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But this is serious crap.
Slumped in front of an empty minibar in an anonymous hotel room, David Hasselhoff somehow managed to concentrate for long enough to phone home.
‘I’m drunk and I think I’m dying,’ the veteran star of Baywatch and Knight Rider slurred to his wife. Then the line went dead.
It was June 2002 and for Pamela Bach Hasselhoff the call came like a hammer blow. ‘It was only two days after I had dropped him off at the Betty Ford Centre in Palm Springs,’ she says with tears welling in her eyes. ‘After years of drinking, he’d finally admitted he had a problem and had agreed to go into rehab. It had all been such a huge relief. But then I got that phone call.
'I called the clinic and discovered he had checked out. I knew I had to go to him. I chartered a private plane and flew from LA to Palm Springs.’ Pamela learned that David had been taken to a local hospital, but didn’t know which one. ‘I got into a taxi and went to every hospital until I found him.’
She discovered later that he’d drunk the entire contents of the minibar and had been found by a maid, semi-conscious and half-naked on the floor. The police had been called. This sordid episode, like so many before, was covered up by Pamela and a team of minders. Hasselhoff was, after all, America’s most bankable TV star at the time.
‘Had news leaked out, it would have destroyed the image he created for himself and the image I created for my friends and family,’ says Pamela. ‘We were both living a lie but the biggest tragedy was that David loved the bottle more than me.’
To his fans – and he has thousands of them in Britain – David Hasselhoff is simply ‘The Hoff’, a perma-tanned hunk of Hollywood beefcake.
He shot to fame in the Eighties as crime-fighter Michael Knight in the cult series Knight Rider, starring alongside a talking super-powered car called Kitt. But he is most famous, of course, for his starring role in Baywatch – the all-action series that followed the adventures of the muscled-up boys and gorgeous girls who made up a team of LA beach lifeguards.
With ratings boosted by swimsuit-clad co-stars such as Pamela Anderson, the series became, according to Guinness World Records, the most watched in TV history with 1.1billion viewers in 140 countries.
Even when the starring acting roles dried up ten years ago, Hasselhoff managed to reinvent himself thanks to his self-deprecating charm and an ability, rare among Hollywood stars, to appear not to take himself too seriously.
The Hoff, now 56, has been an improbable pop star in Germany, has a hugely popular website and is a judge alongside British TV celebrities Piers Morgan and Sharon Osbourne on the top-rated show America’s Got Talent.
To the woman who recently divorced him, however, Hasselhoff’s image as a self-aware, post-modern celebrity is a sham. ‘David is a falling-down drunk and I covered up for him for years,’ Pamela says. ‘Alcoholism destroys you whether you are a regular Joe or the biggest star on the planet.’
Today, Pamela sits in the sun-dappled garden of the former family home and nervously plays with a packet of Marlboro Lights as five dogs and two cats roam around her. The £3.2million white-painted mansion in the well-heeled LA suburb of Encino is now on the market since the decree absolute came through last month.
She appears to be exhausted after Hasselhoff v Hasselhoff became one of the nastiest divorce battles Hollywood has seen in recent years. Ever since the relationship began to disintegrate there have been lurid claims and counter-claims of drug abuse, drunkenness and physical violence.
There were leaked court papers in which Hasselhoff countered his wife’s sworn deposition that he broke her nose during a drunken row with the words: ‘The only person who broke my wife’s nose was her plastic surgeon.’
Then, mysteriously, video footage appeared on the internet showing a massively intoxicated Hasselhoff trying to eat a hamburger while one of his teenage daughters pleads with him to stop drinking.
Pamela, meanwhile, was vilified as a gold-digger with designs on Hasselhoff’s £25million fortune. It is an accusation she angrily rejects, pointing out that she was happily married to Hasselhoff for many years, is mother to his two daughters, Taylor Ann, 18, and Hayley, 16, and gave up her career to run the family home while he was the main breadwinner.
Blonde, trim and strikingly attractive, Pamela, 44, says: ‘I wanted to be the perfect wife and the perfect mother. I ran a house with five staff, had dinner parties, dressed beautifully, was a member of the PTA, ran dance classes and did all the after-school things. When David didn’t feel well I would stroke his hair and make him hot tea with honey and tell him everything would be OK.’
She is immaculate in skin-tight black jeans, a revealing lime green blouse and heels. Her make-up, carefully applied for our photoshoot, is perfect. As our four-hour conversation progresses, it becomes clear that she still has deep feelings for Hasselhoff. Indeed, it was her devotion to him that made his career and – some would say – his covert alcoholism possible.
At first, says Pamela, he covered up his problem drinking, caused, she believes, by deep-rooted insecurity, anger and unhappiness. His father, Joe, now in teetotal retirement in California, had been an alcoholic.
‘I never really noticed when we were dating,’ she says. ‘But when we married, it was clear David was drinking a lot. He couldn’t hide it. He is fundamentally unhappy even though there’s no real reason for his unhappiness.
‘David wanted to come home from work, have dinner with the children and then relax. I looked after him. He was my baby. I knew he liked a drink at night, so I would set my alarm to get him up in the morning and ready for work by the time the car from the studio arrived.
‘Did I know he had a drinking problem? Yes, probably. But I protected him and our children because that was my job. He provided for us and I saw my role as making his life as easy as possible. I know he loved me.’
Despite his popularity, Hasselhoff had few friends and often drank alone.
‘The drinking got worse,’ says Pamela. ‘He went from social drinking to getting sick. With an alcoholic, you never know where that first glass of wine will end up. Sometimes they can drink normally and stop after dinner. Other days, one glass goes on to a three-day binge.
‘I would cover for him with the Baywatch producers if he was late getting to work. Sometimes I would get up in the middle of the night and find him passed out on the sofa. Other times he would say cruel things and we’d start rowing and the girls would hear.
‘Everybody thought he was the golden star in swimming trunks on the beach with Pamela Anderson but the drink was taking over his life. To me, he was the man who fell over on the bedroom floor.’
At this point she catches herself. ‘I don’t want this to be an attack on David. I love him. I always have. He’s a good man. He’s tried desperately hard to get sober. But he’s an alcoholic. He has a disease, just like cancer. And just like cancer, it ate away at our family from the inside.’
She refuses to elaborate on stories about his violent outbursts except to acknowledge they happened. ‘I can’t tell you the truth about the nose-breaking incident. It would destroy David and I can’t do that.
‘What I can say is that I went from having two children to having three. I looked after David and he liked being looked after. He could come home, turn on the television and be himself. And he could drink.’
She says their life together was based around the home, and the Hasselhoff family house is surprisingly homely – though there are now few signs that The Hoff ever lived there. Pamela points out a prized antique music box she and David bought during a trip to Germany and a magnificent gilt mirror above the fireplace that was bought in Louisiana. There is a cream baby grand piano in the living room where he used to serenade her with love songs.
The detritus of the divorce – the final financial settlement is yet to be thrashed out – is, however, clear to see. The guest room is filled with dozens of boxes of paperwork and in Pamela’s bedroom, boxes full of legal files are stacked up in one corner opposite the four-poster marital bed.
It is clear that it’s the gold-digger jibe that most hurts her. Given her humble background, it is, perhaps, easy to see why. She was born in small-town Tulsa, Oklahoma, to a mother who married and divorced four times. She was a 17-year-old high school cheerleader with a head stuffed full of Hollywood dreams when she dropped out of school and drove to Los Angeles with a girlfriend in 1982.
She was taken on by the Ford Model Agency but her height – she is 5ft 5in – and pretty, girl-next-door looks meant she was directed towards catalogues and knitting patterns rather than the catwalks of Paris and Milan.
Pamela says: ‘I was the girl on the paper wrap on the outside of a ball of wool. I was very good at it.’ She began landing bit-parts in television shows including Knight Rider, Cheers and Baywatch.
‘The first time I met David was on Knight Rider in 1986,’ she says. ‘I got a message from the assistant director saying, “David would like to see you in his trailer.” I declined because he was still married (to actress Caroline Hickland, who had also appeared in Knight Rider). I don’t think many girls in my position would have turned him down. He was a big star.’
They met again on the set of Baywatch in 1989, the year Hasselhoff and Hickland divorced. Pamela says: ‘I was an extra. We went out for dinner and he invited me to Hawaii. I knew what that meant. I told him he’d have to woo me if he wanted me.’
By Hollywood standards, Hasselhoff obliged. The pair dated for nine months before Pamela fell pregnant. She laughs nervously: ‘We were in love, we truly were. But, of course, me being pregnant brought the wedding forward a bit.’
At first, married life was ‘blissful’, Pamela says. ‘We were never into the whole Hollywood scene. David had been around and I’d had my fair share of boyfriends so neither of us felt like we were missing out.’ They bought the big home in Encino, had their two daughters and as Hasselhoff’s career took off, she says the marriage was happy, despite his chronic drinking.
She was able to contain his drinking until a terrible motorcycle crash in February 2003 fundamentally altered the balance in their relationship.
The couple were returning home from lunch in Santa Monica when Hasselhoff’s custom-built Harley-Davidson motorcycle veered off the road. Pamela was a pillion passenger. ‘I can’t tell you if he’d been drinking. I remember nothing except waking up in hospital,’ she says.
Hasselhoff escaped with minor injuries. Pamela was thrown from the bike and seriously injured. She was in hospital for two months, needed 17 operations and had two steel rods and 27 screws in her left leg.
‘When I got out of hospital, I was on prescribed painkillers. I spent a year in bed. Later, David’s lawyers used this in the divorce to say I became a drug addict. I had been the glue that held the family together and suddenly Mummy was sick. David tried to be supportive but he got bored of me being ill. He needed to be looked after but I wasn’t capable. We started drifting apart. He would either go out or sit downstairs and drink.’
She doesn’t believe he was unfaithful. ‘I know he got constant offers. But I also know David. He always chooses the booze. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t.’
Bizarrely, Pamela claims their split happened ‘by accident’ after she and Hasselhoff went on what was supposed to be a romantic break to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico in December 2005 to celebrate her recovery. ‘David went on a four-day bender. I wanted him to love me but instead he drank and told me he hated me. I went home early.’
At this, Pamela breaks down weeping. She claims she asked Hasselhoff’s business adviser for the name of a lawyer so she could discuss ‘her options’. When she arrived at the lawyer’s office, her cellphone was ringing. ‘It was David. He said, “I know you’re at the lawyer’s. I am going to file for divorce.” Then the nightmare began.’
Of course, there are two sides to every story and Hasselhoff’s publicists issue elaborate explanations for his sometimes ‘eccentric’ behaviour – on one occasion he was refused permission to board a plane at Heathrow and on another managed to cut himself on a chandelier in a bathroom of a London hotel.
Pamela shrugs her shoulders and says: ‘People are still covering up for him. I don’t believe this divorce would have got nasty if David hadn’t been so vulnerable. He’s angry at me for going to the lawyer but I also think a lot of people have taken advantage of him because he’s a drinker.
‘At the end of our marriage he kept telling me how unhappy he was. But if he’s disappointed by life, so am I. The man I fell in love with disappeared in the bottom of a glass.
‘He would drink and I couldn’t reason with him. He passed out, he would urinate on himself. He’d become violent. He would become verbally aggressive. When we would get photographed for People magazine looking shiny and lovely, David would be drunk. When the photographer left, the real David would emerge. It was like Jekyll and Hyde.
‘The girls know what went on. They know what is going on now. They love their dad and they love me. David is renting a place in Bel Air now. One of my girls said to me the other night, “Dad’s lonely.” It broke my heart. But I also know the bitterness we’ve had between each other has gone too far.
‘What I will say is that he’s a fantastic father. He has always been there for our girls. He came to the hospital immediately after Hayley was involved in a minor car accident last week.
‘David and I will always be a part of each other’s lives. I see him and I worry. He’s very thin now. No one is looking after him. I know he is drinking but no one cares whether he is eating or not.’
She walks around the marital home pointing out the peeling paint and chipped marble and says: ‘This is a house that needs a man. David was the man, then he became the man who could pay for things. Now everything he and I worked for is for sale. It’s a sad story.
‘I always believed in happy Hollywood endings but our story doesn’t have one. And that’s the truth.’