Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - This is an edited ex­tract from My Idol Years by Mark Holden (Tran­sit Lounge, $29.99), out to­mor­row.

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.


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.

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