Read an Excerpt
Prologue: My True Story
'My image is someone else's perception of what my life is like. It's not the truth.'
Broadway - Opening Night
Plymouth Theatre, 31 October 2000
The stage manager asked me, 'Are you all right?'
'Yes, I'm okay. Now remember - I'm going to come off stage in between scenes and you're going to tell me who I am.'
'Yes - I'll say, "Now you're Jekyll" or "Now you're Hyde".'
'You'll give me my first line and you'll point me in the right direction?'
'Yes. Are you sure you're okay?'
I was far from okay. After forty years in show business, my childhood dream was about to come true. It had been a long journey. Knight Rider had made me famous. Baywatch had made me rich. But Broadway had always been my dream.
When I had stepped on to the sidewalk that night I could see my name in lights over Times Square. At eight o'clock a hush would fall in the Plymouth Theatre, the overture would begin and I would step on to the stage as the lead in Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical. This would be the greatest night of my career, the pinnacle of my success.
And I was terrified.
I was terrified because I was not only an actor playing a role, I had something to prove. I had to prove I was more than a guy who talked to a car, that I was more than a guy in red Speedos running in slow motion across a beach. I had to prove my talent to the world. More importantly, I had to prove it to myself. Walking along Forty-Fifth Street, I remembered the saying, 'Luck is being prepared for opportunity when it presents itself.' The question was, 'Was I prepared?'
At the theatre, I looked in the dressing-room mirror and said to myself, 'What is wrong with you? Why do you put yourself through this? Are you crazy? You're in the hardest role on Broadway, singing fourteen songs, playing not one character but two. You're opening after only five weeks of rehearsals? You must be crazy.'
Yes, I was crazy - crazy with excitement, tension and fear. From the age of nine, I had dreamed of starring in a Broadway musical. And when it didn't happen for many years I had lived by these words, 'Never, never, never give up.'
Now I had made it - except I didn't know if I would be able to speak, let alone sing. I said a prayer, 'God, just get me through the first note.'
Then the orchestra started playing, the curtain went up and I caught a look at the audience and I realised this was not a dream - this was Broadway. My parents Joe and Dolores were there, my wife Pamela Bach was there with our younger daughter Hayley, my manager Jan McCormack, my lawyers Eric Weissler and Alan Wertheimer, my business managers Bob Philpott and Peter Stoll, my press agent Judy Katz, my friends, my peers in show business, including many other Broadway and Hollywood stars - all of them were there. My mother's words came back to me, 'You can do it, David, you were born for the stage.'
The first notes came out of my mouth, 'Lost in the darkness, silence surrounds you.' The fear dissolved. The adrenaline took over and I was off and running. I didn't miss a beat the whole evening, at least I don't think so - to be honest, I couldn't remember a thing about the show except a standing ovation and a tremendous sense of relief. We had a huge party at the Russian Tearoom to celebrate my opening night all those years after I had first dreamed of appearing in a Broadway musical.
This book is my opportunity to print something from my heart, to tell the truth about what happened to me on the long and winding road from Baltimore to Baywatch to Broadway - and beyond. And the truth is not to be found in tabloid stories but in my actions: I am a good father and have tried to be a good husband. I love people and the emotional rollercoaster that goes with human relationships. The truth is I love all of the bewildering, crazy and wonderful things that life has to offer.
Let's get this out of the way: my image is someone else's perception
of what my life is like. My buddy Chuck Russell, director of The Mask, Eraser and The Scorpion King, says, 'They don't call them congratulators - they call them critics. They put themselves on a higher plane than everybody else. Their job is to criticise but inevitably the audience decides.'
The fact is that the critics have made a great number of assumptions about me, most of them untrue, while the tabloids have never missed a chance to stir up trouble whenever possible. Because I worked with the most beautiful women in the world on Baywatch, they assumed I must have had the greatest job in the world. This was true up to a point, although nobody knew that the sand was hotter than hell and the water was toxic; that every week we had to bow to the dictates of what was perceived as a horrible sexist show that was becoming more and more popular around the world. Every week we had a girl coming to work with a different breast size, or a different tattoo that had to be covered up, or a different personal crisis that had to be resolved.
I'd look out of my trailer when the assistant director shouted, 'Rolling!' and the girls would drop their towels and I'd go, 'Thank you, God.' It was assumed by the critics that I was bedding them all. But I didn't have a great desire to mess around because if I cheated on my wife I knew I would also be cheating on my children and myself. I loved my wife, I loved being married and I worshipped my children.
When I was touring with my band or filming on location, the guys would stay out all night and come back with stories about the girls they'd met in the bars and clubs, and I would grin and they'd say, 'What about you? What did you do last night?'
And I'd say, 'I had the minibar.'
Girls would be outside my trailer door clamouring to get in and I would drink the minibar. My assistants got all the girls and I got all the minibars. Many minibars later, it caught up with me. I needed to drink greater quantities to get a buzz. In the end, I got very close to checking out, permanently. Over the years I had this recurring dream that I wanted to get busted, I wanted to stop. I wanted this whole drama to end. I just didn't know how to stop it. I was running away from my problems and it was killing me. The truth is that I tried to save the world and forgot to save myself.
When people stop me in the street today, nine times out of ten it's because of Knight Rider. It was a show about heroes, about a man who could change things, about a man who helped others. The Knight Rider slogan was 'One man can make a difference'. I truly believe that I got the role of Michael Knight for a reason. I was given a power that could be used in a positive way, far greater than anyone could imagine, to help sick and terminally ill people, mainly children who watched the Knight Rider programme and believed in its hero.
The person who made me realise that helping others was my purpose in life was Randy Armstrong, a fifteen-year-old leukaemia patient who visited the Knight Rider set at Universal Studios in 1983. After his death, I received a letter from him begging me to help other sick children forget their pain. The letter came with a photograph of Randy in his casket dressed in the Knight Rider hat and jacket that I had given him as mementos of his visit. From that moment on, I felt it was a spiritual calling and maybe it explained why I had been chosen as the Knight Rider. It was a much bigger responsibility than playing the hero in a TV show; I actually had to be a hero. My quest, my calling, had begun. From then on, we opened the doors of the Knight Rider set to any suffering child.
On my travels I visited the children's wards of hospitals in forty countries: I rarely left a country without visiting sick children. It became a mission. The children had absolute faith in the Knight Rider; he was their hero and he could make them smile and forget their pain, if only for a few moments. I've held little children as they faced death with a courage that had to be seen to be believed.
There have been many disconcerting and humbling experiences. One Christmas Eve my mother called me. 'David, a boy was knocked down on a crosswalk,' she said. 'Somehow his parents got my phone number - will you go and see him?'
The hospital was right around the corner from my home in Los Angeles. The child was in a coma, oblivious to his surroundings. I asked the parents what they would like me to do. They said: 'Maybe you could hold his hand and the darkness won't seem so dark.' After being with the boy for half an hour, I turned to the parents and said: 'Can I ask you a question? How do you retain your faith in God when something like this happens to your son?'
They said: 'Because you came.'
'David, we know there is no hope for our child but we prayed that his hero would come and, David, you came.'
I fought back the tears and stayed with that boy for another hour. He came out of his coma, looked up and said: 'Michael Knight' and gave me a hug. Twelve hours later he passed away.
It has always been the children who are the true heroes and to this day they are still my most loyal fans. SpongeBob rules!
Today I am listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as 'the Most Watched TV Star on the Planet', thanks to Knight Rider and Baywatch, pretty funny with a name like 'Hasselhoff'. I had never perceived Hasselhoff as a name with charisma and power like 'Steiger'; it was more like 'Humperdinck' - funny and a bit of a liability but now I love it. Alexandra Paul, my best friend on Baywatch, once said: 'You can't really be an American and not know the name David Hasselhoff.' On The Simpsons the first words out of Lisa Simpson's mouth were 'David Hasselhoff'. Why? Because Jeff Martin, head writer on David Letterman's Late Show and later, The Simpsons, met me at a wrap party where I posed for pictures with him and signed an autograph for his mother. Ten years later, he told me Lisa's line was a nod to me.
This book is also about my travels and some of the amazing people I have met along the way. I was at Madison Square Gardens for a big fight when somebody tickled my ear. 'You're pretty, Knight Rider,' a voice said, 'but you're not as pretty as me.'
I didn't have to turn around to know it was Muhammad Ali. Then another voice said: 'Yeahhhh, buddy, but we love you.'
When I turned around, I saw that Ali was sitting next to Lou Rawls.
Another time, I bumped into Sidney Poitier, star of one of my favourite movies, Lilies of the Field, in a New York elevator. 'My God, you look like a teenager,' he said. 'Don't you ever age - what's your secret?' I was amazed he even knew who I was.
But fame is a double-edged sword: you get the best table in a restaurant but everybody watches you eat. And there is a dark side.
F. Scott Fitzgerald said, 'Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.' I really wasn't happy. I had nightmares about losing my marriage and ending up alone. I had nightmares about getting arrested and being in jail. Even though I had achieved worldwide success, there was an emptiness inside me, an aching loneliness. I secretly and desperately wanted to be found out. I wanted someone to make the decision for me; I wanted to get busted.
It took God's angels to bring me to the brink of disaster and death to get my attention so that I could finally stop drinking and walk away from a marriage that was slowly killing me. And when it happened I felt ten years younger, ten years cleaner. It had taken me so long because I was afraid I would let my public down. I was afraid I'd lose my power, my career and the respect of my friends, but they were all still there, especially the power - the power of love, the power of positive thinking, the power to go forward along God's chosen path. It was a power I had learned at home from the time of my earliest memories.
This book is about my successes and my failures, my strengths and my weaknesses. And, above all, it is about the hope contained in the Knight Rider slogan: 'One man can make a difference.'
Copyright © 2006 by David Hasselhoff. All rights reserved.