not waving but drowning
BY MARIA ADELMANN
a biography of David Hasselhoff as found in
Don’t Hassel the Hoff: The Autobiography by David Hasselhoff
I once had a pet alligator, which escaped in the house. I set my parents’ lawn on fire so I could watch the firemen put it out. I sleepwalked across fields. Sometimes my parents would hear me get up and find me watching a blank TV.
I was aroused every time I kneeled to take communion. Girls would tell me I was attractive, but it never occurred to me to take advantage of them. Sandy Burke was my first love. I’d started sweet-talking her so I could look at her math tests. On prom night, we both had too much to drink and we went back to her house, but she passed out at the critical moment.
We sat around getting stoned to George Harrison records. My roommate dropped acid, jumped out of a second-story window, and disappeared. We thought he’d flown away. Three hours later, we found him in a flowerbed laughing. “We thought you flew,” we said. “I’m still flying,” he said.
Revenge of the Cheerleaders
I made my film debut in Revenge of the Cheerleaders. I was young and had beautiful girls kissing me. It wasn’t porn, and, most importantly, it got me my Screen Actors Guild card.
The Young and the Restless
I was Snapper Foster, a dashing young medico from the wrong side of the tracks. The first letter delivered to my dressing room read, “Dear David Hasselhoff, Every time you open your mouth I want to be sick.”
Young and Restless
I found it impossible to learn my lines every night. The thought of going home was too much. Instead, I partied and chased girls. Beer, tequila, scotch—I’d wake up across town with someone and feel alone.
The heroine, Stella Star, a former Bond girl wearing a spectacular leather bikini, had to rescue me, Prince Simon, from the clutches of Count Zarth Arn, evil leader of the League of the Dark Worlds.
I met my first wife, Catherine, at the Daytime Emmy Awards. Twenty guys were hitting on her, but I acted aloof, and she came to me.
James Bond with a sense of humor and a talking car. Police Story meets R2-D2. My ticket to prime time. The script glowed in my hand. I made everyone call me “Michael Knight” for two weeks. I put it on my answering machine. When the cameras started rolling, I was the Knight Rider.
In South America, Knight Rider was El Auto. In Turkey, it was Kara Simsek, Black Lightening. In Israel, Abir al Galgalim, Knight on Wheels. In Italy, Supercar. In Poland, Nieustraszony, Fearless. In Portugal, O Justiceiro, The Bringer of Justice.
Catherine and I were beautiful people living in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills with a pool, Jacuzzi, screening-room, four dogs, and three parrots. I was driving a car with the number plate NITE RDR.
Catherine moved her belongings out of our house, except for all of the pets she’d collected during our time together. Winston, the youngest bird, was also the most talented. He could sing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in E flat. Captain Ned, one of the parrots, tried to give me a kiss and bit out a chunk of my lip. I spent a lot of time looking out of my window at my avocado tree. Success means nothing if you have no one to share it with.
Knight Rider was my passport to the world.
I made a movie called Lovable Zanies II. Nobody spoke much English and filming was chaotic. I retreated to my hotel and a beautiful Egyptian actress. One girl kept following me around saying, “Thank you for existing.”
My Night Rocker album had sold about seven copies in the USA.
“It’s number one in my country,” a fan told me.
“Where are you from?”
I found it on a map. Two weeks later, the Night Rocker Tour opened there. Everywhere we went the girls would strip and get in the showers and saunas naked.
In South Africa, I was attacked by a wildebeest and an ostrich ripped off the aerial of my safari car. I fell for a beautiful twenty year-old South African model. It was a great time to be in love with a twenty year-old.
“So you don’t know me?” I asked. The Maasai warrior solemnly shook his head. “No,” he said. “We don’t get TV.” Africa is no place for someone suffering from fame withdrawal.
I fell in love with Pamela Bach, a beautiful blonde with green eyes who had been a guest star on Episode 71 of Knight Rider. We went to Bruges, where we made passionate love for ten days.
They wanted me to perform at the Berlin Hilton on New Year’s Eve. “Sure, I’ll come,” I said, “but I want to sing on the Berlin Wall.” The East Germans thought Knight Rider was a Western and showed up in cowboy hats.
There were hundreds of dying children whose last wish was to meet me. I visited kids with rare and terrible diseases. They really believed I was Michael Knight. They gave me unconditional love. In Innsbruck, I visited a hospital where a young girl suffering from cystic fibrosis was lying in bed. She hadn’t spoken in six weeks. I held her hand. She looked at me and mouthed, “Danke.”
The sand was hotter than hell and the water was toxic. Baywatch might not have been the show Shakespeare would have written if he lived in Malibu, but it had beautiful people performing heroic deeds in a land of buffed, fat-free bodies, perfect teeth, Walkmans, frozen yogurt, and rollerblades.
In France, we were Alert á Malibu, Malibu Alert. In Portugal, Mares Vivas, Sea Lives. In Brazil, SOS Malibu. In Spain, Los Vigilantes de la Playa, Vigilantes on the Beach.
Baywatch had a reputation for being sexist because we shot cleavage and beautiful butts, yet our Number One audience in the US was women. Pamela Anderson was a Venus in Spandex. By running down the beach in a red swimsuit, she became one of the most famous people in the world.
When Baywatch was censored in Ireland, I said, “You guys are killing each other on the streets of Belfast over who’s Catholic and who’s Protestant and you’re censoring Baywatch? If you don’t like it, turn it off.”
In Sherman Oaks, my new neighbor knocked on my door. “I understand you’re famous in Germany,” he said.
“How did you know?”
“There are Germans in my trees.”
Perry Mason Movie of the Week: The Case of the Lady in the Lake
Other actors used cue cards, too. Raymond Burr said, “It’s not that I can’t learn my lines, David, it’s just that I don’t want to.”
I saw all these cars pull up in the driveway. “It must be a party,” I thought.
An hour later, I was in rehab in Pacific Palisades. I stayed eight days before calling a taxi and going over the wall.
Knight Rider 2000
I threw the script across the kitchen. “What’s wrong?” my wife Pamela asked.
“You’re not going to believe this—Michael Knight is washed up and living in the woods because he can’t cope with life anymore. They’ve killed off Devon and the car is red.”
But I did it. What choice did I have?
I was living in a three-story house in the San Fernando Valley with my wife, two beautiful daughters, and six wiener dogs. There were platinum discs on the wall and a stack of TV awards on the mantel.
Jekyll and Hyde
I was destined for Broadway, but it took forty years. “Tell me who I am,” I kept asking the stage manager. One night I overdid a high note and passed out on stage.
I started drinking again—vodka.
Betty Ford Clinic
Betty Ford was like a college campus transplanted to the desert. I set the highest blood alcohol figure ever recorded there.
Escape from Betty Ford
I took off in the dark, dry, suffocating heat wearing sweatpants and tennis shoes. I had no wallet—I’d thrown that out of the window of my car the previous night. “Check into a hotel,” I thought. “Have a few drinks and then go back to Betty Ford in the morning.” The welcoming neon lights of a Marriott soon came into view. In the lobby, all of the guests wandered around in walkers. “You have a lot of elderly customers,” I said.
“Yes, sir. This is the Marriott Retirement Home.”
I backed out of the lobby and hit the highway again.
I woke up strapped to a gurney at Eisenhower Medical Center. The room was cold. There was no light and the darkness deepened the chill. The only sound was the hum of the air-conditioner. There was a black hole where memories should have been.
If you can’t have what you want, maybe you can want what you have.
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, America’s Got Talent, The Producers—this was the new beginning I’d been promised if let go. I was a counterculture icon. Four year-olds wanted my autograph.
In Spain I’m El Hoff. In Italy, Don Hoff. In Russia, Hoffski. I am Bravehoff, Harry Hoffer, Beef Stroganhoff. Some like it Hoff. “Hoff! Hoff! Hoff” they chant when I sing.
I’m always somewhere, making waves.
Maria Adelmann’s work has been published by or is forthcoming in EPOCH, Indiana Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Southeast Review, n+1, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, among others. She was a Poe/Faulkner Fellow at The University of Virginia and currently lives in Baltimore, MD. She has recently finished a screenplay and a short story collection. Her website is www.MariaInk.com.
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