From Drug Trafficker to America’s Dad: Tim Allen

Tim Allen has always gone to infinity and beyond with everything he does. He is most famously known for starring in Home Improvement and voicing Buzz Lightyear, but he wasn’t always the innocent star we know today. In the late-‘70s, Allen found himself in trouble with the law and had to make a change.

Tim Allen / Tim Allen and Earl Hindman / Tim Allen and Buzz Lightyear / Tim Allen and Hector Elizondo
Source: Getty Images

After a judge told Allen to get his life together, he made a deal with himself that led to fame and fortune. There were some bumps along the way, but Allen turned his life around. From being arrested for drug trafficking to becoming a beloved star, here is Tim Allen’s journey.

Early Struggles

Born Timothy Dick in Denver, Colorado, Tim Allen turned to humor at a young age. He was teased in school for his last name, so he would make jokes as a defense mechanism. Then his life completely changed when he was 11. His father, Gerald Dick, was killed in a car accident.

A childhood photo of Tim Allen.
Source: Twitter

Allen was very close with his dad, and the fatal car crash broke him. They bonded over their love of cars, and Allen said his dad taught him everything about automobiles. Allen said, “I loved my father more than anything. He was a tall, strong, funny, engaging guy.”

Always a Troublemaker

After his father passed away, Allen’s mom moved the family to Detroit, Michigan, where she got remarried to her high school sweetheart. As the third of six siblings, Allen had what people call “middle child syndrome.” He was always doing things for attention and got into a lot of trouble.

A portrait of a young Tim Allen.
Source: Facebook

He was the troublemaker of the family and put his mom through the wringer. When the family moved, Allen said he went from being in the cool group to the bottom at school. It was a big adjustment, which made Allen act out even more. He struggled through his school years.

Things Were Looking Up

Allen lived in a traditional home despite his troubled childhood. After graduating high school, he attended Central Michigan University. He transferred to Western Michigan University shortly after, where he met his first wife. Allen also started working at the student radio station, WIDR. He found his passion.

Tim Allen is messing around with a radio.
Source: ABC

He enjoyed working at the radio and decided to pursue a degree in communications, specializing in radio and television production. Allen also minored in philosophy and design before graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 1976. He seemed to be on a good track in life and wanted to pursue a career in comedy.

A Dare Led Him to Comedy

Allen had grown up using comedy as a defense mechanism because he was bullied, but after college, he thought he could make a career out of it. His friends dared him to participate in an open mic night at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle outside of Detroit. Allen wasn’t half bad.

A young Tim Allen does stand-up comedy.
Source: YouTube

After the open mic night, Allen started to gain recognition, appearing in local commercials and on cable comedy shows such as Gary Thison’s Some Semblance of Sanity. People believed he had a real chance of making it big, but Allen’s life took a major turn in 1978.

A Big Mistake

Although he hoped for a future in comedy, Allen started drinking in his youth. It was exacerbated after his father’s death. He told people what they wanted to hear, but the trouble caught up with him. In 1978, Allen was arrested at the Kalamazoo/ Battle Creek International Airport in Michigan.

Tim Allen in a mug shot following his arrest for cocaine possession.
Photo by Kypros/Getty Images

Airport security caught Allen with a pound of cocaine in his luggage. Unfortunately, state legislators had just passed a law that carried a life sentence for any conviction of selling 650 grams or more of cocaine.

Set Up by the Police

Allen had been dealing drugs for a little while, and officer Michael Pifer set up his arrest. Pifer was allegedly following the amateur drug dealer for months before he got Allen to give him the brown Adidas gym bag filled with drugs.

A vintage photo of Tim Allen.
Source: Pinterest

Allen chose the airport because he saw a scene like that on TV. He put the bag in a locker, walked up to Pifer, and handed him the key. Once Pifer opened the locker and gym bag, Allen was swarmed by police. Instead of receiving $42,000, Allen was handcuffed.

Did Tim Allen Go to Jail?

Facing life in prison, Allen pled guilty to drug trafficking. To get a lesser sentence, he opted to provide names of other dealers to the authorities. This deal allowed him to be sentenced in a federal court rather than a state court. Therefore, the Michigan law didn’t apply to him.

Tim Allen’s mug shot.
Source: YouTUbe

Allen helped indict 20 people in the drug trade, resulting in the conviction of four major drug dealers. However, he still faced three to seven years in prison, ultimately serving two years and four months. He was released on June 12, 1981.

Reality Check

Going to jail caused Allen to face reality head-on. It broke him down when he was put in a holding cell with 20 other men with one toilet in the middle of the room. He told himself he couldn’t do that for seven years.

Tim Allen is telling jokes on stage.
Source: YouTube

Allen wanted to make a change in his life. That’s when the comedian inside him started to shine. It didn’t take long for him to make some of the toughest prisoners and guards laugh. Allen knew what he wanted to do when he finished his time.

Getting Back on His Feet

During his trial, Allen charmed the judge with his sense of humor. The judge told Allen that he expected him to “be a very successful comedian.” Luckily, being a snitch isn’t a deal breaker in the comedy world. Prison helped him develop an act.

A newspaper clipping mentions how the judge saw Allen’s talent.

Allen wasted no time exploring his talent upon his release. He got a job at an ad agency in Detroit and would perform stand-up at a comedy club in the evenings. Allen created a memorable stage persona and soon booked commercials. He quickly gained recognition.

A Woman by His Side

Allen met Laura Deibel in college, and she stuck by him through the drug dealing, arrest, and jail time. As he started to gain momentum in his comedy career, Allen proposed to Deibel, and they got married in April 1984. They had their first daughter, Katherine, in 1989.

Tim Allen and Laura Deibel arrive at Golden Globe Awards.
Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

His wife and daughter must have been his lucky charm because Allen booked a Showtime special a year after Katherine was born. Deibel was so proud of him, and they had big plans for their family’s future. They weren’t the only ones.

Disney’s Calling

The Showtime special caught the attention of Disney’s Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner, who offered Allen movie roles. Surprisingly, Allen turned most of them down but persuaded the studio to let him do his routine as part of a sitcom. His show Home Improvement premiered in 1991.

Tim Allen on Home Improvement.
Source: Buena Vista Television

Allen admitted that he had a limited acting range because he “can only play a part if I can draw on personal experience.” That didn’t stop him from rising to fame as Tim “The Tool-Man” Taylor. But that wasn’t his only significant role in the ‘90s.

To Infinity and Beyond

In 1994, Allen starred in the highest-grossing film of the year, The Santa Clause. He also topped The New York Times bestseller list with his book Don’t Stand Too Close to a Naked Man. However, all that was eclipsed in 1995 when Allen voiced Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story.

Tim Allen strikes a pose with Buzz Lightyear.
Photo by Chloe Rice/Disney Parks/Getty Images

Toy Story was a blockbuster success, and the second installment three years later did just as well. The Disney film made Allen an icon, and his character’s signature catchphrase is still a significant part of pop culture. People still love Buzz Lightyear.

Making the Big Bucks

Allen’s series, Home Improvement, lasted from 1991 until 1999. Allen was making $1.25 million per episode by the end of the series. He was raking in the big bucks and became a household name. Allen also starred in Jungle 2 Jungle and the sci-fi parody Galaxy Quest.

The cast of Home Improvement poses on set.
Source: Buena Vista Television

Despite his mega-success in the ‘90s, Allen turned down the opportunity to star in a ninth season of Home Improvement. ABC even offered him a whopping $50 million to participate. It seemed that he wanted to move on to other work.

The End of a Marriage

After 15 years of marriage, Allen and Deibel separated. Despite going through several challenging times in their relationship, Deibel couldn’t deal with taking care of their daughter alone all the time. Allen was always away for rehearsals or taping the series.

Laura Diebel and Tim Allen attend the Emmy Awards.
Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Allen would come home in the middle of the night, oblivious to everything going on at home. He was making a lot of money, but it didn’t save his marriage. She couldn’t put on a happy face in public any longer and filed for divorce in 1999.

Not His Full Name

After being bullied in school for his name (Timothy Allen Dick), Allen started using his middle name as a stage name. Producers pressured him because they didn’t think he would be taken seriously if he used his real last name.

Tim Allen jokingly picked his nose with an award.
Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Even though it would be hilarious to see a comedian with the last name “Dick,” Allen promptly dropped it to have a better chance at a successful career. It was a good decision because Disney probably wouldn’t have used him if he hadn’t changed his name.

The Greatest Week of His Career

Allen has had many accomplishments throughout his career, but there was one week where he ruled the entertainment industry. In November 1994, Allen had a NYT #1 bestseller, his show was the #1 rated show on TV, and his film Santa Clause was #1 at the box office.

Tim Allen poses in a convertible.
Photo by Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images

It sounds like that might have been one of the best weeks of his life. Allen definitely had other career highs, but he hasn’t had a week where everything was perfect like that again. Not everyone in the world can say they have had a week like that.

Another Home Run

Based on the success of Home Improvement, Allen wanted to create another similar sitcom. ABC picked up Allen’s show Last Man standing in 2011. He once again played a bewildered father of three children, but he had three girls instead of boys.

Tim Allen and Nancy Travis pose for a poster of Last Man Standing.
Photo by FOX Image Collection/Getty Images

The parallels inserted in Last Man Standing were meta-humor. Some of Allen’s former Home Improvement co-stars made cameos on the series. Allen’s character was loosely based on his own life, as a republican father of three girls. It was successful for a while.

The End…or Not

In May 2017, ABC abruptly canceled Last Man Standing without a final episode. Allen was confused, and it sparked an outcry from the show’s fans. Many accused the network of canceling the show because of Allen’s political views in the series.

Tim Allen and Hector Elizondo embrace in an episode of Last Man Standing.
Photo by FOX Image Collection/Getty Images

ABC said the official reason for the cancelation was business-related. Fans were disappointed to be left hanging. However, Fox picked up the series in May 2018. The series aired for another three seasons before ending on May 20, 2021. This time the series ended with resolve.

More Than a TV Dad

One of Allen’s sons on Home Improvement, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, left the show during the final season. Allen and Thomas spent eight years together, and he was confused by Thomas’ abrupt departure. Thomas said he wanted to go to school but then changed his plans.

onathan Taylor Thomas as an adult.
Photo by GT/Star Max/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Allen thought Thomas lied about his reasoning because he ended up making films instead of getting an education. They had a father-son relationship from all their time together, so Allen confronted him about the inconsistency. It didn’t go over well with Thomas.

Proud of His Hometowns

Although he spent his childhood in Colorado, Allen considers Michigan to be his home state. While filming Home Improvement, Michigan colleges were encouraged to send in sweaters for Allen to wear as free advertising. You might have noticed that he wore a lot of college sweatshirts.

Allen wears a KCC sweatshirt on Home Improvement.
Source: YouTube

There was only one rule for schools sending him sweaters: the school had to be in Michigan. Allen would make sure to wear all of the college apparel he received. His co-star, Richard Karn, would also wear the sweatshirts to promote more schools.

Another Arrest

The ‘90s might have been a glorious time in Allen’s career, but there were some low points. In 1997, he was arrested in Birmingham, Michigan, for a DUI. His BAC was 0.15, but Allen managed to avoid jail time. Instead, he was sentenced to a year of probation.

Tim Allen’s DUI mugshot.
Source: Bloomfield Township Police Department

As a condition of his sentence, Allen had to enter a rehab facility for alcohol abuse. Luckily, the program worked, and Allen has stayed sober for almost 25 years. It wasn’t the proudest moment of his life, but he overcame it.

Buzzed About Buzz

Allen was allegedly drawn to the role of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story because Pixar first offered the role to Chevy Chase. Chase was one of Allen’s comedic inspirations throughout his childhood. Luckily for Allen, Chase turned down the role of Buzz Lightyear.

Tim Allen and Buzz Lightyear host an event.
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

We hope Allen sent a thank-you note to Chase along with his fan letters. The role earned Allen $50,000 for the first film, but it was such a success that he earned $5 million for Toy Story 2. He then earned $22 million for Toy Story 3.

A Directorial Debut Disaster

Some of his projects have been critically acclaimed, but Allen’s directorial debut was disastrous. In 2010, he released Crazy on the Outside, a film about Thomas Zelda’s life on parole after serving time in prison for movie piracy. He brought in many actors from his past to work on the project.

Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver in Crazy on the Outside.
Source: Freestyle Releasing

Allen reunited with Kelsey Grammer, Ray Liotta, Sigourney Weaver, and Julie Bowan. However, the film was a disappointment. Critics gave it bad reviews, and it didn’t do well commercially. Allen has done better since then.

He’s Got the Voice

Aside from voicing Buzz Lightyear, Allen has used his vocal skills for other popular advertisements. He became the official voice for both Chevrolet Cruze in 2010 and Campbell Soup’s “It’s Amazing What Soup Can Do” campaign. Some people didn’t even realize he was the voice behind those commercials.

Tim Allen is in the recording studio.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

The Campbell campaign was a big deal for Allen because it was designed to modernize the brand after several decades. It seems that Allen has the perfect voice for ads and Disney movies alike. He should make a meditation tape.

Other Career Options

Allen didn’t initially intend to become an actor or a comedian. However, when he was offered commercial roles, and people liked his stand-up routine, he fell into those careers. If Allen hadn’t made it big in Hollywood, he had another option.

Tim Allen poses for a portrait.
Photo by Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images

One of his early passions was playing the piano. He learned to play as a child and enrolled in music classes in high school. He might not have become the next Beethoven or Mozart, but Allen was the master of the keys. He also took theater in school.

An Outdoorsman

If there’s one thing Allen likes more than anything, it’s spending time in the great outdoors. He grew up going camping and playing outside, which shaped him as an adult. Allen has a passion for the outdoors and has gone to great lengths to protect it.

Tim Allen, Christoph Sanders, and Héctor Elizondo in Last Man Standing.
Source: Disney–ABC Domestic Television

Allen was once so determined to save 26 acres of campground in Michigan from being developed that he purchased it for $2 million. If he hadn’t bought it, the land would have been turned into a mall or a condo complex.

Who Is Tim Allen Married To?

Fans loved Allen’s chemistry with his TV wives, but the strongest union he has is with his real-life wife, Jane Hajduk. In 2006, the couple got married in a small ceremony in Colorado. His divorce from Deibel was finalized in 2003, and he started dating Hajduk shortly after.

Tim Allen and Jane Hajduk attend an event.
Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

After they married, Allen and Hajduk welcomed their daughter Elizabeth in 2009. His second marriage has been different because he puts his family is his top priority. He learned a lot when he went to rehab and became a better partner because of it.

Art Imitates Life

While we know the saying “life imitates art,” in Allen’s case, it was the other way around. Early on in his career, Allen’s first feature film credit was as a baggage handler at an airport in the film Tropic Snow. It was like his situation.

Tim Allen during 13th Annual
Photo by L. Cohen/WireImage/Getty Images

The film was about cocaine smuggling. Maybe Allen was there as an advisor and an extra. He could have shared his own experience with the directors because he was arrested for smuggling cocaine in his early 20s. It must have been nice not to be arrested this time.

Making Exceptions

Because of his criminal record, Allen almost lost the lead roles in a few movies. In the 1994 film, The Santa Clause, Disney almost skipped over Allen because they have a policy of not hiring ex-convicts. However, they made an exception for him.

Tim Allen, as Scott Calvin, from The Santa Clause.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

The producers loved his audition, so they overlooked his record. Allen went on to get the lead role, and it was resoundingly successful. The Santa Clause had two sequels, and it gave Allen an opening at Disney so he could get other roles.

Friends in High Places

Allen has many important friends in Hollywood, including Steve Jobs. The Apple co-founder and Allen bonded over “technology, life, and religion.” Allen said they were quite close until he made a suggestion that rubbed Jobs the wrong way.

Steve Jobs delivers the keynote address at the Worldwide Developers Conference.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Jobs grew distant from Allen because he suggested changing the Apple font. Someone should have warned Allen not to mess with Jobs’ company. They grew apart after that despite having been good friends at some point. Allen was still sad when Jobs passed away.

An Unpleasant Trip

During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s talk show, Allen shared a story about the time he bought a custom RV for his wife’s birthday. She had been talking about wanting to go on an RV trip, so he surprised her with one and agreed to go on the vacation.

Tim Allen poses for a portrait.
Photo by Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images

Allen said he and his wife had a lovely time, but there were some downsides to traveling in an RV. He said one of the unexpected negatives was taking care of “his family’s sewer.” He was stuck draining the RV, and he wouldn’t do it again.

Avid Collector

Since Allen was a child, he has always enjoyed cars. He and his father shared a passion for cars, so it still connects him to his dad. In a 2013 interview, Allen said he had an electric car collection, which included “more cars than necessary.”

Tim Allen gets out of his car during the 1992 Toyota Grand Prix.
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc/Getty Images

Besides his electric cars, Allen also collects classic American cars. Among his vintage collection is a 1933 Ford Roadster and a 1965 Shelby Cora S/C. He grew up in Detroit, so he was surrounded by many car factories, making him more interested in learning.

Living Healthy

You may not expect it from a star who plays jolly Santa Claus, but Allen is keen on staying healthy. He works out regularly, eats a balanced diet, and meditates. He said, “I don’t want to be a wrinkled old man. I want to walk out of here standing straight.”

Tim Allen is at Disneyland eating a churro.
Source: Twitter

Despite his healthy lifestyle, Allen isn’t afraid to enjoy fast food from time to time. He loves a chicken sandwich from Burger King and tacos from Taco Bell. Just because he wants to live a long life, he still likes his treats.

He’s Grateful

When Allen reflects on his career, and Last Man Standing in particular, one word comes to mind: grateful. He loves what he does, and he enjoys entertaining people. Allen said it’s better than anything monetary. He also likes that there is a live audience.

Tim Allen is on the set of Last Man Standing.
Source: Disney–ABC Domestic Television

After every taping, Allen would tell the studio audience, “This is old-school stuff, what television and broadcast started with.” However, he hates streaming services because cable TV is “fresh,” whereas Netflix is like “processed food.” Despite the changing ways, he doesn’t get sick of his job.

Thanks, Jim Carrey

There were two times in Allen’s career that he took roles that Jim Carrey turned down. Not only did Chevy Chase turn down the role of Buzz Lightyear, but Jim Carrey did too. Carrey must have kicked himself after he saw how successful Toy Story became.

Jim Carrey attends a photocall for
Photo by Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images

The other role Carrey turned down was Joe Scheffer in Joe Somebody. Allen starred in the film in 2001, but it received mixed reviews. We guess Carrey’s judgment was much better with this film because it wasn’t a box office success.


In 1999, Allen’s Star Trek parody film Galaxy Quest received critical and commercial acclaim. While the film’s success was a pleasant surprise, Allen’s favorite part of the movie was working with the star-studded cast. He got to work with people he had looked up to for a while.

Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, and Sigourney Weaver in Galaxy Quest.
Source: DreamWorks Pictures

Allen co-starred alongside Sigourney Weaver, who had starred in the sci-fi horror film Alien. He was so starstruck by her that he asked Weaver to sign some of his Alien memorabilia. She didn’t mind because Allen was fun to work with.

Childhood Memories

When ABC picked up Home Improvement in 1991, Allen wanted to create a show he could relate to. He created characters from personal experience, including the beloved character, Wilson. Allen based him on his childhood neighbor because he was always too short to see over the fence.

Tim Allen and Earl Hindman pose for a poster.
Source: Buena Vista Television

While the character of Wilson was small, and viewers only saw from the character’s eyes up, it was important to add him to the show. He also created his own character based on things he had been through because his acting abilities were limited.

Speed Racer

During his time on Home Improvement, Allen took some time to pursue his other passions. He formed a racing team with Steve Saleen and Bob Bondurant. They were known as the Saleen/Allen RRR Speedlab and raced Saleen Mustangs in the SCCA World Challenge.

Tim Allen poses with a race car.
Photo by Jeff Katz/Getty Images

Allen and Saleen were both drivers, and it was one of the coolest experiences Allen ever had. He also raced at the 24 Hours of Daytona, which excited him because the drivers had to fix their own cars if they broke down, and Allen was “gadget-oriented.”

Big Inspirations

Allen has been one of the most iconic comedy figures, with a career spanning several decades. He has been in numerous iconic films. Many have wondered where Allen finds his inspiration, and he shared where he got his love for comedy.

Richard Pryor performs his stand-up comedy routine
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

Allen cited Richard Pryor as one of his biggest inspirations and the force that convinced him to get into comedy. Pryor was an influential comedian and storyteller, and Allen has always aspired to be like him. Allen would have made Pryor proud.

Never Left Set

Home Improvement had a show within a show thanks to Tool Time, hosted by Allen’s character. With his dryly cynical assistant Al, the two guide audiences through various construction projects. It was like a YouTube series before YouTube was invented.

Kiki, Al, and Tim pose on the Tool Time set.
Source: Buena Vista Television

When the show ended, Allen never fully left the set. Or, we should say that the set never left him. It turns out he still has the original Tool Time set in his garage. Whenever he feels nostalgic, he can go into his garage and remember the show that launched his career.

Allen’s Life Lessons

Allen faced some challenging hurdles throughout his life, some by his own making. Between his two arrests and jail time, he hasn’t always made the best decisions. However, Allen turned his life around when he got a second chance. Allen wouldn’t be the person he is today without those experiences.

Tim Allen during the Premiere of The Santa Clause 2.
Photo by Chris Weeks/FilmMagic/Getty Images

He relied on his faith to get him through the tough times, and Allen didn’t take his second chances lightly. Allen said the best advice he ever received was, “A grateful heart has no room for resentment.” He has come a long way from his troubled past.

How Much Is Tim Allen Worth?

As of 2021, Tim Allen’s net worth is about $100 million. He has made millions from all his successful movies including the Toy Story films, The Santa Clause films, and many others. He also made over $1 million per episode towards the end of Home Improvement.

Tim Allen attends an event.
Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage/Getty Images

For Last Man Standing, Allen was making about $235,000 per episode. He also earns a substantial income through brand endorsements and advertisements. He narrated the “Pure Michigan” TV commercials for Travel Michigan. He is doing very well.

Where Does Tim Allen Live?

Allen went from living in Colorado to Michigan as a child, but now he lives in Los Angeles. Allen, his wife, and daughters enjoy their luxurious home that has a chef’s kitchen and plenty of room for entertaining. Allen’s home also features a sound system throughout the house.

Jane Hajduk, Tim Allen, and Katherine Allen attend the 8th Annual TV Land Awards.
Photo by Michael Kovac/FilmMagic/Getty Images

We wouldn’t expect anything less from Allen because he is a man with good taste. His luxurious home is fit for a legendary actor, and the outside is just as stunning as the inside. It has a fire pit, water feature, and an outdoor shower.