Pamela Anderson On Her Post-Recession Comeback and Taking Life 100 Days at a Time
"You just got to do it. It's just part of life. I don't want to do that chasing youth thing. I think that's just a no win situation," Pamela Anderson says of aging well. Photo: Bryan Adams
Say her name out loud: Pamela Anderson.
What images jump into your mind? Champagne sex on a Caribbean yacht?Bouncing breasts in slow-mo on a sunny California beach? A blond bombshell Dancing on Ice? A Playmate who saves the fur on animals’ backs by stripping naked?
When I think of Pamela Anderson, I have four strong memories:
1. ’90s roommate download contests
2. Bromantic V.I.P. sleepovers
3. Seat-stealing hussy
4. The day we spoke, and I realized she’s much more than I ever imagined.
1990s Roommate Download Contests
When I was in my 20s, Pamela Anderson was my go-to, can’t-miss, online fantasy. In the late ’90s, I lived with two young buddies in a ratbag East Vancouver house. None of us had girlfriends. But we all had computers and we all dreamed of touching someone as scorching hot as Pamela Anderson.
We’d each spend hours alone in our rooms, using up all our screechy dial-up bandwidth to slowly download her sexy Playboy photos – inch by inch – so we could study her glistening body for up to two minutes at a time. And she was so alluring I suspect she prevented me from getting a real girlfriend for years.
Bromantic V.I.P. Sleepovers
In the early 2000s, I’d sleep over at my buddy Bob’s house out in the suburbs. While Bob’s wife mocked us from the next room, we’d drink beer and
watch Pamela Anderson’s spy-comedy series V.I.P.
To us, the show was event television, and the show’s campiness made us howl.
Both Bob and I are now divorced. Coincidence? I think not. I’m not saying our divorces were Pamela Anderson’s fault … but I’m not saying it wasn’t her fault, either.
I got surprise tickets to see a Vancouver Canucks game this year. I hadn’t seen an NHL game in years so I was thrilled when my superfine girlfriend (who just happens to look a lot like Pamela Anderson) pulled strings to get us two comped corporate seats. But they weren’t just good seats — they were centre ice. Best seats in the house.
I looked forward to it for days and even dressed up in my best suit.
Suddenly, minutes before game time, none other than Pamela Anderson bumped us from our seats. She’d literally bought my seat out from under me! My date was ruined. I’d been thwarted by the same wealthy woman who stunted my growth and destroyed my marriage.
Coincidence? Or is Pamela Anderson a villainous saboteur of love?
I had to find out. So I started investigating her to see what other nefarious things she’s been up to.
I soon discovered that Pamela Anderson is a helluva good person who, like so many of us, got absolutely hammered by the recession. And despite her superstardom, she’s not as wealthy as you might think. Unfortunately, she has fallen into brutal tax trouble and messy lawsuits, incurring debts during the past five years of well more than $2 million in overdue property and income taxes.
There are two easy reasons to explain Pam’s cash woes.
1. Location, Location, Location
For starters, she lives in an expensive little place called Malibu, Calif., where the average home for sale is listed at $4.9 million.
“Sometimes things get a little crazy. I’m in over my head a lot. I take a lot of risks. I live beyond my means,” she says from her family’s oceanfront home in her hometown of Ladysmith, B.C., where I tracked her down. We chatted about how she’s coming back from a tough few years.
In 2000, she bought her Malibu home for $1.8 million. Then she spent a decade and a ton of cash to transform it into a lavish, luxurious, eco-friendly wonder. She recently tried to sell it for $7.75 million but has since taken it off the market. She also owns a home in a luxury trailer park.
As my girlfriend says, if Pamela got royalties for every time someone downloaded one of her photos, she wouldn’t have to deal with money issues. Ever.
2. Harsh Hollywood Math
Pamela is now a 46-year-old actress among studio executives who love to take an original screenplay about an intelligent 46-year-old woman and then turn that character into a crusty 50-year-old man who’s sleeping with two 23-year-old women. There just aren’t that many starring roles for a woman Pamela’s age.
Compare that to Hollywood actors in her age group like, say, Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage. Four years ago, he woke up in his Bavarian castle to discover he was financially ruined. He’d bought a dozen mansions, three castles, two islands in the Bahamas, a dinosaur skull (I’m not making this up), a pet shark and an array of shrunken heads. He owed $14 million in IRS taxes and defaulted on a $2 million loan.
So what did Cage do to dig out of debt? He ditched the properties at a huge loss, then agreed to star in 1,000 crappy action/sci-fi thrillers in which his crusty 50-year-old character runs around yelling at bad guys, squinting at explosions and sleeping with much younger babes.
By contrast – and despite her vast action credentials in Barb Wire, V.I.P. and Baywatch – Hollywood is not inviting Pamela Anderson to star in 1,000 cheesy action/sci-fi thrillers.
So she did what any spunky former ingenue would do: she hiked up her skirt and strutted onto every reality show in the world. So far, she’s been paid to appear on the Australian, English and Bulgarian versions of Big Brother and spent three days on the Indian version of Big Brother for a reported US$550,000. She’s also guest-starred on a Turkish sitcom (playing herself), was a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, learned to dance for Dancing with the Stars and learned to skate for Dancing on Ice. Next week, I expect to see her shot out of a cannon.
If she kept up the pace, Pamela Denise Anderson would be competing on every reality show on every TV network in the world by the time she’s 55. I can’t wait to see the première of her exciting new all-in-one blockbuster series, The Deadliest Amazing Race of the Pawnstar Hunting Housewives the Year the Women Went Skate-Dancing in the Surreal Shark Tank Kardashian Wars.
That’s another key difference between Pamela and Nicolas Cage: if you see Nicolas Cage on YouTube, it’s because he’s screaming at strangers outside a Romanian nightclub. But when you see Pamela Anderson on YouTube, it’s because she’s raising attention and funding for humanitarian and animal rights organizations like PETA, Cool Earth, Sea Shepherd, the INGA Foundation (a reforestation program) and Canadian activists Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis. And a longtime PETA supporter, she’s against cruelty to animals like flogging lizards and spanking monkeys.
“In my weird bouncy blond way, I go around the world and I try to raise attention to causes that I care and have learned about,” she says. And like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show, Pamela’s doing it while millions of viewers watch her every move.
Warm, quick and witty, Pamela spoke passionately and intelligently about inspiration, aging, paying the bills and her kickass 100-day plan. She’s certainly ready for her close-up again – as you can see from our Malibu photo shoot.
I asked for her advice on how I, too, can age so well.
“You just gotta do it,” she says, laughing. “It’s just part of life. I don’t want to do that chasing youth thing. I think that’s just a no-win situation. It’s going to happen so embrace it. Embrace it and have a young spirit, I guess. There’s a lot of alien-looking people in L.A. It’s like did they do too much surgery when they were young or did they do really good surgery and they’re really 80 looking 40? [Laughs] It’s kind of scary.”
Next, I wanted to know what it feels like to suck up your pride and
submit yourself to the reality show microscope.
“I kind of did this social experiment,” laughs Pamela. “I made a deal with [my photographer friend] David LaChapelle where we said, ‘We’re going to say yes to everything. Let’s just pay our bills and see if we can have fun doing it.’ Everything is pop art. You can’t be cheesy. You can’t do anything cheesy because you’re not cheesy.”
I like that. Gives me hope because, well, I got slammed by the recession, too. I was laid off, then divorced, paying a steep mortgage on a condo I can’t afford to live in, and now I’m in debt up to my eyeballs. I badly need to find more work but I’ve been paralyzed over what career direction to take.
So her “saying yes to all work” philosophy? It’s simple genius: both freeing and exhilarating.
Next, I wanted to accuse her of stealing my hockey seat away. But it turns out she was the guest of a local restaurateur. Translation: she wasn’t there to wreck my date … as a single mom, she was probably there on a (possibly rare) date of her own.
She was in Vancouver to film a new CBS sitcom called Package Deal. Which is a big deal for this comeback kid … other than reality shows, she hasn’t been on a major network series for eons.
“I played an unconventional therapist. Which is really funny. They want me to come back for a recurring role, and the guy that produced this has produced a lot of great things: 3rd Rock from the Sun, Malcolm in the Middle. It was fun to come home and work with really really kind, nice, polite people.” [Laughs]
Wait, is niceness really that rare in L.A.?
“Yes!” she says, bursting into laughter. “There are nice people there but … coming home [to Vancouver], it’s the fresh air, the relaxed environment … everyone says please and thank you and opens doors for each other and is kind to each other. It just makes everything so much better when people have manners and they’re happy to be at their job.”
Say what you want about her but don’t dismiss her as a shallow bimbo. Twenty years after becoming a star, Pamela Anderson still selflessly gives her time and energy to help people who’ve been sucker-punched by Fate.
Like the people of Haiti who’ve been ravaged by storms, earthquakes and dictators. She just returned from a volunteer mission to Haiti with
“They’ve come so far since the earthquake,” she said. “It was great to go back and see all the progress they’ve made. The rubble removal and the rebuilding of hospitals and schools and relocating all the people.”
Okay, sure, it’s a wonderful cause, but with all her recent pressing financial troubles, why run off to fly into rubble-strewn wretchedness? What’s the appeal of Haiti?
“It’s like living life when every choice is important. It really connects the dots to be there and see this is how you can count. This is how it’s supposed to be. People really helping each other and getting through it.”
She makes a stark contrast to Haitian earthquake survivors and her Malibu neighbours who suffer through the odd mudslide or, worse, a lukewarm latte.
“We live in such a bubble. We have all these great things, and everything is easy. But [in Haiti] you live around people who must make choices for survival … and the people are happy going to work in uniforms and white shirts and clean and polished shoes. They have such dignity and self-respect, even coming out of a tent camp and going to school and just moving on. There’s such an energy there. It was really encouraging to be there and to see the progress in two years. It’s amazing.”
Ah, I get it now. She’s addicted to doing good. It explains why she spent all her money turning her house into a green eco-friendly marvel. Will she admit to being a do-gooding addict?
She chuckles at the thought.
“You can be addicted to worse things. [Helping others] makes your life so much more interesting and powerful and exciting. I get to show my kids. They’ve been to Indonesia and delivered clean water filters to different villages on their surfing trips. I say, ‘You can go on a surf trip, but what’s going on in that place where you’re surfing?’ I’m glad that I’ve instilled a little bit of that awareness and adventure.”
For a woman so committed to tackling her debts while simultaneously raising two children and saving the world, it’s no surprise she uses a motivational plan to focus her energy and ambitions. Turns out she’s on a 100-day program right now. She says the secret is all about getting “clarity” in your goals.
“I always have this thing that catches me. I say, ‘Okay, a hundred days. Let’s just figure this out. Complete focus. Every single day, work toward something you want to accomplish. And those are the only times I make incredible huge strides where, by 30 days, I’ve already solved 10 of my biggest problems.”
You know what? I expected Pamela Anderson to be utterly obnoxious. She got famous really young, dove headlong into Hollywood excess and then married and divorced a couple of macho, tattooed rock stars. If I got rich and famous that young, I’d probably be a jaded, burned-out jerk with a horribly Botoxed face.
Instead, she’s a mature, compassionate, inspiring, ambitious, fresh-faced mom with the bubbly personality and relentless optimism of an excited 22-year-old. She’s truly inspiring, then and now.
When I was young, Pamela Anderson taught me how to love
myself. And now that we’re both a little bit older, she’s taught me how to love others while ferociously chasing my happiness.
Don’t know about you, but I’m starting my own 100-day program RIGHT NOW.
A version of this article appeared in the Summer 2013 issue with the headline, “Pamela Anderson Has a Plan,” p. 46.