Hoff the wall: Betrayed by Cowell and in love with a Cardiff shopgirl, David finds fame baffling
The word is out that David Hasselhoff is in the building – a slightly run-down hotel in London’s King’s Cross – and something strange has happened to the staff.
The waitress, momentarily stunned by the Hollywood star and his request for three cans of Red Bull, gives a weak smile and then titters.
The restaurant manager, who comes to inform the big man that only two cans are to be found, and the several waitresses who accompany him, all have wide gleaming smiles.
New love: David 'the Hoff' with former Debenhams shopgirl Hayley Roberts, the 32-year-old who caught his eye at an autograph session in Cardiff
‘I have extreme giggling disease – when people see me they start to laugh,’ says Hasselhoff with a sigh as he flops his tall and wiry frame on to the sofa. He has been a star for more than 30 years. Even in the most obscure countries people still scream ‘Knight Rider’ and ‘Baywatch’ at him.
‘It’s OK when you are on stage as you feel safe,’ he says of the attention from fans. ‘You can throw them back into the audience or get security to handle it. It’s happened and it’s great fun. But I don’t like it when I’m not on stage.
'It’s the women. If I go to a club I can’t go to the bathroom without more than a handful of women grabbing my bum. If I did that to a girl I would go to prison and be sued for a million, but they think it’s OK to do it to me.’
He sighs again. ‘But then, I suppose, the real worry is when it stops.’
He looks surprisingly solemn. Where is the all-singing, all-dancing, egomaniac that the The Hoff is supposed to be
It seems David, 59, is several people in one. He is usually madly happy but is sometimes a little bit down. He loves the tackiness of The Hoff but would also rather like people to see him as a serious actor.
He revels in the limelight and the celebrity lifestyle – but has found love with a Debenhams shop assistant from Cardiff.
recent years he has come to be known simply as The Hoff. Log on to his
website or watch him on Britain’s Got Talent and you will hear plenty of
‘Hoffisms’, when he uses phrases such as ‘Hoff the hook’ or calling his
website HoffSpace and his office his ‘Hoffice’.
The Hoff is a larger-than-life character, with an inflated ego and love of cheesy rock ’n’ roll.
Hoffspring: David's daughters, Taylor Ann Hasselhoff and Hayley Hasselhoff, who performed at G.A.Y. with their father last year
‘The Hoff is a character who was invented by secretaries in Australia in 2002,’ David says.
‘The first I knew about it was when I got an email from a newspaper in Sydney asking me about this epidemic of secretaries writing about how I was a sex symbol and they were exchanging Hoffisms on the internet.
‘I went to Australia and the whole thing just took off. It’s an amazing business. I won an award in South Africa because The Hoff is now one of the biggest marketing brands in the world. The Hoff sells everything from websites to games – I’m doing adverts in Germany, Norway, Spain.
‘As The Hoff I sell masses of memorabilia. I have a Hoff app and a “Hit The Hoff” computer game you can buy. I’d love to open my own Hoff TV channel. I’m even going to be in a Celebrity Juice film with a ‘Hoff an Hour’ section.
Hunky: David Hasselhoff in familiar pose with two 'Baywatch babes'
‘It has taken on a life of its own and there is not much I can do about it. Very few people call me David Hasselhoff any more.
'My daughters keep saying that if I keep being The Hoff I will never work in acting again but I’m just making hay while the sun shines.
'And the sun is shining. I once sat at home in Los Angeles for two years with nothing to do so I’m taking everything that comes my way.’
Next up comes a CD of Broadway love songs called This Time Around which he is happy to admit he will be selling on the QVC shopping channel.
‘People such as Sheryl Crow go on QVC. I’m not expecting the album to be the top of the charts; I just wanted to make it. The songs really mean something to me.’ He starts singing: ‘This time around I’m going to make it, This time around I’ll get it right.’
He will also be starring in his own show called An Evening With David Hasselhoff. ‘I take people on a journey of my life,’ he says. ‘There are crazy outtakes from Knight Rider and Baywatch and then I sing some classy Broadway tunes.
'I want to show people that I am not just The Hoff – there is another side to me. I have a big gay following – I’m like the male Cher – so there will also be 11 costume changes.’
In Germany, his tour sells out arenas but in the UK David is performing just one night – at London’s IndigO2 on March 2 – although he is hoping to announce a new tour soon.
‘People don’t know what to expect over here,’ he says. ‘I was disappointed there aren’t more dates because tickets didn’t sell better, but also relieved. This gives me a chance to concentrate on one really good show and then people will see what I can do.’
And Hasselhoff is used to the ups and downs of showbusiness. He first started acting in amateur dramatic shows when he was nine and found work as soon as he finished his drama degree, with daytime soap The Young And The Restless. But it was Knight Rider which first propelled him on to the world’s stage.
Dark times: David's darker side became public during his 2006 divorce from Pamela Bach, above right, his wife of 16 years, who accused him of alcoholism
The show, in which he solved crimes with his talking car KITT, ran on TV from 1982 to 1986. When it finished, he launched a secondary career as a singer. He was a big star in Germany where his song Looking For Freedom became the anthem for the destruction of the Berlin Wall.
In 1989, he won a part in a TV show about lifeguards. It was dropped after one series but David bought up the rights and relaunched it. Baywatch, which ran until 2001, became the most watched television show in the world and made him a multimillionaire.
Six years ago, his former record label executive, one Simon Cowell, called him and asked if he fancied being a judge on a show he was putting together. It was called America’s Got Talent. David agreed, and stayed for four years until they refused to increase his salary.
Last year Simon Cowell asked him to become a judge on Britain’s Got Talent. He did it. He thought he was a hit. Simon told him he was brilliant. But he is not on the show this year. When I first met David four months ago, rumours were swirling around that he had been sacked from the BGT judging panel.
The Hoff with fellow judges Piers Morgan and Sharon Osbourne in 2008
But nobody had told him. ‘I don’t know what the truth is,’ he said then. ‘If they don’t want me to do it they should let me know but no one has called me. If Simon wants to tell me, he should tell me.’
When I catch up with him this week he refuses to go into details, saying only: ‘I don’t know what happened. I signed up for a year, I never expected to come back.’
But he is taken aback by the comments from a man he still considers a friend. When Cowell returned to the UK last month to lead the judges again, he said last year’s panel did not ‘do a good enough job’.
‘How do I respond to that’ says David. ‘They offered me a gig. I went in. I was polite and professional and I tried to let everybody down with a sense of humour. I had fun.
‘It’s a rough business. When you are creative on your own stage, it’s heaven. But when you are trying to negotiate with people in the corporate elements it’s just a nightmare. There is not much honour.
‘A few years ago I took a Knight Rider story to the U.S. network NBC and they said: “That’s great but we don’t want you in it” and they completely cut me out.’ They went ahead and made the show without him and it flopped.
‘I get depressed if I don’t have anything to do,’ he says. ‘We went on safari recently and I got depressed on a day off. I have to programme myself not to go at 90 miles an hour.’
When I ask about depression he jokes he hasn’t really been troubled by it ‘since 1962’. But his darker side became public during his divorce from Pamela Bach, his wife of 16 years in 2006, when she accused him of alcoholism. He insists he has been clean since.
‘I’ve had bad publicity, but I believe in picking myself up,’ he says. ‘Everywhere I go – Zimbabwe even – they shout out “Knight Rider” at me. I might be thinking I’m depressed because I might not be going back on Britain’s Got Talent, meanwhile people in that country who live on the breadline are so happy. I have so much to learn.’
He now sees alcohol in a very different light. ‘If I walk around in London I see more people more inebriated than I have ever been in my life,’ he says. ‘I got bad publicity for something that shouldn’t have come out.’
Judge Rules: Hasselhoff and Brandy of America's Got Talent in 2006. David left when they refused to raise his salary
The love of his daughters, Taylor, 21, and Hayley, 18, who he is launching as a pop act, has kept him on the straight and narrow. While he gets his solace from his relationship with Hayley Roberts, the 32-year-old former Debenhams shopgirl who caught his eye when she asked for his autograph while he was filming BGT in Cardiff.
They have been together for a year now and David is planning to launch her as a model.
He shows me some pictures on his telephone of her in underwear – he organised a lingerie shoot for her. ‘She’s like a Victoria’s Secret model,’ he says. There is some amazement that the relationship has lasted – David is rarely in the same country for more than a few weeks at a time. But he believes he has found a rare one.
‘I had my fun when I was younger but now I want someone to share my life with me. I don’t drink any more so it’s not like I can just go and get hammered and pick up a girl – not that I would want to do that anyway. I’m a gentleman, not a footballer,’ he says.
‘I have a fantastic life but it’s also very lonely. You will go and perform in front of 10,000 people and then get back to your magnificent suite and you are all alone. The whole room was screaming for you and then there is nobody. I think that is why so many people want a drink; it’s hard to come down from that. That’s why it is important to share it with somebody.
‘And Hayley has my best interests at heart. She is streetwise and she knows when people are mucking me around.’
He is not saying if Hayley is ‘the one’. He has generated publicity by showing pictures of him proposing to her at least four times at different venues around the world but would probably get a huge shock if she said yes. ‘We were so surprised that those pictures went around the world,’ he says mischievously.
There is always another venture to promote and keep up The Hoff’s profile. He has so many plans in the works it is hard to know where to start; a travel documentary, a fly-on-the-wall look at his life, an MTV show with his daughters, several film projects, and a plan to spruce up the Knight Rider car that has been sitting in his garage for nearly 30 years.
‘I’m not going to stop,’ he says. ‘I’m on the Hoff train and I’m enjoying the ride.’
An Evening with David Hasselhoff is at IndigO2 on March 2. Call 0844 871 8803 or visit kililive.com