Remember Paris Hilton? Back in the day, you could barely avoid her. You may even have kept up with her antics through gossip magazines and celebrity websites – perhaps one of her reality shows. But even if you were the biggest Paris fan around, you may not have known her at all. You see, the star herself has confessed that, for all these years, she’s been living a lie. And this shocking revelation threatens to completely upturn everything about the ’00s tabloid staple.
Yes, we’re talking about that Paris Hilton of the hotel dynasty. The wealthy heiress who was one of the original reality TV stars. The model, the occasional pop star and movie actor. But perhaps above all, she was a ditzy blonde who seemed, for all the world, to be further reinforcing that rather tired stereotype.
Nowhere was this more evident than in Paris’ smash hit TV series The Simple Life, where she made audiences cringe with her apparent lack of general knowledge or empathy. She was the archetypal spoiled rich kid with more cash than brains – or so we all thought, anyway. You see, it looks as though we may have had Paris pegged wrong from the very start.
So, what’s the truth? Well, we can say for sure that Paris was born in 1981 in New York City to Richard Hilton, a successful real-estate developer, and Kathy Richards Hilton, a socialite. And as practically anyone will tell you, the reality TV star and her clan are exceptionally rich. Paris’ bombshell isn’t about any of those things, though.
Why are the family so wealthy? Well, it’s all thanks to Paris’ great-grandfather Conrad, who snapped up his first hotel in Cisco, Texas, in 1919. Fast-forward 100 years, and the Hilton brand is worldwide and world-renowned, synonymous with luxury and decadence. It’s naturally been a bit of a money-spinner, too, for Conrad’s descendants.
And we can say for definite that Paris has some starry relatives. Her hotel chain-founding great-grandpa was briefly wed to Zsa Zsa Gabor, while her great-uncle Conrad Nicholson Hilton Jr. was married for a short time to movie icon Elizabeth Taylor. Talk about a glamorous family tree!
There are even actors closer to home. Two of Paris’ aunts – Kim and Kyle Richards – are stars of the small screen and veterans of reality TV, having appeared in The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It’s hardly surprising, then, that Paris has similarly courted a career in the limelight.
And great things were expected of Paris. That’s clear from the childhood nickname bestowed upon her by her maternal grandmother: “Star.” But was the secret Paris shared to do with her education? Not quite. It’s still true that she attended Marywood-Palm Valley School in California and the Dwight School in New York.
Fame beckoned, though, and along with her sister, Nicky, Paris became somewhat of a stalwart of red-carpet events in her later teenage years. Before long, she also began securing modeling jobs. One of the agencies she signed up to, actually, was Donald Trump’s T Management.
And campaigns for brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Christian Dior further enhanced Paris’ growing reputation. Her constant presence at VIP parties and glamorous events helped in honing her image, too. Snaps of the heiress living it up were plastered across gossip magazines, making her one to watch.
Soon, Paris was becoming arguably the most famous “it girl” in the world. She was also the woman on the arm of, among others, Leonardo DiCaprio and boxer Oscar de la Hoya. And throughout it all, she continued to lead the most lavish of lifestyles – one that no doubt many dreamed of emulating.
Yet Paris’ breakout year – for good and for bad – was undoubtedly 2003. It was then, you see, that the socialite found herself at the center of a media storm. The reason? There was an unauthorized sex tape out there, captured by ex-boyfriend Rick Salomon – and seemingly released without Paris’ knowledge.
The video – which eventually became marketed as One Night in Paris – was quickly shared around the internet. Paris fought to have the footage suppressed, only reaching an out-of-court settlement with Salomon in 2005. But any fears that she may have had about the tape derailing her career proved entirely unfounded.
Just a matter of weeks after the sensitive footage came to light, Hilton made a second – and rather more planned – appearance on screens. This particular starring role was in a reality TV series called The Simple Life. And as it turns out, it was the very vehicle the heiress needed to catapult her to household name status.
The premise of The Simple Life was, well, simple. Two celebrity daughters – Hilton and her best friend Nicole Richie, daughter of singer Lionel – were filmed taking on what could be termed “blue-collar” jobs. And although the pair’s antics were often watch-behind-your-fingers cringeworthy, they were often also hilarious. The show, produced by FOX, was somewhat inevitably a smash hit.
How could the success of The Simple Life be explained? Well, for a start, it aired during the early days of reality TV, making this kind of warts-and-all show a relatively novel concept. And you couldn’t help but laugh – or squirm – at some of the completely ridiculous comments made by its stars. To put it simply, they didn’t seem all that bright.
Writing in The Guardian in September 2020, Michelle Kambasha summed up the appeal of The Simple Life and what it meant for Hilton. The journalist explained, “[Hilton and Richie] comically navigate the blue-collar world by doing manual jobs such as farm work. With quotes such as ‘What does that mean, soup kitchen?’ and ‘Do they sell Marc Jacobs or Chanel at this grocery store?’ Hilton’s brand, as a searingly rich snob, was created.”
That’s how a lot of us know Paris. But is that really her? Well, playing up to this stereotype certainly got her noticed. It also helped her branch out into a music career and small roles in minor movies such as The Hillz and Raising Helen. There was also her first book, Confessions of an Heiress: A Tongue-in-Cheek Peek behind the Pose.
Further reality TV followed, too, including Paris Hilton’s My New BFF and The World According to Paris. And the scandals that dogged the star only brought her further column inches. Remember when she served jail time? She was put behind bars after being caught driving under the influence and then being found guilty of violating her probation terms.
There were also a handful of drug arrests for Paris, although nothing else took her back to jail. And while she gradually moved out of the spotlight, everyone still knew who she was. Behind the scenes, she was busy, too, becoming a DJ and launching fashion collections.
But as of the late 2010s, Paris’ star had definitely faded. She was still successful and wealthy, of course, but other “it girls” had supplanted her in the public consciousness – including one Kim Kardashian. Kim, as fans know, had once been Paris’ personal assistant. Talk about the apprentice becoming the master!
And then came This is Paris. The documentary, which was released on the heiress’ own YouTube channel in 2020, threatens to shine a light on the “real” Paris. Yes, as it turns out, there were some pretty important details that the star herself had been holding back all these years – or so we were told.
Specifically, while Paris was on the promotional trail for her doc, she made a number of revelations. And perhaps most stunning of all was the assertion that she’d actually been playing a character for the last 20 years. Really? Is it possible that the Paris we saw so many times before was merely a fake?
Well, yes, if the star is to be taken at her word. “This entire time, I have been playing a character, so the world has never really truly known who I am…The real me is actually someone who is brilliant. And I’m not a dumb blonde. I’m just really good at pretending to be one,” Paris explained on the Australian TV show Sunrise.
Why was Paris only just revealing the truth? She went on, “I just felt like it was time for the world to finally know who I was. I feel that I’ve been through so much, and there [are] so many misconceptions and just preconceived notions about me.” She added, “I don’t want to be remembered as some airhead. I want to be respected for the businesswoman I am.”
And in a September 2020 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Paris was equally as candid about the role she had apparently been playing for so many years. “I think if people actually know me, or they get me, that they’ll understand that [it was an act],” the heiress said.
And yet Paris understands that not everyone will believe her when she says she’s been in character all this time. “There’s other people that just want to be judgemental and have a lot of misconceptions and assume that’s who I am, so I like when people actually understand [that] obviously I know what I’m doing,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
Playing a part helped shield Paris from criticism too, as she explained in an interview with Vogue. “When people said things that hurt my feelings, in my mind I’d say, ‘Paris, that’s you playing a character, that isn’t you. Don’t feel bad when people are saying things because people aren’t talking about you, they’re talking about what they think you are.’ That mindset protected me,” the socialite explained.
So who is the real Paris, then? “I’m a very naturally shy person, so I always get a little bit shy — especially actually being myself and not playing the character and speaking in my normal voice,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. Wait, so that wasn’t her actual voice all along? So she claims.
But whether you believe Paris or not, it’ll take quite the turnaround to revamp her image entirely. Perhaps the most enduring public opinion of the star is of the rich but ditzy blonde of The Simple Life. Then there are the countless images of her attending red-carpet events with her little dog in her handbag.
And unsurprisingly some cruel things have been written about Paris over the years. Among the most scathing remarks aimed at the heiress can be found in the 2006 Jerry Oppenheimer book House of Hilton. Oppenheimer can barely contain his disdain for Paris and other members of her family, including her grandmother “Big Kathy” Dugan.
“Big Kathy was very ambitious and obsessed with accumulating money, diamonds, fancy cars, expensive homes – and husbands to pay for them all,” Oppenheimer wrote of Paris’ maternal grandma. “Marry money and have lots of babies, that was the philosophy she sought to instill in her daughters. Sex, she believed, was one way to a man’s heart,” the author added.
It’s this philosophy – “marry money and have lots of babies” – that Paris’ mother took on board, according to Oppenheimer. In any case, Kathy married into the Hilton clan and ultimately became mom to four kids. Paris, in case you were wondering, is Kathy and Rick’s eldest child. And it is for this particular member of the Hilton clan that Oppenheimer has the most contempt.
“Paris… is the epitome of our shallow, celebrity-obsessed culture; an exhibitionist it girl best known for starring in a home-made pornographic video but essentially famous only for being famous,” Oppenheimer writes in House of Hilton. He goes on to blast her “vacuous reality TV series” and “much-derided pop and film career.” And if that wasn’t biting enough, the author claims that Paris was “especially adept at being photographed falling in and out of nightclubs.”
If Oppenheimer’s opinion of Paris seems harsh, though, then he is hardly alone. In the introduction to the heiress’ interview on Sunrise, one of the show’s anchors is similarly unflinching, saying, “[Hilton’s] name has become synonymous with being blonde, ditzy and filthy rich.” It’s hardly a glowing tribute. And even the star herself may have been hurt by the words of City Journal’ Kay S. Hymowitz. Back in 2006, Hymowitz wrote, “You don’t need to share Osama bin Laden’s view of America to see that Paris mirrors us at our contemporary worst.” Ouch.
But criticism of Paris has been going on for the best part of two decades now. Referring to the reality TV star, The New York Times’ John Leland wrote back in 2003, “Few celebrities have worked as hard at pure tabloid notoriety, or built reputations so unsullied by accomplishment or circumspection. Ms. Hilton has stood for the proposition that wealth comes with no obligations of tact, taste or civic responsibility.”
So could This is Paris turn things around? Well, as it stands, the former model arguably finds herself as the heir to a mantle once held, rightly or wrongly, by Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn, too, was stereotyped as a dizzy, blond sex object, with her smarts and career accomplishments often overlooked. And even though Paris isn’t exactly in the iconic actress’ league, it seems she similarly wants to break out of the cage that’s been created for her.
Paris has certainly been explicit about her intentions for creating the documentary, telling Vogue, “I was only going to talk about the empire I created as a businesswoman because I was sick of the misconceptions people still had about me. I don’t want to be remembered as that dumb blonde airhead from The Simple Life. That’s not who I am, and I wanted to show that, because I’m very proud of the woman I am and what I’ve created.”
And at least one journalist seems to have been won over – a little bit, anyway. In her piece for The Guardian, Michelle Kambasha wrote, “Even when [Paris] talks about her trauma, visibly in pain, I notice that for the first time, to me, [she] seems real.”
Still, discovering the “real” Paris Hilton years after she’s done, well, an awful lot, could be difficult for fans. For some, it may be a cause for celebration; for others, it may be faintly depressing. But it’s really something for people to consider for themselves. After all, Paris wouldn’t be the first celebrity to reinvent herself…
So, it seems that The Simple Life wasn’t ever particularly true to real life. But what about other popular “reality” TV shows? Just how real are these so-called factual entertainment shows anyway? Well, here’s a closer look at 20 staples of the U.S. TV schedules – including everything from house-hunting ventures to survival missions – that may have been duping their viewers for years.
20. Fixer Upper
HGTV show Fixer Upper sees husband and wife team Joanna and Chip Gaines renovate a property in dire need of some love. The pair ask a prospective buyer, who will benefit from the pair’s DIY expertise, to choose from three different houses for the project. However, it turns out that the decision has usually already been made.
Yes, all the agonized decision-making is just for show – as each client has typically bought the house in question before the Gaines get to work. And that isn’t the only deceit. You see, not every room in the house gets the Fixer Upper treatment. Rumors have floated about that Chip puts down his tools the minute the cameras stop rolling, too.
19. What Not to Wear
What Not to Wear had a pretty impressive run, with Clinton Kelly and Stacy London offering fashion advice across ten seasons. But the pair weren’t always the stylish saviors they professed to be. For one thing, the stars were heavily assisted by another fashion consultant off-camera – according to a Reddit thread. And it’s claimed Kelly and London often left the participants out of pocket.
What’s more, some say those who subjected themselves to a sartorial inspection ended up having all their clothes donated to charity. And sometimes the $5,000 they were given by the show wasn’t enough to build an entirely new wardrobe. To make matters worse, participants reportedly had to shell out for any tailoring and haircuts, too.
18. House Hunters
House Hunters has a simple premise. A couple visit three different properties before deciding on which one they would like to call home. But to make things even simpler, the pair have usually chosen their new abode long before the camera crew comes to town. Its home network, HGTV, sees nothing wrong with this lifehack, though.
In a 2012 statement released to Entertainment Weekly, a representative admitted, “We’re making a television show, so we manage certain production and time constraints while honoring the home-buying process. To maximize production time, we seek out families who are pretty far along in the process. Often everything moves much more quickly than we can anticipate, so we go back and revisit some of the homes that the family has already seen and we capture their authentic reactions.”
17. The Real Housewives
The Real Housewives franchise is unarguably the jewel in Bravo’s reality TV crown. The shows follow the day-to-day lives of various impossibly rich women from across the United States. Cue a whole host of luxurious getaways, astonishing spending sprees and – perhaps most notably – dramatic catfights. When it comes to the last, however, it seems that the housewives are simply playing pretend.
This is despite producers likely claiming that all the heated debates on display are entirely authentic. You see, during the filming of one particular episode in New York, onlookers reportedly noticed something very odd about these unscripted interactions. The crowd said that not only would those involved constantly pause for the benefit of the cameramen, but they would also often reshoot their conversations several times, too.
16. Beachfront Bargain Hunt
Beachfront Bargain Hunt producers certainly used their fair share of artistic license for one particular episode. The HGTV show sees realtors guide interested parties through several beachfront properties before asking them to settle on one. However, on one occasion, the property professional featured essentially ended up showing herself and her husband around their own home!
How did this happen? Well, when the realtor couldn’t find a client with a property that met producers’ stipulations, she informed them that her recently acquired home did. Subsequently, she and her partner ended up playing both agent and buyer for the cameras. The pair also had to pretend that it was the height of summer when, in fact, it was the end of winter.
15. Say Yes to the Dress
One of TLC’s longest-running reality shows, Say Yes to the Dress does exactly what it implies in the title. A bride chooses the outfit in which she will walk down the aisle – with assistance from her loved ones and a fashion expert. Unfortunately for the newlywed-to-be, though, the experience is never as glamorous as it looks on camera.
For one thing, the size of the New York boutique is much tinier than most expect. Brides generally are only given about 90 minutes to choose their dress for the big day, too, and they reportedly only get a small selection to peruse. And it’s said the resident expert will often persuade several participants to choose the same dress as a way of saving time and earning more money.
14. Basketball Wives
Basketball Wives has made stars of those who would normally be in the shadows of their sporting partners. Jackie Christie, the spouse of NBA star Doug, and Shaunie O’Neal, the ex-wife of the legendary Shaquille, are just two of the names who have risen to fame on the reality show. But some of its cast members wish they’d never signed up.
Tanya Young, the ex-wife of basketball great Jayson Williams, was one such disgruntled participant. In an article for website The Daily Beast, Young claimed that the constant disharmony on the show was all stirred up by producers behind the scenes. In a chat with Complex, NBA star Matt Barnes also alleged that Basketball Wives is essentially a scripted drama.
13. Love It or List It
Airing on HGTV from 2008 until 2015, Love It or List It supposedly gave homeowners quite the dilemma: buy a new house chosen by a realtor or stick with their current place that the show has given an incredible makeover. However, the decision you see on camera isn’t necessarily the one that was made away from it.
In a revealing Reddit thread, one individual alleged that their uncle and aunt had been asked to film two separate endings for the show. Producers then selected which take made for better TV. In this particular example, the couple decided to stay put – but were shown putting their house on the market.
Bridezillas has become one of the most popular wedding-based reality shows thanks to its never-ending array of participants prone to throwing tantrums over the tiniest setback. You may wonder why anyone would willingly sign up for a show whose title implies they are some kind of monster. Well, it turns out that apparently, some don’t.
One bridezilla, Julia Swinton-Williams, believed that she was partaking in a slightly more refined documentary with the name of Manhattan Bride while filming took place. And she ended up filing a lawsuit against producers for the apparent deceit. Cynthia Silver, another demanding bride-to-be, alleged that she was also subjected to similar trickery.
11. Property Brothers
Property Brothers episodes usually begin with prospective buyers falling in love with houses – only to be informed that they’re way out of their price ranges. Hosts Jonathan and Drew Scott then help them to find other, cheaper properties that can be transformed into their ideal homes. But all this initial heartbreak is all just for show.
Yes, to make it on to the show, a participant already has to be in the process of renovating or purchasing a fixer-upper. So all the footage of them walking around a completely different dream property is only to heighten all the drama. And this means that realtor brother Drew is essentially surplus to requirements.
10. Mystery Diners
Mystery Diners is supposed to shame those restaurant workers who slack off while cooking, cleaning or serving. In one episode, for instance, a man dubbed Chef Dave was shown to be responsible for the notable amount of food and supplies that went missing in Arizona eatery The Grove Bar and Grill. However, this particular chef didn’t need to worry about never finding employment again.
And that’s because the man in question was allegedly never a chef in the first place. Yes, reportedly Dave Germain wasn’t a thieving cook at all – but an actor playing one. And his ties with the showbiz industry don’t end there. He also owns the Tempe-based company known as Disjointed Productions LLC.
9. Breaking Amish
The Amish community has often been a source of intrigue in the genre of reality TV. And in 2012 TLC decided to shine the spotlight on five youngsters leaving their secluded community for the bright lights of the Big Apple in Breaking Amish. However, this wasn’t the massive culture shock that the show claimed it to be.
Online reports claimed Jeremiah Raber, one of the teens featured in the show, had already spent time outside his Amish community. Abe and Rebecca, meanwhile, were supposed to have only clapped eyes on each other for the first time during filming. Yet according to the Daily Mail, the pair were already an item – and indeed parents – when cameras started rolling.
8. Jersey Shore
Jersey Shore was undoubtedly one of the defining reality shows of the 2000s. The MTV series launched the likes of Nicole Polizzi, a.k.a. Snooki, to worldwide fame – and even spawned a British spin-off, Geordie Shore. But the wild and rowdy behavior you often saw on screen wasn’t exactly spontaneous.
According to a Daily Beast interview with a Jersey Shore extra, everything about the show was scripted to within an inch of its life. Remember that dramatic showdown between Vinny Guadagnino and Pauly D? Well, the pair were apparently coerced into fighting directly under a streetlamp to create a perfectly lit scene.
7. Storage Wars
Storage Wars might not be the most glamorous of reality TV shows. But it’s struck a chord with nosey viewers who have always wondered exactly what kind of things people like to hoard in such giant lockers. But some skeptics believe that the contents shown aren’t entirely what they seem.
Perhaps worried that the lockers opened may not contain anything remotely of value, producers have allegedly taken to planting items inside them. This would then ensure that those attending the auction have something to bid on, ramping up the drama. However, publicists for the show’s network, A&E, have denied that such interference takes place.
6. Undercover Boss
It’s hard to imagine that anyone being followed by an unconvincingly disguised recruit on camera doesn’t realize they’re on Undercover Boss. The CBS show has been on air since 2010, after all. But it’s not the employees’ reactions that have been questioned when it comes to the authenticity of the series.
At the end of each episode, the undercover boss typically claims that they will make positive changes within their company based on what they’ve witnessed. Unfortunately for their employees, though, these promises can turn out to be empty. According to reports, many bosses will end up completely forgetting what they said once they go back to the day job.
5. South Beach Tow
You perhaps can’t blame producers for trying to stir things up a bit on South Beach Tow. It would undoubtedly have been tough to make four seasons of a series about a car-towing company without a little creative tinkering, after all. But if reports are to be believed, the makers of the truTV show surely went a little overboard with their interference.
Allegedly, there was hardly anything real about the day-to-day running of the Miami Beach-based towing company featured on the show. According to reports, each storyline, including the dramatic rivalry with a neighboring firm, came from a script. You may also be surprised to know that one of its creators was none other than all-singing, all-dancing Hollywood star Jennifer Lopez!
4. Cake Boss
Running for no fewer than ten seasons, Cake Boss followed the fortunes of Carlo’s Bakery and its owner Buddy Valastro. The TLC show featured a mouth-watering array of wedding, birthday and other celebration cakes during its lengthy run. But although the cakes were very real, it seems the same couldn’t always be said of the events surrounding them.
Yes, many of the occasions for which the Valastro family were shown busy preparing were staged purely for the series. And although Buddy is indeed the head honcho at the family establishment, he’s not exactly as involved as the cameras portrayed. In fact, it’s claimed he’s barely at the cake shop when the crew isn’t around.
3. Pawn Queens
Airing in 2010, Pawn Queens lasted just ten episodes before being pulled by its home network, TLC. Perhaps viewers could sense that the whole thing was a sham? Apparently, the two women portrayed as long-time aspiring pawnshop owners had never had such a dream. They reportedly auditioned for the show without knowing anything about what it entailed.
In fact, it seems one of the two main stars had been a dental assistant who had no experience or knowledge of the pawnshop industry. To try and get audiences invested, then, producers allegedly came up with an entirely fictional backstory for her in which she’d always been fascinated with opening a store. But viewers evidently didn’t buy it.
2. Duck Dynasty
It would probably be quicker to list the things that are real about Duck Dynasty than those that aren’t. Even the Robertson family themselves have freely admitted that they regularly talk over storylines with producers before filming begins. It’s a process that the hirsute duck hunters have described as “guided reality.”
But perhaps one of the Robertsons’ most surprising acts of deception is their appearances. The men of the family are renowned for the long beards that would put even ZZ Top to shame. And yet pictures taken long before they ever graced the A&E network show they were all once preppy-looking and entirely clean-shaven.
1. Naked and Afraid
Naked and Afraid is one of the most revealing reality shows out there – literally. Yes, as its title implies, those who are transported to a remote, isolated setting are then stripped bare in the ultimate survival challenge. However, it turns out that participants aren’t left to fend for themselves as much as the show claims.
Although contestants are supposed to live off the land entirely, producers are apparently all too happy to give them certain supplies. Tampons, vitamins and prescription medication are just a few of the items that are allegedly dished out to wannabe survivalists away from the cameras. So participants may be naked, but it seems like they don’t necessarily need to be afraid. The episode featuring Seth Rogen and James Franco was a hilarious spoof of the whole scenario, too.
What about other reality shows? Well, over the years, the History channel’s Pawn Stars has carved out a reputation as one of the most popular reality shows on U.S. television. What’s more, Rick, Corey, the Old Man and everyone’s favorite, Chumlee, have been propelled to superstar status off the back of the series. But for everything this landmark show reveals about the pawn store business, there’s still plenty more going on behind the scenes.
20. The crew enjoyed a private Lynyrd Skynyrd gig
It’s no secret that ’70s rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote and performed the show’s theme music for season four onwards. What you might not know, however, is that when the band went to Las Vegas to meet the guys, they also performed an impromptu gig in the store’s parking lot.
19. Olivia Black wasn’t actually fired
Olivia Black started working the night shift in season five, but afterwards it was revealed that she had done a nude photoshoot for the website Suicide Girls and so was hastily removed from the show. As it turns out, however, it was the network who had an issue with this and not Rick and company. In fact, even after leaving the show Black kept working at the store, before eventually leaving of her own accord.
18. The store was sued for melting down antique coins
Melting down coins for gold is far from uncommon and perfectly legal – provided the coins in question aren’t stolen. But in 2014 a woman traded in a coin collection at Gold & Silver, and the guys did the standard thing and melted them down. It transpired, however, that the seller had actually stolen the coins from her uncle, who later claimed they were worth $50,000 and sued the store.
17. Pawn Plaza isn’t doing so well
To capitalize on the sheer volume of tourists and fans who visit the store, Rick decided to expand, and so the Pawn Plaza was assembled nearby. The plaza offers a variety of shops and eateries and is primarily built from shipping containers. And while initial expectations for it were lofty, four of its stores had to close in 2016, and the future of the ambitious venture remains uncertain.
16. Rick Harrison is something of a bookworm
Some of Rick’s interests, such as his car collection, aren’t all that surprising. But did you know that the businessman is also an avid reader? As it turns out, Rick is extremely well read, and he has a more refined taste in literature than you might expect from a pawnbroker, too.
15. Somebody once pawned a sack of human skulls
Pawn shops take some fairly bizarre inventory at times, and Gold & Silver probably has the best line in weird wares of any pawn shop in America. At one point, for example, somebody brought in a sack of human skulls, which must have been pretty difficult to process. And another customer brought in some Japanese porn that had been doing the rounds for 250 years.
14. The store is full of merchandise
By far the biggest money maker in the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop nowadays is the merchandise, and Chumlee’s line is particularly popular. During filming, however, the cameras are deliberately angled away from all this to make the business seem more authentic. But since the store gets so many fans visiting on a daily basis, the outgoings on merchandise are far greater than from people actually pawning things.
13. Sometimes the trade you see on TV isn’t what it seems
We all know by now that reality TV doesn’t necessarily reflect reality, and even when things seem real, there’s usually a certain amount of massaging going on. For instance, some of the trades you see in the broadcast version of Pawn Stars have happened at least once already. Indeed, if someone brings in an unusual item, they might be asked to come in again at a different time so that the trade can be filmed in more detail.
12. Stolen items have been brought in on several occasions
The melting coin fiasco wasn’t the only time that Rick has taken in stolen goods. In 2009, for example, a man traded in a pair of diamond earrings for $40,000. Barely a day had passed, however, when it transpired that the earrings were actually stolen, and the seller was arrested. The pawn shop isn’t liable when this happens, but they don’t get the money back. Crime doesn’t pay, and it doesn’t hand out refunds, either.
11. The amount of Subway the guys eat is no accident
Clunky product placement is always jarring, but Pawn Stars takes it to another level. Subway is one of the show’s main sponsors, and as a result, you will often see the guys munching away on Subway sandwiches with the logo on the wrapping clearly on display. Even worse, if someone talks about a Subway sandwich on the show they will call it by its proper, branded name. Cringe.
10. Pimps buy jewelry from the store
Some customers are great for TV, others just don’t pop, while others still pop a little bit too much. From time to time, for example, local pimps come into the store to buy jewelry, since they can take it back in later and get half the price as a loan against it. It’s a loophole that allows them to pay bail, since their cash is confiscated when they’re arrested. Interesting, but not entirely suitable for family TV.
9. Deanna’s previous marriage wasn’t plain sailing
Rick got hitched to Deanna Burditt in 2013, but she had been married before, and it didn’t exactly end amicably. Her ex, Richard Burditt, was convicted of forced sexual abuse, but he hasn’t ever served any time for it. Rick cites “bureaucracy” as the reason for that, and the topic is clearly still a sore subject for both him and Deanna.
8. Corey is a keen biker but not always a safe one
Rick’s son Corey is often vocal about his love of motorbikes on the show. What he doesn’t often bring up on camera, however, is his history of bike accidents. One particularly nasty incident occurred in 2014, when Corey was thrown from his bike after a fender mount fell off it and sent it into a tailspin. Unbelievably, he walked away from the encounter with only a fractured hand.
7. Rick reached out to a young fan in the most adorable way
Pawn Stars has plenty of younger fans, and one in particular was given a very special surprise. The boy in question, an autistic child nicknamed Little J, posted a letter to the shop along with his Game Boy in the hope of trading it in for $30. Not only did Rick send the money, but he also returned the Game Boy to the child. Plus, he penned a letter back to Little J thanking him, encouraging him to keep playing and to listen to his mother, along with a signed photo of the cast. Class act.
6. You won’t find the guys behind the counter
When the show started, Gold & Silver was like any other pawn shop – most, if not all, of the business was done over the counter. But now, because of the filming schedule, if you actually go into the store you won’t see Harrison and Russell at work. They’re far more likely to be by the merch stand signing autographs.
5. The store was on TV before the show started
Although Pawn Stars kicked off in 2009, the store had actually already appeared on TV twice. The first time was in 2001 when PBS aired a full-length documentary about the business. And two years later, comedian Dave Attell also turned up at the store to film a segment for his show, Insomniac.
4. The store has a Greek artifact dating back to 325 B.C.
People bring plenty of antiques into Gold & Silver, some of them centuries old. But one coin in particular was on a whole different level. The antique coin proved to be a didrachm from around 325 B.C., which was the ancient Greek equivalent of about two dollars if you don’t adjust for inflation.
3. Between 3,000 and 5,000 visitors call at the shop each day
For most pawn shops, getting 5,000 visitors in a month would be pretty good going, but Gold & Silver get that in a day – sometimes more. The store is inundated with tourists on a daily basis, which is why the way the guys do business has changed so drastically since the show started. In fact, some fans will even go as far as to try and sneak around the back to get a peek at the cast.
2. Rick can’t browse garage sales anymore
Fame can impact on people’s lives in strange and unexpected ways. In Rick’s case, his now well-recognized reputation as a canny, keen-eyed negotiator has meant that at garage sales and swap meets, he’s regarded with suspicion. Some people even hide their wares away before he gets the chance to examine them.
1. The guys got a special invite from Bon Jovi
As if the private Lynyrd Skynyrd show wasn’t awesome enough, the cast were also personally invited to a show by Jon Bon Jovi. According to Chumlee, Bon Jovi’s son wanted to meet them, and so the free gig was bartered in exchange for the meeting. It was a haggling approach that the guys can certainly understand and probably appreciated.