For GQ Magazine, 2002
Empowered woman or kick in the crotch for feminism? Who cares? Not Pamela Anderson. Just give her a flute of Cristal and a guy to use her 'trick pelvis' on. Just wait till you read this interview.
The second most famous woman in the world arrived alone, but for her driver, at a photo studio in Culver City, west of Los Angeles. No fusspot circus of personal stylists, cooks and gurus, not even the standard issue armory of brick wall publicist or hardball agent – just the superstar herself, in soft white slacks, looking a tad tired, a little sleepless. The rumour around the studio is that her latest beau, Kid Rock (or 'The Original Badass', or 'Bob') is to blame for her exhaustion. He flew in last night at three am and she probably didn't get much rest after that. They've only been going out for a couple of months.
"Hi, I'm Pamela," she said.
She was delighted to learn that GQ had provided several bottles of chilled Kristal for the shoot – as expressly advised by her manager the day before – and it wasn't ten minutes before she turned to Shane, a camp makeup man with whom she's worked once before, and asked "what's the time, 11.30? Is that Kristal thirty? I think it is." Pammy loves her Kristal. She has a whole fridge of the stuff at her Malibu home, right beside the fridge full of Budweiser for Mr Rock. "But I have a lock on my fridge," she says, "because my brother and all his surfer buddies come over and steal the beer, and I don't want them stealing my champagne."
By one o'clock, she's on her third flute, casually perched in a tall make up chair, crunching through some salad as Shane draws around her eyes.
"Of course size matters! Whoever says size doesn't matter is a liar with a small dick! Right Shane?" Shane's giggling. He goes a bit red. "But I'm lucky," she continues, "I never met any of those. I have good penis karma! That's what it is – penis karma!"
Of course, it's only fair that her penis karma should be good after all the pleasure she's given men this last 12 years, the number of young boys she's encouraged to try their hands at the sex thing. And she's right, she's got great karma, as anyone who saw 'that video' will know. It was Pammy who said on that infamous boat trip: "This is my Tommy. He has a huge fucking cock… and big balls."
GQ: "From what I remember, the Original Badass has quite an act to follow."
Pam: "No, no, Bob's got nothing to worry about."
GQ: "But how does he compare, I mean Tommy Lee used his schlong to steer the boat at one stage. He's a big chap by any standard."
Pam: "Oh, I think that must have been the camera angle or something. I'd say he's pretty middle of the road." She cracks up laughing again, takes a lug of her Kristal mimosa (with pulpy OJ) and shrugs. "I'm just being honest. I have Tourette's syndrome, I just blurt it out."
Meanwhile, Shane is wetting himself, it's all too hilarious. He looks at me and splutters, "you're getting some great material here," and promptly elbows Pamela's glass all over his array of powders and paints.
"Oh no, not the Covergirl! Not the Chanel!" says Pamela, in an Olive Oyl, 'hayelp Popeye' voice. "OK, that means I'm allowed a refill. Here give me the glass, I'll get it."
It's a little halting to meet Pamela Anderson for the first time. Having seen her in 2D approximately a trillion times over the last decade, like subliminal advertising – as Baywatch's CJ on a Saturday evening, on all those saucy calenders at barber shops and garages, on the news, on countless magazine covers and ceaseless pop-ups on the internet, "100% Uncensored, Pam and Tommy"… – then all of a sudden, there she is, beaming at you, the bimbo icon, beach babe cliché, big boobs, big hair, big lips.
She's beautiful, of course, but her features have hardened somewhat over recent years. Where once her kilowatt smile suggested only the sunkissed abandon of being young, buxom and beach-bound, now it hints at the two kids and abusive ex-husband, the divorce and the law suits. All the accompanying graft of being the second most famous woman in the world.
"Am I really that famous?" she asks.
Well, I think Madonna beats you, but there's not much in it.
"Oh you know I once saw a documentary about Zimbabwe and they're all in this little hut watching Baywatch! It's funny. Sounds funny too. I sound a lot better in foreign languages. I wish I had that great Spanish voice, or that French voice."
It strikes me that while she merrily chinwags about her ex-husband's penis with Shane and I, families in Beijing are sitting around the TV watching her run slo-mo down the beach, a voice artist in Ghana is dubbing her part for the latest rerun, Bulgarian teens are reaching for the Kleenex teenage boys, the latest episode of VIP is satellite-beamed to 75 countries and counting and web nerds Naf, Nick, Bash, Joshua and the Fresh Prinz are busy updating their competing fansites. Not that Pamela is in the least bit encumbered by all of that global to-do, not today.
"I think the funniest is when I'm dubbed in Chinese or Japanese," she says, reaching for her replenished glass.
Perhaps more than any other star of our time, Pamela Anderson is famous for being famous. And how. Of all the pretty girls in the world, of all the babes on Baywatch, for that matter, only Pamela has reached the stellar heights of a modern Monroe. Admittedly her fame owes itself in part to the internet, to globalisation and other such timely currents, but in person it becomes a little clearer. She sucks in the spotlight, always has.
You've heard the story. Way back in the 80s, at a football game in Vancouver, as the cameraman panned through the crowd, he was drawn to a young fitness instructor called Pamela, the daughter of a furnace repairman and a waitress from the tiny town of Ladysmith, British Columbia. Of all the girls at the game, the camera chose Pam, and Labatt's the game sponsors swiftly snapped her up as their promotional girl. Of all the girls that sell beer from billboards, Pamela was chosen by Playboy in 1989, and of all the Playmates that pass through Hefner's crinkly hands, Pamela won a role on Baywatch, which became one of the biggest shows of the 90s. Sure, she was lucky, but that's where the magic lies – anyone can work hard, few are chosen.
Then she married Tommy Lee, the hellraising mascara-and-metal swordsman who filled her up with babies and, as we all know, screwed her silly on a boat. Their stormy romance was a classic fable of seduction, sex, fame and defeat, a certificate 18 LA biopic that ends in hundred million dollar lawsuits, prison for Tommy, the popping flashbulbs of every paparazzi in the world and Pamela's love hopping from the surfer Kelly Slater, to the model Marcus Schenkenburg to finally, happily, another platinum-selling rockstar. It makes Tom and Nicole look positively geriatric. For a while, as the couple blazed from scene to scene like ball lightning, their adventures becoming ever more lurid and outrageous, their fame was akin to a snowballing boulder cascading down a hillface, engulfing unsuspecting villagers.
"I still love Tommy, we have such a special bond with our kids," says Pam, peering into the make-up mirror at her Cupid's bow lips. "But I think my favourite things about me are the things that bother him the most and his favourite things about him are the things that bother me the most. So we're fucked. But he's still one of my favourite people." She squinches her face. "Shane, make my lips bigger."
Lee's wooing of his wife is a corking tale. It begins with his licking her face while high on Ecstasy – "on Ecstasy Joan Rivers looks like Pamela Anderson, so imagine what Pamela Anderson looked like" – and it ends with his chasing her out to Cancun, in Mexico with a duffel bag full of sex toys. "I put on my dirtiest fucking leather pants," says Lee, "I slipped into an old-T-shirt that stank of BO and didn't shave or shower. I did however brush my teeth." After four days, they were married on the beach.
Everything about the Pam-Tommy affair was gloriously OTT. His big cock, her big boobs, the wedding rings tattooed on their fingers – 'Tommy's', 'Pamela's' – their second marriage ceremony in silver space suits and not least, the party Pamela threw for Lee as he turned 33. "Oh the Tommyland party with all the little people?" says Pamela. "Yeah, that was great. Tommy loves little people and so do I. My son Dylan, he's 3 ½ now, and his birthday's December 29th, so every year I have snow brought in and all Santa's elves come in to hang out and party. They walk around saying 'oh I'm so overworked', and my kids go 'it's OK, you can relax now and come party with us!'"
Here's Lee's description of Tommyland, taken from "The Dirt", Motley Crue's biography. "Two rows of flames stretched out hundreds of feet in front of me. Midgets were everywhere, saying in their helium voices "Welcome to Tommyland, welcome to Tommyland, hee-hee-hee." Then two more midgets appeared and unrolled a red carpet between the lines of fire. In the meantime, all kinds of clowns and acrobats materialized, filling the air with confetti. Ahead of us, a giant on stilts dressed as the devil walked through the tangle of midgets, parting them like a sea. Past him there was a big sign that said, TOMMYLAND, with a crazy-looking clown on it. There were fucking Ferris wheels, roller coasters, contortionists in boxes, caged lions and bubble machines, Tahitian dancers, Balinese percussionists…" All of which was Pamela's doing. She even hired ambulances to take her drunken guests home at the end of the night.
Quite what Kid Rock has in store when his birthday comes around on the third week of January, Pamela won't say. It would spoil the surprise. Besides, she's too busy looking at a set of pictures she recently shot for Stuff magazine in the USA. "I don't usually like seeing the pictures I do because I always think I'm way hotter than that in my mind!" She stamps her feet. "'I know [ital] I'm better looking than that, I know [ital] it!' But look at this one." She points out a shot in which she is bent backwards until her hands and feet are planted on the floor. It's quite a contortion. "You know I used to be a gymnast right? I can do backflips. Why do you think I keep getting marriage proposals all the time? It's not my cute face, it's my trick pelvis." She laughs, jumps out of her make-up chair and snatches up her glass of champagne. "A cute smile and a trick pelvis, that's all you need to get a record deal or a TV show, or a TV show and a guy with a record deal, whatever."
She catches sight of the array of shoes laid out for her choice and her jaw drops. "Where are the heels, baby? Those aren't heels, they're for beginners. I sleep in shoes higher than that. I shower in shoes higher than that. I swim in shoes higher than that. Seriously, I can't wear flat shoes, I trip all over the place. It's a genetic thing, my mom's the same way. Either I go barefoot or in eight inch heels."
The heels get a serious look in on VIP, the latest Pammy vehicle, currently in its third series. It stands for Vallery Irons Protection, and like Barb Wire, it involves Pam sending up her bimbo self. In one episode, Vallery (Pam) almost blows up L.A. when she mistakes a nuclear device for a make-up case – that kind of thing. And Pam loves it, she loves the hammy jokes, the way her character always misses the point, but looks fabulous the whole time. She likes wearing her killer stilletos, shooting guns and treating the world to yet more of her legendary cleavage and skimpy minis.
Inevitably VIP was first greeted, three years ago, by the same critical groans that have dogged its star ever since Baywatch – the knee jerk scoffing at her limited range, her wanton bimbocity and her efforts to portray empowered women when she's clearly nothing but a kick in the crotch for feminism etc etc. But lately the worm has been turning. VIP is now hailed as postmodern. The New York Times described it as "the smartest dumb show on television. Instead of a beautiful model-actress-whatever playing a brilliant private detective (or brain surgeon or nuclear physicist), you have the beautiful star playing a bimbo." And playing bimbos is Pam's department, she's done it her whole life, deliberately or otherwise. Even at high school, when she signed her graduation book, under 'ambitions', she wrote: "to be a beach bum".
She's playing the fabulous bimbo today at the photoshoot, she can't help herself. The Kristal, the stilletoes, the big lips and trick pelvis thing. She even turns it on when we're talking about her stalker, the crazy French woman called Christine, who could have killed her, let's be honest. In the end, she just left Pamela a note saying "I'm not a lesbian, I just want to touch you". (Same here, Christine, I know the feeling).
"Oh my God, the stalker! She was in my house for 3 days before we found her! My nanny, who's from Argentina, went to prepare the guest room and when she came back she said 'Pamela, there's somebody sleeping in the bed,' you know like Goldilocks. So I got the kids out immediately and I went in there and I recognised her, I'd seen her before in Malibu just staring at me. So I freaked." She tips her head back, splays her legs and arms and yelps a quick scream. "The damn cops took 40 minutes to arrive, and when they came she had some broken glass and she cut her wrists. She bled all over my Belgian linen sheets!" She laughs. "Oh, I was pissed all right."
It turns out that the mad Frenchwoman had been in and out of her house for two weeks. One night Pamela heard this knocking at the window and when she walked up to investigate she saw this face pop up on the other side of the glass. "Isn't that the scariest thing in the world? She was saying 'Parlez-vous francais Pamela!' So of course I freaked." She does the 'freak' again. "If I had a gun, I would have shot her in the head. I can shoot too. I've been trained in all kinds of weaponry, I did a course for Barb Wire. I've shot bazookas, grenade launchers, I rock out with my Glock out." She laughs. "What's that line in Mommie Dearest? Don't fuck with me fellas, it ain't my first time at the rodeo!"
Then things started to go missing. She left a loaf of bread out to make lunch for her kids and 20 minutes later it's gone. "I didn't really think because a lot of people come in and out of my house, like my brother and his friends – but I expect beer to go missing, not bread! Then I remember running out of the house, with no top on, to get my Gucci jean jacket from the guest house and it wasn't there. I thought "hello?" Then a few weeks later I'd see girls and homeless people on the beach wearing glittery bikini tops and hotpants and I'm like – that's my stuff! She was giving my stuff to her friends! I tell you, all the homeless people looked great. Gucci cut-offs, Louis Vuitton suitcases. They looked fabulous."
It's time to do the pictures and a rail of clothes, heels and sundries are wheeled out for her. The second most famous woman in the world is about to get near naked for the cameras in her time honoured fashion. She knows the drill, it's a cakewalk – big hair, big lips, big boobs, nice and raunchy. She knows that when it comes to their sexuality, men are like iguanas, once you've seen one, you've seen them all. So when the clothes come out, and the clothes come off, she's going to throw those shapes she throws, with her hubby's album playing big decibels in the background. In and out. Bish bosh.
"OK, interview over, you've got to go now – girls are changing."
Just one last question, Pam. You're an actress, don't all actors dream of Oscars somewhere down the line?
"Please. I don't really think I'm in that category, do you?" she says laughing. "No, that's not my future. Having fun is, though, having a good time."
Is there anything else on the horizon other than VIP?
"Well I get offers for a lot of films, and when I finish VIP in September I'm supposed to meet all the studios so they can bid. But I'm tired. I can't imagine doing anything other than VIP because I might have to learn heaps of lines and play difficult characters or something awful like that! I'll probably just walk in and go, 'I don't really want to work!' Bye!"
She hops off her chair and leads me to the door. "Listen honey, I just want to do the least work in the least time and make the most money – like anybody, right?"