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April 28, 2015

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Rick Harrison of ‘Pawn Stars’ on childhood battles, his best find and fame


Cassi Thomas/Retna

Austin “Chumlee” Russell, Rick Harrison and Corey Harrison on the set of Resurrection: The Wrath of Seduction at Las Vegas Rocks Cafe on Nov. 23, 2010.

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License to Pawn by Rick Harrison.

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Rick Harrison at the Nikki Beach and Club Nikki White Party Grand Opening at the Tropicana on May 26, 2011.

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Rick Harrison at the 3rd Annual Fighters Only World MMA Awards at The Pearl in the Palms on Dec. 1, 2010.

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Corey Harrison, Austin Russell and Rick Harrison at the grand opening of B.B. King's Blues Club at The Mirage on Dec. 11, 2009.

Hometown reality TV star Rick Harrison of The History Channel’s Pawn Stars candidly revealed his childhood struggles and the overwhelming fame that’s come from starring in the top-rated cable series. He tells all in his new book License to Pawn: Deals, Steals and Life at the Gold & Silver, which is being released today by Hyperion.

Yesterday morning, Rick appeared in New York with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s Good Morning America showing video segments when the anchor joined the pawnshop team and even negotiated prices on items that the crowded lines carried with them. “What started once with 200 customers on a great day has grown to 2,000 sometimes. It’s the hottest show on television today,” George declared.

All four Pawn Stars -- Richardson “The Old Man” Harrison, Rick “The Spotter” Harrison, Corey “Big Hoss” Harrison” and Austin “Chumlee” Russell -- have become top TV favorites. “I feel like Justin Bieber when I open the story every day,” Chumlee quipped on the ABC broadcast.

Vegas DeLuxe exclusively reported yesterday The History Channel’s new, record-breaking, 80-episode renewal contract for four more seasons of the show that’s catapulted the four most unlikely men in the world to fame, fortune and stardom.

At the Simon G Jewelry Summer Soiree at Azure Luxury Pool at the Palazzo on Saturday night, I talked with Rick ahead of his three-day trip to Manhattan for the PR blitz on Fox & Friends, GMA, Don Imus’ show and a 30-city radio satellite tour before he returns here for the first book signing Friday.

He told me: “It’s really hard for us to believe what’s happening. Twice last week, we were No. 1 on both nights with the show -- the premiere and the rerun! Now we just finished Season 4 on Friday, and we start filming Season 5 this week. People tell me it’s unheard of in television history that we’d get a huge renewal for 80 episodes. Normally it would be 26 episodes at best.

“I don’t think people realize that in the 1950s, pawnshops were the No. 1 form of credit in the United States. They were supported by popular culture, and then Hollywood glorified pawnshops. After a 60-year downfall, now they’re coming back, and we’re leading the entire thing. It’s amazing and incredible, and we still haven’t got our arms completely around it.”

Rick revealed that he had taken in the best item he’s ever had: a 1933 Lincoln LeBaron convertible. “Its like the poor man’s Duesenberg, but we’ll sell it at the Barrett-Jackson car auction for $150,000 to $160,000.” He told me that as much as he’d like to keep it for himself, he observes his big rule of “never falling in love with something you take in. Never offer the first price because you wind up negotiating with yourself. Always ask what they want for it. Never take the first offer.”

I asked him if there was sufficient material and people to fill the next 80 episodes, and his answer revealed another side to the Pawn Star: “You have to realize everybody collects something -- sometimes weird but always a buried treasure waiting for us to put a $$ value to. We won’t run short. Even I collect. They’re called ‘illuminating books.’ They were popular 200 years ago where all the illustrations were hand-painted. I have about a dozen of them so far and am obviously looking for more.”

Rick is a voracious reader, sometimes reading books twice. “Nobody would guess that, but I read everything I possibly can. I am the nerdiest bookworm you can ever imagine -- a blue collar historian.”

Now he’s written a book that reveals the hard knocks he’s battled on the incredible journey from opening the downtown Las Vegas store to finding TV stardom.

“I always get asked how I know so much about so many things, so I decided to write it down. My mother went to the library to get books when I was sick, and that’s how I fell in love with history books,” he told ABC viewers.

Rick suffered from epileptic seizures when he 8, and he describes coping with serious challenges opening the pawnshop with his father. He said that dealing with epilepsy was a storm in his head and described the first grand mal epileptic seizure and countless ones that followed to define his childhood.

“I was lying on my bed when the world turned upside down. All of a sudden, no warning, without me moving, the floor became the ceiling and the ceiling became the floor. My head buzzed and crackled like a thousand power lines, and the world tilted on its axis. Slowly then faster until I was no longer aware of any of it. My tongue felt like hamburger, and my body felt as if it had been beaten with hammers. My legs were cramped and constricted.”

I asked Rick how he felt about not only making TV history but also becoming a TV superstar who didn’t even watch television before his show: “It’s been a little overwhelming, to say the least. I do like it because I have moms come to me all the time and tell me it is the only show that the whole family will sit down and watch. I give a little history lesson to kids, and they don’t even know it. That’s the most rewarding part for me.”

And Chumlee? “He’s become a rock star,” Rick said. “He is a living, breathing teddy bear. Everyone loves him.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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  1. I watch the show because of the down to earth mantra these guys are I hope that these road trips for PR doesn't change the guys like Changing there wardrobe to something that's not them just so they can appeal to the high class, Changing these guys will change the show and please don't start sticking other Hollywood stars in the show for some kind of guest appearance because that would all but ruin it it would become a trophy appearance that all Hollywood stars would want and it would fade fast. I also like the show on account of it's not constantly being beeped with a lot of foul language like some shows are some of these shows today it's two or three words in a row that have to be beeped out that's why you will find family's watching the show and yes even the people I attend church with talk about watching the show, Imagine that a show that's in Las Vegas is more desirable to watch than the ones coming out of Ca. are more appealing to the church community. I have actually watch entire episodes and not hear one cuss word. Thanks to the old man and the rest of the guys for re framing from a daily vocabulary of vulgar words.

  2. dennis...
    Yep, the big lug carries that show. The kid is a comic genius, in a savant sort of way.
    I just find it interesting as heck what people find stuck up in their attics or have been saving for a rainy day, and what a lot of them think it's worth.
    It sucks to think you are sitting on your "retirement" only to find it's actual worth is a heck of a lot less, or next to nothing even. Once in a great while, it goes the other way, but not often.
    Entertaining & enlightening; A rare combination for television.

  3. Now that Chumlee is gonna be a millionaire, I wonder which adult movie star he'll marry and divorce. Nice to see Chumlee earning more money than Obama, yeah that's mind blowing!

    Love the show. Wish them all the success in life.

  4. I like watching the show, but I was disappointed in the episode where they bet how much they could get for the Rolex.

    It's one thing to embellish, but Corey flat out lied about the watch to the buyer. I'm really surprised he did that on camera, as it just reinforces some people's views of pawn shops.

  5. I'm a big fan of the show. Congratulations your success.

  6. Good publicity for Las Vegas and the guys are making lots of money. Good luck to all four of them.

  7. Last time I came to Vegas[from Idaho] I didn't want to go to see the new casinos. Nope, I wanted to see the Pawnshop for myself. It was way too busy and crowded to really enjoy; but nonetheless I bragged about seeing it when I returned home. Now when I watch the show, I can picture being in the shop. Its far more interesting than the souless new casinos out on the strip. Who designed those monstrosities, anyways? I grew up in Vegas in the 60's,the new casinos have no class, the Pawn Shop feels like a Vegas-style place.

  8. Clever, funny, interesting and usually entertaining. More power to 'em.

  9. Personally I dont get the success of this show, these guys are arrogant and annoying. If you think these guys are might need to check your comic meter. Funny as train wreck.

  10. I just wished I could get in there with out waiting in a stupid long line.

  11. "Nice to see Chumlee earning more money than Obama" Thats because Chumlee doesn't need a teleprompter to talk.

  12. I think its funny to drive by and see hundreds of people standing in line, in the heat, trying to get into a store smaller than my garage.

    People watching in this town is a sport!