Music

David Hasselhoff: "I couldn’t remember the names of the women on Baywatch"

David Hasselhoff on the 'epidemic' that is The Hoff, bringing tears of joy to East Berliners - and the real reason for Baywatch's success

If you were at home watching TV and Knight Rider and Baywatch were both on, which would you watch?

I probably would watch Knight Rider, only to see what we did that day, who the guest star was, who the girl was, and reminisce the good times.

The message in Knight Rider was: one man can make a difference. That’s alright for you, global TV star who sang down the Berlin Wall, but what about the rest of us?

You all made a difference in my life. Without you guys I would be nobody. You have made a difference by making me famous.

Baywatch was watched by more than one billion people. What percentage of its success was down to you and how much down to the red swimsuits?

I think it was sunshine, water and Mitch Buchannon’s relationship with his son.

Really?

Every time we did a focus report I would think they’d tell me, ‘It’s the women’, and I’d go, great, I’ll come in on a Friday, do a rescue and go home. But they said no, people are attracted to Mitch being a single father. That’s the story that kept coming back. Seriously, they kept bringing in more women and one year we had so many I couldn’t remember their names.

Sounds tough.

Also, when you live over here and the weather’s so bad, you want to turn on something with beautiful women, beaches and live vicariously through me, through the mindless lifeguards.

You’re leaving sunny California behind for your new show Hoff the Record, set in London.

You got the buses, the cops all look like they have costumes on, everybody is in a big cartoon so I thought the Hoff fits right in.

The series documents you trying to relaunch your career in the UK. Is art imitating life?

Everything in this show has in some way happened to me. Auditions. For example, I remember when there was six superstars from television waiting to audition for the same role because we were all out of work. Harry Hamlin from LA Law, John Schneider from Dukes of Hazzard, Greg Evigan from B.J. and the Bear, Bruce Boxleitner from Scarecrow and Mrs King, Tom Selleck and me. Harry Hamlin walks out of the audition and he’s mad, he’s pissed off: “There’s not even a director, it’s a goddamn tape!” We were nothing, man. After our shows were over, you go from superstar to nothing. We all had to sign in. I hadn’t signed in in six years… I don’t have to audition for a third part lead in some shitty sitcom, I’m the Knight Rider!

Who got the part in the end?

None of us!

In Hoff the Record, you play a version of yourself. Are you not playing a version of yourself all the time?

The Hoff is a character who was created – not by me – by other people and it just took off. It was like a viral epidemic that took over the world then took over me. They wanted me to do The Hoff in commercials, here’s a couple of hundred thousand dollars if The Hoff says this. Now The Hoff is paying the rent. He may not be the smartest guy in the world but whatever he does, he does it 100 per cent and it comes from the heart.

Is there anywhere in the world that you’re not recognised everywhere you go?

In St Petersburg people recognised me but were afraid to come over and talk. It was really strange. They would gather in groups and wave at me like I was an alien. Just going to the airport is an experience. I hate it. How many photographs or autographs do I have to sign while waiting for my bags? How about when the bags are too full and you have to empty out one bag into the other – people are standing there waiting for a photograph. Ahhh!

How many selfies does it take to hassle The Hoff?

It’s a lot easier to take a selfie and keep moving than to say no. Before there were selfies I used to carry little autograph cards and just whip them out of my back pocket and go. That was better. My life is completely nuts all the time 24/7, no matter what. Sometimes I cannot go out, I cannot play David Hasselhoff. I’ll walk outside, someone will say, “Hello, Mr Hasselhoff!” and I’ll turn around and come back in.

Have you tried a disguise?

It never works. They just say: “Hasselhoff, why are you wearing that stupid disguise?” My Rastafarian one worked pretty well. People thought I was a bit of a jerk, though, thinking who’s this wanker walking around going, “Ya man! Ya man!”? My girlfriend was quite embarrassed. She said: “No one recognises you but they think you’re a lunatic.”

Besides Baywatch, arguably the biggest impact you’ve had was bringing down the Berlin Wall. Or that’s how the story goes.

Is it true you went into East Berlin before the fall?

I went three or four times to interact with the people and see if they knew who I was. And they did. You could go through Checkpoint Charlie, show them your passport and as long as you left before midnight you could visit East Berlin. Once I did an interview in a fancy hotel. The inside was ornate and gold, outside was dark and grey and people were super-poor. I felt ridiculous sitting there so I walked outside. A couple of girls came by and they said: “Could we have your autograph?” I said: “How do you know me, the talking car?” They said: “No, you are the man who sings for freedom.” I signed their autograph, took a picture and said come back here tomorrow. I went back to West Germany, got the girls’ picture in the magazine and smuggled it back the next day. I gave them their picture and said: “Here’s a little piece of freedom.” They screamed and ran away with tears in their eyes. It meant nothing to me but to them it was everything. That was July and then the wall came down November 9.

You’re starring in Peter Pan in Glasgow this Christmas. This will be the sixth time you’ve played Captain Hook. Is that always so you can sing the title track of your 1997 album Hooked on a Feeling?

No, one reason is because I don’t want to learn a whole other part, and another is because it’s such a fun character.

You are sharing the bill with The Krankies. Do you know who The Krankies are?

Yes I know The Krankies but I haven’t met them yet. I’m looking forward to playing with them.

Hoff the Record in on Thursdays at 9pm on Dave

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