• Germany's news in English
 
How I learned to stop laughing and love The Hoff
Photo: DPA

How I learned to stop laughing and love The Hoff

Published: 19 Mar 2013 14:10 GMT+01:00

It's time to stop hassling Germans about The Hoff.

Ever since David Hasselhoff sang to half a million giddy Germans celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the English-speaking world has ridiculed the country's supposed infatuation with the US entertainer.

There's no denying his schmaltzy song "Looking for Freedom" did, in fact, hit number one in Germany that year. And posters of The Hoff most certainly adorned the walls of adolescent bedrooms from Stuttgart to Rostock for a few years.

But as much as Americans or Brits like to tout Hasselhoff's alleged popularity here as proof of how deeply uncool Germans are, the former star of "Knight Rider" and "Baywatch" is not some sort of Teutonic messiah.

And so it was with great trepidation that some German acquaintances heard last week that Hasselhoff was coming to Berlin to show his support for protests against plans to demolish one of the last remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall.

Would this not permanently reinforce the modern legend that millions of Germans idolize a mediocre singer and star of kitschy TV shows? Would two decades of hard work trying to wash away The Hoff stigma be all for naught?

My friends then watched in horror on Sunday as Hasselhoff took part in a demonstration aiming to protect part of the Wall known as the East Side Gallery from construction work for a footbridge and luxury flats.

His mere presence drew a huge international media scrum, ready to mock both the ageing actor and the thousands of Germans turning out for the demonstration. Sure, he sang "Looking for Freedom" a cappella to the crowd, but then something unexpected happened.

Hasselhoff made some sincerely felt comments about why he thought it was a serious mistake not to preserve the remaining segment of the Wall. He spoke of the grim scenes he saw while he was travelling in East Germany just after the Iron Curtain fell and described how the people there were full of hope.

He said the Wall was hallowed ground – not a place to carve up for a luxury property development. He even offered to help raise money to preserve the area.

It quickly became clear that the peaceful revolution in 1989 still means something to Hasselhoff. And the sacrifices people made to achieve German reunification still mean something to him, too.

His appearance in front of the crumbling Wall near the Brandenburg Gate on New Year's Eve in 1989 in a blinking jacket might be a joke to millions of other people, but not to him. He's repeatedly said it was one of the most special moments in his life – certainly more than filming slow-motion beach scenes with a buxom blonde Canadian pretending to be a Californian beach bunny.

Has Hasselhoff suddenly become an intellectual heavyweight? Of course not. Nor is he going to become mayor of the German capital any time soon. But he has showed a lot more passion and sense of history than many of the city's politicians of late.

Many Berliners, frustrated by how their impoverished city is apparently being sold to highest bidder with the consequences be damned, praised his willingness to fly all the way from America to show his support for its history and heritage.

Maybe Hasselhoff's engagement won't stop the construction of the luxury flats. Maybe the East Side Gallery will still be carved up. But I'm not ashamed to say I've been inspired by The Hoff and neither should anyone else anymore.

Marc Young

marc.young@thelocal.com

twitter.com/marcyoung

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

14:54 March 19, 2013 by Bigfoot76
When you see the Hoff, you can laugh at him. When the Hoff sees your bank account, he will laugh at you.
23:13 March 19, 2013 by MaKo
While I'm not sure I can say that I've learned to love 'The Hoff', I had a similar experience. I was all geared up to ridicule him, but then, when I mentioned the story to my husband over dinner, my sons started asking questions about who or what a "Hoff" is, and if there was really a wall.

This lead to a talk about history with my sons, the rarest of parent-child talks, in which they were actually listening. The wall, the occupation, the reasons for it. So Hoff love 'hin oder her', his presence did spur a meaningful discussion in my home.

So I'm not ridiculing now. Also, I don't need to... Bayern 3 did a pretty good job of that.
15:30 March 20, 2013 by BLAKE IT UP!
VERY important points in this article, such as :

"...he has showed a lot more passion and sense of history than many of the city's politicians of late."

and

"...impoverished city (Berlin) is apparently being sold to highest bidder with the consequences be damned"

YES, since coming here to get away some distance from the American consumer lifestyle, I have slowly seen the Berlin culture become Americanized with with a spiteful attitude against the hand that feeds them.

All the while their city gets sold out by their own.

Honestly, it's like watching someone accuse you for something while they get stabbed in the back -in slow motion.

I hope the people of international Berlin wake up and see that it doesn't matter how famous or poor you are or what language you speak, it's what you do in the city that counts... are you here just for an investment, promotion, party -or are you here because you want to learn something?

Think of America, the once beautiful land, now one big shopping mall.

THis "Hoff" story says a lot. People got to step back and see what peoples actions are, rather than judging all the time without reason.
20:27 March 20, 2013 by Masala
who's gonna tell the Hoff there's a type-O on his t-shirt?
20:27 March 22, 2013 by Drewsky
Wow; this issue doesn't seem to be getting much press in the USA. If I could get to Germany right now, I would be happy to join Der Hoff and his merry gang. I believe I'll get a letter off to Angela about this. That Wall has so much history. For me, it's the indelible image of that Soviet-U.S. panzer-tank standoff in the early 60s. Those photos are all over the place in Berlin.
10:26 March 23, 2013 by soros
David Hasselhoff may not be German and he may not speak the language, but he does identify with German culture perhaps how only Auslandsdeutscher can.

Often Germans living in the homeland just dump on "sentimental" attachments to history; they are willing to shove things under the carpet quickly and get on with history; but not those Germans who live outside the country. Many find significance in die Mauer and other symbols that Germans may take for granted or find embarrassing.

Germans should be grateful that an American takes an interest in German history to this extent. He is sincere and not as cynical as a lot of you have become.

Personally, as someone who worked in West Berlin when the Wall was up and people were shot in the back trying to climb it, I find any attempt at getting rid of this landmark REPREHENSIBLE. Just because someone wants to make a quick buck does not mean we have to erase important landmarks of history.
12:14 March 24, 2013 by notelove2
thank you David Hasselhof for caring enough to actually come and support Berliners. Hey DON'T take away any more of our history - it MUST NOT be forgotton.
17:06 March 27, 2013 by Lavendelblauen
Does history have to repeat itself all over again before the 'powers that be' realize that some things should NEVER be destroyed ...what a cowardly act by officials!
04:39 March 29, 2013 by RainerL
Good on him for supporting the plight to keep the memorial part of the Berlin Wall alive. How ever" Every time I look at Hasselhoff I see an eerie plastic Face. You are an old Man (60 years) trying to remain as some sort of young Sex symbol. Get over it!! You are old Hat. Accept it for what it is but keep at it with the Berlin Wall. For that you have my admiration.
Today's headlines
This week in history
A Brandt name to relaunch a country
Willy Brandt being sworn into office in 1972 Photo: DPA

A Brandt name to relaunch a country

We know him as Willy Brandt - but that was just a pseudonym the former chancellor took to avoid the Nazis. READ  

10,000 evacuated after WWII bomb find
A similar bomb defused in Potsdam in September 2013. Photo: DPA

10,000 evacuated after WWII bomb find

Local authorities evacuated some 10,000 people from central Potsdam after an unexploded Second World War bomb was found on a building site. READ  

Sunny outlook for business this winter
Photo: DPA

Sunny outlook for business this winter

German business confidence rose in December on the back of falling oil prices and a weak euro, the Ifo economic institute said Thursday, as the prospects for Europe's biggest economy grew sunnier. READ  

Merkel says Russia sanctions 'unavoidable'
Photo: DPA

Merkel says Russia sanctions 'unavoidable'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Thursday that sanctions against Russia remain "unavoidable" until Ukraine regains its sovereignty and independence. READ  

Reus fined €540k for no driving licence
Photo: DPA

Reus fined €540k for no driving licence

Germany and Dortmund football star Marco Reus was hit by a €540,000 fine Thursday, after state prosecutors in Dortmund confirmed he has been driving for years without a licence. READ  

British and German troops relive Xmas truce
Soldiers in World War One period uniforms watch the football match. Photo: DPA

British and German troops relive Xmas truce

Teams from the British and German armies played a friendly football game in Aldershot on Wednesday in memory of the Christmas truce of 1914. READ  

Germany hails Obama's 'courage' over Cuba
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro. Photo: DPA

Germany hails Obama's 'courage' over Cuba

Berlin has welcomed the thaw in US-Cuban relations partly brokered in secret by Pope Francis at the Vatican. READ  

American guilty of killing Hamburg student
Diren Dede's grieving parents outside the court in Missoula Photo: DPA

American guilty of killing Hamburg student

A US court has found a man who shot and killed 17-year old German exchange student Diren Dede guilty of deliberate homicide. READ  

Cabinet agrees road toll for foreigners from 2016
Photo: DPA

Cabinet agrees road toll for foreigners from 2016

After months of bickering among the coalition parties, the cabinet finally agreed to put a road toll for foreigners before parliament, but open questions about its financial viability and legality remain. READ  

Over half of Christmas trees carry pesticides
Ordinary people might soon be copying this contestant in last January's Christmas tree-throwing contest in Swabia. Photo: DPA

Over half of Christmas trees carry pesticides

Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) said that it found poisonous chemicals in more than half of German Christmas trees it had tested. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Sponsored Article
Why are these International Baccalaureate students cheering?
Germany's national football team lifts the World Cup trophy
Gallery
Germany's most-Googled words of 2014
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Stuff your face with these festive German cookies
Photo: DPA
Culture
What do beer, breakfast cereal and dildos have in common?
Culture
The Local's guide to German Christmas markets
Sponsored Article
Top five quirky Christmas jumpers
Photo: DPA
Culture
Get ready for Christmas like a German. We tell you how.
Photo: DPA
Munich
She did what with her dead mother?
Photo: DPA
National
Germany still paying for crisis fall out
Photo: DPA
Culture
Saxon wurst is the worst, Christmas market declares.
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,173
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd