The Mad World of David Hasselhoff

'Self-motivation. Self-prayer. God's cured me many times in life,' said David HasselhoffBy SIMON LEWISHe says his new British tour will be a 'hilarious and emotional ride through his life via song and dance'. If it's half as entertaining as this interview, we'll take a season ticket...There’s a 2007 book entitled Did David Hasselhoff End The Cold War? I’ve just shown it to the man in question, in a chilly canteen by a north London canal. He puts down his plastic coffee cup and eyes it suspiciously.‘Is it supposed to be a joke?’Actually, no. The book makes the point that Hasselhoff’s 1989 song Looking For Freedom (No 1 in the West German charts for eight weeks) was heard by East Germans on the radio and became a symbol for what they didn’t have. Hasselhoff brightens.‘Well, everybody made a big joke of it,’ he beams.‘A silly magazine called the National Enquirer said I was upset there was no picture of me at Checkpoint Charlie. Completely fabricated. But as it turned out, I went to East Germany this year and they were saying, “Thank you for Mauerfall” – the fall of the Wall.‘I thought they were kidding. But they said, “Do you realise that the first English words out of our mouths were ‘I’ve been looking for freedom’?'We were behind the Wall and we could not speak English, but we heard this song about freedom.” It was a psychological boost for everybody. It sold 11 million copies. One man can make a difference – that was the Knight Rider motto. And I did! I felt like a spy!’It may sound odd for a 59-year-old man in a leather jacket, white vest and reading glasses drinking from a plastic cup to be holding forth about ending the Cold War. But you’d expect nothing less from David Hasselhoff: actor, singer, raconteur, talent-show judge, pantomime villain (Captain Hook at the Bristol Hippodrome) and all-round force of nature. We’re here because he’s touring a one-man show called An Evening With David Hasselhoff. Shall we crack on?‘Crack on, baby! Crack on.’What’s in the show?‘Via song, dance and interaction I take you on a hilarious and emotional ride through this amazing journey that I’ve had since I was eight years old,’ Hasselhoff proclaims.‘I perform the songs of Frank Wildhorn, who wrote for the Rat Pack but has been blackballed by the industry. Kinda like me!’

'I'm not complaining. I've made a lot of money and travelled the world. But the critics never gave me any credit,' said DavidIs that how he feels about his career?‘I’m not complaining,’ he says, after an alarmingly long pause. ‘I’ve made a lot of money and travelled the world. But the critics never gave me any credit.'I would have liked to have been in ER or Grey’s Anatomy. But, you know, I was stuck with two legendary shows, which I can’t complain about, because to this day no one remembers ER or Grey’s Anatomy. Well, they remember them, but they’re not nearly as classic in people’s heads as  Knight Rider!’Why the bee in his bonnet about ER? One can hazard a guess. In the Eighties Hasselhoff was the star of Knight Rider, while another doe-eyed actor could only manage a part in B-movie Return Of The Killer Tomatoes. His name was George Clooney. That Hasselhoff’s star didn’t remain in the ascendant – and how he responded to its fall, rise and fall again – is the key to his bizarre but utterly magnetic personality.Born in Baltimore in 1952, David Hasselhoff moved to Florida, Atlanta and Chicago as his father travelled around selling armoured cars, before settling in California. He led his school debating and volleyball teams and was on stage from the age of eight.At 23, he won a role on daytime soap The Young And The Restless, playing a hunky doctor – some 19 years, incidentally, before George Clooney joined ER. These years for Hasselhoff were full of what’s discreetly known as ‘wild partying’. But actually, he wasn’t enjoying himself.‘I started off very nervous and awkward,’ he says. ‘I never wanted to be on television. I wanted to sing.'Then I read a book called The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind, which turned my life around. Self-motivation. Self-prayer. God’s cured me many times in life. I quit and went to pound the pavements of New York looking for work on Broadway.’He didn’t find it – he wouldn’t appear on Broadway until 2000. But in 1982 Hasselhoff landed the lead role in Knight Rider. He hasn’t met anybody since who didn’t see it.‘I went to a Zulu village and everyone in the tribe knew me.’But by 1986 Knight Rider was over – and he was surprised how hard it was to find new work.‘I never liked those showbiz cliques,’ he says. ‘Pretentious people in showbiz with huge egos who claim not to like it, or to be above it.'Many directors who worked on Knight Rider took it off their résumé. I find it incredibly ridiculous that if you were to do ER, that’s respectable, but Knight Rider or Baywatch is not.’'If you spent a day with me you'd go, "I don't know if I want this",' said DavidAh yes – Baywatch. Leaving aside his lucrative pop career in Germany, the lifeguard drama was to restore Hasselhoff’s fortunes.Initially he didn’t want to do it, feeling self-conscious about his spindly legs, but he was eventually persuaded.At first ratings were low, and NBC cancelled the show after one series. Then an independent production company told Hasselhoff the show could be resurrected if he pitched it to foreign channels in person.They raised millions, relaunched the show with him as executive producer and hit the crest of the TV-deregulation wave. With satellite channels proliferating, Baywatch was aired in 140 countries. It still holds the world record for the most viewers: 1.1 billion. Is it true Hasselhoff personally made $100 million out of it?‘Well, we sold the show for $500 million, so… I did well,’ he says. ‘It makes me feel good, having taken a lot of **** for this name!’How much is still left?‘Well, a lot of it went away in the divorce. But that’s OK.’He flashes a pearly-white smile – his default expression when asked a personal question. A gambit used by many a Californian star, it doesn’t reach the eyes. The unspoken threat is, ‘Dare you spoil my great mood?’In January 2006 Hasselhoff announced that he was divorcing his wife of 16 years, Pamela Bach.Increasingly bitter proceedings were played out in the American media: she accused him of being drunk and violent, he accused her of drug abuse.In June 2007 he was awarded full custody of their two daughters. Just before that decision, however, a video was leaked to the media showing him lying shirtless and drunk on the floor, clumsily eating a burger.His daughter, filming, asks him, ‘Why do you do this to yourself?’He slurs, ‘Cos I’m lonely, I have trouble in my life.’Hasselhoff was enjoying a resurgence in his career on America’s Got Talent at the time. He had to promise a court that he’d stay sober and have regular alcohol tests. How did it feel to have everyone see his deepest shame?David with his hi-tech Pontiac Trans Am KITT in Knight Rider‘It was a bit devastating in the beginning,’ he says, ‘but I had a real sense of calm when everything came out. Because I had the respect and love of my daughters, mother and father. That’s all I needed…'And the support of everybody who maybe saw a bit of themselves in me. They liked the fact that I was able to get up.’I suggest that for this reason, it may ultimately have been good for his career.‘Ha ha ha! You know what? In the end… yes and no. It killed a lot of endorsement deals, but it helped me break through into the internet. But I’m the lucky one. Just this morning I was reading about someone (Gary Speed) that didn’t make it.’Hasselhoff calls the video incident a ‘wake-up call’ and has since been attending Alcoholics Anonymous.The first few years were clearly hard. In 2006 he suffered an unlikely accident involving a chandelier while shaving in London’s Sanderson Hotel, severing a tendon in his right arm.Between May 2009 and May 2010 he was hospitalised four times and accused of disorderly conduct, including hitting a doctor.For the first few minutes of our encounter, I did wonder if he was intoxicated: he speaks with a heavy tongue and his pupils tend to wander.After half an hour of sharp wit and clear thought, though, the suspicion has been dispelled. This is not a drunk. But it is an ex-drunk. As with Ozzy Osbourne, the damage is done.The question is, why did someone so rich and famous spend 20 years torpedoing his own chances? It’s interesting that he gives two different answers when asked about his ego.First, he claims not to have one: ‘Even though I appear as if, “Oh, I love The Hoff”, it’s all a game.'When I finally did get on Broadway, I came home saying, “Mum, I can’t do it.” She said, “Get on a plane. Go back. You can do it.”’Then he says that only being on stage gives him confidence: ‘I feel incredibly at home and comfortable on stage. I’m completely in control and I have no fear.’Baywatch still holds the world record for the most viewers: 1.1 billionSo is his entire Hoff persona a mask? A shield?He’s keen to point out how hard he finds it meeting fans. He once had pre-written signatures made up to save the hassle of writing them. Nowadays everyone thinks they can get their picture taken with him.‘If you spent a day with me you’d go, “I don’t know if I want this,”’ he says.‘Just the other night I was in Wales with my girlfriend and I went to her sister’s office party. She works at Greggs – you know, Greggs, the delicatessen? I’ll show you a picture. Aargh! It’s a nightmare – everyone coming at me and freaking out.’He shows me a photo on his phone: a looming crowd of about 50 ladies, all taking his picture. As a flashing, picture-taking mob, they do look scary.‘And that was just me sitting at my table, trying to have dinner! So there I was, very insecure and very shy. I said to my girlfriend, “I love you, but I wanna get out of here.”’Hasselhoff has been seeing Hayley Roberts, 32, since meeting her at the St David’s Hotel in Cardiff last March.He was there for Britain’s Got Talent, the show on which he was a judge (he recently confirmed on Twitter that he won’t be returning for the next series). She asked for his autograph. He asked for her number.‘The great thing about her is she doesn’t take **** from anybody,’ he says.‘She’ll tell me, “Don’t trust that person.” And she’s usually right. She has my best interests at heart. Hopefully it will last, and if it doesn’t…’Apparently he’s proposed to her five times, in a series of bizarre situations – in one case popping the question while they swam in shark-infested waters.‘Yeah, but that was kind of a joke. It was really just one proposal, but I decided to do it all over the world in every life-threatening situation I could think of. There was one with lions. The sharks were the best. I did one while abseiling off Table Mountain.‘Then there was the one with a charging elephant... We were on safari, I got out of the Jeep, I walked very slowly towards the elephant, then I got the ranger to irritate the elephant, and as soon as it started trumpeting and charging, I shouted at her, “Will you marry me? Aargh!” and ran back into the Jeep. The pictures are priceless. She was terrified!’And she still didn’t say yes...‘I know, but right now we’re very happy. It’s an impossibility because of where I live in Los Angeles. She’s so dedicated to Wales.David has been seeing Hayley Roberts, 32, since last March‘I’ll probably keep a flat in Wales, but I’d have to get a massive supply of tanning lotion, because I’ve never been so white in my life! I’m a water guy, an ocean guy, so I’m constantly looking for a beach. I do love Welsh people, though. They’re not snooty.’I wonder if his proposals to Hayley are an attempt to move on from the shame of his divorce. He says he’s ‘always been a relationship guy’ and wants to be in a relationship in ten years’ time. Is he trying to recreate his parents’ 60-year loving marriage?‘Well, I’ll never make it cos I’m too old. Ha!’He is getting on a bit. Is it hard for a former heart-throb to be approaching 60?‘No,’ he barks. ‘I did two-and-a-half hours on stage last night and I knocked the **** out of the audience. They can’t keep up with me! I still work out every day. I’m like Mick Jagger; I’ll probably go forever.’Indeed, he doesn’t look ready for the undertakers just yet. His back is as straight as a flagpole and his laugh is full of broad-chested confidence.A group of girls have been admiring him from across the canteen. There’s a suspicion he’s had surgery – something about his twinkling eyes seems at odds with his beefy frame – but you wouldn’t want to get into a fight with him.Not that that’s a plausible scenario. Whereas some celebrities’ egotism provokes derision, Hasselhoff has never had that problem. Everyone wants to be his friend. Even Princess Diana asked for his autograph. Why? Because he doesn’t try to be cool. He’s an old-fashioned, razzle-dazzle entertainer, and he’s kept that up despite career slumps that might have buried other men. Even now, his plans for the future are dizzying.‘I’m opening a restaurant and hotel in Australia. I’m doing an amazing amount of commercials online. I’m launching my own game, which is me fighting zombies on your iPhone.'I’d like to do a remake of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. I’d like to remake The Rockford Files. I see Knight Rider as a movie franchise. I’d like to do a remake of Doctor Zhivago…’And on he goes. Is it great to be The Hoff? The ‘Don’t Hassel The Hoff’ T-shirts he wears are perhaps not entirely intended as humorous. On the other hand, The Hoff isn’t like other people.As we part, he’s singing a tune from his one-man show to himself, his blue eyes shining.‘This time around I’m gonna make it,’ he croons. ‘This time around I’ll get it right…’‘An Evening With David Hasselhoff’ runs from February 23 to March 2.Buy tickets here!

Source: Daily Mail