Hardcore Pawn‘s Les Gold on Starring in the Worst Reality Show on TVWelcome to Next Question With Michael Musto, a regular feature in which Musto uses his time-honed skills to interrogate big celebrities, former celebrities, and wannabe celebrities. Musto is a pop culture icon, regular TV presence, and the author of four books.

Les Gold, the been-around-the-block proprietor on truTV’s Hardcore Pawn, is adept at selling things too. In fact, the Detroit pawnmeister’s new book, For What It’s Worth: Business Wisdom From a Pawnbroker, has done quite well, even at non-discounted prices. Gold called me a few minutes late for our interview about such topics, but we negotiated our way out of a tangle.


Hello?

It’s Les Gold. Sorry, I had a physical and I forgot all about my 11 o’clock. They took blood and checked out a hematoma in my arm.

Yikes! I guess it’s nice of you to talk to me at all seeing as I called Hardcore Pawn possibly the worst reality show on TV.

You’re entitled to your opinion. I’ll change your mind.

Some of those customers just don’t seem real to me. The woman who came in screaming “That’s my TV and I want it back!” seemed to be giving quite a performance.

Television makes you do some strange and unique things. Some people want their five minutes of fame, no matter what you have to do to get it. The woman you’re speaking of may have been intoxicated a little bit. People sometimes like a drink during the day. But a lot of the wildest things happen when the cameras aren’t even there. You wouldn’t believe it!

But aren’t you afraid of racial stereotypes on the show? So many of the black customers seem to be shrieking and in need of security.

It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white…people shriek. I’m a human being that runs a legit pawn shop, and I don’t care if you’re black, white, or green, we’re gonna make sure my store and customers and family are safe.

Can pawning principles be used in negotiating sex?

What? I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Sex. Your book describes using pawn ethics for other areas of life. How about romantic encounters?

One of the things I talk about is bringing the emotion out of it when you’re selling an item. As a buyer, you want to do that or you’ll either pay too much or you’ll get involved in the story. How you can relate that to your question, I don’t know. Maybe buy dinner first and go to a movie! [laughs]

I saw the episode where someone pawned you a set of toilet bowls that he’d imaginatively turned into go-karts. Was that the wildest thing ever?

That was crazy. But we have pawned an Elizabeth Taylor brooch for well over $100,000. They bought it at an estate sale for well in excess of a quarter of a million dollars. They needed money and saw the show. We give people a certain percentage of the value because you need to make sure the customers come back. We don’t want to keep your merchandise.

In a photo in your book, it seems like you were a pretty good looking young man.

Thank you. I got old.

Now you look like a pawn shop guy.

It’s been in my blood. My grandfather started a pawn shop in the 1940s and I ended up falling in love with this business. Now being 63 and having a successful shop, I can hand the business down to future generations of the Golds. Being a reality television personality that far exceeded truTV’s thoughts of what we could bring to them and writing a New York Times bestseller, I can die a happy man. But not soon!

What do you see when you look at yourself? Don’t mention the hematoma.

Sometimes I look and say, “For 63, I’m not bad, if I do say so myself.” I work out every day. For this business, you have to be strong. I had Mr. Michigan train me. He said, “How bad do you want it?” I said, “Well, I want it just as bad today as when I was 18.” I want to be successful and be a viable human being in this world and show the desire and passion I have.

Your son looks like he works out too. Is he straight or gay?

He’s straight. Seth has been married for a while. You don’t see that on the show. We don’t talk about grandchildren or spouses. But we’ll talk about my wife.

How about your daughter?

She’s married with children.

Do you feel like a grandfather?

Heck, yes. My grandfather was the voice of reason for me and made sure that I was safe. As a grandfather, I can’t express the love and passion I feel. If we started talking about them, I’d probably start crying.

You’re not gonna pawn them?

I don’t think so. Unless the price is right, of course. [laughs]

[Photo by Victor Jeffreys II]