they say 'Wow, Rufus Hannah, as low as he was, and how bad it was, the tattoos, the beatings; we can change our lives and make a difference.'"
“You can make a difference in another person’s life,” he said. “How Rufus with all these problems was able to make this remarkable change.”