Austin Lee Russell (born September 8, 1982), better known by his stage name of Chumlee, is an American actor, businessman and reality television personality, known as a cast member on the History Channel television show Pawn Stars, which depicts the daily business at the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas where Russell works as an employee.[3][4] Chumlee came to work at the pawn shop five years before filming of the first season, having been a childhood friend of Corey Harrison,[3] whose father, Rick Harrison, and grandfather, Richard Benjamin Harrison, opened the shop in 1989.[5] Currently Chumlee has gained negative media attention for returning to Pawn Stars, which started an online protest to have removed from the show.

On the show, he is often portrayed as the comic foil,[6] but often appraises items in his area of expertise of pinball machines, sneakers and video games, and is considered the breakout character of the series,[7][8][9][10][11] and a fan favorite.[12]

Early life

Russell was given the nickname "Chumlee" when he was about 12 years old. Due to his large face and chin, the father of one of his friends stated that he looked like the walrus Chumley from the animated TV series Tennessee Tuxedo.[3] As a child he became good friends with Corey "Big Hoss" Harrison,[3] whose father, Rick Harrison, and grandfather, Richard Harrison, opened the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in 1989,[5] where Russell and Corey often spent time as children.[3]


Chumlee began working for the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop,[2] and had worked there for five years by the time of filming for the first season of the reality television series Pawn Stars, which is set at the shop, and premiered in July 2009. He does behind-the-counter work at the shop, such as testing the items, loading them,[13] and writing the tickets for items purchased by others.

On the series, he is depicted as the comic foil, often made the butt of the others' jokes for his perceived lack of intelligence and his incompetence, for which he has been referred to as a "village idiot".[6] Chumlee has responded to this by explaining that he is underestimated, and points to his expertise in pinball machines, which he utilizes in the second season episode "Pinball Wizards", much to Corey's surprise, as an example of one of the areas in which he is knowledgeable.

Chumlee emerged as the breakout character,[7][8][9][10][11] and a fan favorite of the series.[12] As a result of the show's success, he formed his own company, which sells novelty items, including T-shirts of his own design, and arranges for his personal appearances. He sold half of the company in 2010 to Rick Harrison for $155,000, so that the shop could handle orders of his merchandise more efficiently. So popular is his character that sales of his merchandise far surpasses that of the other stars of the show.[12]

Chumlee appeared as himself, alongside Rick and Corey Harrison, in "iLost My Head in Vegas", the November 3, 2012 episode of the American TV series iCarly.

Personal life

Chumlee enjoys collecting shoes, and owns more than 200 pairs. He also enjoys sports, video games and skateboarding. He is a fan of both punk rock music[4] and rap music.[7] He is a fan of the TV series Boardwalk Empire, Sons of Anarchy and Breaking Bad.[12] He also enjoys driving his 1986 Buick Regal, which he has customized with hydraulic lifts on the front and back.[4] He also owns a Rolls-Royce Phantom, a Maserati GranTurismo, a Cadillac Escalade, Range Rover, and a 1964 Impala SS.[7]

By September 2013, Chumlee had altered his lifestyle habits and lost 75 lb (34 kg) in a year by exercising at a gym six days a week and improving his diet, including drinking more juice, eating more vegetables and abstaining from red meat, a change that was inspired by his father's death at age 54 from pancreatic cancer, two weeks before Pawn Stars debuted.[7] Chumlee's diet has enabled him to be able to ride a hovercraft he had purchased earlier in the series, but could not ride before due to a maximum weight restriction of 250 lb (110 kg).

His girlfriend, Tanya Hyjazi, is a chef for a major Las Vegas casino.[7][14]

Legal troubles

On March 9, 2016, Chumlee's home was raided during the course of an investigation into sexual assault allegations. During the search, police found crystal meth, marijuana and one firearm. On a later search, police found eleven more firearms, ranging from handguns to a shotgun, MP5, and .223-caliber rifles. Only four were registered to Russell. Nevada, however, does not currently have any laws that require the registration of firearms. Most of the firearms were found in a bedroom vault safe, along with 17 multi-dose ‘bars’ of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax and seven capsules containing small amounts of methamphetamine, police said. Police also found evidence of possible cocaine use on the property. Subsequently, Chumlee was arrested.

He was released on bond the following day. His first appearance in court was set for March 11, 2016.[15][16][17]

Chumlee was charged with 20 felony counts, including drug and weapons charges. David Chesnoff, Russell's lawyer, confirmed that the popular reality TV star pleaded guilty to a felony weapons charge; unlawful possession of a firearm; and to a gross misdemeanor of attempted drug possession in a deal which calls for three years probation and counseling. [18][19]