Chumlee of 'Pawn Stars' talks UNLV ball
February, 28, 2013
By Lynn Hoppes | ESPN.com
Ethan Miller/Getty Images"Chumlee" Russell has been a life-long fan of the Rebels and started buying season tickets last year.The UNLV men's basketball team (21-7, 8-5) is in third place in the Mountain West Conference with just a handful of games remaining in the regular season.
The Rebels' biggest fan, Austin "Chumlee" Russell of History Channel's "Pawn Stars," doesn't care about the record. He'll be there for every game. In the front row.
"If you're familiar with Las Vegas and you know anything about sports, you know that we have nothing else!" Chumlee said. "It's my second year of having season tickets and I try to attend as many games as possible."
Chumlee is living a dream in Las Vegas. He works at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, which became the backdrop for the reality TV show of the Harrison family. Chumlee is best friends with Corey Harrison and has been on the show since 2009.
Playbook had a chance to talk with Chumlee -- who got his nickname in elementary school from the cartoon character Tennessee Tuxedo’s sidekick -- about sports and life in Las Vegas.
How long have you been a fan of the Rebels?
"There is really nothing else to be a part of here so I decided I wanted to be a part of the UNLV basketball team. Back in the day, I remembered all the parades for the great teams. The whole town would go crazy. Before, I would piece together some good conference games. But last year I decided to buy season tickets."
You're such a big sports fan. You could just move, you know, out of there into a bigger sports town.
"I could never leave Las Vegas. I can't really afford New York or Los Angeles. I love this town. We don't have that much. We have the Runnin' Rebels and boxer Floyd Mayweather. When Mayweather fights, it's good for the whole city. It's like the Super Bowl out here."
You've become a huge star in your own right based on that reality show. Has any of it gone to your head?
"I don't think it's fair or not fair to say it's gone to someone's head. Some people can act Hollywood and others don't. I just try to live my life as a normal, everyday man. At times, fame does get to you. But you must stay positive and remember two things: It's easier to be happy and without all those fans, life wouldn't be as good as it is."
AP PhotoChumlee attends most home games for UNLV.
So fame isn't all it's cracked up to be?
"I do still go out occasionally with a group of friends and I do take my girl out to dinner. People sometimes ask for a picture. Most are pretty respectful. But that one person could consider you the meanest guy in the world when you don't have time to stop or chat. People don't realize that one picture for you is just one picture. But for me, I take a thousand pictures a day. That adds up. It's tough getting somewhere on time when you have to stop that much."
So can you and the Harrison family still work in the store?
"I do autograph signings every day. I occasionally go out there and walk the floor. Rick, the Old Man and Corey are there Monday through Friday and their office is right behind the wall. You can see Rick on the floor. It's really tough because the tours want to take pictures of everything. And we're still a pawn shop. And people who bring in items to pawn aren't tourists. They need money and they don't want their picture taken."
You started at the store as best friends with Corey. Are you guys still close?
"We both have individual friends we hang out with but we're still pretty close. Remember that we work eight hours at day together so that's 40-60 hours a week. Let's be honest. It's a great environment there. We have more than 60 employees, and about 10 of them went to school with us."
OK, I know you love collecting cars. How many do you have?
"I have a few. My favorite right now is my Buick Regal. It's getting repainted now. It's on hydraulics. I also have a 1964 convertible Impala. It's a beauty. We're one month away from Impala weather. You'll see me driving that down the strip."
And you still collect shoes?
"I have close to 300 pairs of shoes. I'm fortunate enough to be in a position to get any shoes I want. So I have a pretty nice collection. It's pretty valuable. It's funny when sometimes I buy a pair of shoes and I look on eBay and it's already selling for $500. I just wanted to buy those shoes to wear them!"
It sounds like you don't want to change a thing about your life.
"I've always enjoyed life. If you have a negative attitude, it's going to make you miserable. It's much easier to have a positive attitude and live a happy life."