David Hasselhoff is an American actor, producer and creator best known for his starring roles as Michael Knight on the 1980s action hit Knight Rider and as Mitch Buchannon on the international smash hit Baywatch, as well as his career as a singer-songwriter.
Born David Michael Hasselhoff on July 17, 1952 in Baltimore, Maryland, he is the second-oldest and the only boy of five children. His father Joe's work as an executive for Brinks Security caused the family to move about the country, so young David attended school in several towns, including Jacksonville, Florida; Atlanta and Chicago. He was never a good student, and he failed out of Marist High School in Atlanta, but graduated from Lyons Township High School at the La Grange campus near Chicago. Interested in acting, dancing, singing and performing since the age of seven, Hasselhoff attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pontiac, Michigan and the California Institute of Arts in Valencia, near Los Angeles.
Although his heart lay in musical theater, with his chiseled, teutonic looks, Hasselhoff was a natural as a soap opera lead, and his first major professional work was on the soap opera The Young and the Restless. Despite a strong fan reaction against his casting, he soon won the show's fanbase over and became one of its most popular stars. His success there caught the eye of network executive Brandon Tartikoff of NBC, who personally tapped Hasselhoff to star in the network's action series Knight Rider. The series was an iconic hit of the 1980s, and by the time its run was over, Hasselhoff was a national star.
His heart still in music, he attempted to use his burgeoning TV career to launch a singing career. Although his debut album—entitled Night Rocker in a clear nod to his hit show—received only lukewarm reaction, in 1989, he released an album entitled Looking for Freedom. A marketing push in Germany and Austria, coupled with the message of the album in relation to Germany's turbulent reunification at the time, led to the album becoming a record-breaking success in Germany. Hasselhoff became such a successful pop star there that he performed the title track live atop the Berlin Wall in July 1990, as throngs of reunited Berliners chipped away at the "fallen" wall. Throughout the 1990s, Hasselhoff would continue to be a major pop star in German-speaking Europe while his musical career saw only cult success in the United States and the United Kingdom. The frenzy of his fandom in Germany and Austria would be remarkable to many Americans, and his popularity there would gain as great a pop folklore value as Jerry Lewis' supposed popularity in France. In a 1995 Playboy interview, Hasselhoff would himself claim to be flabbergasted by his German and Austrian success and would jokingly claim that it was due to the fact that his last name meant, in German, "rabbits having sex." (The true translation is "hazelnut farm.")
Months before the release of Looking for Freedom, Hasselhoff debuted in a new NBC action series, Baywatch. The series would last for only one season on NBC before it was cancelled. Hasselhoff, however, took control of the series and came on as producer, and together with his partners, sold the series into syndication. Even on NBC, the series had been critically reviled as poorly acted, poorly written and poorly directed. The female leads almost all had more credits on their resumés as swimsuit models and Playboy centerfolds than as actresses. Its stories were generally not much more complex than a three-panel comic strip, and it seemed to devote more screen time to shots of its attractive, athletic, swimsuit-clad cast running in slow-motion on the beach than to character development. In its eleven-season run, it failed to garner so much as a single Golden Globe, DGA, SAG or PGA nomination, nor did it receive even one Emmy nomination, not even in the technical categories. To many critics it represented the worst of television of the era—schlocky, exploitative, clichéd and vapid.
It was also the biggest hit TV show in the world. For much of the 1990s, its weekly international viewership numbered in the billions. By 1998, the number of estimated Baywatch viewers in the world dwarfed the number of practicing Christians in the world, and it would earn Hasselhoff his spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as "The Most Watched TV Star in the World."
So successful was Baywatch that it led to a spinoff, Baywatch Nights. During Baywatch Nights' brief two-season run, Hasselhoff had the rare distinction amongst TV actors of playing the same role in two separate, concurrently running series.
Mainstream American success continued to elude him, however, both in his acting career and in his singing career. In 1994, Hasselhoff scheduled a pay-per-view airing of his live concert in Atlantic City. Whether or not the concert would have been a success under other conditions is of course debatable, but there would be some irony in the fact that very few Americans watched a concert performed by the former Michael Knight, but the overwhelming majority of TV sets in America were tuned to the most famous car chase in television history. On the night of the concert, actor and football player O.J. Simpson led the LAPD in a low-speed chase across the Los Angeles freeways in his infamous white Ford Bronco. Whether or not that was the cause of the concert's failure, Hasselhoff has never since attempted a live concert on American television.
The international attention from his fame, however, also thrust Hasselhoff's personal life into the limelight. As a result, his public battle with alcoholism made international news. In June 2002, Hasselhoff checked himself into the famous Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs, California, in an attempt to "do something" about his "social drinking," in the words of his publicist Judy Katz. Two days later, Hasselhoff checked himself out again. Lurid tabloid headlines described the following day as an orgy of binge drinking in a hotel in Palm Springs, where he cleaned out the mini-bar and was eventually found unconscious. The National Enquirer claimed he had been rushed to the hospital and treated for alcohol poisoining. Whatever the facts of his stay at the Center and the hours after his release were, Hasselhoff soon returned to the Center and completed its alcohol rehabilitation program. However, in 2004, he again made tabloid headlines when he was arrested and charged with a DUI.
Amidst the rumors and gossip, Hasselhoff made numerous film and TV appearances, often parodying his own image as a handsome but under-talented and kitschy pop icon in films such as The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and on TV shows, such as Family Guy. Several of his tongue-in-cheek music videos—most notably his 1997 cover of the 1969 B.J. Thomas single "Hooked on a Feeling"—have become cult hits on the Internet. He has also finally realized his childhood dream of appearing in musical theater—first on Broadway in Jekyll and Hyde, then in 2005 in London's West End in the stage play which had inspired the 2002 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Chicago.
Throughout 2006, after the 2005 release of his cult hit music single "Jump in My Car" (the video for which—another Internet cult hit—parodied the role of Michael Knight which had made him famous) Hasselhoff's private life would again find its way into the tabloids. It began in January, when the news was announced that he was divorcing his wife of 16 years and former Baywatch co-star Pamela Bach. Although Hasselhoff's first divorce in 1989 from actress Catherine Hickland had been a relatively private affair, this second divorce would result in a long, ugly and very public battle. Bach's March 2006 accusation that Hasselhoff had been abusive led to a restraining order being filed against Hasselhoff, and Bach has since filed for sole custody of their daughters Taylor Ann and Hayley (born 1990 and 1992, respectively). In June of that same year, while in London to film a commercial for the Internet company Pipex, Hasselhoff had an accident with a hotel chandelier while shaving. He was taken to the hospital to repair a severed tendon in his right arm.
Despite his personal turmoil, Hasselhoff has always been well noted for his charity work. He has founded a US organization called "Race for Life" (not to be confused with the UK organization of the same name)—which shares its name with an episode of Knight Rider—to work with handicapped and terminally ill children. He has also taken a key role in Camp Baywatch, a summer camp for homeless children and children from low-income families, as well as the famous Make-a-Wish Foundation. He also makes numerous children's hospital appearances around the world.
In 2006, as tabloids trumpeted embarrassing news, Hasselhoff made one of his rare theatrical film appearances in a role not parodying his television work in Adam Sandler's film Click. He also returned to television as the Simon Cowell-esque judge on Cowell's own update of The Gong Show, America's Got Talent. His autobiography, Making Waves, was released in the US and the UK in September 2006.
He is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as "The Most Watched TV Star in the World." Commercial success notwithstanding, very little of his work has ever been critically acclaimed. In many ways, Hasselhoff has become television's version of the "B-Movie Queens" (or Kings) of the 1950s and 60s—a beloved actor known more for the campiness of his work rather than its artistic content. Far from avoiding this public image, Hasselhoff has proven himself highly adept at embracing and capitalizing on the kitschy nature of his success. His music videos are often tongue-in-cheek and openly cheesy, and as a result, several of them have become cult successes on the Internet. Almost all of his starring roles in films and TV series are campy and self-parodying. Nonetheless, like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra before him, he has achieved a status which only a fraction of celebrities ever reach: He is a one-man empire, a brand name as recognizable around the world as such corporate logos as Coca-Cola or McDonald's.
|The Young and the Restless||Dr. William "Snapper" Foster, Jr.||1975–1982|
|Knight Rider||Michael Knight||1982–1986||1||2||3||4|
|Baywatch Nights||Mitch Buchannon||1995–1997||1||2|
|America's Got Talent||Judge||2006–2009||1||2||3||4|
|Britain's Got Talent||Judge||2011||5||6||7|
Guest Starring Roles
|The Love Boat||Tom Bell||3x27 - Invisible Maniac / September Song / Peekaboo||April 19, 1980|
|The Love Boat||Brian||4x18 - Isaac and the Mermaids / Humpty, Dumpty / Aquaphobic||February 7, 1981|
|Diff'rent Strokes||Himself||6x16 - Hooray for Hollywood (1)||Feburary 11, 1984|
|Diff'rent Strokes||Himself||6x17 - Hooray for Hollywood (2)||Feburary 18, 1984|
|Action||Himself||1x05 - Mr. Dragon Goes to Washington||October 21, 1999|
|3rd Rock from the Sun||Dr. Lasker||5x05 - Dick and Tuck||November 16, 1999|
|Family Guy||Himself||2x03 - Da Boom||December 26, 1999|
|The West Wing||Himself||1x16 - 20 Hours in L.A.||February 23, 2000|
|I Love 1980's||Himself||1x11 - New Years Compilation||December 31, 2001|
|Just Shoot Me||Himself||6x20 - The Burning House||April 18, 2002|
|Still Standing||Gary Maddox||1x16 - Still Hairdressing||February 17, 2003|
|The Brendan Leonard Show||Himself||1x20 - Pirates||July 7, 2003|
Specials and Made-for-TV Movies
|After Hours: Getting to Know Us||Himself||May 26, 1977|
|Pleasure Cove||Scott||January 3, 1979|
|The Cartier Affair||Curt Taylor||November 4, 1984|
|Disneyland's 30th Anniversary Celebration||Himself||February 18, 1985|
|Bridge Across Time||Don Gregory||November 22, 1985|
|Perry Mason: The Case of the Lady in the Lake||Billy Travis||May 15, 1988||Perry Mason|
|Fire and Rain||Dr. Dan Meyer||September 13, 1989|
|Knight Rider 2000||Michael Knight||May 19, 1991||Knight Rider|
|Avalanche||Duncan Snyder||November 1, 1994|
|Gridlock||Jake Gorsky||January 14, 1996|
|Nick Fury: Agent of Shield||Col. Nicholas Fury||May 26, 1998|
|One True Love||Mike Grant||October 25, 2000|
|Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical||Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde||March 10, 2001|
|Talking to Americans||Himself||March 30, 2001|
|NBC 75th Anniversary Special||Himself||May 5, 2002|
|Hawaiian Wedding||Mitch Buchannon||February 28, 2003||Baywatch|
|TV Land Awards: A Celebration of Classic TV||Himself||March 12, 2003||TV Land Awards|
|The Queen's Castle||Himself||March 27, 2005|
|Knight Rider||Michael Knight||February 17, 2008||Knight Rider (2008)|
Talk, News and Game Show Appearances
|Baywatch||9x13 - Come Fly with Me||January 23, 1999|
|Baywatch||1991 –2001||Executive Producer||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||10||11|
|Baywatch Nights||1995 –1997||Executive Producer||1||2|
Specials and Made-for-TV Movies Produced
|Hawaiian Wedding||Executive Producer||February 28, 2003||Baywatch|
- Baywatch Nights (1995)
Awards and Accolades
(1 Nomination/1 Win)
- Won: Favorite Male Performer in a New Television Series (1982)
Hollywood Walk of Fame
- TV Star
Bollywood Movie Awards, USA
- Won: International Star of the Year (2005)
- Commonly used nickname "The Hoff" dates back at least to 2005, when rumors began to circulate that he would record a rap album with Ice-T under the name "Hassle the Hoff." Both Ice-T and Hasslehoff denied these rumors.
- The satirical Internet Website Get Hasselhoff to Number 1 was initially launched in 2006 to move Hasselhoff's 1989 single "Looking for Freedom" to the top of the pop charts. After the release of Hasselhoff's single "Jump in My Car," the Website has switched focus to this single.
- As host of "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live and also as a stand-up comedian, Norm MacDonald would often end any reference to Germany or Hasselhoff—even if it was a non-sequitur—with the punchline, "This proves my theory: The Germans love David Hasselhoff."