Baywatch Lifeguard Mike Newman Opens up About His 16-Year Struggle With Parkinson’s: ‘Everything Changes’ (Exclusive)

Michael Newman stars in "Baywatch."
Michael Newman stars in “Baywatch.”.Photograph:

All American TV, Inc.; Hulton Archive; Getty

In 2006, Mike Newman’s spouse observed a wierd “shake” in his motion.

Newman, a ’90s TV mainstay as lifeguard Mike ‘Newmie’ Newman on the long-running motion collection Baywatch, had began strolling humorous. He was changing into slower within the pool and slower at working — extremely uncommon for the 6’5,” 250 lb. lifelong athlete. 

Initially, the retired actor and firefighter, then 50, assumed his physique was merely sporting out as he obtained older. However when members of the family and a involved neighbor requested him to see a health care provider, he figured it wouldn’t damage. He was prescribed a tablet known as Azilect — a MAO-B indicator that slows the breakdown of dopamine within the mind — and it was like some type of magic. Virtually instantly, all his bodily woes subsided. The following day, he went again and excitedly instructed the physician he felt “nice.” 

Sadly, it turned out to be nothing to rejoice. In a devastating flip of occasions, his physician defined it was truly not a goodthing that the tablet had helped — as a result of it meant he had Parkinson’s illness.

Nothing would ever be the identical once more for Newman.

“Every part adjustments,” the previous Baywatch star, now 66, tells PEOPLE. “All these issues that you simply thought you had been going to do along with your youngsters and grandchildren, footage we had been going to take, all of the plans I had… stopped.”

Baywatch actor Michael Newman and his struggle with Parkinson's disease.
“Baywatch” actor Michael Newman.

Michael Newman

As he sits in his Pacific Palisades house in California chatting over Zoom, a classic lifeguard stand poster is seen within the background. Staying within the Los Angeles space wasn’t his authentic plan, he says. Earlier than the analysis, he and his spouse Sarah, 67, had deliberate to retire in Hawaii. He’d even constructed their dream house, full with an olympic pool, together with his naked palms. He and his spouse have been married 36 years and share son Chris, 34, and daughter Emily, 31. By means of their daughter, in addition they have a granddaughter, Charlie, 1.

Now spending his retirement in L.A. as a substitute of Hawaii, Newman quickly will likely be headed again to a well-recognized place: tv.He’s lengthy carried out together with his performing days — “If you did not have to be there, why would you be?” he quips of Hollywood — however he’s set to play a outstanding half in an upcoming documentary trying again on the cultural impression of Baywatch.

Directed by Matt Felker, Baywatch: The Documentary will dive deep into the 1989-2001 syndicated phenomenon and the lives of its forged, which included Pamela Anderson, David Hasselhoff and Jason Momoa, amongst others. Regardless of the star-studded lineup of the unique collection, Felker was at all times most eager about talking with Newman.

Baywatch actor Michael Newman and his struggle with Parkinson's disease.
Pamela Anderson and Michael Newman on “Baywatch” set.

Michael Newman

“I had observed even on our social media that Mike, surprisingly sufficient, had an even bigger fanbase than nearly every other actor, most likely on the identical degree as Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff,” the director tells PEOPLE. “Everybody cherished this man. They thought he was simply so cool.”

His Baywatch character, Newmie Newman, was a unfastened caricature of himself. For years, he wasn’t even within the opening credit. However as the one real-life lifeguard within the forged — to not point out, a working firefighter — Newman made himself invaluable on set. He carried out stunts within the water that no person else may do and provided steering to the writers about rescue scenes in alternate for a number of extra strains. Finally, it paid off.

“I used to be too helpful for them to do away with me,” he says with fun. “I principally began off as a stuntman, and after seven years of being out of the opening credit, I lastly was anointed and allowed to be within the entrance of the present.”

When Felker first met the previous actor, he felt a “intestine response” in his abdomen. He explains that Newman doesn’t have a tremor, which individuals generally affiliate with the illness —  he’s nonetheless in high bodily form, however there’s a noticeable impression on his decrease physique. He has bother strolling and generally will get misplaced in his practice of thought when he speaks. Felker says you wouldn’t essentially be capable of discern what’s occurring simply by observing him, solely that one thing is “off.”

“I did not know the man, and it nearly made me form of cry,” he says of their first assembly. “It impacts you as a result of it is like, ‘That is not proper.’”

At first, Newman was hesitant to open up about his analysis within the documentary — he didn’t need to simply be often known as “the man with Parkinson’s,” he explains. However after spending extra time with Felker, he modified his thoughts and gave the director his blessing to share his story, authentically, with the world.

Baywatch actor Michael Newman and his struggle with Parkinson's disease.
Director Matt Felker (L) and “Baywatch” actor Michael Newman.

Michael Newman

The 2 have since fashioned a close-knit bond, with Felker, 43, likening the Baywatch alum to a father determine. Three or 4 occasions per week, the director brings him out to Malibu and helps him get within the ocean.

Newman has by no means stopped going into the water. In truth, he’s simply as energetic as ever. Each day he swims, kayaks or runs on the sand. He explains that the most effective remedy for Parkinson’s is train, no less than 45 minutes a day of intense cardio. In that respect, he says he considers himself “fortunate.”

“I’ve been coaching for this,” he says, referring to his lifelong ardour for bodily exercise. “Any individual that was 65 and never very athletic, in the event that they obtained the information that they obtained Parkinson’s, it would not end up as properly. I obtained all of them beat, I assume, if we may name it ‘beat.’”

Felker agrees that the ocean is the place Newman shines. “Within the water, he is like Superman, and on land, he is Clark Kent,” he explains. “You see him on land and he is stumbling, he is tripping … however you set him within the water and the dude’s like Superman.”

It solely is smart, contemplating Newman has primarily spent his whole life within the water. He was a junior lifeguard on the Santa Monica Pier again in his youth, then went on to swim for Santa Monica Metropolis School. He admits he “stunned himself” by making the school staff and grins as he recollects as soon as coming in third out of a 250-person race. His son Chris can also be an LA County lifeguard, carrying on the torch of his legacy.

Baywatch actor Michael Newman and his struggle with Parkinson's disease.
(From Left) Michael Newman, daughter Emily Vibrant, spouse Sarah Newman and son Chris Newman.

Michael Newman

It’s been 16 years for the reason that day Newman was recognized with Parkinson’s. He acknowledges that most individuals who’ve the illness don’t make it this lengthy and nonetheless dwell comfortably. “It’s a sluggish burn,” he displays. “Parkinson’s illness does not look forward to you. It retains on plowing in.”

He describes the illness as a “sinister” factor. The signs, he says, “march ahead so slowly that you simply barely discover that they are altering.” His major remedy is his rigorous train routine.

After largely maintaining out of the general public eye prior to now decade, he is now selecting to inform his story in hopes that it’d assist others. Taking part in Felker’s documentary got here with the situation that they’d work with the Michael J. Fox Basis and Cedars-Sinai to lift funds for combating Parkinson’s. “This will not assist me,” he says. “However it is going to assist somebody down the highway.”

Reflecting again on his life now, Newman admits there are “loads of issues” he would have carried out “otherwise.” However he’s additionally immensely grateful for a lot: his spouse and kids, the lifeguarding competitions he’s participated in everywhere in the world, all of the “good folks” he’s met all through his profession and the various years he spent on Baywatch.

Michael Newman stars in "Baywatch."
Michael Newman stars in “Baywatch.”.

Fremantle Media/Shutterstock

“The place would I be with out it?” he says of the present. “Effectively, it will’ve been form of a boring life, I assume.”

And, regardless of all the pieces, Newman hasn’t misplaced his Baywatch appeal.

“There is not something on this planet that I am unable to do,” he declares. “Whether or not it is crusing a ship or scuba diving or tackling a man off a jet ski.” 

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