THE CHUM DIARIES
Nine hours earlier, I’d arrived at Gold & Silver Pawn, Corey’s workplace and the subject of popular reality show Pawn Stars. Corey works at the shop with his dad, Rick, grandad Richard, and childhood friend, the mononymous Chumlee – bickering, haggling, and ultimately making bank on the coolest antiques and most obscure collectibles Las Vegas has to offer.
I’m spending an evening with these guys to find out what happens when the cameras are off. They want to take Maxim out to do Vegas, local-style, but before we head off, there’s business to be done.
Corey and Rick, the 47-year-old head honcho at Gold & Silver, are appraising a customer’s Civil War journal.Surrounding them is a small army of a film crew, documenting the barter from every angle. The owner wants $12,000. Rick, in true Rick fashion, will have none of that. My reality-show skepticism is on high alert, but outside of some retakes for clarity, it all feels authentic. I stay out of their way and browse the shop, which is packed with eye-catching sale items: samurai swords, guitars, and even a World War II Indian motorcycle. There’s also art all over: portraits of everyone from John Lennon to… Chumlee?
On the show, Austin “Chumlee” Russell is as much the breakout star as he is the village idiot. Chum won’t be along for tonight’s ride, as we’re heading out a bit early for his taste (“I start my night at one o’clock”), but I get a chance to catch up with him at the shop. For better or for worse, he’s not the dolt he’s made out to be on the show. He’s the first to admit his situation is surreal. “I never expected my face to be on the side of a building to draw people in.” While he enjoys the opportunities the show has afforded him, he’s not just sitting back. “I’ve got other things I’m workin’ on that will hopefully outlast the show… and me,” he says. “One of my goals is to work on things that could outlast my lifespan.”
Back on the floor, Rick has called in his rare-book expert, Rebecca Romney, to give her two cents on the journal. All the experts on the show are truly experts, and Rick calls them out of necessity, not just for good TV. “I can’t know everything,” he admits. Rebecca, the manager of the Las Vegas Gallery of Bauman Rare Books, has appraised the journal and left Rick and Corey to strike a deal with the customer. After some back and forth, they’ve scored the journal for $5,000 and the three of us are en route to dinner.
For the full feature and images grab the April 2013 issue of MAXIM, in stores March 20 – April 17, 2013.
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