HOFF & ME
IT MIGHT SEEM AN UNLIKELY PAIRING, BUT MARK HOLDEN REVEALS HOW HE DEVELOPED AN ENDURING FRIENDSHIP WITH DAVID HASSELHOFF AFTER THE TWO MET DURING BAYWATCH’S EARLY ’90S HEYDAY
Mark Holden on his unlikely friendship with David Hasselhoff.
The day I met David Hasselhoff was just another day in the life of the journeyman songwriter in LA. As the violence of Los Angeles [in the early ’90s] became more apparent to me, I found myself moving into a different kind of business, trying to construct artists as well as songs and productions.
David had been working with a German producer called Jack White, who had delivered him hit after hit in Europe. White produced “Looking For Freedom”, which was the song David sang in his infamous flashing-lights leather jacket overlooking the Berlin Wall when it came down. It became an anthem for Germans. This seemed like a way forward after the hip-hop world of guns and drugs. I was ready for some of that European action.
[Entertainment lawyer] Peter Lopez had taken on David, essentially managing his music business for him. David felt constricted by the White deal, both creatively and financially. He had a great run of hits and was out of his White deal, and was ready to make a new one. Lopez was at the heart of it.
I can clearly remember David bounding into Lopez’s office for that first meeting; a tall, lanky bloke with an effervescent energy that was infectious. It’s hard not to like David when you meet him. As it turned out, he lived right around the corner from me in Sherman Oaks with his [then] wife, Pam, and his two beautiful daughters, Taylor-ann and Hayley.
David and I hit it off straight away. It was an instant, easy rapport. He had been in The Young And The Restless and I had been in The Young Doctors. He was a musical-theatre type in his youth and would go on to star on Broadway and the West End. As a teen, I played Prince Charming in a pantomime in Adelaide. My post-pop career saw me starring in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Shout! The Legend Of The Wild One. We had a lot in common. It was the makings of a great relationship.
David took to calling me the Music Doctor from Down Under. He loves Australia and had a couple of cracks at the market with Knight Rider, but none really worked. David loved to tell the story of going out bush on a promo trip and encountering an amorous kangaroo. It’s a funny image. He doesn’t mind the joke being on him, as it were.
David’s constant exposure to the outdoors often led to his vocals being scratchy, but these were the early days of Pro Tools and it was possible to spend hours and days on a vocal track, pitching and moving. I’d often double as him, since our voices were very similar.
It often became necessary to chase David around the beaches of southern California. I would make a temporary office in his trailer on the Baywatch set and grab downtime between shots to bang out a lyric or go through tracks. I would get calls from him in the middle of some huge set-up on the show where he’d sing an idea for a song onto my message service. I’d transfer that to my keyboard and scratch out a sketch, then take it to him wherever he was.
We got lucky with a single called “A Star Looks Down Tonight”, which David and I co-wrote. It got into the Top 10 in GSA (Germany, Switzerland, Austria). The album [ You Are Everything] was a success and David toured, doing huge
arenas such as the Olympiahalle in Munich, which seated 12,000. The German audiences couldn’t get enough.
Up to that point, David hadn’t had record success in the US and was keen to have another crack. Lopez put together a really good shot with a label out of Boston, Criterion, which was big in the radio promo business. The single was “Falling In Love Again”, which was actually really good. It was decided that David would launch the new song on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.
He had a great chat segment with Leno and then, during the ad break, his team came onto the set for photos with the chat show host: David’s mum, Dolores, dad, Joe, his office staff, Pam, Lopez, the business managers and me.
After the shots, I followed David off the set. In the wings, Johnny Depp (who was also on the show that night) was waiting with Kate Moss. Johnny had a copy of David’s CD in his hand and asked him to sign it. David was nonplussed: Of course Johnny Depp wants
my autograph. David said, “Sure,” signed it, and moved on. It seemed like a bizarrely wonderful moment to me. Johnny Depp is a Knight Rider fan.
Everything changed when [my wife] Anna became pregnant with Katie. David was stoked. On our return from the hospital with our new daughter, there was a huge sign on our front lawn from the Hasselhoffs welcoming Katie to the world. It was truly touching.
With the birth of Katie in 1995, my perspective changed. I started thinking about the future. It was looking like Baywatch was almost over. Ends and beginnings. When we first started out, I had warned Anna that there was a good chance I’d move home to Australia at some point. That was the point. It wasn’t unusual for us to hear gunfire at night in the San Fernando Valley. David’s life was changing and his run was coming to an end. I’d had a number of gun run-ins, and I’d worn out a few publishing deals. It was time to jump.
DAVID REMAINS CLOSE and has visited us a few times in Melbourne. The first time was for my [episode of] This Is Your Life, where he was the surprise guest. While he was here, he wandered around the Crown Casino with $50,000 cash in a brown paper bag, looking to quench his gambling fix. I took him to the footy and he loved it. He placed a $10,000 bet on which team would kick the first goal. It’s not enough to watch the game – he had to have skin in it to get the addict’s thrill.
The night before he left, we met up with [actor] Peter Phelps in David’s suite at Crown. Peter had played lifeguard Trevor Cole on Baywatch some years before, and we all had a great time drinking, laughing and telling stories. David kicked on after Peter and I bailed. He kept drinking on the plane all the way to New York, went to a meeting, then flew to Atlanta for a Mike Tyson fight. After drinking vodka for 48 hours straight, he ended up in hospital with alcohol poisoning and was clinically dead for a while.
Post- Baywatch, David’s life was unravelling. He split up with Pam. This downward spiral eventually led to his daughter filming him wasted on the floor of a hotel room, trying to eat a hamburger. I don’t need to describe it to you – you’ve seen it, I’m sure. It was one of the first viral internet phenomena.
When Dancing With The Stars exploded in my face years later, Anna described it as my “Hoffian hamburger moment” – too many similarities. Anyway, the Hoff is my brother now and a great friend to Anna and Katie, too. We are grateful to have him in our lives.
“DAVID CALLED ME THE MUSIC DOCTOR FROM DOWN UNDER. HE LOVES AUSTRALIA AND HAD A FEW CRACKS AT THE MARKET”
THE HOFF & ME (clockwise from top left) David Hasselhoff and Mark Holden on 2002’s This Is Your Life; the pair have been friends since the ’90s; Holden on Australian Idol with Marcia Hines and Ian Dickson in 2003.