A chat with David Hasselhoff, David Hasselhoff interview, The Hasselhoffs, Knight Rider, Baywatch
David Hasselhoff

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They call him…The Hoff. Or, at least, they do now. For years, David Hasselhoff was merely a TV icon (as if that isn’t a tremendous accomplishment in and of itself), thanks to his work on such series as “Knight Rider” and “Baywatch.” Sometime after he stopped playing Mitch, however, a strange transformation occurred where Hasselhoff suddenly became famous for…well, just for being himself, really. Part of that change occurred as a result of serving as a judge on “America’s Got Talent” and as a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars,” but if we’re to be honest, part of it also came from some rather cringe-inducing moments in his personal life.

Still, to hear him tell it, the latter ultimately had a lot to do with leading Hasselhoff back to reality television. This time, his co-stars are his daughters Taylor Ann and Hayley, and their new series, “The Hasselhoffs,” which premieres on A&E on Sunday, December 5, finds him trying to be supportive of their careers – both are musicians, but Hayley also has aspirations to follow in her father’s footsteps as an actor – while still being protective of their futures…and if you’re a dad, you already know what a tough tightrope that is to walk.

Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to catch up with Hasselhoff just as he was wrapping a marathon day of press about this new television endeavor, but if he was exhausted, you can’t tell from the way he answered our first question. Or the second. Or…well, you get the idea. Make no mistake about it: The Hoff likes to talk. Okay, I admit that I had to fight off a fit of giggles at one point as I kept wondering when he was going to stop long enough to give me an opening to ask my second question, but I was ultimately impressed by the fact that, although it would’ve been very easy to slip from having personal pride in his accomplishments into just having a really big ego, he always managed to maintain just the right level of good humor to keep from crossing that line.

David Hasselhoff: Hellllllllllllloooooooo!

Bullz-Eye: Hello, David! How are you?

DH: I’m well, thank you! We’re in the middle of a marathon here, but I’m doing well.

 BE: Yes, it’s been a very busy day for you, I understand.

DH: Where are you?

 BE: I’m in Norfolk, Virginia.

DH: Oh, okay, great! Great to meet you!

 BE: Same here! The journalist in me is pleased to talk to you…and the 14-year-old in me who watched “Knight Rider” every week is positively giddy.

DH: (Bursts out laughing) Great! Well, you know, I still get that from just about everybody. I mean, Dwyane Wade (of the Miami Heat) jumped out of his car to go, “My grandmother and I used to watch that show!” I went, “Oh, my God…” Dwyane Wade! It’s crazy. But it’s been a great ride. To this day, “Knight Rider” is still out there, man.

 BE: So you’ve obviously worked both sides of the street when it comes to the competition side of reality television – you were a judge on “America’s Got Talent” and a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars” – but what tempted you about the documentary-style reality show?

"What I really wanted to do was 'Tales of the Hoff.' Because, I mean, so much weird shit has happened to me that I wanted to document it and do a scripted reality show. But when nobody wanted to do the scripted 'Tales of the Hoff,' which would’ve been like 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' this was kind of the closest thing we could get to it."

DH: The documentary style is exactly what tempted me. I wanted to do it documentary style. I actually went to see Joan Rivers’ documentary (“A Piece of Work”) and kind of realized, “Hey, I’m on the right track!” Because I wanted to make something that was interesting, kind of exciting, looking into my life but entertaining. Not just, like, “Turn the camera on and see who they’re dating and what they’re selling and where they’re going.” They had the camera on my daughters and a couple of their friends, and I asked, “Why is this camera on them for two hours?” “Well, we’re fishing.” I said, “What the hell are you fishing for?” “We’re fishing for a story.” I said, “I can give you 20 stories right now, so much happens in our lives. Just follow me around with a camera!” I finally got these guys to travel with me. To travel to New York to see Hayley’s first time on television promoting a show and watch how she’s going to handle some of the crap that they’re going to dish out because of me. And how I sort of protect them and how they protect me, how they’re so fiercely loyal about keeping the family intact. Even though the marriage is no longer there, we’re divorced, the fact that they fiercely still love me and their mother and where we’re at as a family. This was an opportunity to kind of say, “What you read about us is not who we are.”

Haley said, “This is a chance to prove the tabloids wrong.” They’ve been through the wringer because of me and because of Pamela, and this was an opportunity to kind of come clean and say, “This is who we are.” And also to help them. I did it mainly because I want to promote them as singers and kind of bring awareness to the fact that, hey, these are my daughters, and these girls grew up on the set of “Baywatch.” They’ve gone to about a hundred singing classes, they’ve gone to dancing classes, they’ve gone to acting classes. When Hayley was 14, she had a weight issue, and she said, “I really want to be an actress and a model,” but because she wasn’t 5’8” or 5’10” and she was a plus size, we decided to use it. We went after plus-size modeling, and she became a huge model for Torrid. And then she lost the weight and got fired… (Laughs) …and then she gained the weight back, and she got the lead in this series called “Huge” on ABC Family that got terrific reviews. Taylor Ann called me one day and said, “Dad, I really want to pursue my music career. I want leave school and…” (Takes a deep breath, exhales loudly) I went, “Oh, my God, don’t leave school…” But in my heart, I said, “If she’s going to make it, she’s got to go for it now.” So I said to the girls, “Hey, I have an opportunity for a TV show, and it’s not going to be about me and my whole life. Let’s do it about us. About how I’m suddenly a single father and where we’re at.”

They’d come to me and said, “We want to be on MTV!” And I was, like, “Well, MTV’s all about music.” And they said, “Well, we kind of want to highlight our musical career, like Jessica Simpson.” So I said, “You know what? Let me see what I can check out.” So I went out and did my homework. I knew they could sing, and I found a very good writer, and we…we did kind of a test for the show in England called “Living with My Idol,” which was about a DJ coming to live with David Hasselhoff because he grew up watching “Knight Rider.” His name was Scott Mills. We changed the name to “The Hoff: When Scott Came To Stay,” and Scott lived with us for a few days; we shot two hours, and it was a huge success. It was all about “what’s David Hasselhoff like?” and it got massive ratings. And we went, “Wow, we have something here.” And A&E saw it and said, “We want to do this for America,” so I said, “We’re in.” And it took us seven months… (Laughs) …instead of four days…to deal with America and A&E and Freemantle. But we’re very happy with the way it’s turned out, because it’s shot well, it’s produced well…I mean, I think it’s really classy, and it shows kind of who we are as a family.

David HasselhoffI wanted to do something that wasn’t going to end up hurting my musical career or my acting career or, you know, putting me down to the level of “okay, I’m just a reality star, I guess.” It really was something that…sometimes in life, you play the cards that are dealt, so since there’s so much reality, I said, “You know, instead of fighting this, let’s go with it and see if we can use it in a positive way.” And that’s where it’s at. So we’re all about the girls’ beginning, middle, and, now, where they’re at and how they end up on stage.” I say, “I’m not going to buy your career.” I can’t buy their career. It’s unfair. I said, “I’ll be honest with you, you be honest with me. I’ll be brutally honest, you be brutally honest. You’ve seen the consequences I have made from my mistakes, and I can only tell you that we learn from that, we pick ourselves up, and move on. Here’s what I can offer. I can get you to the door. It’s a big door, and you can walk through it, but you’ve got to be ready.” And it ends with them performing in from of 10,000 people in Germany, and doing a damned good job. So, you know, I think…I’m hoping that people find it interesting. I’m hoping that people will see that…I mean, when we went back and looked at it, we kind of went, “Oh, no, it’s boring!” (Laughs) Because, you know, it’s our lives. But I’m sitting in a nice suite in the Trump Plaza on the 17th floor, overlooking Central Park. I was in London yesterday, playing Hoff the Hook. I’m recognized everywhere we go. My daughters are still talking to me about what they should wear, asking if they look heavy…and they asked, “Dad, what’s our next step?”

We have a new manager for the girls that came into our lives just because I kept trying and trying and trying to help them, saying, “I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing as a manager of a rock band, but I’ll chase DJ AM (before he died), I’ll go to Coachella, I’ll go to whatever lengths I can to try and help.” And now I’ve got them in the hands of a new manager who handles the Pussycat Dolls and Nicole (Scherzinger), the lead singer. Jeff Haddad. He’s someone I found and I think I can trust with my girls. They’re passionate, and they perform with me. They’ve seen me on Broadway, they’ve seen me in London…we’re kind of living the dream. There’s a lot of great things about this business. I keep saying, you know, with all of the garbage and the stuff we’ve been through, it far outweighs sitting at home and waiting for a job. This is an amazing life, and we’re privileged to be here, so…that’s basically it.

 BE: Fair enough. Well, I’ve seen the first episode of “The Hasselhoffs,” and I was wondering if it was hard to find the balance between being serious and being self-deprecating.

DH: Well, you know, we went back and we did the self-deprecating stuff in the voiceover because… (Starts to laugh) We went back and we were, like, “This is too serious! We’ve got to have some fun!” So I talked about what it’s like being a dad, and, you know, I think a lot of dads will be able to relate to this, especially if they’re a single dad. We even approach…I mean, I think we hit everything pretty much on the head throughout the show, but in the end, I think it’s really far more entertaining than anything. I wanted it to be like “The Cosby Show.” What I really wanted to do was “Tales of the Hoff.” (Laughs) Because, I mean, so much weird shit has happened to me that I wanted to document it and do a scripted reality show. But when nobody wanted to do the scripted “Tales of the Hoff,” which would’ve been like “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” this was kind of the closest thing we could get to it. We even address, “Should I do the Comedy Central (roast)…?” And then we hit it head on and said, “Nah, come on, let’s go! Let’s do it!” And then you see their reactions. It’s just kind of, like, how we feel about things. And I’m hoping there’s an audience. And if there’s not, we know we had a great run, we had a lot of fun, and we got some really good home movies. (Laughs)

"It’s difficult for an actor to break through as a singer in America. I was the 'Knight Rider' guy, I was the 'Baywatch' guy, and nobody was interested in doing my musical career. And I said, 'Well, I don’t care!' So I got on an airplane and flew to Germany and sold millions of records! I was playing to 10,000 people a night! When I was on the bow of the boat on 'Baywatch,' it was with a brand new telephone, booking corporate gigs for the weekend."

But the girls are launched. They’re on their way. They’ve already got…we’ve got a single that we think is a hit, and they already want to play in London, so even if worst comes to worst, you’ll still be hearing about The Hoff Drops…well, they call themselves Bella Vida. After those two hours we did (with “When Scott Came to Stay”), we did another six hours, and that was called “Meet the Hasselhoffs.” We took a Winnebago across the UK and just kind of hung out, they followed us traveling around, and that turned out to be a big success as well. And the girls have done about 10 dates with me in Germany already – I kind of secretly brought them over – and now I’m going over to the Berlin Wall on New Year’s Eve to kind of recreate what I did 20 years ago and sing “Looking for Freedom,” and they’ll be on their own. Hayley’s now starred in her own series and got great reviews, and that happened because she worked it. She went to classes and worked around the clock. The same way with Taylor.

And, so, now we’re in New York, just doing the rounds, and we’ll see what happens. The show premieres on December 5, and I’ll be back… (Hesitates) I’ll be leaving on Friday, going back to London to do “Hoff the Hook,” and the girls will kind of ride out the first few episodes, and then they’ll be on a plane to join me in London.

 BE: To talk about Germany for a moment, Norm MacDonald obviously had fun with his punchline, “Germans love David Hasselhoff,” but for many years, Americans didn’t even know that you had a musical career. Are you surprised that your music never really crossed over to the States on the same level?

DH: Not surprised, because…I kind of, like, go with the flow. It was so big over there, and it was because I was doing the whole “American sings German music” thing. It wasn’t in German, it was in English, but it worked so well that it was…it’s difficult for an actor to break through as a singer in America. I was the “Knight Rider” guy, I was the “Baywatch” guy, and nobody was interested in doing my musical career. And I said, “Well, I don’t care!” (Laughs) So I got on an airplane and flew to Germany and sold millions of records! I was playing to 10,000 people a night! When I was on the bow of the boat on “Baywatch,” it was with a brand new telephone, booking corporate gigs for the weekend. I was flying over and doing corporate gigs or concerts on the weekends, then coming back to “Baywatch,” which was the #1 syndicated show on the planet for a minute. It lasted 11 years, we owned it, and I was part of that whole business thing. I was traveling the world, and I saw what was happening. I saw television changing from government-owned TV to privately-owned cable, channels popping up everywhere. We got in on the ground floor, and a lot of that had to do with the fact that “Knight Rider” was canceled and I couldn’t get a job! (Laughs) So I said, “You know what? Let’s take a couple of cars and ship ‘em over to Germany, and if they don’t come to see me, they’ll come and see the car!” And now I’ve got nine million records sold, about 40 gold or platinum records on my walls from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Holland. And it all happened because…well, it just happened! I just said, “Well, shit, I’m out of work. Let’s go here!” And the next thing you know… (Laughs) I knew I could sing!

David HasselhoffSo then I ended up doing what I wanted to do, which was Broadway. But I’m still trying to break America with my music. Because I’ve done “Dancing with Stars” and “America’s Got Talent,” I’ve sung, and I’m doing a lot of casino dates, including a huge thing in Atlantic City. I’m making an overall deal with Harrah’s to do kind of a “Rat Pack” David Hasselhoff Dean Martin kind of show, and I think it’s going to be really successful and a lot of fun. Right now, I’m just doing what’s dealt to me. I’m doing “Peter Pan” for six weeks in the Wimbledon Theater. It’s the 100th anniversary, and it’s really funny. I was singing “Hooked on a Feeling,” I was singing “Jump in My Car”…it’s just a hoot! I go over and…I just finished an album. When I was knocked off of “Stars” in the first round, I said, “Okay, I’m out of here!” (Laughs) I just took a little plane to Vienna and cut an album there, and…I just keep going. And that’s what my girls are seeing. They saw me on stage, and they went, “Holy shit! This is…this is fun!” You’re damned right it’s fun.

So Norm MacDonald can say what he wants. (Laughs) He’s sitting in the studio doing “Saturday Night Live,” we’re onstage with 10,000 people and having a nice little weinerschnitzel over here in Vienna. And then we’re going to go out and we’re going to tour the world…and it’s not even the end of the year! We’re going to Australia. I’ll be on the Berlin Wall on New Year’s Eve, and on New Year’s Day, I’ll be in Australia. And then I’ll be back in London. And the whole time, I’ll hook up with my girls and perform with them. And then hopefully I’ll get back to TV and do…well, I’m sure it won’t be the remake of “Rockford Files,” but something like “Rockford Files.” Or maybe the “Knight Rider” movie. Or maybe an album in Memphis. I’ve always kind of wanted to go after that market, because I love country pop. I’ve got an album called The Romantics, which I recorded…I’m going after the PBS market, trying to reach the people that are my dad’s age, the over 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. I did a beautiful album that was kind of made for television – kind of a John Tesh thing, like Live from Red Rocks – and I’ve gotten fantastic response about that.

Basically, I just kind of go and do whatever comes. Honest to God, seriously, that’s how we exist. (Laughs) If my manager calls and says, “We’ve got a new ‘Knight Rider,’” or, “You’ve got the lead in a new series called ‘Michael Clayton,’” I’ll drop everything, come home, and be a serious actor, because I love that, too. My goal with “The Hasselhoffs” is to kind of highlight who we are, get over the tabloid garbage, move on, laugh at ourselves by showing the Comedy Central roast, and highlight my girls and their passion to make it in this business, and what it takes. It’s kind of a combination of “Entourage” meets “Fame,” which is one of my all-time favorite shows, meets “The Cosby Show.” So whether that makes for successful reality television, I haven’t a clue. (Laughs) I really have no idea. We’ve got great reviews, which scares me. Every time I get bad reviews, the shows are a huge success. But we’ve got great reviews, so I told the girls, “This is great, but I’m a little concerned.” So we’ll see what happens.

 BE: To talk about the legacy of “Knight Rider” for a moment, are you familiar with a documentary called “Disco and Atomic War”?

DH: No, I’m not.

 BE: It’s about the way pop culture affected the people of Estonia during the ‘70s and ‘80s. There’s a segment about how the government went around removing the chips from people’s televisions so they couldn’t receive the Western programming being shown on Finnish channels, and I thought it was particularly funny that, in some cases, they were able to tell which families still had chips by their children, many of whom would stand beside foreign cars and talk into their digital watches, imitating Michael Knight talking to KITT.

David HasselhoffDH: (Bursts out laughing) You think that’s funny? This is a true story. I went over to Fred Segal, which is a store in Los Angeles, and I sat down, and…there’s a paper called L.A. Weekly, and it says, “‘Baywatch’ vs. The Ayatollah.” And I thought, “What the fuck is this?” So I read it, and…there’s these two guys over in Tehran Park, and they were interviewing people, and they were all wearing, like, burkas, and they’d ask, “What’s your favorite show?” And they’d go, “Baywatch.” “Knight Rider.” “90210.” And they all had, like, blonde hair. You talk about the effect of the Western television on countries like Iran. When I talk to the soldiers…I do a lot of work with the Wounded Warrior Project, and they say, “You know, man, you’re known in Iraq! If you were in Iraq, walking down the street with us, people would know who you were.” The Shah of Iran’s wife came over to me at the Caribou Club on New Year’s Eve. It’s this private club, I’m sitting with the heads of Guess by Marciano, and they said, “The Shah of Iran’s wife (he had since passed away) would like your autograph.” And I said, “Yeah, right.” (Laughs) I said, “Send her over, then!” So she comes over, and she says, “They sell tickets to your show in my country.” To this day, it’s like that. I went to Dubai, I went to Abu Dhabi to try and raise money for…believe it or not…a “Knight Rider” movie. So I’m in Abu Dhabi in a mosque, and kids came over, and they knew me from “Knight Rider.” So, you know, that documentary and that kind of stuff…you wouldn’t believe it. You think it sounds like sci-fi, but it’s not really far from the truth!

 BE: I know this is your last interview of the day, but I just wanted to ask you about your work for New World Pictures. During the first episode of “The Hasselhoffs,” you make a reference to having been an extra in “Death Race 2000,” and I know you were also in “Starcrash.”

DH: I got “Starcrash” right after I got “The Young and the Restless,” and…I ended up in Barre, in southern Italy, and, uh, I think that was the worst movie I’ve ever been in. (Laughs)

 BE: And, yet, thanks to Shout Factory, I have it on DVD.

DH: It’s fantastically bad. I love it! (Laughs) But “Death Race 2000,” I was never in…because I walked off the set! I told Stallone that story later on, and I said, “You were in one of your first movies, and I was a fricking extra, but I said, ‘I’m not cut out for an extra, I’m out of here.’” And my best friend was the…I think he was the second A.D., but it was Chuck Russell, who produced “The Mask” and “Eraser,” and he directed “The Scorpion King,” and now he’s off doing “Arabian Nights.” And to this day…I said, “When you were the second or third A.D. on ‘Death Race 2000,’ I was wearing some German helmet, walking off the set, going, ‘I’m not an extra, I’m an actor!’” (Laughs) Man, I’m glad you…you know, you’re probably one of the only people on the planet that’s mentioned “Starcrash” to me. Or “Death Race 2000,” for that matter. I consider it that an honor.

 BE: (Laughs) I couldn’t be more proud. And I’ll just close by asking you this: what’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?

DH: “Nick Fury.”

 BE: Which was actually on my list of things to ask you about, but I knew we were running long.

DH: (Laughs) You’re kidding! Yeah, my favorite show was “Nick Fury.” I loved hanging out with Stan Lee, and, you know, the best line I’ve ever delivered in my life was in “Nick Fury.” It was… (Clears throat) “You know, guys like you tend to cling to the bowl no matter how many times you flush.”

 BE: Awesome.

DH: I loved it. It’s my favorite.

 BE: Well, it’s been a real pleasure talking to you, David. Thanks for making the time.

DH: You, too, man! Thanks a lot, and take care!

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