Baywatch is splashing back into Hollywood with a new movie reboot and an all-star cast, but the beloved franchise never would have breached the surface in the first place if it weren’t for the TV show’s original star, David Hasselhoff, coming to the rescue.
Following his breakout role on NBC’s Knight Rider, and his smash success as a pop star in Austria and Germany, Hasselhoff returned to the small screen with Baywatch in 1989. But when the show was canceled after its first season, the actor invested his own money to give the series another chance in 1991.
The show went on to run for 11 years, and when it ended in 2001, nearly 1 billion viewers across 140 countries tuned in for the series finale. And because he had invested his own money into the series, his contract stipulated rerun royalties, earning the actor a fortune in reruns.
But in the years after the series went off the air, personal problems with alcohol began to take a toll on the star. Frustrated with her dad’s antics, his daughter Taylor-Ann Hasselhoff decided to record one of his drunken episodes in early 2007. “I took the tape because I wanted to be like, ‘Look at how you are when you’re [drunk],’ ” Taylor-Ann, who was then 16 and visiting her dad during his Vegas run in The Producers, told PEOPLE. “You can’t remember anything, so I want to show you.’ ”
Soon after recording the incident, the video was leaked by a former family friend and went viral online. Having his private struggle with alcohol — which had begun to spiral out of control around his 2006 divorce from second wife Pamela Bach — become public was humiliating for Hasselhoff, but it was also the wake-up call he badly needed.
“Although I was working, I was a complete, absolute runaway train with no control over anything,” Hasselhoff told PEOPLE in 2010. “Thanks to the tape, I realized this was a problem that I needed to deal with. But I knew I could also turn that lemon into lemonade.”
Still, the leaked video took a toll on his career, and more importantly, his family. With the tape becoming public in the midst of his divorce from Bach, a judge temporarily blocked him from seeing his daughters Taylor-Ann and Hayley. This served as further motivation for him to get sober. “When I found out about the tape, I was overcome with an amazing sense of calm,” Hasselhoff told PEOPLE. “God was basically saying, ‘It’s time to stop.’ ”
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The Baywatch star quickly got back on the wagon and realized his failing marriage, and the subsequent legal disputes, had taken a profound toll on his sobriety. “I realized it was time for Dad to put the oxygen mask on first, and then I could put it on the girls,” said Hasselhoff, who eventually won custody of his daughters.
“It’s a day at a time, and I’m proud of today,” he said in 2010, acknowledging brief relapses along the way. “It’s almost as if I want to go out and have fun like everybody else, but every time I do, I end up in a resort called Cedars-Sinai … But I bounce back in two days and get back on my horse.” He added, “It’s not about falling. It’s how fast you get up. You can count on me getting up. Hasselhoffs don’t duck. We say, ‘Bring it on!’ ”
But in the years after the tape, Hasselhoff struggled to find work, jumping from a series of small gigs on reality TV in the U.S. and overseas. In 2016, he asked the court to lower his monthly spousal support to Bach, claiming he had less than $4,000 in liquid assets and was struggling to “stay relevant” professionally.
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“I am 63 years of age, and am at an age when I should be preparing for retirement and not having to continue working in order to pay [Bach’s] support,” Hasselhoff explained in the legal docs. A judge eventually agreed to lower the monthly alimony payment to $10,000, almost half of the previous amount.
In February, the father of two opened up about his decision to get married for a third time. He proposed to longtime girlfriend, 36-year-old model Hayley Roberts, in May 2016.
“I don’t want her to get away,” he said. “I want to trap her, because this is one that I really love, and this is the one when I got down on my knees and said, ‘Will you marry me?’ It was from my heart. It wasn’t an ultimatum. My other marriages were kind of like, well, you’ve got to get married, or there was an ultimatum. This one is something that I wanted to do.”
The couple met while Hasselhoff was a judge on Britain’s Got Talent.
“We’ve been together for six years. We had no idea how long we’d been together because it’s been so easy and so great. To have somebody there to support me who isn’t in the industry, and who tells me the truth — she tells me the truth. Because the people in this industry a lot of times don’t tell you the truth, and that’s what gets you in trouble.”