Also Credited As:David Michael Hasselholff, The Hoff
|Actor, Producer, Music|
|David Michael Hasselholff on July 17, 1952 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA|
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Born David Michael Hasselhoff in Baltimore, MD on July 17, 1952, he was the second oldest of five children born to Brinks Security executive J Hasselhoff and homemaker Doris Hasselhoff. He found his calling at an early age and began taking lessons for just about everything one could study in the performing arts, including acting, dancing and singing. Hasselhoff continued his acting studies at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Chicago, and later at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. His goal was stardom on Broadway, but television gave him his initial break, and would provide his bread and butter for the majority of his career. After a string of bit parts and appearances in television commercials, Hasselhoff hit it big when he stepped into the role of hardworking and honest Dr. William "Snapper" Foster Jr. on "The Young and the Restless" from 1975 through 1982. Tall, chiseled and well-coiffured, Hasselhoff was a popular leading man on the daytime series, but struggled to achieve recognition outside of its boundaries; his efforts to establish himself as more than just a soap actor, which included the ludicrous Italian science fiction film "Star Crash" (1979) and the primetime series "Semi-Tough" (ABC, 1980), were met with derision or disinterest.
Hasselhoff broke free from the soap opera gulag in 1982 when he was tapped to star in "Knight Rider," a science fiction/action-adventure series about a former police officer who fights injustice with the help of a souped-up (and highly conversational) Pontiac Trans Am named K.I.T.T. Derided by critics for its childish storylines, the series was a huge ratings hit for NBC, earning its leading man a 1983 People's Choice Award for Favorite Male Actor in a New TV Program. The sight of Hasselhoff chatting earnestly with the Trans Am's dashboard - from which an off-screen William Daniels provided its voice - also contributed greatly to his status as a figure of high camp. Hasselhoff returned to the role twice following the show's conclusion in 1986 - once in the TV movie "Knight Rider 2000" (1991), and later in a cameo for the 2008 "Knight Rider" TV movie.
But just as Hasselhoff had struggled to find stardom outside of "The Young and the Restless," he found it difficult to maintain his new fame after his run as the leather-wearing Michael Knight concluded in 1986. There had been a handful of TV movies during its network run (including 1984's "The Cartier Affair," which pitted him against Joan Collins), but none helped to elevate him past his status as second banana to a futuristic car. To keep his career afloat, he joined the ex-patriate train to Europe, where he starred in several big screen features - but more importantly, reinvented himself as a pop singer. His 1989 single "Looking for Freedom" hit the top of the charts in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and a string of #1 albums and Top 40 singles followed in its wake. Hasselhoff even got to perform atop the Berlin Wall for the then-still-separated East and West Germany on New Year's Eve in 1989. His unexpected popularity in the Middle European countries may have served as irresistible fodder to American stand-up comics, but the fact remained that Hasselhoff was a major draw in several large markets around the world.
Hollywood soon came calling again, eager to cash in on his popularity. His old bosses at NBC gave him a shot at a new series titled "Baywatch," which cast the actor as a veteran lifeguard who leads a team of young, attractive (and frequently voluptuous) beach guards as they defend California's shores from all manner of threats - from sharks to serial killers. Under NBC's watch, the show was a dismal failure; high production costs and low ratings spelled its doom after just one season. Hasselhoff, however, felt that the show had not reached its biggest audience, so after stepping in as executive producer and investing his own money in a syndicated version, he found himself at the crest of a global television phenomenon. Unquestionably, the driving force behind the show's popularity around the world was its pin-up-worthy female cast which included Pamela Anderson, Gena Lee Nolin and Carmen Electra, but in truth, the sunny locales and simple storylines also helped to sell it to countless markets. By many counts - including the Guinness Book of World Records - it was the most watched series of all time, with over 1.1 billion fans. A spin-off series, also starring Hasselhoff, entitled "Baywatch Nights" (syndicated, 1995-1997) was also launched, but failed to connect with viewers. Much more successful was the 2003 reunion TV movie, "Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding" (2003) which brought together Hasselhoff and all his buff and buxom co-stars, many of whom had gone on to even greater success post-"Baywatch."
Flush with his second round of mega-success, Hasselhoff gave his singing career a go in the United States in 1994, but his 1995 album, Miracle of Love, failed to connect with listeners, and a much-publicized pay-per-view concert's broadcast coincided with the worldwide frenzy of news reports that followed fugitive O.J. Simpson's flight from police across Los Angeles' freeways. The failure of the album only served to again underscore the polar opposites that made up Hasselhoff's career - he was the star of the biggest show on television, yet could not make that fame translate beyond the series itself. Despite the fact that "Baywatch" had made him a millionaire several times over -thanks to his share in its profits and numerous marketing deals - a sense of disillusionment began to creep over into his public comments; he derided the show's direction in the latter half of the 1990s before departing it in a blaze of glory in 2000 when his character was killed in a boat explosion. The death was explained away in typical "Baywatch" illogic for the "Hawaiian Wedding" movie, in which he miraculously returned, alive and well.
In 2000, Hasselhoff achieved his lifelong goal of starring on Broadway by assuming the title roles in the long-running rock musical version of "Jekyll and Hyde." Despite good reviews and a TV broadcast of the show in 2001, his stint helped to bring the show's box office run to an end a month after he joined the cast. The disappointment, coupled with the failure of several high profile TV movies (including "Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D," a 1998 TV adaptation of the popular Marvel Comics spy adventure) sent Hasselhoff spiraling into depression and alcohol dependency. By 2002, he had checked into the Betty Ford Clinic and gone public with his troubles. He emerged from treatment with a remarkably - some said impossibly - upbeat attitude towards his career - if he was going to be the subject of laughter, he might as well be in on the joke.
In 2004, he appeared as himself (in "Baywatch" gear) in "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie," in which he aided SpongeBob and pal Patrick in their adventure. That same year, he parodied his popularity in Germany by contributing a cameo to "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" as the head of that country's dodgeball team; turned up in a fantasy sequence, singing his 1994 single "Du," in the teen comedy "Eurotrip;" and joined another favorite son of Charm City - John Waters - to contribute a gross gag to "A Dirty Shame" (2004). Hasselhoff's good-natured sense of self-deprecation gave his career a shot in the arm, and he could soon be counted on to provide an amusing cameo for feature films like "Click" (2006) as Adam Sandler's vain boss, or lend his larger-than-life persona to advertising campaigns.
The year 2006 proved to be one of Hasselhoff's biggest years - not only was he riding high again on television as one of the celebrity judges on the reality series "America's Got Talent" (NBC, 2006- ), but he also returned to the stage in a Las Vegas production of "The Producers" as the flamboyant (and cross-dressing) Roger De Bris, and released his autobiography, Making Waves. His European music career was also booming, thanks to a tongue-in-cheek Internet campaign that sent his single "Jump In My Car" (which was accompanied by an exceptionally funny music video in which Hasselhoff poked fun at his "Knight Rider" image) to No. 3 on the British charts. But the success was soon cut short by the announcement that he was divorcing his wife of 16 years, actress Pamela Bach (married 1989-2006), who slapped him with a restraining order in 2006. Allegations of the actor's public intoxication soon surfaced, as did a 2007 home video leaked to the Internet, shot by his daughter Taylor Ann, which showed an inebriated Hasselhoff lying on the floor of his Vegas hotel room, gumming his way through a hamburger and slurring his words. The video helped suspend his visitation rights with Taylor Ann and daughter Hayley, whom he fathered with Bach. Despite the relapse seen around the world, not long after the hamburger video, Hasselhoff's attorney stated that the actor had been awarded full custody of his children.
Despite the negative publicity surrounding his personal life, Hasselhoff continued to maintain the air of a man who had not only made peace with his celebrity image, but actively cultivated its more ridiculous aspects - including coining the phrase "Don't Hassle the Hoff." His web site sold countless products emblazoned with his nickname ("The Hoff") and he collaborated with "American Idol" (Fox, 2002- ) host Ryan Seacrest on a pilot for a series that parodied reality shows and his own unusual career. Hasselhoff even announced plans for a musical based on his life, but it was his still rocky personal life and reported alcohol issues which kept him in the news from time to time. Rumors of hospital stays, seizures and even a 5150 psychiatric hold followed him throughout 2009, even as he insisted he was "doing fine." The following year, his alcohol woes continued when it was reported that Hasselhoff was rushed to a Los Angeles medical facility by his 17-year-old daughter, Hayley, after a three-day drinking binge. Just a few months after his latest episode, it was announced that Hasselhoff would join the season 11 cast of "Dancing With the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ), which included the likes of Margaret Cho, Michael Bolton and former NFL star Kurt Warner. This announcement came only weeks after "The Hoff" was brutally and hilarious lambasted on the "Comedy Central Roast of David Hasselhoff" (2010), during which stars such as Hulk Hogan and Pamela Anderson took aim at their friend and former co-star.