A David Hasselhoff Story You Won’t Hear on TV
Here’s one David Hasselhoff story that won’t get resurrected along with his new reality TV show “The Hasselhoffs.”
“I’m starting over at 57,” David Hasselhoff says in the first episode of his new reality TV series, “The Hasselhoffs.” Of course, the irony is that his new show will inevitably drudge up memories he’d probably prefer you to forget. The 2007 video filmed by his daughter Taylor-Ann that showed the Hoff dumb drunk, unable to speak or eat, has become the defining narrative of his public persona, but there were other embarrassing moments along the way, other stories he’d probably like to forget as he tries to write this new chapter. This isn’t one of them. This is one story long forgotten in the annals of Hoff history that would never have emerged no matter how much attention his new A&E show gets. But as long as we’re re-hashing Hasselhoff stories, what the hell.
The summer of 1987 was a transitional time for The Hoff. It was post-”Knight Rider,” which had ended in 1986, and pre-”Baywatch,” which would being in 1989. “Knight Rider,” a four-year whirlwind of cult success that Hasselhoff described as “a phenomenon,” left him at a delicate professional precipice—he had conquered the small screen and somewhat surprisingly taken Europe by storm with a “Knight Rider” knockoff musical career and an album called “Night Rocker” that would inexplicably become one of Germany’s favorite records ever.
Naturally, Hasselhoff wanted what everyone in his position would want—more. The next frontier for Hasselhoff was to become a full-fledged movie star. Hoff described his acting in “Knight Rider” as “a little more difficult than if you had a regularly well-written script – like, if I was going to be in, say, Reservoir Dogs, or The Godfather, or Dances with Wolves or Lawrence of Arabia or ER, I had to talk to a car.” Maybe it was in this spirit of relishing a good challenge that Hasselhoff decided to take his foray in to feature films with perhaps one of the strangest, worst-written films ever created.
Hasselhoff retreated to a palatial house on the south shore of Massachusetts where over a summer he and a crew cranked out “Witchery,” one of the more mysterious lost gems in the pantheon of American cinema. It was apparently titled “La Casa 4″ in the end, a sequel to “La Casa 3,” which was itself a sequel to Sam Rami’s underground cult hit “Evil Dead 2,” which was of course a sequel to his original “Evil Dead.”
But it was called “Witchery” long enough to go into production in VHS form with a cover that labeled it “Witchery.” I know this because I’ve seen a copy.
Twice a year for about the last decade I’ve been going to a party at the estate house where “Witchery” was filmed. It’s owned by dear friends who happen to be descendants of an American Founding Father—it sits on a pristine piece of land that’s been in his family since the early twentieth century. As long as I’ve been going to this party, over late night beers on a seaside lawn that would make Gatsby himself green with envy, stories have swirled about the Summer of Hoff.
As if something out of a shared dream, the family remembered bizarre interactions with the Hoff—how he dressed head to toe in Banana Republic and, apparently an early investor in the company, would proselytize the garb like an Amway member; how they thought they remembered him working on some bizarre horror project that no one had ever seen, that had somehow vanished into thin air.
And then there was the memory of discovering, during a house renovation some years later, after Hasselhoff’s career had rolled back to TV ubiquity during “Baywatch,” Hasselhoff’s signature on some hidden wall in a deep recess of the house along with the rest of the cast and crew of “Witchery,” as if a cinematic revelation confirming it wasn’t a dream after all—the Summer of Hoff had happened.
At one of the bi-annual house parties about four years ago, my friend whose family owns the house finally tracked down a VHS copy of “Witchery” on eBay, dragged an old VCR from some dusty closet, and connected it to a digital projector. We all watched the camp thriller projected against a big wall in a small room in the house. At some point in act two, the film uncovers the haunted past of the doomed house, and a scene unfolded in the very room in which we were all watching the movie. Some innocent victim dragged a film projector out a closet, projected an old reel-to-reel on the very wall on which we were watching “Witchery,” saw someone in the film-within-the-film get murdered, and shortly thereafter get murdered herself.
Lights off, beers clutched, our laughter all died down and chills ran down our spine. Suddenly, it was a meta-moment of truly creepy terror. The horror movie that Hoff had sought to launch him to the big screen, almost twenty years later, had finally scared the shit out of some people.
Why Hasselhoff would now, after a lifetime of mercurial achievements and successes, expose himself to the gauntlet of reality TV is as much a mystery as why the star of “Knight Rider” and centerpiece of German pop music would spend a summer on the shore south of Boston pushing Banana Republic safari gear on anyone who would listen and filming what is undoubtedly one of the worst movies ever made.
But whatever drives the Hoff, the decision to make a go of feature films with “Withcery” did finally lead to one of the spookiest moments of my life. And even though the story won’t get told as often as the Hasselhoff drunken-stupor video will get played, it will be told with greater zeal among my friends than any story the public could ever drag out about the man. For that, if nothing else, I’m thankful for the Hoff’s strange, surreal career.
Sounds strange, but it’s a true story: