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She’s stood up to Har­vey We­in­stein, lob­bied Me­la­nia Trump on ve­g­an­ism and is one of Ju­lian As­sange’s great­est sup­port­ers. Pamela An­der­son might be best known for be­ing a sexy, blond bomb­shell – but she’s full of sur­prises too, writes Char­lotte Ed­wardes.

She’s stood up to Har­vey We­in­stein, lob­bied Me­la­nia Trump on ve­g­an­ism and is one of Ju­lian As­sange’s great­est sup­port­ers. Pamela An­der­son might be best known for be­ing a sexy, blond bomb­shell – but she’s full of sur­prises too, writes Char­lotte Ed­wardes.

There are ben­e­fits to be­ing thought stupid: ‘When you form a full sen­tence ev­ery­one thinks you’re a ge­nius.’ Pamela An­der­son

Well, I knew she’d be sexy, but my good­ness, Pamela An­der­son is a blaz­ing fire­cracker in the flesh – tor­pe­does full thrust, pout full­blown, hair the full baby-blond Mar­i­lyn. A few min­utes ago she was pos­ing for pho­to­graphs in Coco de Mer un­der­wear and thigh-high boots. Now she’s shim­mied out of the baby­dolls, the corsets have been dropped, un­der­wires un­clipped, sus­penders snapped off and she’s resheathed in a black polo-neck dress, ly­ing on a gilt four­poster wear­ing black patent shoes with heels like mis­eri­corde dag­gers.

Some­how it seems ap­pro­pri­ate to in­ter­view An­der­son in a ho­tel bed­room. Even more so in a dark red one that smells of roses and leather. It has the same mood, she says in her lit­tle kit­teny voice, as the ho­tels she likes in Paris: Costes and Ho­tel Amour, “which ac­tu­ally is an old brothel in Mont­martre and I love it”. One room she de­scribes as hav­ing a black ceil­ing, with a neon sign throb­bing at the win­dow. “But you can hear ev­ery­thing through the wall: mat­tresses go­ing eek, eek, eek, eek. The doors were locked but pa­per-thin. I thought, ‘Some­one is go­ing to come bust­ing through and I’m by my­self!’”

Ac­tu­ally she wasn’t quite on her own; she was with her dog, ZuZu, who trav­els with her ev­ery­where. “ZuZu has the best ad­ven­tures,” she whis­pers. I bet he does. He sounds like a real-life Toto in the Pamela An­der­son ver­sion of The Wizard of Oz. And what a life! She was a Play­boy model at 24 be­fore be­ing picked up for Bay­watch, a trash tele­vi­sion se­ries about beach life­guards that she sin­gle­hand­edly turned into a global sen­sa­tion watched by one bil­lion view­ers in 142 coun­tries, just by putting on a red one-piece and jog­ging about in some sandy scenery.

“My breasts had a ca­reer; I’m just tag­ging along,” she quipped.

But her ca­reer is only part of her ap­peal. She is a con­stant thrill to tabloids, chalk­ing up four rol­lick­ing mar­riages to three un­suit­able men, in­clud­ing Tommy Lee, whom she wed af­ter four days, and Kid Rock, whom she mar­ried in a white bikini. There was a sex tape, drunk­en­ness, fall-outs with con­trac­tors (one in­te­rior de­signer said she and Lee spent money like they hated it). Even her boobs had scan­dals when the DD im­plants were taken out and then put back in.

Qui­etly in the back­ground she was also bring­ing up her two sons by Tommy Lee, Dy­lan and Bran­don (now 19 and 21), and nur­tur­ing 20-odd years in ac­tivism against an­i­mal cru­elty. Her foun­da­tion sup­ports a num­ber of causes, and she is also a board mem­ber of the an­i­mal rights char­ity, Peta.

Now, at 50, she’s back, caus­ing the me­dia to short-cir­cuit by pop­ping up in Lon­don as Ju­lian As­sange’s puz­zling new friend. It’s an un­likely pair­ing. An­der­son is the em­bod­i­ment of volup­tuous good health, while the Wik­iLeaks founder and fugi­tive is bloat­ing in the Ecuadorean Em­bassy base­ment, de­prived of sun, de­prived of ex­er­cise and — if re­cent pic­tures of his de­viant’s mul­let are any­thing to go by — de­prived of a mir­ror.

On every visit to Lon­don, An­der­son tells me, she trots over to see him, dressed in her own skin-tight 50s ver­sion of de­mure, car­ry­ing him a bag of take­away lunch. She’ll spend any­thing up to five hours in his air­less bunker, chat­ting about con­spir­a­cies and “brain-storm­ing”.

Dame Vivi­enne West­wood was sup­posed to in­tro­duce them, but An­der­son “screwed up” the days and met him alone. “I was ask­ing him, ‘How can I be more ef­fec­tive as an ac­tivist? What do you think? How can I be more ef­fec­tive with my foun­da­tion?’”

As­sange’s room is smaller than the one we’re in, she says. “Tiny, with­out sun­shine com­ing through the win­dows, and he’s very pale. Even in jail you have sun­light, but him, no. He has noth­ing. He can’t go out­side. There’s no

out­side.” He takes vi­ta­mins and works, she says, fo­cused at all times: “One hun­dred per cent com­mit­ted and he’s never off-track.”

She perches on a chair and takes notes, or they knuckle down to the busi­ness of the NGO they are set­ting up to­gether, called Ac­tivists Ten­ure, which will spon­sor 10 ac­tivists a year by pay­ing their salaries through her foun­da­tion.

“There’s a bit of a brain drain in ac­tivism be­cause of peo­ple hav­ing to get jobs, me­nial jobs, to look af­ter their fam­i­lies,” she ex­plains.

Cyn­ics may feel As­sange has just found another celebrity to ex­ploit, but An­der­son says his im­age is com­pletely wrong. “Amer­ica is pretty an­gry with him. Ac­tu­ally he’s a good per­son, sen­si­tive and funny. He’s a tes­ta­ment to what a per­son can be in a sit­u­a­tion so dire, so un­com­fort­able. He’s still smil­ing. And he’s al­ways very sweet, ask­ing about my kids and my life,” she says. “He doesn’t see too many peo­ple and he looks for­ward to me com­ing.”

When she talks about “Ju­lian”, she is very se­ri­ous. I sug­gest his is a monk­ish ex­is­tence and she stum­bles, “Oh, well, he has his, um …” I meant in an aca­demic sense. “Yes, yes, yes. He’s got this fo­cus and vi­sion.”

Af­ter leav­ing him, in­vari­ably she fires off a let­ter to Pres­i­dent Macron beg­ging France to give him asy­lum, be­cause “it would be a nice place for him to be”.

In­deed the rea­son she can visit As­sange so reg­u­larly is that she now lives in Europe. Last year she packed her bags, rented out her house in Mal­ibu (for $50,000 a month) and moved first to Aix-en-Provence and now Mar­seilles. It’s what she calls her “French jour­ney”, some­thing she’s planned for years be­cause ev­ery­one kept telling her, “Pamela, you need to be in the South of France.”

“Vivi­enne West­wood said it to me. The pho­tog­ra­pher Bruce We­ber said it to me. ‘What are you do­ing in LA? They don’t ap­pre­ci­ate you here! Get to the south of France. Just go.’”

And seem­ingly they were right, be­cause An­der­son “loves, loves, loves” France. Days are filled with gallery and mu­seum vis­its, and read­ing Anais Nin. She has a won­der­ful “per­sis­tent, at­ten­tive and jeal­ous” French boyfriend who tells her she is a woman who “n’a pas d’age”. When I ask how old he is, she says, “I don’t care,” which all sounds very

Em­manuelle and Brigitte. She dabs at her crois­sant flakes and or­ders a third cap­puc­cino. It’s 11am and she’s hur­tled into Lon­don from Paris on the 6am train. She apol­o­gises for “bab­bling”, and cer­tainly she speaks at a mil­lion miles an hour, her breathy de­liv­ery skid­ding over sub­jects as di­verse as go­ing to Cat­alo­nia for the ref­er­en­dum, be­ing told by an NGO she was “too much of a risk” to take to Ye­men dur­ing the cholera out­break, and how ter­ri­fied she was yes­ter­day when some­one stole her phone be­cause of the pho­tos. That bad? “Do not even go there.”

She’s vege­tar­ian and “mostly ve­gan” — she would never wear fur or leather. Re­cently she sent Me­la­nia Trump one of her re­cy­cled coats made out of plas­tic and cot­ton. “They are still

fuzzy and soft,” she says, let­ting me feel hers. Me­la­nia wore it, “and it got a lot of at­ten­tion”.

There’s a long sigh of ex­haus­tion when I men­tion Don­ald Trump. Has she met him? “I have, briefly. It was some­thing to do with his birth­day. I think I was hired to be there. I had a brief ‘hello’.”

She skips back to Me­la­nia, say­ing she wrote her a thank you note for the coat. “And I’m send­ing a coat to Kim Kar­dashian too, be­cause she’s known for wear­ing fur. You don’t need to wear an­i­mals any more. These are ve­gan too,” she says, point­ing to her shoes.

An­der­son is funny. Some­times in a know­ing way, say­ing, for in­stance, of a time she was ac­cused of be­ing nude at a party, “I wasn’t naked! I was wear­ing glit­ter.”

And self-dep­re­cat­ing too, re­lat­ing that her sons tease her about her lan­guage skills – “Mum, you know you’re just speak­ing English with a French ac­cent” — and there are ben­e­fits to be­ing thought stupid: “When you form a full sen­tence ev­ery­one thinks you’re a ge­nius.”

At other times she is al­most hi­lar­i­ously naive. Such as when I tell her the pho­tog­ra­pher Terry Richard­son has been banned from Conde

Nast as part of the sweep­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment out­rage. She keeps re­peat­ing his name as if in shock. “Terry Richard­son! Terry Richard­son! The pho­tog­ra­pher? Oh, no. But I liked work­ing with him. He was so nice when I met him. He’s gay, right?”

Another story in­volves Tom Ford tak­ing a pair of scis­sors to a Valentino gown she was wear­ing, tear­ing a slit right up the mid­dle. “He said, ‘Some­one put a corset on this woman!’ I’d have no or­gans be­cause he made it so small, but he kept pulling it and say­ing, ‘Oh my God, never leave the house with­out a corset.’”

FOR SOME­ONE who has been so ex­plic­itly ob­jec­ti­fied, An­der­son is an off-scale ro­man­tic. She’s an odd com­bi­na­tion of be­ing pro- Play­boy, pro-erotic ad­ven­ture and to­tally anti the im­me­di­acy of on­line porn and dat­ing apps (and even or­gies). Tin­der and porn are de­sen­si­tis­ing, she ar­gues, de­struc­tive to real hu­man re­la­tion­ships.

“What about see­ing some­one on the train or catch­ing some­one’s eye across the room?” she cries. “Why wasn’t that em­pow­er­ing? I don’t want to look at any­thing on­line. I want to see some­one in an el­e­va­tor. I want to have this elec­tric mo­ment with some­one and cul­ti­vate it.”

And it’s not just mil­len­ni­als who suf­fer, she be­lieves. Her own gen­er­a­tion have paid the price of lib­er­a­tion. “The sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion gave us free­dom, but it also gave us this raunchy, bad, empty sex,” she says. “I have friends from that era who wish they hadn’t done all that, and ended up alone. They numbed out. So much sex with strangers is not good for you.” For her, sex is in­ex­tri­ca­bly bound up with ro­mance. “You should never have sex with some­one you are not in love with,” she ar­gues.

The way An­der­son presents it, none of this con­tra­dicts the sim­ple “fun” of sex, such as dress­ing up, role­play, or a lit­tle light bondage. She says any­one who knows her well knows she al­ways wears match­ing lin­gerie (“in case I die in a car ac­ci­dent”). Every night she sleeps in a baby­doll nightie – “Al­ways!”

The very saucy un­der­wear range she’s de­signed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Coco de Mer, Pamela Loves Coco de Mer, is all 60s-style shapes in black sheer, bows, sleep masks that dou­ble as blind­folds and back­less briefs (launched by Rankin’s cre­ative agency, The Full Ser­vice). It’s def­i­nitely hot (she gave me a pair of sexy, see-through knick­ers with rib­bon ties and my boyfriend al­most had a heart at­tack).

Another re­cent project — with another un­likely friend — is a book she has writ­ten with Rabbi Sh­mu­ley Boteach called Lust for Love (pub­lished on Valen­tine’s Day). She jokes: “A rabbi and a Play­mate walked into a bar and what did they talk about? Sex, of course!”

Ac­tu­ally, she is as sur­prised as any­one at the col­lab­o­ra­tion, not least be­cause they met when he wanted to present her with a Jewish Val­ues Award. “I was like, ‘This is so strange. I’m not even Jewish. I know rel­a­tively few Jewish peo­ple. I don’t know about the re­li­gion — I know his­tory, ob­vi­ously — but he just gave me the most in­cred­i­ble ad­vice.”

The book is “po­lit­i­cal” and dove­tails with lec­tures she’s given on re­la­tion­ships at Ox­ford and Cam­bridge uni­ver­si­ties. She was stag­gered by the re­sponse — girls weep­ing by the end, “say­ing, ‘I am with a guy who’s ad­dicted to porn and hasn’t touched me in four months. I am 18 years old. What is wrong with me?’”

Ini­tially An­der­son wor­ried she’d be “dis­qual­i­fied” from talk­ing about these is­sues, “com­ing from a Play­boy back­ground and hav­ing had the stolen [sex] tape [with ex-hus­band Tommy Lee]”. But the au­di­ence told her she was per­fect, “Be­cause if you feel this way too, then …” She trails off, leav­ing me to think, “What hope do we have?”

One woman had been mar­ried for 10 years, but her hus­band hadn’t touched her for four, be­cause he pre­ferred to sit in the base­ment with porn. She begged An­der­son to tell her if she could get him back or whether their mar­riage was over. “I thought, wow, this is re­ally af­fect­ing peo­ple at a deep level.”

Ac­cord­ing to An­der­son, fur­ther re­search, un­cov­ered a whole raft of peo­ple in their 20s who’d never had sex be­cause they pre­ferred to mas­tur­bate to porn. “They’ve never touched a woman,” says An­der­son. “It’s gross.”

It’s also, she be­lieves, a weird flip­side to the rage against ha­rass­ment tear­ing through Hol­ly­wood and Bri­tish pol­i­tics. An­der­son says her naivety meant she largely sidestepped the prob­lem. “I would be like, ‘You want me to do what?’ Then I’d say, ‘Oh my God, you’re the worst thing that peo­ple say about this in­dus­try and I’m go­ing back to Canada.’ I would storm off and shout, ‘I be­lieve in love!’ And slam the door.”

That is not to say she has sidestepped it in life. In 2014, dur­ing an event to in­tro­duce the Pamela An­der­son Foun­da­tion in Cannes, she spoke of mul­ti­ple in­ci­dents of sex­ual abuse grow­ing up on Van­cou­ver Is­land: by a fe­male babysit­ter be­tween the ages of 6 and 10; by a man in his mid-20s when she was 12; by her boyfriend and six friends when she was 14.

Sud­denly the world’s most ob­jec­ti­fied woman

Any­one who knows her well knows she al­ways wears match­ing lin­gerie (‘in case I die in a car ac­ci­dent’).

was seen in the com­pli­cated con­text of her back­ground. To­day she doesn’t want to go back over that “dif­fi­cult” ground, but says that it is im­por­tant not to keep it in­side and, “Don’t blame your­self.”

She en­coun­tered Har­vey We­in­stein: an ogre, she says, but not sex­u­ally. “He told me I’d never work in [Hol­ly­wood] again, be­cause I re­fused to work with a dog. He wanted me to play In­vis­i­ble Girl in Su­per­hero Movie. But they wanted me to work with an ac­tual dog. I said, ‘I won’t work with an­i­mals in a film.’ And he said, ‘We’re just go­ing to put the dog there. What’s the prob­lem?’ And I said, ‘No. Put an X on the floor. I am talk­ing to an in­vis­i­ble dog. Why do we need an ac­tual dog?’

“And he was so mean. He called me back and shouted, ‘You’re Pamela An­der­son; you’re lucky I’m even putting you in a f***ing film. You’re never go­ing to work in this f***ing in­dus­try again, you son of a f***ing bitch.’

“He’s so in­tense. I’ve never been talked to that way by any­body. Not even by a boyfriend. He was re­ally in­tim­i­dat­ing. And I did it. But I did it with­out the dog.”

ONE OF her ma­jor cru­sades is to train the spot­light on do­mes­tic ha­rass­ment, vi­o­lence and abuse, which she de­scribes as hav­ing be­come “an epi­demic”. Her de­ter­mi­na­tion to push this is­sue stems in part from her own ex­pe­ri­ence. Her mar­riage to Tommy Lee of Mot­ley Crue — the fa­ther of her sons — was sav­aged by vi­o­lence. Ul­ti­mately he ended up in court, with An­der­son tes­ti­fy­ing against him.

Later she helped set up the Na­tional Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Hot­line, funded through the foun­da­tion. “It’s an anony­mous line to call when you feel like, ‘I’m not call­ing 911, but this hap­pened and who can I talk to?’ They are clear: if you need to hang up, hang up.” She’s manned phones at the cen­tre. “Be­hind closed doors, I don’t know why some men feel they have to have this con­trol.”

She urges women to speak up to friends, to fam­ily, be­cause in her own ex­pe­ri­ence, “You think, ‘I’m in this, and this has hap­pened and I’m em­bar­rassed to tell any­body that this hap­pened.’ But the first time you no­tice any strange­ness, tell your girl­friends, get ad­vice. Of course when you love some­body you make every ex­cuse for them in the world. You think, ‘Oh, that’s never go­ing to hap­pen again,’ or ‘I can fix this. I can be bet­ter.’ This is when peo­ple go a lit­tle over­board try­ing to be per­fect. And also you think you can change them.”

For­tu­nately for An­der­son, her mother back in Canada was a huge sup­port, telling her, “This guy you’re with, he’s an asshole and you don’t love him, so leave.”

“She used to say, ‘Rip the Band-Aid off. It’s go­ing to hurt for a sec­ond, then you’ll be fine. It’s go­ing to be hard but you’re go­ing to be hap­pier.’ ”

Cer­tainly a ma­jor fac­tor in An­der­son’s de­ci­sion to leave Lee was the fear that this “mod­elled be­hav­iour” would in­flu­ence her sons to be­have in the same way when they grew up. “I say to my sons, ‘If you dis­re­spect any woman, you dis­re­spect me.’ And they’re like, ‘Woo. Got it.’ They’re not go­ing to do that. At the time it was dif­fi­cult rais­ing chil­dren alone. But my mum would say, ‘Maybe it’s good that he’s not there so much.’ She was right.”

To­day her re­la­tion­ship with Lee is a world away. “I mean, Tommy is so emo­tional now. Every time they are in the stu­dio he starts cry­ing. ‘My boys are here! We’re mak­ing mu­sic to­gether! I’ve got some­thing in my eye.’ I don’t know what’s hap­pened. He’s so sen­ti­men­tal.

“He’ll call me now and say, ‘Pamela, thank you so much’ — ba­si­cally for go­ing to France — ‘be­cause I can be with the boys more and this is such an im­por­tant time in their life to be with their dad, and I am just so grate­ful that I get this time with them. So stay in France.’

“He’s more like a buddy. And they are in­de­pen­dent, so they don’t have to rely on him.”

She talks about Bran­don, a model and ac­tor, and Dy­lan, a DJ a lot. Dy­lan just per­formed in front of 16,000 in Am­s­ter­dam, she says. “He misses the dog. He says ‘You left, Mum, and you took the dog.’”

She tells a story about how Vivi­enne West­wood once ar­rived at her house in Mal­ibu when Dy­lan was hav­ing a tantrum and of­fered to speak to him. “I said, ‘He’s in there.’

“She goes in and says, ‘Dy­lan, I am so proud of you. You are mak­ing your mother so crazy by not lis­ten­ing to her. Never lis­ten to author­ity!’ I was like, ‘No, no, no! Vivi­enne, get outta here.’”

It was one of her sons who texted her in Septem­ber to say, “Hef died, Mum.”

Hugh Hefner was 91, but he’d known An­der­son for nearly a quar­ter of a cen­tury. “It was dev­as­tat­ing, the end of an era,” she says. “But he was not very well. Phys­i­cally, he was in a lot of pain, so it’s okay.”

She’s dis­turbed and sad that she missed their fi­nal meet­ing. “The time I saw him be­fore that, he had a lit­tle piece of pa­per in his pocket and he handed it to me and it said ‘Pamela’ with a heart around it. He wasn’t re­ally hear­ing very well by then.”

For many of us it’s hard to un­der­stand the at­trac­tion of Hefner – his last mar­riage was to a woman 60 years his ju­nior – but An­der­son calls him “amaz­ing”, “bril­liant” and “charis­matic”. She says he was a “for­ward-think­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian” and “an art col­lec­tor”.

They kept in touch over the years, Hef by the rather old-fash­ioned medium of tele­gram, as well as by phone. An­der­son dis­ap­proved of his hang­ers-on in later life. “I re­mem­ber him get­ting teary-eyed one day be­cause I said, ‘You know there are women that love you,’ be­cause he was in this cir­cle that got a lit­tle crazy.”

And she says he re­sented the “car­toon char­ac­ter” he’d be­come, and felt “di­luted” by the pres­sure to be com­mer­cial over the past 10 years. “I think it di­lutes any­one to be over­ex­posed like that. Be­fore the re­al­ity show started it was much more el­e­gant: pri­vate, erotic and sexy. Then it be­came very com­mer­cialised. Re­al­ity shows were pop­u­lar and he was try­ing to keep up with the Jone­ses.”

The im­age he cre­ated for him­self ul­ti­mately left him “lonely in the end. He was sur­rounded by women but he was lonely.”

Is An­der­son lonely? She says she has an ec­cen­tric col­lec­tion of friends: pho­tog­ra­pher David LaChapelle; artist Richard Prince; the Chi­nese artist Ai Wei­wei. (“I asked him what piece of art I should have; he said the hand­cuffs be­cause it was about artis­tic free­dom.”)

And West­wood, of course, the Mother of Punk. “I don’t think she likes ev­ery­body, but she likes me,” says An­der­son. “That makes me feel good, be­cause when other peo­ple say mean things about me I think, ‘Well, Vivi­enne likes me and she’s one of the coolest peo­ple in the world, so I am go­ing to go with what she thinks of me over what you think of me.’

“But it’s nice to have di­verse friends — girls and guys. It’s nice to feel stim­u­lated on all lev­els, all the time.”

You should never have sex with some­one you are not in love with. Pamela An­der­son

Pamela An­der­son on Bay­watch, circa 1990.

Above, An­der­son with for­mer hus­band Tommy Lee in 2007 and be­low, with her sons Bran­don and Dy­lan in 2016.

Pamela An­der­son at the Ecuado­rian Em­bassy in Lon­don, vis­it­ing her friend Ju­lian As­sange.

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