Pawn Stars pays homage to The Old Man

One less fa­mil­iar face as the pop­u­lar se­ries soars past 500-episode mark

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - ENTERTAINMENT - BILL BRIOUX

LAS VE­GAS — When Pawn Stars pre­miered in July 2009, few would have bet — even in this gam­bling town — that it would last 100 episodes. Nearly 10 years later, how­ever, it has soared past the 500-episode mark and count­ing.

On a visit to the World Fa­mous Gold & Sil­ver Pawn Shop ear­lier this year in Ne­vada, owner Rick Har­ri­son mod­estly de­clared that the only prime-time shows with more episodes are Lassie, Gun­smoke and The Simpsons.

Har­ri­son, who fig­ures he cur­rently owns around two dozen cars and mo­tor­cy­cles, many cus­tom­ized by his buddy Danny Koker (star of His­tory’s spinoff se­ries, Count­ing Cars), has par­layed his Pawn Stars fame into a tidy for­tune. He’s added a small con­tainer park ad­ja­cent to the pawn shop, com­plete with a bar, rib joint and candy store.

His son Corey (Big Hoss) Har­ri­son has shared the re­wards, as has Corey ’s child­hood pal Austin (Chum­lee) Rus­sell. Har­ri­son jokes that he gives Chum­lee the same two Christ­mas presents ev­ery year: “fame and for­tune.”

Rus­sell also runs the candy store in Har­ri­son’s pawn plaza. The sleepy-eyed side­kick claims Har­ri­son is “over­charg­ing me for the rent, but it’s al­most worth it be­cause the cus­tomer base is built right in.” The pawn shop re­mains one of Las Ve­gas’s top tourist at­trac­tions.

The se­ries sol­diers on this sea­son with­out the fourth mem­ber of the re­al­ity show quartet: Rick’s father Richard Ben­jamin (The Old Man) Har­ri­son. The no-non­sense shop co-founder died in June at 77, af­ter cop­ing with Parkin­son’s dis­ease.

The se­ries will mark the pass­ing at the end of this sea­son with a ret­ro­spec­tive episode fea­tur­ing trib­utes from the other cast mem­bers as well as clips of Har­ri­son’s most mem­o­rable mo­ments.

A 20-year vet­eran of the U.S. Navy, Har­ri­son was hon­oured with a full mil­i­tary es­cort at his funeral. Among those send­ing con­do­lences were the Las Ve­gas Golden Knights hockey club, Dana White from the UFC, Ve­gas head­lin­ers the Oak Ridge Boys, Boyz II Men and Os­car win­ner Rus­sell Crowe.

The pawn shop quickly got be­hind Ve­gas’s wildly suc­cess­ful new NHL fran­chise, cheer­ing them on last spring to a berth in the Stan­ley Cup fi­nals. Rus­sell even strapped on the goalie pads and stepped onto the ice for a se­ries of pro­mo­tional spots.

There was one prob­lem, how­ever: the 36-year-old can’t skate. “Those guys shoot hard,” says Rus­sell.

Rick Har­ri­son prizes the Golden Knights jersey he has hang­ing in the store, the first worn by the team’s ac­tual net­min­der, Mar­cAn­dre Fleury. “Some guy was of­fer­ing me $2,300 dol­lars for it,” says Har­ri­son, who turned down the bid — al­though he main­tains that ev­ery­thing in his shop has a price.

He’s one of the biggest buy­ers in his own store. Re­cently, when a dealer came in with orig­i­nal draw­ings by chil­dren’s books il­lus­tra­tor Mau­rice Sen­dak, Har­ri­son pur­chased them for US$225,000. On an­other episode, he dropped $100,000 on the por­trait of former pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln that ap­pears on the Amer­i­can penny.

Har­ri­son and Koker were both part of the top-rated Evel Live spe­cial star­ring stunt­man Travis Pas­trana that took place this sum­mer in Las Ve­gas. Even Har­ri­son shakes his head at the no­tion that he, Koker, Corey and Chum­lee are the new Rat Pack Ve­gas head­lin­ers fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Si­na­tra, Elvis and Evel Knievel.

“I can’t com­plain,” he says. “Busy guy, got this place, got six kids, got a bar and restau­rant.”

Why do au­di­ences turn to His­tory for pawn shop pro­gram­ming? Har­ri­son has a the­ory:

“If you make some­thing ed­u­ca­tional and you make peo­ple gig­gle while they’re learn­ing, they don’t even know they ’re learn­ing. Peo­ple love to learn, and they like to hear it from their un­cle.”

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Big Hoss, left to right, Rick and Chum­lee from the show Pawn Stars.

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