Seven Questions for Austin ‘Chumlee’ Russell

The Pawn Star on rooting for the Rebels, pawning Rolexes and dropping 100 pounds

Photo by Bryan Hainer

Photo by Bryan Hainer

When you were featured on the cover of Vegas Seven’s 2011 Intriguing People issue, you were already famous. Three years later, how has your life changed?

It’s pretty much work, work, work around here. [The History Channel] just keeps re-upping our show. Besides a couple of months in the summer, we just work all the time. I got a steady girlfriend—I probably met her shortly after we interviewed. I bought a house. But the fame had already set in, as far as going out and being recognized and stuff. Now I feel like the work is setting in. [Laughs.]

What’s the one possession you’d never pawn?

The new Chum holds no value to material items, but I have a few possessions that I would never pawn. Those would be the few items that my father [a master woodsman] has made. My father passed away two weeks before the show [debuted] on TV. I could never sell or pawn that, but I could pretty much sell or pawn anything else. … If you would’ve asked me six months ago, I would have told you that I would never sell my all-gold Rolex, which I just sold recently. Not because I needed the money, but because I don’t wear it anymore.

I try not to buy shoes anymore, either. You probably know my obsession with shoes. But I’m not buying anything that I don’t need anymore, and I definitely don’t need more shoes.

You’re often spotted sitting courtside at UNLV basketball games. How big of a Rebels fan are you? 

I love the Rebels. Those boys have a lot of talent. 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. I’ll always root for the boys whether they’re winning or losing. I try to stay till the end of every game. I’m a huge Rebels fan. I have Rebel chucks [Chuck Taylor sneakers], the Walmart version—only pair of shoes I ever bought in Walmart.

The last time we spoke, you talked about possibly doing stand-up comedy, or starring in a Pawn Stars spin-off. What’s the status of those ventures? 

I think stand-up comedians are geniuses; I don’t think I could ever do it. As far as starting my own show, who has time for that when you have to do 104 episodes of this television show in 2014? Right now, I’m just focused on Pawn Stars, focused on all the fans we have, trying to give back to them by making great television, and having a great atmosphere when they come to visit. Once this is over, I may reopen the lines and rethink. But at this present time, I breathe, live and bleed Pawn Stars.

What do you think about Pawn Shop Live!, the new Broadway-style play based on the show that debuted earlier this month at the Golden Nugget?

It’s great. We’re even going to be doing guest appearances. I haven’t gotten to see the actual play yet, but I’m hoping that I get to see it soon. Rick [Harrison, owner of Gold & Silver Pawn Shop] went and saw it; he said it’s great. If Rick likes it then it’s gotta be really good, because he’s really critical of anything about the show.

I think it’s going to draw a lot of people Downtown once again. They’ll be able to go to the show and come to the shop, all in the same little stroll.

How is the onscreen Chumlee different than the offscreen Chumlee?

To be honest, I don’t watch the actual show too often. From what I know, it’s pretty close. They show me getting picked on a little bit more than I actually do get picked on. You know, it goes both ways. I do get picked on, but not that bad. They’re not killing me down there. You don’t have to worry about me.

People always say, “Hey, tell them to stop picking on you.” I promise it’s not that bad. I’m giving it right back to Rick. [Laughs.]

You’ve recently dropped 100 pounds. How does it feel?

Amazing. It’s like someone gave you a shot of life. I have more energy. I used to have trouble walking up the stairs to the second floor at work. Now I play basketball for three hours most Sundays. I can run. I can ride a bike as long as I want. I feel like I’m in a new chapter in my life. I’ve still got 50 more to go. I’m trying to get down to 175.

You’re going to be a supermodel.

I don’t know about that. I’ve still got the same ghoulish looks.

What’s your dream job?

I have my dream job. [Laughs.] I didn’t know it when I got it, but this is it. Obviously, it’s too much work being a professional athlete. No one wants to be a rapper; they get too much attention. I think this is good. People get to laugh at me, and I don’t have to work that hard.

What’s your favorite reality show to watch?

I pretty much don’t watch TV unless it has a referee and a score. I watch a few TV shows, no reality TV though. I just can’t do it.

So you’re a sports fan. Do you ever bet?

I no longer do. I started gambling and betting on sports at 8 years old. And I did it all the way up until last year. Now it doesn’t excite me like it used to. It’s better that I stay away from it.

What’s the biggest drawback to fame?

I can’t be mean to anyone. If I’m having a bad day, it doesn’t matter. I have to be polite. You know how everyone has those days and you can flip someone off or do whatever you feel like doing? I can’t do those things. Doing that could change someone’s opinion about me forever. I always try to be as polite as I can. Privacy, [there’s] none of it.

Read Chumlee’s 2011 Intriguing People profile.

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