Pawn Stars pays homage to The Old Man
One less familiar face as the popular series soars past 500-episode mark
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.”
Big Hoss, left to right, Rick and Chumlee from the show Pawn Stars.