There’s no way to deny that “American Chopper” has given us some of the best and most memorable reality TV moments of the last two decades. Centered on the activities of the formerly-New York-based Orange County Choppers, the series showed that there’s a lot of drama and unexpected infighting involved in building customized motorcycles.
While the Teutuls undoubtedly became one of the most unforgettable TV families for their propensity to scandals, their on-screen drama is only one small part of all the issues going on in real life, especially when it comes to Paul Teutul Sr.
Addiction to illicit substances, alcoholic tendencies, problems with the law, and long-standing feuds with his children are only some of the issues that Paul Sr faced in the past, but how did that turn around for him and his family in the end? Stay here to know all about it!
Although Paul Teutul Sr is mostly famous for his choppers and his family dramas, there’s also an illicit substance scandal in his records. As it happened, in 2011 a Florida-based dentist named James M. D’Amico pleaded guilty to the unauthorized distribution of human growth hormones and steroids.
According to reports, D’Amico’s dentist license was revoked, but that didn’t stop him from prescribing steroids to several people for several years. One of those people found in D’Amico’s infamous clients’ list was Paul Sr, who had allegedly received over 70 prescriptions from the dentist and other health professionals from 2002 to 2006.
According to Times Union, the prescriptions received by Paul Sr amounted to $51,784.78 and were processed by an Orlando-based pharmacy. The latter pleaded guilty to the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs in 2013, though they had been investigated since 2007 for the same case which involved D’Amico and several other physicians across the country.
It was also revealed that a clinic in Florida’s Palm Beach was the one providing Paul Sr with his prescriptions, which included testosterone, stanozolol, and some muscle-enhancing drugs believed to sinhibit aging. Said clinic was closed in 2007 after its owners were caught for illegal substance distribution, but Paul Sr’s involvement in the case wasn’t revealed until 2011, but he’s never publicly commented on the case.
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Though Paul Sr’s involvement with the distribution of illegal performance-enhancing drugs remains a subject he doesn’t speak about, he’s been more open about his past issues with alcoholism and other drugs.
As confessed in his 2009’s book “The Ride of a Lifetime”, he started drinking alcohol and consuming drugs from the early age of 15, and maintained those habits for several years: ‘Over the years, I had wrecked a dozen or more cars. On the weekends, I would wake up and not know where I was or how I’d gotten there,’ he wrote, listing some of his then-recurrent health issues such as coughing blood, often falling sick, and breaking his arms in car accidents resulting from his addictions. Alcoholism had already had fatal consequences in his maternal family.
Paul Sr didn’t feel like he had hit rock bottom until a fateful day in the mid-1980s, when he confessed to his now-former wife Paula about giving up on his battle against addiction.
Paul Teutul Sr and Steve doing some maintenance on their bikes in the shop. Time to ride!
Though Paula convinced him of giving life another chance by getting into rehab, Paul Sr’s fear of losing his then-already established steel business held him back for a while. As he admitted in the book, drinking ‘half a gallon’ of wine amongst other drinks the day before getting into rehabilitation prevented him from taking that crucial step.
Sobriety & Building His Life Back
Even though Paul Sr never went into rehab, he fulfilled the promise he’d made to his then-wife Paula by attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for the first time in January 1985. Since then he’s never looked back, fighting his addiction not only for his and his family’s sake, but also to ensure his business success.
Nonetheless, Paul Sr’s road to sobriety wasn’t easy, especially given that he was surrounded by other addicts even at work, as back then his drinking pals were his workers and his business partner John Grosso. Nonetheless, as Paul Sr’s resolution to stay sober strengthened, and he eventually banned alcohol from the workplace, those who had shared that addiction with him disappeared from his life as well, and Grosso was not an exception to this.
Sometime after their professional relationship was broken, Grosso went back to Paul Sr and confessed to him that his alcoholism had finally gotten to his liver. He died when 35 years old, as Paul Sr wrote in “The Ride Of A Lifetime”.
Paul Sr didn’t regret his choice of sobriety, as it not only resulted in him taking control of his life, but also allowed him to ‘think clearer’, to build the business that he wanted.
Issues With Mikey
Most of Paul Sr’s issues with alcohol and drugs took place when TV cameras weren’t around to film, but the same can’t be said about the constant problems inside the Teutul family.
Starting with Paul Sr’s youngest son Michael, things took an ugly turn between the two at some point. Even though Mikey was always around at the shop. running errands and doing odd jobs, he strived to get the chance to build some bikes from time to time, and was also the added comedy relief needed in “American Chopper”.
Nonetheless, starting from the point when Mikey became an independent contractor at Orange County Choppers, his relationship with his father went downhill. As Mikey once confessed to his father in the sixth season, he felt that he was being excluded from important events and decisions in the shop.
Even though the conversation between father and son had started peacefully, Paul Sr refuted Mikey’s words by accusing him of failing at every job given at the shop. That one incident marked the lowest point of their relationship, and it didn’t take long for Mikey to be left out of the company, joining his brother Paul Jr’s then-new design business.
While Mikey and Paul Sr fixed their relationship years down the road, it was unfortunate to see their relationship go through that.
Feud With Paul Jr
Problems between Paul Sr and his oldest son Paul Jr weren’t anything new for “American Chopper” viewers. As seen in many episodes of the show, Pauly’s habit of not complying with Orange County Choppers’ work schedules and rules caused many conflicts between him and his father.
Their relationship hit rock bottom in 2008, when a father and son argument regarding Pauly’s absences resulted in insults, chairs thrown, and his termination from the shop. While there was some effort between the parties to amend their relationship, and Pauly returned to the shop at some point, their strained relationship became too much to deal with. Eventually, Pauly exited Orange County Choppers for good, and started his agency Paul Jr’s Designs soon after.
While that could have been the end of issues for the Teutuls, the worst was yet to come. Not only was Pauly contractually unable to build bikes on his own for a year after his termination, but his father also filed a lawsuit to forcefully make him sell his 20% of the shares in Orange County Choppers. A long and enduring legal battle ensued to decide the real value of the company’s shares, but the case was ultimately settled out of court in mid-2011 when Paul Sr and Pauly agreed on a fair price for both sides.
Aftermath & Reconciliation
The fight between Paul Sr and Pauly in the show’s sixth season became a popular topic for “American Chopper”s fans, making their broken relationship a wide topic of discussion in the media. Nonetheless, at the same time that father and son were fighting in court over their business shares, TLC decided that there had been enough of “American Chopper”, and canceled the show in early 2010.
Later that year, the spin-off “Senior vs. Junior” premiered, and reflected the delicate state of the relationship between father and son, as both men worked alone in their respective businesses and made no mention of ever fixing their broken bond, never appearing together on screen again. As reported at the time, Paul Sr didn’t attend the wedding of his son in August 2010, despite being invited.
Later, in 2017, Pauly released his book “The Build” and revived the subject of his rocky relationship with his father, whom he infamously described as a ‘monster’ in it. Nonetheless, the book also changed the course of their strained relationship, resulting in father and son talking again after so many years, as Paul Sr told The New York Post.
Following that, Paul Sr and Pauly starred together in the “American Chopper” revival in 2018, though they kept away from each other’s work and business as the show went on.
Where Is Paul Sr Now?
Things have certainly changed for Paul Sr in the last couple of years.
For starters, his relationship with his sons is definitely in a better state now than it was in 2009. As seen in the “American Chopper” special aired in 2020, Paul Sr and Pauly were able to build another bike together after so many years of feuding and estrangement. As admitted by Pauly in an interview with The New York Post, he and his father aren’t ‘best friends’ but they do what they can to make it work.
That being said, Orange County Chopper no longer exists, or at least not as we used to see it in “American Chopper”. Following a series of legal and financial problems, in 2019 Paul Sr sold his Orange County property and moved to Florida, where his new business OCC Road House & Museum opened its doors in 2021. On the other hand, the old Orange County Choppers location in New York State was closed in 2020 for good.
All in all, Paul Sr’s life has been filled with all types of issues, going from his addictions to his problems with the law, and family feuds. However, the many scandals surrounding his life have also contributed to making Paul Teutul Sr one of the most unforgettable reality TV stars of our time – really!