Real life Baywatch hunk Michael Newman has given a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the 1980s TV hit.
The former LA lifeguard starred in a never-before seen ‘teaser tape’ that was used to sell Baywatch to TV chiefs.
Now 59, Michael was a regular stand-in for David Hasselhoff because of the star’s ‘chicken legs’ – and even taught Baywatch bombshell Pamela Anderson how to run on the beach.
Michael – affectionately nicknamed Newmie – said: ‘There were many times when Alex Daniels, who was David’s stunt double on the show, and I filmed dangerous scenes together, and I would be driving a powerful race boat and Alex would be having to jump down into the boat going at some 60mph from a 70ft cliff edge and not land in the ocean, then he has to trust me to the right place at just the right time.
‘Most of the time, when you saw Hasselhoff’s legs, you were often looking at my own legs. Hasselhoff always had very skinny chicken legs!’
Newmie also worked as a technical advisor on Baywatch and admitted that although slender, many of the actors weren’t fit enough for the show – so he had to put them through his own training camp.
He said: ‘I’d teach them how to run with the lifeguard can and how to swim with your head up and get the basics down, so that when Pamela Anderson ran with the can it didn’t look like she was holding a purse!’
‘I was technical consultant on the show and was constantly asked by the writers about every action scene we shot.
‘The head writer on the show would call me up and say: “Ok Mike, what kind of equipment would we use in this scene? What kind of radio equipment would the actors use? What would the traffic sequence be? What would they be saying on the radio?” And I would dictate all this information to these guys and they would repay me by writing me some good stuff in the show.’
The show never did win an Emmy as Newmie says: ‘It’s so hard to remember all the storylines, but one thing I will say about the scripts is that we used to laugh because they they would adapt stories from all over the place and make them work for Baywatch.
‘There was an episode with an electric eel that was attacking one of our guys in a cave, and so we used defibrillator patterns, the heart shocking device, to shock the eel and kill it, but it was a rubber eel. It was the stupidest thing I had ever seen!’
Baywatch was the brainchild of his schoolpal and fellow lifeguard Greg Bonnan, who got him on board to film a trailer on Santa Monica beach – complete with the now famous slow-motion running.
Bonnan, Newmie said, had long dreamed of making a show about lifeguards, telling his pal: ‘You know, if that piece of s**t show CHIPS can be so popular, why can’t we make a television show about lifeguards?’
After a busy day on the Santa Monica shore, Newmie said: ‘We’d had one of those days where we’d had lost kids and rescues and fights and drunks and people breaking into cars and umbrellas stabbing people – it was just a crazy chaotic day.
‘And so we decided to go and have a beer after work and think some more about it.’
Fate dealt a hand when Bonnan rescued the 13-year-old son of TV executive Stu Erwin in 1978. When asked how he could repay him, Bonnan asked for help with his TV idea, which the pair worked on for 10 years.
Newmie also reveals that fate again stepped in when Bonnan’s sister married a successful TV writer called Doug Schwartz, who ended up becoming a producer on Baywatch.
Greg sold the show to NBC after showing them the tape and the show launched in 1989.
But even though it featured the star of Knight Rider, Baywatch was axed after one season, prompting Hasselhoff and the producers to sell it to FreemantleMedia which sold the show internationally and created a syndication deal.
It went on to become the most watched TV series in the world, running up until 2001, and Hasselhoff, who played Mitch Buchannon, is believed to have made $70 million from the series.
Despite his long history on Baywatch – Newmie appeared on 159 episodes – he would never quite make it to stardom – or achieve the same pay as the show stars.
He says: ‘The ratings went up, and then the ratings came down. And as the ratings came down, their way of fixing that problem was by firing everybody and getting a whole new crew, and one of the best ways to do that is to get the hell out of town, so that’s when they took the show to Hawaii.’
And he smiles: ‘To give you an idea of the kind of money I made, I bought a property next door to my house and renovated it and sold it.
‘I made more money building that one spec house than I made in all the years that I worked on Baywatch. If I hadn’t been wasting my time on Baywatch and had been building spec houses instead, I would have made some real money.’
He continued: ‘The way I was treated on Baywatch, they didn’t give me a lot of respect and it would have been real easy for them to thank me, but for the seven years I was a screen actor, I got paid the absolute legal minimum, which when I started was like $350 per day.
‘I have no idea what it is now, and it’s obviously gone up since then, but just the stinginess and the lack of grace on the show wasn’t great.
My rate was quite a bit less than Pamela’s. I have no idea what she was on, she may have been up at the $60-80k mark, where other girls on the show were on $1,000 an episode, so that could be seen as quite disrespectful, but it didn’t really have to be that way.’
Similarly, he says, some of the actresses would only end up making $50,000-a-year, when the taxman took his slice.
After Baywatch, Newmie became of one of Hollywood’s leading water star trainers.
He trained Ashton Kutcher in The Guardian, Kevin Costner and Tom Hanks for his role in Angels and Demons.
However, Newmie, married to his wife Sarah with two children, is now battling Parkinson’s Disease.
He was diagnosed in 2011 after seeking help for a tremor in his leg and is retired, dividing his time between homes in Hawaii and the Pacific Palisades, California.
He says: ‘I suffer with the shaking and get tremors, I also don’t walk very well due to an accident I had a few years before I got Parkinson’s and although I had the foot treated it was always weak, and now the Parkinson’s just makes worse.
He adds: ‘But as soon as I step into the ocean, I don’t feel like I have Parkinson’s. I can still swim, surf and enjoy the life I love and know.’
Asked about the Hollywood Baywatch reboot, Newmie said: ‘My first feeling about The Rock being confirmed to star in the new Baywatch movie is that I’m available for some swimming lessons!
‘He’s definitely majestic, generally angry, so they’ll have to have some fun. I don’t want him to be serious. I would want him to play the role tongue-in-cheek.
If they want to do comedy, then they can do comedy. But if they’re going to do a lifeguard movie, it better show some respect towards the profession of lifeguards in some way. I’m not asking for much.’
Newmie’s charity work is done with the Cedars Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute and he works closely with Dr Clive Svendsen, PhD, who is the Director of Regenerative Medicine Institute.
He will attend a fundraiser for the Regenerative Medicine Stem Cell Lab on December 2.