David Hasselhoff still in the game as his concert kicks off Hong Kong Sevens
‘You got to stay in the game. That’s what this business is all about,’ says the 63-year-old former Baywatch star, who plays a trumped-up version of himself on TV and who’s out to please his Hong Kong fans this weekend
David Hasselhoff loves to play the game.
That’s something evident in his latest television series, Hoff The Record, which has just been picked up by the AXS cable network in the United States and made its premiere there last week after two seasons (and counting) in Britain.
And it’s something highlighted by the commotion still simmering on websites this past week, fuelled by what the man gave of himself across a marathon bout of interviews in the US to promote the show that lasted around three days, but felt to Hasselhoff “more like 10”.
The American actor did what C-list celebs are supposed to do – he tried hard to entertain, primarily with a weird story about how he could never watch his Baywatch co-star Pamela Anderson’s sex tape with rocker Tommy Lee because it would have felt like watching his sister. He also gave anecdotes about how he has been able to stay in shape at the age of 63; headline writers and entertainment magazines lapped it up.
From there, Hasselhoff boarded a flight from New York and made his way to Hong Kong where, you guessed it, more mass-media attention has greeted the star once dubbed the most-watched man on TV by the people at Guinness World Records. The entertainer is in Hong Kong as a guest ambassador for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens – his duties include hosting the HKSevens Kick-off Concert on Wednesday – and once the rugby action starts he says he will get out and meet as many fans as possible.
Give the public what it wants is his mantra. The rest, he believes, will take care of itself.
Hasselhoff says his life is an open book and the man is clearly at ease with that, despite the intrusions that have come with his rise to fame and fortune. Even the most notorious of these cases – when a video appeared of Hasselhoff, apparently drunk and in a rage while trying to devour a hamburger – isn’t prove off limits. He uses it to explain how he learned to accept any intrusions, and to even turn them into a positive.
“All that stuff that happened in private was stupid and I was never going to talk about it then, but now I am because I can put it in my TV series and own it that way,” he says.“No one has ever taken my life away from me and no one ever will. My kids and I know what the truth is and no matter what happens to me I am still able to make millions of dollars every year so it still works out OK. It’s still working.”
The trick, he adds, is to embrace the notion of celebrity and all the attention it attracts.
“I realised what it was all about long ago,” he says. “That’s what I tell my kids all the time – you got to get in the game and you got to stay in the game. That’s what this business is all about. You cannot win unless you are in the game.
“If you pout and piss and moan and yell and scream and say what they wrote about you was bulls**t, then no one gives a damn. But if you get in the game, if you keeping getting up there and taking it, then it doesn’t matter whether it is true or not, what it means is that I am selling tickets. I’m still in the game.”
Finally arrived in Hong Kong, can't wait to get stuck into some Hong Kong Sevens action! #hk7s #wheretheworldcomestoplay #hoff #rugby
Posted by David Hasselhoff on Monday, 4 April 2016
That much is evident by the success of Hasselhoff’s latest foray into television. Hoff The Record sees the actor playing a trumped-up version of himself – the version he believes the tabloids want us to believe is real – as he looks to revive his career in Europe.
“We’ve got so much material to play with,” says Hasselhoff. “So much weird s*** has happened in my life. We just take that and make a joke of it.”
A case in point is his famed Berlin Wall concert of 1989 (Hasselhoff had a top single, Looking for Freedom, in Germany that year) that – legend has since spun it – helped bring down the barrier.
“My character thinks that actually happened too and says he wants to go around the world bringing down all the walls,” explains Hasselhoff. “It plays off the absurdity of what people think celebrity is. So we take some of the ridiculous stuff that is written about me and turn it around. Show how absurd it sometimes is. People know my life, so they can relate to it and it gives it an extra edge.”
When we talk, Hasselhoff has only just finished shooting his cameo in the upcoming Seth Gordon-directed movie version of Baywatch, the TV series that assured Hasselhoff immortality thanks to a global audience that was at times estimated to be around one billion people.
Hasselhoff first became known in the late 1970s as the troubled Snapper Foster in the long-running daily soap opera The Young And The Restless, but established himself as a star alongside a car named Kit in the series Knight Rider, which ran from 1982 to 1986.
Baywatch, however, took things to a whole different level. Surprisingly, given the success it would achieve across a decade, the show was originally canned after its first season.
But Hasselhoff and his friends thought the premise – basically a bunch of beautiful lifeguards getting into weekly dramas that end up with them saving people’s lives – was too good to turn their backs on, so he worked to revive the show without support of the original TV network.
“I needed the work,” he says. “So we just threw our money in the ring and said ‘Let’s go’. We raised money from all over the world. It was a gamble, but it paid off.”
First they had to cut costs, and the story behind one of the measures they took once they owned the franchise has become the stuff of entertainment folklore.
“Originally it cost about a million, a million one or a million two to make an episode, but we got that down to around US$880,000. And you know what saved us was the slow motion,” explains Hasselhoff.
For those needing a refresher course, part of Baywatch’s undoubted attraction to the masses was the sight of Pamela Anderson loping along the sand in tight-fitting costumes that, well, let gravity do its duty.
“We were short of film, simple as that – and of money,” says Hasselhoff. “One day we were watching the dailies and we were watching the derriere of a beautiful girl in slow motion. I said go out and shoot as many girls as you can. So we became the kings of slow motion and we ran that across the main titles and all that simply because we didn’t have enough footage to finish the show – so we just decided to slow it all down.”
And so the show’s signature style was born.
“We just laughed all the way to the bank because the idea only came out because we didn’t know how to finish the show,” says Hasselhoff. “We never actually ran in slow motion – it was all done in post-production – and it turned out to be a miracle. A show that was cancelled turned into a billion-dollar franchise.”
As the Hong Kong Stadium prepares to rock with The Hoff this weekend, the man takes a final moment to reflect on why he has remained so popular for so long.
“Baywatch was really good fun,” says Hasselhoff. “It was about saving lives. Knight Rider was cool. A guy with a car saving lives. People loved that. Baywatch was a good show to look at and it still is and sometimes that’s all you need in life. The key is to make it a show that’s not too smart, that’s just fun. As for me, I think the attraction is the mentality that I’m just having a laugh, man. I just provide great entertainment.”