We need to talk about Pammy
From childhood abuse to ditching Kelly Slater and a perilous journey to the Playboy Mansion, James Croot gives his analysis of the biggest revelations from Netflix’s Pamela Anderson doco.
Once dubbed the most famous blonde on the planet and a generation’s sex goddess, Pamela Anderson’s life so far has certainly been incidentpacked.
Married five-times, the now 55-year-old is best known as a serial Playboy cover girl, a star on what was at one-time the biggest TV show on the planet (Baywatch) and featuring in what was arguably the world’s first viral video (an intimate tape of her and first-husband Tommy Lee that was stolen from their home and disseminated – first via VHS and, later, online).
Apparently in response to last year’s controversial dramatisation of that pair’s relationship in Pam & Tommy, the Canadian-born Anderson has decided to set the record straight in the new Netflix documentary Pamela, a Love Story (which debuted on Tuesday). So, what are its biggest revelations.
Pamela Denise Anderson made the papers from almost the minute she was born.
The daughter of a Ladysmith, British Columbia ‘‘pancake waitress’’ and a ‘‘poker player-con man-chimney sweep’’, her arrival on July 1, 1967, meant she was one of the first babies delivered in Canada’s centennial year. ‘‘My mother has a scar after going through the [car] windshield when she was pregnant,’’ Pamela Anderson says. ‘‘I used to joke – that’s the reason I’m a little bit crazy.’’
A TROUBLED CHILDHOOD
Anderson says she not only tried to kill the female babysitter who had molested her, but she actually thought she was responsible for her eventual death.
‘‘I told her I wanted her to die – and she died in a car crash the next day. I thought I’d killed her with my ‘magical mind’.’’
Later, a 25-year-old man raped
Anderson when she was just 12. She says she didn’t tell anyone, but it left her feeling super selfconscious and with a feeling of shame that felt like something ‘‘tattooed on her forehead’’.
Anderson admits she has always been drawn to ‘‘different types of bad guys’’. One of her first boyfriends had a habit of trying to chase her and run her off the road. He also kicked her out a moving car: ‘‘I did a gymnastic dismount into a ditch.’’ She also offered this advice: ‘‘When you see your boyfriend washing his penis in the sink, that’s a sign he’s probably having an affair. Looking back – it’s funny – but, in the moment, you’re horrified.’’
THE ROCKY ROAD TO PLAYBOY
Gaining attention while wearing a beer brand T-shirt at a Canadian Football match led to her being the face of an ad campaign for that beverage – and a phone call from Hugh Hefner’s representatives. However, the young woman from a tiny Vancouver Island town had never even been on a plane before, so getting to the Playboy Mansion in California was rather fraught – not helped by not having the appropriate visa to work in the US.
When she finally got to her destination via bus, Anderson wasn’t exactly dressed to match the opulent surrounds either. ‘‘I wore a Nirvana T-shirt, acid wash jeans and socks with balls on the
back. My hair was also the colour of a manila envelope after I tried to give myself highlights.’’
ALMOST BOTCHING BAYWATCH
Before she secured the role of
C J Parker on the hit US drama, Anderson admits she actually cancelled on the audition 11 times. ‘‘I thought Marina del Ray was far away,’’ she confesses, not realising at the time it was simply a seaside community in greater Los Angeles. A part of the show for five seasons, she also says learning how to run in slo-motion ‘‘was hard’’, directors of her early episodes gave her the simple advice to just ‘‘pretend it’s real’’ and that the appeal of the series was that you could watch it ‘‘with
the sound off – it was not about the storylines’’.
Sylvester Stallone offered her ‘‘a condo and a Porsche to be his No 1 girl’’; Scott Baio ‘‘was not very nice to me’’ and Kelly Slater was ‘‘such a sweetheart’’. Anderson admits she was still actually seeing the latter, her Baywatch co-star (‘‘I was supposed to go meet his family in Florida’’), when she first encountered rocker Tommy Lee. A four-day courtship in Cancun later and she was a married woman, totally engrossed in a ‘‘full-on, explosive kind of love’’, even if she initially wasn’t sure who he was: ‘‘I thought his name was Tommy Lee Jones.’’
BARB WIRE BLUES
It was supposed to be the movie that reinvented Anderson as a blockbuster film star. Buzz around her playing the beloved Dark Horse comic-book character was initially huge, with a Cannes Film Festival press conference generating plenty of hype.
However, ‘‘after Cannes, they switched directors – and storylines,’’ she recounts, while trying to kick-box in a corset that made her waist just 17-inches was less-than-ideal.
The end result, which also starred our own Temuera Morrison and was very loosely based on 1942 classic Casablanca, ‘‘wasn’t the box-office success everyone wanted’’, she admits. ‘‘I don’t know what that movie’s about – I have no idea.’’
To make matters worse, Anderson had a miscarriage during the shoot and – even now – feels that having to carry on meant ‘‘I never got to deal with the grief of losing my first baby’’.
Recounting in detail how she and Lee discovered their safe was missing from their house and that an intimate tape of them was being sold, Anderson says it felt like ‘‘such an invasion’’. The tape was really just footage of ‘‘us being goofballs’’ in the early days of their marriage but ‘‘someone had spliced all the nudity together’’.
‘‘I think both of us didn’t know how to handle it,’’ Anderson admits, adding that the pair were angry at how it all played out, especially after they turned down a US$5m offer for the use of the footage from Penthouse.
‘‘For me, [doing] Playboy was empowering – this felt like a rape. You can’t put a price on the hurt and pain it caused. It began the deterioration of whatever reputation I had. I knew – at that point – my career was over.’’