Tragic Details About The Cast Of Baywatch

The following article contains references to alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide.

"Baywatch" ruled the '90s, becoming not just a source of entertainment but a wellspring of entertainment gossip. Fans couldn't get enough of the exploits of Mitch, Caroline, C.J., and the gang, but they were just as obsessed with the off-screen exploits of stars like David Hasselhoff, Yasmine Bleeth, and, of course, Pamela Anderson.

"It was scary," "Baywatch" star Gena Lee Nolin told Esquire. "It's a public beach that we're filming on, so there was tons of paparazzi, especially when Pamela would be working, it was absolutely mayhem."

Although the show ended in 2001, much of the cast returned two years later for the reunion movie, "Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding." In the decades since, fans have speculated about a "Baywatch curse," considering many former actors seemed to encounter a string of bad luck. From arrests to stabbings to illness, these are the tragedies faced by the cast of the iconic lifeguard show.

David Hasselhoff struggled with alcoholism

David Hasselhoff is credited for starring in a staggering 220 episodes of "Baywatch," and he even led the cast of the short-lived spinoff "Baywatch Nights." His character, Mitch Buchannon, was the heart of the show — or at least the most consistent presence among cast members that only seemed to last two or three years.

Some years after "Baywatch" concluded, though, it came to light that Hasselhoff was struggling with alcoholism. In 2007, a video leaked of Hasselhoff eating a cheeseburger on the kitchen floor while drunkenly insulting his daughter. Though he had been to rehab before, the situation led the "Knight Rider" star to go public with his alcoholism. He appeared on NBC's "Today" to discuss the incident and his experience with addiction, revealing, "For me it was actually a good sign because it was a wake-up call and it brought everything to a head. Finally, I just said, 'Look, this has all got to stop.'"

Thankfully, his relationship with his daughters wasn't beyond repair. "My daughters were instrumental in telling me the truth when I was partying a little too much and being too self-indulgent," he told the Evening Standard.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Shawn Weatherly's daughter needed open-heart surgery

Shawn Weatherly played Jill Riley, one of the main characters on the first season of "Baywatch." Her character is perhaps most memorable for the way she met an unfortunate end. "Shawn didn't like getting up early in the morning and getting in the cold water," series creator Douglas Schwartz told Esquire, "so we let her out of her contract on the condition that we could kill her in a shark attack." Sure enough, Jill didn't survive an encounter with a great white, and Weatherly was free to pursue other opportunities.

Years later, Weatherly revealed that she gave up her acting career in order to spend more time with her children. Sadly, her daughter needed particular medical attention. "My daughter had had open-heart surgery," Weatherly told PopGeeks. "... It was a scary time. I lost my mother when I was nine, and I just didn't want to be away from them." Thankfully, Weatherly's daughter got through the situation and came out the other side. The proud mom told the outlet that her daughter went on to become an athlete.

Pamela Anderson's privacy was violated

When most people think "Baywatch," they think Pamela Anderson. She joined the show in Season 3 and changed pop culture forever. "The first day I saw her, it was kind of like Marilyn Monroe had just risen from the dead and there she was on the sand," co-star Traci Bingham recalled to Esquire. Alexandra Paul credited Anderson's superstar status to her work ethic. "It's true she has a very, very sexy aura," Paul said, "but she also worked really, really hard."

While she starred on the show, Anderson's personal life became tabloid fodder. Her rocky relationship with rocker Tommy Lee, in particular, drove speculation. "Baywatch" co-creator David Schwartz told Esquire, "One day Tommy Lee was on the show and he was so upset that Pamela was kissing David Charvet that he destroyed Pamela's dressing room — kicked in the door, smashed her mirrors and her windows and things like that." Lee was escorted off the set.

In addition to having a tumultuous relationship with Lee, Anderson's privacy was violated when a sex tape featuring her and Lee was stolen and widely published. According to Rolling Stone, those peddling the tape made more than $77 million in just a year, but Anderson and Lee were not compensated for the violation. In the documentary "Pamela, a Love Story" (via Newsweek), Anderson reflected, "If anyone watches it, if anyone buys it, if anyone sells it, it's just pathetic. You can't put a monetary number on the amount of pain and suffering it caused."

Gregory Alan Williams' moment of bravery prevented further tragedy

Gregory Alan Williams played LAPD officer Garner Ellerbee on multiple seasons of "Baywatch." In 1995, Williams' character quit the LAPD to open his own detective agency. That plotline led to "Baywatch Nights," a strange spin-off in which Ellerbee teamed up with David Hasselhoff's Mitch Buchannon and a psychic played by Lisa Stahl in order to solve mysterious goings-on around Los Angeles. He left after the show's first season.

During Williams' run on "Baywatch," he experienced a particularly horrific moment during the 1992 L.A. Riots. He helped rescue Takao Hirata, who, along with Fidel Lopez, was being badly beaten by a crowd. Since news helicopters flew overhead, the whole incident played out live on television, and the world watched the frightening scenes at Florence and Normandie.

Williams wound up testifying in an attempted murder trial related to the incident, according to the Los Angeles Times, and he later wrote a book about the situation. In "A Gathering of Heroes: Reflections on Rage and Responsibility," Williams pondered the way his own upbringing, his experiences as an African American, led him to his moment of heroism. He wrote, "The willingness and the ability to help Takao Hirata at that crucial moment in both our lives must have come from the collective energies both of the many who have given me love, and of those who have given me only hate."

Kelly Slater suffered a string of tragic losses

Famed surfer Kelly Slater appeared on "Baywatch" as Jimmy Slade, joining the cast in Season 3. While the character was popular, he only lasted one season; however, Slater did return for guest appearances. "Kelly was a huge hit on the show, but his surfing buddies gave him such a hard time that he ended up getting embarrassed by it," creator Michael Berk told Esquire. Slater agreed, telling Vice Sports that he totally understood why people called him a "sellout" for appearing on the show. "It was just commercializing and, you know, sort of bastardizing what our culture was for a character," he confessed. "That wasn't really a fun time for me."

In the years since leaving "Baywatch," Slater has since become a fierce advocate for mental health treatment. Slater revealed to Sports Illustrated that he'd struggled with suicidal ideation. Additionally, he's lost friends to suicide. He explained on the "Everyday Warrior" podcast from Men's Journal that "most of them [were] men — boys, guys — dealing with stuff they don't know how to deal with." Slater went on to stress, "When somebody sees the signs, you gotta just gather round that person and try to help them."

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat

Yasmine Bleeth developed a drug problem

Yasmine Bleeth joined "Baywatch" at the height of its popularity, creating the character of Caroline Holden on the show's fourth season before becoming a full-time cast member from Seasons 5 through 8. Although this was the apex of tabloid hype around Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, Bleeth got more than her fair share of tabloid coverage, too — most of which focused on rumors of a drug problem.

A source reportedly told the National Enquirer back in 2000, "I'm worried sick that cocaine will end up killing Yasmine! She's snorting cocaine like there's no tomorrow and it's catching up to her." Her drug habit eventually got her kicked off of "Baywatch," according to co-creator Doug Schwartz, who told Esquire that she often didn't show up to work. "That's why we let Yasmine go off the show: because it was too difficult to deal with her after a while," he said.

While Bleeth denied the rumors for a long time, she eventually went public with her addiction after a highly publicized car crash. In a 2003 interview with Glamour (via The Age), Bleeth revealed, "Consciously trying to stay off drugs is now part of my life and always will be."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Alexandra Paul's scary stalking incident

Alexandra Paul joined "Baywatch" in the show's third season, playing Lieutenant Stephanie Holden. The new character was a former lover of David Hasselhoff's Mitch Buchannon, and they rekindled their romance over the years. Stephanie was killed off in the show's seventh season, but Paul returned to play Stephanie's ghost in an episode of "Baywatch Nights." She also came back for "Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding," a TV movie, though she played a new character meant to look like Stephanie.

Paul told Esquire that she didn't mind her legacy being so attached to the show. "I wish no one thing defined my career, but if it's going to be the number-one show in the world, okay, I'll take it," she said.

All of the attention, however, came with some unintended consequences. "I was uncomfortable going into places like malls or airports just because people would stare," Paul recalled to Esquire. In 2013, the TV star took out a restraining order against a woman she said was stalking her. "This woman, Nicole, is from Germany and Baywatch is extremely popular there," she wrote in the court documents, according to TMZ. Apparently, they met at Paul's gym, and the other woman would not leave the "Baywatch" actor alone after she found out who she was. During one incident, the stalker allegedly grabbed Paul in a parking garage. TMZ later reported that Paul eventually withdrew the restraining order on the condition that the woman would no longer communicate with her.

Gena Lee Nolin played Neely while her health was declining

Gena Lee Nolin was discovered for "Baywatch" when the show's producers were watching an episode of "The Price Is Right," and they were captivated by the blonde beauty modeling products for the game show. "You're told to look good and to show Tupperware, and that was my job," Nolin recalled to Esquire. "Coming from that to being like, 'Oh my god, you're a superstar' — it's almost overnight, and it's overwhelming beyond belief." She played Neely Capshaw on Seasons 6 through 8 of the hit show, eventually returning for the "Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding" reunion movie.

While on the show, Nolin had an undiagnosed thyroid condition, which led to fatigue that doctors initially couldn't figure out. Her health problems also contributed to intense anxiety about suddenly being a highly scrutinized public figure. She told Cosmopolitan that she remembered doubting herself: "Am I good enough for this? This is so big. I'm on the cover of four magazines right now. Am I worthy of this?"

Nolin eventually chronologized her experience in a book, "Beautiful Inside and Out: Conquering Thyroid Disease with a Healthy, Happy, 'Thyroid Sexy' Life," which was released in 2013.

Carmen Electra was once homeless

Model Carmen Electra joined the cast of "Baywatch" in Season 8, playing a new lifeguard named Lani McKenzie. According to producers who spoke with Esquire, Electra was brought in to provide eye candy after Pamela Anderson left the show, and they were disappointed to find that she couldn't act. At all. "We had other actors that just couldn't act," reasoned creator Doug Schwartz. "People were shocked that we let Carmen Electra go off the show, but we just couldn't cope with directing her in another episode." However, Electra asserts that she actually quit.

Unlike a lot of her co-stars, many of whom experienced personal and professional struggles after being on the show, Electra's tragic experience preceded "Baywatch." In a 2009 interview with The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the "Scary Movie" star revealed that she used to be homeless. She was famously discovered by Prince, who managed her through a debut album that failed to make an impact, but then it all ended and she found herself with very little to her name.

"I was sitting there with a pocketknife and a pager and some change in my pocket, and a really nice pair of high heels," she recalled. "I had moments where I almost gave up and went home to Cincinnati. I thought to myself, 'I either need to make it on my own, or I need to go back,'" she continued. She reached out to a choreographer she'd met through Prince, started going to auditions, and eventually climbed back to success.

Michael 'Newmie' Newman was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease

Michael Newman was one of the inspirations behind "Baywatch," and he wound up being the only real-life lifeguard on the show, playing a character who was just a version of himself. On the show, they called him "Newmie." He was also a consultant, advising writers and directors about how the action should be staged believably. Newman had another duty, too: body double. "Most of the time, when you saw Hasselhoff's legs, you were often looking at my own legs," he told the Daily Mail. "Hasselhoff always had very skinny chicken legs!"

After his time spent as an actor, Newman went back to being a lifeguard and firefighter in real life. In 2011, he revealed a Parkinson's diagnosis to LA radio station KPCC-FM (via E! News). "It took me a long time to realize that I was going to have to reorder my life," he said, adding that he hoped stem cell research would lead to new therapies for the disease.

Nicole Eggert experienced a number of setbacks after playing Summer Quinn

Nicole Eggert played Summer Quinn on the third and fourth seasons of "Baywatch," and at first, she didn't quite understand what kind of show she'd signed up for. "I thought it was going to be a lot more action and more like a cop show," she told Esquire. "I didn't get that it was going to be about implants and makeup and hair." Nevertheless, she wound up returning for the "Baywatch: Hawaiian Wedding" reunion movie, and she was glad to have the chance to reprise her character. "I was a totally different person, so going back and seeing everybody again and being able to be my character one last time without feeling so bitter about it — to me, it seemed fun," she said.

Two years after leaving "Baywatch," Eggert was involved in a snowmobile crash. According to the National Enquirer, the experience left her with three broken vertebrae. She gave birth to a daughter shortly thereafter, and she also experienced the loss of a parent, which led to weight gain. That's not the tragedy, though; the tragedy is how she was covered in the press. Eggert was dismayed by the attention paid to her figure rather than her mental health, telling Esquire, "Really, that's what you're talking about? You're not talking about how I just locked myself up and stayed inside for nine months and was a total basket case?"

Brooke Burns was seriously injured in a swimming accident

Brooke Burns played Jessie Owens on the final three seasons of "Baywatch," watching over the beaches of Malibu before the show closed out its run in Hawaii. 

A few years after the show ended, Burns herself needed to be rescued in the water when she broke her neck in a tragic pool-diving accident. "It was my nightly routine," she told Brain & Life. "I didn't even think about it. But one of the pool lights was out, and I misjudged the depth and hit my head on the bottom." Luckily, Burns hadn't been swimming alone, or else she might not have made it. Thankfully, a paramedic friend was there, and he knew not to move her. "He wrapped a wet towel around my neck and basically immobilized me and floated me in the pool until the paramedics came," she told Today. "So he saved my life."

Burns managed to make a full recovery. "I have a rod, two plates, and 10 screws in my neck that remind me when the weather is getting cold," she explained to Healthy Living, recalling the several months she had to stay in bed. These days, she's an advocate for safe swimming. "Breaking my neck opened my eyes to an area where I could use my platform to help educate others on water safety," she said. Jessie would be proud.

Jeremy Jackson was sentenced to jail

Jeremy Jackson played Mitch Buchannon's son Hobie starting in the show's second season. He was ultimately in 158 episodes of the show — an impressive run for a series infamous for its cast turnover. However, Jackson nearly wasn't cast because producers were interested in another young actor: Leonardo DiCaprio. Casting director Susan Glickman told Esquire they decided to age down the character after seeing DiCaprio, joking, "If he had been two years younger, his whole career would have been ruined. He would've been on 'Baywatch.'"

Jackson got the role, however, and he grew up on the show. He soon began stealing his own money from accounts he wasn't supposed to access. He told Esquire, "We would call a limo, be driven around all weekend, buy drugs, buy prostitutes, buy our way into clubs, and the money would be gone in a week or less." He developed a drug addiction, explaining, "I started snorting a lot, drinking a lot, using. Kind of the classic Hollywood teen-idol story." After "Baywatch" ended, Jackson appeared on "Celebrity Rehab" in an effort to confront his addictions.

In 2015, however, things reached a new, tragic low when Jackson was arrested and sent to jail for stabbing someone while trying to steal her car. Furthermore, it wasn't his first stabbing. While he claimed self-defense for the first one, the second landed him about nine months in jail, according to The Daily Beast. He now lists himself as a "sober coach" on Instagram.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).