Pawn Stars’ Chumlee Is More Than Just The Face Behind The Counter
Anyone who has watched Pawn Stars knows how important Chumlee has been to the success of the show. Hired at Gold and Silver Pawn Shop five years before the show debuted, the man whose real name is Austin Lee Russell has seen his shares of ups and downs. From becoming an instant celebrity to being busted by the police, Russell’s television family has stuck by his side through it all. This is everything you need to know about everyone’s favorite Pawn Star, Chumlee.
He Has Dreams Of Breaking Into The Music Industry
When anyone signs up to star in a reality television show, they find out that money doesn’t necessarily follow. It can take years for stars like Chumlee to finally see their paychecks match their celebrity status.
With that in mind, Chumlee has long been planning his push into the music industry. While working at the pawnshop, he began attending DJ school. He’s been open about his desire to one day become a music scout in Las Vegas.
He Has His Own Brand
Once Pawn Stars became a massive hit, Chumlee turned himself in his own brand. Selling merchandise and showing up for personal appearances became a normal part of his life, and as his co-stars saw his success they followed suit.
The biggest investment into himself Chumlee has made so far is joining forces with Rick Harrison to sell paraphernalia and t-shirts with his brand. Unsurprisingly, one of the places you can buy Chumlee merchandise is at Gold and Silver Pawn Shop.
Chumlee Was A Customer Before He Became An Employee
The Gold and Silver Pawn Shop originally opened in 1989 and has had a loyal customer base ever since. Before becoming an employee at the shop, Chumlee hung around as a regular, making friends with the family that owned it.
While hanging around the shop as a kid, Chumlee became friends with Corey “Big Boss” Harrison. When it came time to become gainfully employed, Chumlee used his friendship with Corey to convince Rick Harrison to give him a job.
He Didn’t Think He Would Be Cast In The Show
At the time Pawn Stars was being developed by History Channel, Chumlee didn’t think he would be a part of the cast. There were ten other employees at the shop at the time, so competition for camera time was tough:
“They were looking for a fourth person to put in the show. I thought to myself, well, I’ve known these guys my whole life. We have good camaraderie, and I’m just going to be funny and joke with them like we would normally do, and not get nervous in front of the cameras, and it kind of worked out.”
Tragedy Struck Before The Show Premiered
Pawn Stars debuted in 2009 and should have been a major celebration for Chumlee. Sadly, two weeks before the first episode aired tragedy struck. Chumlee’s father had been battling pancreatic cancer and passed away.
Asked in an interview if there was anything Chumlee would never pawn he said, “Those would be the few items that my father has made. My father passed away two weeks before the show on TV. I could never sell or pawn that, but I could pretty much sell or pawn anything else.”
He’s Battled With His Weight
Watching Pawn Stars throughout the years means you have seen the transformation of Chumlee’s body in front of your eyes. As a larger man with a potential for health problems, Chumlee became inspired to lose weight when “Big Boss” started living a healthier life.
By 2014, Chumlee had lost over 100 pounds. He credited cutting processed foods out of his diet and exercising more. Two years later he had put 50 pounds back on, admitting he was “tired of eating chicken and vegetables, six times a day, out of Tupperware.”
He Was Arrested In 2016
The year 2016 was not the best for Chumlee. Not only had he gained back a significant amount of weight, but he was also arrested. On March 9th of that year, police showed up to his house to investigate an assault charge.
While there, authorities found large amounts of illegal contraband. Chumlee was held on 19 charges based on what was found and bail was placed at $62,000. Luckily enough for Chumlee, his employers had also become his family.
A Plea Deal Lessened His Charges
After being arrested, Chumlee took a plea deal to lessen his charges. USA Today reported that instead of 19 counts, he was only charged with, “gross misdemeanor of attempted drug possession” and “unlawful possession of a firearm.”
In his sentencing, Chumlee was given three years of probation and counseling. If he were to violate his probation, Chumlee could face up to five years in prison. As a reward for completing his probation, his felony would be erased from his record.
Pawn Stars Stuck By Him
While in trouble with the law, it became unclear if the History Channel and the Discovery Channel would stand by Chumlee. One thing was certain though, his Pawn Stars family had his back and chose to stick by him.
Rick Harrison said, “We don’t have details yet but are here to help Chumlee however we can.” And Corey Harrison added, “Don’t believe everything you hear. There are always three sides to a story, yours, theirs, and the truth.”
The “Chumlee” Nickname Comes From A Cartoon
As you know, Chumlee is actually named Austin Lee Russell. His nickname comes from a cartoon, and he has had it since he was 12 years old. A childhood friend’s dad made a joke one time about how he looked like the character Chumley from the cartoon Tennessee Tuxedo.
The nickname may have originally been a joke, but it stuck. The good news is that Chumlee has a good sense of humor about it, “I started introducing myself as Chumlee about a year or two later.”
A $20,000 Mistake Nearly Cost Him His Job
Before Pawn Stars ever started filming, Chumlee made a massive mistake. He was pawning a stand-up bass when he leaned it against a wall. When he walked away, the bass fell over and shattered.
Unsure what to do, Chumlee packed the pieces into their case. He had a deal to sell the bass for $700 but wound up costing the shop $20,000. If Chumlee had done his research he would have found out that the bass was rare and would have handled it more carefully.
Sneakers Are His Addiction
One of the more surprising bits of trivia about Chumlee is that he is addicted to sneakers. During an episode of Pawn Stars in 2011, he admitted to owning over 40 pairs of Jordans.
Overall, Chumlee estimates he owns more than 200 pairs of shoes. His collection includes every major brand including Adidas, Nike, and Vans. His love of shoes became so widely known he was even featured by Complex, which took him shopping.
He’s Not A Fan Of Fame
It’s safe to say that, thanks to Pawn Stars, Chumlee is an accidental celebrity. And as much as he loves his job, he admits that being famous still makes him uncomfortable:
“I’m honestly probably the least approachable out of all of us in reality… I don’t do well in conversation…I’m just very quiet and reserved for the most part. I’ve opened up a lot since the show [premiered], but Corey and Rick, they talk a lot more than I do.”
He Opened His Own Candy Store
In May of 2017, Chumlee took a huge step in his life — he became a business owner. He opened Chumlee’s Candy on the Boulevard across the street from the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop with his business partner and brother Sage.
Chumlee and Sage run the day to day operations of the business. Now after pawning any valuable, fans of the show can take their money and spend it on candy while meeting one of the stars of the show!
Another Person Took His Website Name
One of the most important aspects of owning a business is having a functional website interested consumers can visit. Unfortunately, when Chumlee started his business, another person quickly purchased the possible domains he would use.
Chumlee has threatened that person, Patrick Keyes, with legal action. Keyes has reportedly admitted to buying the domains when he heard about the store. We don’t know how much money he is trying to sell the domains for, but Chumlee might have no choice but to pay up.
He’s A Diehard UNLV Fan
In Las Vegas, the choices of college sports teams to root for are limited. As a result, Chumlee has become a diehard fan of the University of Las Vegas — specifically, their basketball program.
In 2014 Chumlee became a season ticket holder, and in the years since has become comfortable enough with his fame to critique the coaching staff. In one interview he said, “It’s just an unfortunate situation that [they] seem to lack direction out there… I’m not pointing any fingers, and I don’t know what the problem is, but we gotta get that talent to work together.”
He Can’t Work The Pawn Shop Counter Anymore
Even though it seems like Chumlee is always working the register on Pawn Stars, the truth is that when the show isn’t filming, he can’t. The problem is that if anyone showed up to the shop to take pictures of him, they would be compromising the privacy of whatever client he was working with.
That means that most segments with Chumlee, or anyone working the register on camera, are partially or fully staged to protect the customer.
Jon Bon Jovi Is A Big Fan
Unsurprisingly, stardom has brought Chumlee a legion of fans. Some of those fans, including Jon Bon Jovi, are even famous themselves. The iconic musician is such a big fan he has even met Chumlee and the other cast members.
Chumlee recalled once, “We went to his meet n’ greet to meet his kids because they wanted a picture with us… He gave us front row tickets. That was pretty cool. When does Bon Jovi personally invite you to his show?”
He’s Appeared On Other Shows
Pawn Stars isn’t the only show that Chumlee has been seen on. Since becoming famous, he has been featured on late-night talk shows as well as other reality television shows.
Some highlights include The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Pawnography, American Restoration, and Counting Cars. He has also gone behind the scenes and has produced documentaries including Driven: The Story of Tanner Godfrey. And did we mention his acting credits, which include kid’s television series iCarly and the horror film Resurrection?
He’s Worth Millions
Thanks to his co-starring role on Pawn Stars as well as his many other successful ventures, Chumlee is estimated to have a net value of $5 million. He doesn’t shy away from showing off his wealth, either.
Not only does he have a massive sneaker collection, but he also owns multiple luxury lines including a Rolls Royce and Maserati. As his wealth continues to grow in the coming years, we can only guess what amazing things he might add to his collections.
Chumlee Was The Victim Of An Internet Death Hoax
In 2013, a website called the Internet Chronicle reported that Chumlee had passed away after an overdose. Fortunately, Chumlee was alive and well although he was forced to deal with the aftermath of being involved in an internet death hoax.
Snopes was quick to debunk the original story, but other hoaxes began popping up claiming that he had passed away after having a heart attack. Chumlee spoke out on social media to reassure fans. At one point he even tweeted, “May we live long, Rich forever.”
Chumlee Was Set To Be Married
In March 2019 there were reports that Chumlee and his long-term girlfriend Olivia Rademann had a huge pre-wedding bash which was attended by friends and family, including lots of celebrity names.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal even quoted the groom-to-be as saying, “It’s beautiful. I already feel like I’m married.” However, there was never any public news about the wedding, which was supposedly set for May, and Rademann’s Instagram account was removed at some point. Don’t leave us in the dark!
Humble Beginnings In Sin City
Long before Pawn Stars was the highest-rated show on the History network, the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop was just another store near the Las Vegas strip. Opened in 1989, the 24-hour family business was originally operated by Richard “Old Man” Harrison, along with his son Rick Harrison, Rick’s son Corey “Big Hoss” Harrison, and Corey’s childhood friend, Austin “Chumlee” Russell.
In the early 2000s, Rick worked to get the concept of the show to television, but not everyone was convinced it would be a success. In fact, Rick pitched the concept for nearly five years, before someone took a chance on his idea.
Rick Pitched Pawn Stars Long Before It Was Picked Up
Rick Harrison pitched the concept of Pawn Stars for years, with little luck. “I figured that a show would mean free publicity and free publicity would mean more business,” he told Star-Telegram. “But everyone told me that no one wants to watch a show about four fat guys in a pawnshop.”
Eventually, Gold & Silver Pawn Shop was featured in a 2001 PBS documentary as well as Comedy Central’s Insomniac in 2003. In what seemed like a promising gig, the concept was picked up by HBO but the pilot was so disastrous that Rick turned to Leftfield Productions. Brent Montgomery and Colby Gaines of Leftfield were struck by the diverse spread of borderline seedy pawn shops in Las Vegas and after visiting Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, knew they’d found the right fit.
The Unlikely Show Was a Hit Everywhere
The first episode of Pawn Stars aired a year later and was the No. 2 reality show, only second to Jersey Shore. An original episode that hit airwaves in January 2011 was watched by more than 7 million viewers, making it the most-watched program ever on History Channel.
The reality series wasn’t just a hit in the United States either. Since its debut, the series has been translated into 38 languages and has aired in more than 150 countries. Rick Harrison has even said he has “been mobbed” by people in places like Buenos Aires, the Philippines, Kuala Lumpur, and New Delhi. He also added, “Everywhere in the world, people know the show.”
Some Strange Things Have Been Pawned
With nearly 1.5 million visitors each year, it’s no surprise the Pawn Stars guys see some strange things come through the shop doors. Some of the weirdest? In one episode, a man brought in a bag containing multiple human skulls. Another episode saw vintage Japanese adult magazines that had been in circulation for over 250 years. Other strange items include Slash’s ID, and a one-man submarine.
Perhaps one of the most unique items is a Greek artifact dating back to 325 B.C. The antique coin was brought into Gold & Silver Pawn Shop where it was determined to be a didrachm from centuries ago.
These Days, The Store Makes Most Of Its Money Off Pawn Stars Merchandise
The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop may have an inventory of more than 11,000 items, but these days, the store makes more money from the store-themed merchandise they sell.
The online shop alone has more than 50 items fans can purchase, ranging from shot glasses and coffee mugs to t-shirts and a $400 autographed bobblehead of Chumlee. Of course, coins, jewelry, fine art, collectibles, and antiques are still available for purchase in the store and online — but considering some of these come with a six-figure price tag, we’re not surprised the show’s merchandise is what visitors flock to see and buy!
Old Man Passed Away In June 2018 From Parkinson’s Disease
Without the “Old Man,” there would never have been Pawn Stars at all. Sadly, on June 25, 2018, Richard Benjamin “Old Man” Harrison passed away surrounded by his loved ones. He was 77 years old.
The cast and crew took to social media to pay tribute to Old Man. “He will be tremendously missed by our family, the team at Gold & Silver Pawn and his many fans the world over,” Rick Harrison wrote in a post on Instagram. “He was my hero and I was fortunate to get a very cool ‘Old Man’ as my dad.”
Pawn Stars Aired a Special Tribute To The Old Man Following His Death
Richard “Old Man” Harrison passed away on June 25, 2018. In his honor, Pawn Stars aired a special episode two days later on June 27. The hour-long special opens with the boys reminiscing on Richard. “There’s a lot of memories here,” Rick says at the beginning of the episode. “And most of them are with my father.”
The special features the guys favorite moments with “The Old Man,” from driving around in lifted cars to poking fun at Chumlee.
One Son Was Left Out of His Will
Less than a month after his passing, the surprising details of “Old Man” Harrison’s will were released. While his oldest son Rick Harrison was left in charge of his father’s estate, his will sparked more attention about who was missing. Before his passing, the “Old Man” had his son Chris Harrison omitted from his will yet still included sons Rick and Joseph.
While it’s unclear why Chris was written out of the will, Rick released a statement saying, “The family had previously discussed this information and it is a private matter.”
Want To See The Guys? It’s Not That Easy
Thousands of people visit Gold & Silver each year but don’t expect to see Rick, Old Man, Corey, or Chumlee behind the counter.
While the guys do go out on the shop floor from time to time to meet fans, take photos, and sign autographs, this is pretty infrequent. According to Gold & Silver’s official website, the guys aren’t typically able to do this thanks to their hectic schedules and NV privacy laws. If you’re looking to meet the cast on your visit to Gold & Silver, your best bet is to check out the Pawn Plaza next door to the shop, although you’re only likely to see Rick and Chumlee.
Subway Is One of the Show’s Biggest Sponsors
Have you ever thought that the Pawn Stars guys seem to eat a ton of Subway? You’re not imagining things. The fast-food sub sandwich chain is one of the reality show’s biggest sponsors. Not surprisingly, part of Pawn Star’s partnership with the show requires product placement.
Sometimes the product placement gets a little obvious. In one episode, Big Hoss heads to Subway with Chumlee to explain an auction. Using his sandwich, he demonstrates how the auction will unfold later in the day. The scene is clearly a veiled advertisement with the guys clearly displaying the Subway logo. Cringe-worthy? Yes. But hey, ya gotta make money somehow.
The Cast of Pawn Stars Was Sued By Their Original Agent
The cast of Pawn Stars has had their share of legal issues since the show debuted nearly a decade ago. In October 2012, Wayne Jeffries sued the cast members as well as A+E Networks and History for interference with business practices.
Jeffries is the show’s original agent who helped launch the successful series. He claimed that after the show premiered, he was fired and left without his promised share of fees. He sought more than $5 million but the case was eventually dismissed.
A Man Sued The Show For Melting His Coins
No strangers to controversy at this point, the cast of Pawn Stars was sued again in 2014 for melting down antique coins. Melting down antique coins isn’t uncommon and is perfectly legal — as long as the coins aren’t stolen.
Earlier that year, Jennifer Beckman visited Gold & Silver Pawn Shop and traded in an antique coin collection. The Pawn Stars crew assessed the coins and Beckman was given $12,375. The shop melted the antique coins down as many in the industry do. It turned out that the Beckman stole the collection from her uncle, who then sued Gold & Silver for melting down stolen coins. Nevada Law requires pawnshops to hold items for 30 to 90 days before selling in the event the original owner wants to buy them back. This law doesn’t extend to coins though!
Rick Harrison Lost $40,000 On a Pair of Earrings
This coin fiasco wasn’t the only time Rick and the Pawn Stars gang unknowingly took in stolen items. In 2009, a man traded a pair of diamond earrings for a cool $40,000.
But not even a day passed before it was discovered that the jewelry was actually stolen. Although the victim got her belongings back and the thief was jailed, Rick was still out the $40,000. “It’s the cost of doing business,” Rick told NPR. “That’s the way I look at it. … And Las Vegas is a crazy town at times. There’s a lot of high-end things I get. So you have to know about … really large diamonds, really expensive watches. … So it’s a lot different than most places.”
Corey Was Arrested
Corey and Chumlee have been friends since childhood. They’ve also been arrested for similar crimes. Apparently, these boys love to brawl and both have faced the consequences of it.
In 2011, after having one too many drinks at a bar in Big Bear, California, Corey got into an argument with another patron. The verbal tiff quickly escalated and things got physical. A security guard called the police for back-up. Corey was arrested for battery and obstruction and spent the night in jail sobering up.
The Cast Makes Bank On Tours
With so many fans visiting the shop every day, the boys at Gold & Silver Pawn Shop saw a new way they could capitalize on their popularity. They began offering tours with a special meet-and-greet add-on for an additional price.
Pawn Stars partnered with Annie Nannanie tours to offer fans the ultimate “VIP experience.” With this tour, fans are guaranteed a private meet and greet with one of the cast members. Also included are a photo and autograph as well as a visit to the homes featured on Counting Cars, American Restoration, and Tanked. The tours cost $99 a person and book up fast.
Bob Dylan Made An Appearance
It’s hard to picture a famous musician like Bob Dylan agreeing to appear on a reality series, but believe it or not, the icon had a cameo on Pawn Stars. In season 3, a customer brought in Dylan’s album Self Portrait on vinyl.
The album, which was released in 1970 went gold despite critics hating it. As for the customer’s copy, it was in great shape but wasn’t the first pressing. The owner walked away with $50 for the record. Bob Dylan just happened to be playing a concert in Las Vegas that night, so of course, Chumlee was able to track him down and have him sign the record.
The Show Has Inspired a Handful of Spinoffs
With Pawn Stars being so successful, it’s not surprising that similar series have popped up in recent years. American Restoration was Pawn Stars’ first spinoff. The show, which stars Rick Dale and his crew at Rick’s Restorations, premiered in 2010 and has been successful since. Now in its seventh season, the cast and crew have put out more than 126 episodes.
In addition to American Restoration, Leftfield Pictures has created five similar series, all of which follow the same format as Pawn Stars.
Corey Was In a Motorcycle Accident That Broke His Hand
Chumlee’s not the only one who ends up in the news. Corey has been in the news multiple times for being involved in motorcycle incidents. In 2011, he wiped out in a rainstorm during a trek between Las Vegas and San Diego but made a full recovery.
The reality series star had a much bigger scare in 2014, however, when a piece of his fender came off and caused him to go into a high-speed tailspin. Corey, who had been collecting supplies for his birthday, jumped off the motorcycle to avoid a head-on collision with another vehicle. He walked away from the accident and even went straight to his party! Afterward, he went to the hospital where he learned he had a broken hand.