Sun, Jun 03, 2007 - Page 18 News List

David Hasselhoff is important! (According to David Hasselhoff)

Though the sort of sly self-awareness that exists in the `Baywatch' star's biography is a compulsive need to talk about how great he is, the man is quite likeable

By Leslie Gray Streeter  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA

Don't Hassel The Hoff
By David Hasselhoff
304 pages
Thomas Dunne Books

You can't judge a book by its cover, but the very first page of Don't Hassel The Hoff pretty much nails this brazen masterwork of self-promotion.

It's a photo of author/actor/singer/ironically iconic pop-culture titan and German-loved David Hasselhoff, accepting his Guinness World Records certificate for being the most-watched actor on television, along with an imprint of the certificate itself.

So, before we've even read a word of the 297-page memoir, Hasselhoff and co-writer Peter Thompson want to make sure we get the theme — David Hasselhoff is important!

He's got hit shows (Knight Rider and all eleventy-three incarnations of Baywatch), the German pop music career, a mission to visit and cheer up terminally ill children and the sparkly good looks.

So you haters can mock his soap opera roots, impossibly thick and lustrous hair, shiny shirtless chest and overall pop cheesiness all you want, but, to paraphrase fictional anchorman and fellow follicle king Ron Burgundy, he's kind of a big deal.

Of course, he's now a big deal for something that didn't make the book but sure made the Internet.

It's hard to read Don't Hassel The Hoff, originally published in 2006 in Europe, without thinking about that video of him drunkenly trying to eat a hamburger on the floor of his Las Vegas hotel suite as his young daughter tapes him.

But Hasselhoff has thus far exhibited a resilience that has baffled critics and fans of talking cars and curvy lifeguards alike. Don't Hassel The Hoff is full of tales of bouncing back from adversity, be it addiction, cancellation, failed marriages or having Baywatch unceremoniously kicked out of Australia on its swimsuit-covered fanny.

And that seems to be slowly happening again. Hasselhoff's co-custody of his two daughters with his ex-wife has been reinstated (it was revoked when the videotape came out). He's also returning as host of NBC's summer freak show America's Got Talent, and was seen last week looking tanned and rested in the audience of the American Idol finale, although he didn't cry like he did in 2006.

Hasselhoff's nearly unbearable cheesiness exists alongside an honest-to-God likability — he seems to understand and embrace that cheesiness, as when he "poked fun of myself" as a German-spewing dodgeball coach in Dodgeball. But that sort of sly self-awareness exists in the book as a compulsive need to talk about how awesome he is.

I think Hasselhoff believes he's being humble, but every few pages, he can't help mentioning how much work he's done with sick kids, or how much he hates injustice and racism — Martin Luther King, Sammy Davis Jr., and his father's African-American best buddy are all name-dropped by the end of the fifth paragraph of Chapter 1.

It still amazes me that in 2007, people still don't get that the "some of my best friends are black" thing doesn't make you look colorblind. It makes you look like someone who's counting how many black friends they have so they can prove they aren't racist.

But he's not done there. It's not uncommon for a celebrity memoir to include close encounters with fellow members of the glitterati, but Hasselhoff's are presented as chance meetings with important people who just happen to be utterly taken with him.

We've got Muhammad Ali mock-challenging him to determine which of them is prettier; Sidney Poitier asking him how he stays so young; Hasselhoff and his ex jogging with former US president Bill Clinton; The Hoff commiserating with Earl Spencer on the loss of his sister, Princess Diana. Then there's him telling Paul McCartney he was checking out Heather Mills.

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