3 MARCH 2001
PAMELA ANDERSON - PAMMY, TAKE TWO
First came the silicone breasts, then the Baywatch hysteria, then the violent rock-star husband. Now all three are history and the only person exploiting Pamela Anderson is Pammy herself.
DO not mention the bosoms. Do not mention the bosoms. These are the words I keep repeating to myself as I walk into the hotel suite where Pamela Anderson and I have arranged to meet. Her British PR has made it very clear: any questions about Pamela's breast area (he gestures to his chest to make sure I understand exactly what he means) and the interview will be cancelled, hence my mantra as I sit waiting for them - I mean her - to appear.
But it is no good. As soon as she walks through the door, I know I am going to have to say something. For her bra-less embonpoint, although recently reduced, is quite a stupendous sight to behold, straining so provocatively against her black scoopneck T-shirt. Besides which, there are some stories to be swapped.
For I, too, have recently had my implants exchanged for smaller ones.
'Oh, you have?' Pamela says. 'Well, they look pretty good to me.' She goes on to explain how they had found a leak in one of her old ones, so it was just as well she had them taken out, that a leak was a much worse situation than when they went hard (which is what happened to mine) and, well, who knows where the conversation could have gone, were it not for the look of horror on the PR's face. 'Oh, don't worry,' Pamela says, taking a sip from the cup of sugary tea which has just been set down before her, 'us girls are just having a body moment over here.'
Good old Pammy! But then I knew she wouldn't be the type to be offended from the moment she sat down, in her tight denim trouser suit and little 'pimp daddy' boots, as she describes the turquoise and blue stilettos she is wearing today. This is, after all, the woman who once remarked that she'd melt if you put her too near the radiator; the woman who joked that she thought she had Tourette's syndrome, she so loved to talk about sex; the woman who merely shrugs her shoulders when the subject of that notorious honeymoon video comes up (the video shot by her ex-husband, Tommy Lee, which mysteriously found its way on to the internet after being stolen from Lee's gun safe in 1997, and which is now one of the biggest-selling bootleg porn videos of all time).
Actually, the entourage situation is not nearly as bad as one might expect after her recent visit to Uruguay, where she had her blouse torn off and a rock thrown at her head by a pack of overexcited fans. Aside from the PRs, there are only two minders: Brian, a burly guy with a ginger perm who has been with her for something like 10 years, and Paul, who has been hired from a security company for the two and a half days that Pamela is here in London.
There is also Kenny, Pammy's trusty hair and make-up artist; a young man with pouting lips, bouffant blond hair and bird-like legs just like his boss's, encased today in some cripplingly tight leopardskin leggings. Oh, and then there is her best friend, Natalie Raitano, her co-star on the TV show VIP.
The show, created by the writer of the film Pretty Woman, is best described as a camp take-off of Charlie's Angels, with Pamela in the lead role as an inept bodyguard called Vallery Irons (of Vallery Irons Protection). It's pure unadulterated nonsense, but fun too, with plenty of car chases, explosions, slick karate moves performed in nine-inch stilettos and great guest appearances (Lil' Kim and Tommy Lee among them). VIP has hit a spot in the action-series-saturated States, where it is in its third season, has been sold to around 80 countries and pulls in around six million viewers per week.
But for my money it is the staggering amount of costume changes Pamela has to go through which makes it so compulsively watchable. In the half-hour episode I saw, for example (centring on an evil art dealer and featuring a marvellous scene in an auction house where he has a loaded gun placed underneath Pammy's bottom), I counted at least 14 changes of clothing and even more changes of shoes, the most notable of which were a pair of white diamante platforms which she wore while playing a poolside game of Twister.
'Oh, it's ridiculous,' Pamela agrees. 'I mean, I have a guesthouse which is full of shoes, don't I, Nat? And I am always changing my clothes on the show. Like, I'll go in through a door and I'll come out the other side in something new. Any excuse. I'll be like, hang on a second! Then I'll leave and come back wearing a different outfit. No mention of it, nothing. It's totally crazy! And I know people are saying, why is she wearing all that stuff, all that Spandex and bikinis to match the guns and everything, and I'm just, like, I love that kind of stuff.'
But then she loved all that stuff when she was in Baywatch, too, a fact which may have escaped the show's deadly serious creator, David Hasselhoff. 'They were all so serious,' she sighs, 'but I mean, c'mon, two kids trying to wrestle an octopus without getting their hair wet? I just thought the whole idea was hysterical, so I decided to do it my own campy way with the eyelashes and the big hair. In fact, I'd get my own hair and make-up artist at 3am and be at the set at 5am all ready to go - and it really worked for me. You know, you have to take these things into your own hands, otherwise people just walk all over you.'
Born on Vancouver Island, Canada, in 1967, Pamela grew up in a modest three-bedroom cabin overlooking the Pacific. Her mother, Carol, was a waitress at Smitty's pancake house and her father, Barry, repaired furnaces for a living. It was not a particularly golden childhood. Barry drank heavily and when he was drunk terrorised his family, Pamela screaming back at him (once even punching him) while her mother wept and her younger brother, Gerry - with whom she shared a bedroom - hid in a cupboard. (Barry has since reformed his ways, and he and Pamela are now very close.)
"There's a difference between someone exploiting you and you exploiting yourself."
A popular, pretty girl with a killer body and an aptitude for volleyball, Pamela moved to Vancouver city after graduating from school, and started working as a fitness instructor at a gym. Her life changed, however, in 1988 when she attended a British Columbia Lions football game in the city stadium, wearing a Labatt's beer T-shirt. When a cameraman picked the 21-year-old out of the crowd, her relatively flat (in those days) top half was displayed on the stadium's giant screen. A huge roar of approval went through the crowd every time she appeared, and a Labatt's executive immediately sought her out and offered her a job in a commercial. With her earnings, she had her breasts enlarged and the rest, as Vanity Fair once put it, was hysteria.
She got a call from Playboy, begging her to be the magazine's centrefold (she eventually agreed to do the October 1989 cover), and then managed to snag a part on a hugely popular sitcom called Home Improvement, in which she played Lisa, the tight-T-shirted Tool Girl, and which brought her to the attention of David Hasselhoff. At the time Baywatch was a fairly successful little show with perfectly respectable viewing figures, but after Pamela took on the role of the red Speedo-suited CJ, it became the most popular TV series ever made with, at its height, a fifth of the world's population watching in 140 different countries.
Pamela, by virtue of being able to run down a beach in slow motion while carrying a float, had suddenly become an international superstar. Everywhere she went she was besieged by adoring fans desperate to touch her to see if she was made of flesh and blood. It was, as she might entitle her autobiography if she ever sits down to write it, Pamdemonium.
And then, in 1995, she met Tommy Lee, the hellraising drummer of the rock band Mötley Crüe, and married him five days later on a beach in Cancun, Mexico, looking rather dazed and wearing a white bikini. Three years later, Lee - who had a history of alcohol and drug abuse - was arrested after Pamela called the police claiming that he had kicked and hit her in front of their children, Brandon, two, and seven-week-old Dylan. Lee was charged with spousal abuse, child abuse and possession of an illegal firearm and sentenced to six months in LA county jail.
After Pamela filed for divorce, the couple got back together,announcing they would remarry. But then, in March 2000, they split again. Pamela moved away with the children into a 'gated community' high in the Hollywood hills, before jetting off to Monte Carlo to host the VH1 music awards, where she met and fell in love with the world's first male supermodel, Marcus Schenkenberg. It was, aesthetically speaking, a match made in heaven and for a brief moment everyone thought it was for ever. Pamela would volunteer that it was a 'karmic' thing, how they had known each other in former lives, how well he got on with her kids - and how brilliant he was in bed. So brilliant, apparently, that the makers of VIP were practically on their knees asking her to get a good night's sleep. 'I guess they could see the trailer shaking,' as Pammy put it, in typical deadpan mode. But that relationship, too, foundered and she now disparagingly refers to it as 'a one-night stand which lasted for eight months'.
Tommy Lee, by virtue of the children, is still in the picture. Indeed, as we speak, they are at his house in LA. Not by themselves, Pamela hastens to add, but with a nanny. 'They see their father every second weekend now,' she explains, 'which is a new thing, and we're gonna have to see how it works out.
'I'm not really clear what Tommy is up to now but I know he has become a much better father than he was, obviously, before. I think this is because now he has to be hands on. Whereas before it was just me. I always focused much more on my children than I did on my relationship because my relationship was so bad, you know? Tommy used to say to me, "When are you gonna hang out with me?" And I was like, "W-e-e-ell, this little boy is smiling and playing with his trucks over here, and you're pouting over there, who am I gonna choose? Well, I think I'm gonna play with Brandon right now!" It's like most men - they always think that they are losing a wife rather than gaining a family. They don't automatically fall in love with their children. But I think Tommy is definitely in love with them now.'
The PRs are tapping their watches, intimating in no uncertain way that I have to go, which is a shame as I could talk with Pamela for hours about breasts, bikinis ('Underwire is so 1999!') and clothes (her favourite designer being Alexander McQueen, after he showed her a Polaroid of him and his boyfriend dressed as Pam and Tommy for Hallowe'en). But the PRs are immovable: her schedule is back to back, she is utterly frazzled with jet-lag and, most telling of all, I can see the spindly figure of Kenny hovering towards us to powder her nose for the next interview.
The following Monday, I find out that Pamela managed to squeeze in a quick jaunt to her favourite clothes shop in London, Voyage, where she bought enough frocks to fill eight carrier bags. Later, apparently, there was much trying-on of clothing in her hotel suite with Natalie in preparation for dinner at Nobu with her bosses at Columbia Tristar.
Interestingly, Pamela, who has always been a bit of a nightbird and says she is actively 'on the lookout for good breeding stock', did not make it to the Met bar afterwards, which was just as well given that Liam Gallagher happened to be drinking there that night. Besides which she shouldn't really do those things any more, now that she is a proper, bona fide businesswoman.
Having not earned a penny from any of those Playboy calendars or CJ dollies (or indeed from that unauthorised home video), Pamela is now very much the mistress of her own rights. Not only did she insist on being made co-executive producer of VIP - which means she takes a piece of the profits as well as vetting the Bacofoil Bardot tops - but she has also launched her own internet-based TV network, pamtv.com, a site creatively directed by her brother Gerry and, according to Pamela, 'just getting crazier and crazier'. (Pamela's estimated personal wealth is now somewhere in the region of $77 million.) As she herself once remarked, 'There's a difference between someone exploiting you and you exploiting yourself.'