Over the span of more than 40 years, David Hasselhoff—a.k.a. The Hoff—has inspired the world with his roles on The Young and the Restless, Knight Rider, Baywatch (the show, Baywatch Nights, and the recent movie) and also with his music career, which helped reunite Germany soon after the Berlin Wall fell. His self-deprecating humor has led to a variety of cameos (playing himself) in movies like Dodgeball, Killing Hasselhoff, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. To celebrate The Hoff's career—and his birthday (Hasselhoff was born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 17, 1952)—here are some things you might not have known about the beloved pop culture icon.
1. David Hasselhoff began his career making B-movies.
In the 1970s, The Hoff had a thriving TV career playing Dr. William "Snapper" Foster on The Young and the Restless, but before he started talking to a car named KITT, his movie career was slowly taking off. According to IMDb, his first movie role was a guy named Boner in the 1976 movie Revenge of the Cheerleaders. Two years later he played Christopher Plummer’s son in the cult space opera Starcrash. In 1988, in a period between Knight Rider and Baywatch, Hasselhoff starred in the not-so-good horror film Witchery. Thank goodness Baywatch came along.
2. David Hasselhoff is in the Guinness Book of World Records for two achievements.
The Guinness Book of World Records anointed Hasselhoff the title of "The World’s Most Watched Man on Television" because of Baywatch’s more than 1 billion viewers in 140 countries. In 2011, Hugh Laurie took the title away from Hasselhoff, but in June of the same year The Hoff won another title: the highest height a human was catapulted using a reverse bungee system. He was thrown nearly 230 feet at London’s Battersea Power Station.
3. David Hasselhoff says Baywatch's slo-mo scenes developed from a lack of funds.
Much of Baywatch's popularity can be attributed to its frequent tendency to show its characters' bouncy body parts running in slow-motion—a camera technique that developed from a lack of money. “We didn’t have enough financing to finish the show,” Hassehoff told Men’s Health. “So we found a way to fill the hour by shooting people in slow motion. We said, ‘Well, girls in bathing suits look good running in slow motion, let’s just shoot that.’ And we found out that the audience kinda liked it.”
4. David Hasselhoff plays a version of himself in Hoff the Record.
The British mockumentary series follows The Hoff as he tries to resurrect his career in England. The show premiered in 2015 and aired for two seasons (it’s available on Netflix). He wants people to watch the International Emmy Award-winning comedy so much that at a premiere for Baywatch the movie he kept mentioning the show to everyone he encountered. “I only got in a mention of the show about 10 times,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I was so overwhelmed at the beginning I forgot about it.”
5. We have Australia to thank for "Don't hassle The Hoff."
Fifteen years ago, Hasselhoff found out secretaries in Australia were sending each other emails with puns on The Hoff (a.k.a “Hoffisms”) such as Some Like It Hoff, the Wizard of Hoff, Desperate Hoffwives. “I got an email from one of these women, asking me, ‘How does it feel to be a sex symbol at 50?’” he told Men’s Health. He thought the puns were funny, and went on television in Australia. “I was talking about the whole phenomenon and I said, like I was talking to the secretaries, ‘I have a saying for you: Don’t hassle the Hoff!’ And that’s when it all blew up and went crazy.”
6. David Hasselhoff was big in Austria before he became a superstar in Germany.
During a low period for The Hoff in the mid-’80s—Knight Rider had been canceled, and he was going through a divorce—he received a phone call that a woman from Austria had won a contest to have lunch with him. He met with the girl and she said to him, “‘You know, your [debut] record’s number one in my country,” Hasselhoff recalled. “And I was like, ‘Night Rocker? Night Rocker sold seven copies and I bought six.’ She said ‘No, no, Night Rocker is number one in Austria.’ I said, ‘Where’s Austria?’” He then booked a music tour of Europe. In 1989, his song “Looking for Freedom” topped the West German charts for eight weeks, and he performed the song on New Year’s Eve at the Berlin Wall, shortly after it fell.
7. David Hasselhoff is a Broadway star.
In 2000, he played Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the Broadway musical Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical. He also played Billy Flynn in Chicago, Roger De Bris in The Producers during its 2007 Vegas run, and a recurring role as Captain Hook in Peter Pan. In 2015, in Manchester, England, he performed in Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, a musical about Ibiza. Apparently, he’s big in England, too.
8. David Hasselhoff hosted talk shows in Sweden and Finland.
As if his international star status wasn’t already impressive enough, in 2014 he hosted a talk show, en svensk talk show, in Sweden. A year later he filmed 10 episodes of the Finland-based The David Hasselhoff Show.
9. Scientists named a crab after David Hasselhoff.
In 2012, scientists discovered a new kind of crab, one with a hirsute chest—just like The Hoff. The scientists dubbed their Antarctic discovery "The Hoff Crab." The binomial name is Kiwa tyleri from the family Kiwaidae. The crab is a species of the squat lobster. “I think it's quite an honor to be named for a crab,” Hoff told Men’s Health. “It’s white and it’s got a hairy chest. I remember thinking, this Hoff thing is getting out of control.”
10. David Hasselhoff is on Cameo.
Is having David Hasselhoff sing "Happy Birthday" on your bucket list of dream experiences? For $300, you might be able to make it happen. In May 2020, Hasselhoff joined the legions of celebrities who are connecting with their fans via Cameo. You can book your greeting, or surprise a friend, here.