Les Gold has to be a tough guy a lot in his business, running a pawn shop in rough-and-tumble Detroit. This is the side audiences have seen and grown to love over five seasons of truTV’s Hardcore Pawn, which follows the daily goings-on at American Jewelry & Loan, which Gold owns and operates with his two grown children Ashley and Seth. But there’s also an undeniable warmth to Gold as well, and as he took some time to answer our “7 Questions,” this was the side we got to know. Outside this conversation, he revealed that he’s working on a book about the show and his life in the pawn business, a career that has spanned over 50 years, and that he takes his employees to a restaurant every Tuesday so they all can watch — and laugh — at each new episode of Hardcore Pawn.
Hardcore Pawn returns for Season 6 — which Gold says will deliver “real excitement” — at 9pm July 10.
1. Aside from Hardcore Pawn, of course, if your TV only carried three shows, which ones would you want?
Dallas. I also enjoy watching the repo shows, even though, thank God, my car has never been repo-ed. Lizard Lick Towing or Operation Repo. The other shows I enjoy are the storage shows, when they go into those storage units and sell merchandise. But Dallas is my favorite. I watch it all the time. Every Wednesday! Thank God Hardcore Pawn is not on Wednesday nights, or we’d have a problem.
2. What’s been your strangest fan encounter?
I was in Boston a couple weeks ago, because I’m beginning to write a book. So I’m at dinner, and a woman recognizes me through the window, barges into the restaurant with a camera — right in the middle of me eating a mussel — pulls me aside and says, “Oh, God, I love you! Can I take a picture?” So the anonymity of what my life used to be has changed, because now people think I’m a celebrity. But I’m just a pawnbroker that’s fortunate enough to have a TV show.
3. Tell me about a time when you were starstruck.
We were actually in California, and I was at a restaurant where Donald Trump was. That was pretty exciting to me. Not that I had the courage to walk up to him, but just being in the same area, because business is very important to me, and somebody with that type of success, it’s very cool to be around them.
4. What are three things you must have in your fridge/pantry?
Salt-free oat bran pretzels, Crystal Light, and fruit.
5. What’s the one thing you’re waiting on someone bringing into your shop to pawn?
It would have to be something like a signature, a personalized item, or maybe a document from the forefathers of the United States. George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, even though he wasn’t a forefather, he was just somebody who was just so unique.
6. What do you think about the other pawn shows on TV?
They’re not us. We’re not Antiques Roadshow. We are actually a Detroit pawn shop. There are other pawn shows out there, but they don’t show the reality of life. The draw that truTV has really focused on was the reality of what goes on in a real pawn shop with real people. People stand there, and they’re pawning their merchandise and you see the big lines of people bringing stuff in. That’s really one of the things that’s a big draw, so the difference between us and everybody else is the reality that truTV shows you.
6. What surprises people about the pawn business?
If you’ve ever watched that show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, that shows you how the other half lives. Well, the draw of our show is showing people how the other other half lives. It’s actually legitimized pawnbroking. What you’ve had in the past is this stigma that pawnbrokers only dealt with only drug dealers and drug addicts and thieves. Now, what truTV is showing you is the mom that has two kids at home that need food on their table, and she needs to put a roof over their heads.
7. How’s Detroit doing these days?
Things in Detroit are going to be tough for a while. What we do see, because we are like the economic barometer, when the loan line is shorter, things are getting better. When the redemption line — the people picking up their merchandise — is longer, things are coming back. People are going back to work. We lost a lot of the population in the last few years. So we’re struggling a bit, but if you look at downtown Detroit, it’s absolutely beautiful, and it’s coming back to life. We’re drawing a little different, and younger, crowd to live down there. So it’s very unique.
Photo: Courtesy of truTV