A Bum Deal shares the inspirational story of Rufus Hannah, a man who is regrettably known to millions as “Rufus the Stunt Bum” because of his involvement in the infamous Bumfights video series. Co-written with Barry Soper, the man who helped Hannah escape the exploitation of Bumfights and turn his life around, A Bum Deal is a story of confronting personal demons and journeying to recovery.
The first time Soper and Hannah met, it wasn’t under the best of circumstances. Soper, a businessman and chairman of the board of Oak Grove, a nonprofit educational and residential treatment center, was walking the grounds of his 62-unit townhome complex when he came across Donnie Brennan, a friend of Hannah’s, standing beside one of the dumpsters. Irritated by the obviously-homeless man’s presence on his property, Soper told him to “get out of here!”
Unbeknownst to Soper, there was another man inside the dumpster. Upon hearing the shouting, Hannah jumped out of the dumpster and began shouting right back at Soper.
“I had a couple of choice words I said, I guess,” Hannah said with a laugh.
However, Soper’s elderly neighbor did not take kindly to the way Soper had handled the situation.
“He turned on me and gave me this speech about how I’d better hire them. So I told him that, if they came back, I would,” Soper said. “Then, lo and behold, they came walking down the street. So I told them to show up the next morning at 8 a.m. ready to work. I didn’t think they’d show up.”
But show up they did. Hannah and Brennan worked on Soper’s property for eight weeks, rebuilding old fences and performing maintenance. Actually getting to know the two men on a personal level was “an eye-opening experience” for Soper.
When there was no more work, Soper told them to be sure and check in with him soon so he could try to find them something else to do. Unfortunately, the two men found a new, less appealing, way to make money: Performing dangerous stunts for Bumfights, a series of videos glorifying violence against homeless people.
One night, Hannah was drinking behind the local Von’s supermarket when a car drove up and a young man leaned out the window.
“You want to make five bucks?” he asked. “I’ll give it to you if you run head-first into that pile of milk crates over there.”
“I didn’t have any money, and five bucks was hard to come by,” Hannah said. “So I did it.”
That wasn’t the last Hannah saw of the man and his friends. They came back regularly, offering money or alcohol to Hannah if he agreed to do dangerous stunts on camera for them. Hannah rollerbladed drunk, jumped into shallow pools and even got into a violent fight with his friend Brennan on camera. One day, the men convinced Hannah and Brennan to get tattoos.
“The next time I saw Rufus and Donnie was at a gas station near my complex,” Soper said. “Donnie had a huge tattoo on his forehead that said BUMFIGHTS. I looked at him and I just said, ‘Oh my God, is that real?’ Once I’d seen the tattoos, I told them I was going to get them the best lawyer I could get.”
Today, both men have lasting injuries from their time filming the Bumfights videos. Hannah has double-vision and impaired equilibrium from head injuries sustained during Bumfights, and Brennan has two steel rods in his leg that cause him to walk with a permanent limp. With Soper’s help, Hannah has since taken legal action against the creators of Bumfights and has been sober for eight years. He is employed full-time, remarried, has worked to heal his relationship with his children and get his life is back on track.
The transformation from “Rufus the Stunt Bum” to his current life hasn’t been easy, and Hannah’s story goes far beyond the events caught on film in Bumfights. The full, inspirational story of his rise from homelessness, alcoholism and abuse to sobriety and advocacy for others experiencing homelessness is depicted in A Bum Deal.
“It’s not easy getting sober. Every day I’d just look up and say, ‘God please give me strength to stay sober just today.’ I still do that today,” Hannah said. “I just hope that somebody can read this and see that it doesn’t matter how low it gets, you can always get up again.”