In December 2022 Vogue reported that Pamela, A Love Story, would be streaming on Netflix. Directed by the Emmy-nominated Ryan White (The Case Against 8, The Keepers) the magazine claimed the show would be, “the definitive documentary about the pop culture icon which will provide an intimate portrait of her professional and personal life. It’s set to feature exclusive access to Anderson, never-before-seen archival footage, and excerpts from her journals. Both of Anderson’s sons with her former husband Tommy Lee, Brandon Thomas Lee and Dylan Jagger Lee, have voiced their support for the project on social media (Brandon is also one of its producers).” For Brandon Lee, his mother’s documentation comes from a very personal place.“I think through the years after going through so much, she’s clung to a lot of her personal treasures and guarded them over the years. They’re kind of her evidence to herself that she had a wonderful family and a lot of fantastic moments.” Yesterday I had the chance to watch the highly promoted streaming documentary. My eyes were glued to the 60-inch screen. Through reading her old diaries which were mostly all handwritten on yellow legal pads and viewing parts of VHS tapes
and DVD’s Anderson rewinds the clock. Quickly, the audience learns that there is a lot more to Pamela Anderson than a centrefold with curves in all the right place., We discover she was part of a dysfunctional family that lived in Ladysmith B.C, a small town on Vancouver Island. Her dad Barry Anderson worked as a furnace repairman, and her mother Carol, a waitress. Barry was an abusive drunk leading her mother to often drive the family to a safe location. Eventually the father would track them down and beg the family for forgiveness. Inevitably the family would return home and as usual in these types of situations the vicious violent cycle would start all over again. Surprisingly those aren’t the worst details of her childhood. Anderson suffered sexual abuse as a child, a fact she revealed publicly in 2014. She admitted she was molested by a female babysitter from ages 6 to 10, raped by a 25-year-old man when she was age 12, and gang-raped by her boyfriend and six of his friends when she was 14.
In 1989, Anderson attended a BC Lions Canadian Football League game at the BC Place Stadium in Vancouver where she was featured on the Jumbotron while wearing a Labatt’s Beer T-shirt. The brewing company hired Anderson briefly as a spokesmodel.
Fast forward a few weeks and Playboy was calling her. The eighteen-year-old who had never left the island, let alone flown on a plane was LA bound. Her entire world was taking off. With her mom’s blessing she flew to Hollywood and stayed at the Playboy Mansion while being photographed. At first, Anderson felt uncomfortable revealing her body which is understandable considering her past. However, eventually she decided that she was playing a character who was outgoing and wild. Soon, she loved being in front of the camera and was offered a job as a playboy bunny. Anderson gladly accepted and in fact worked for
Playboy for over 22 years as a writer and model. After Anderson officially moved to Los Angeles, she won a minor role as Lisa, the original Tool Time Girl, on the ABC comedy series Home Improvement. She left the show after two seasons and won the role of C. J. Parker on Baywatch, which she played for five seasons between 1992 and 1997 making her one of the longest-serving cast members. Anderson skipped out on the first 12 Baywatch auditions, finally showing up for the 13th and nailing the part. The show would go on to become one of the most watched programs in television history. Anderson has been married and divorced six times. Her first husband was Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, whom she shares two kids with: sons Brandon Thomas and Dylan Jagger. Anderson met Lee on New Year’s Eve 1994 at the club Sanctuary in Hollywood. “He came up, grabbed me and licked my face,” she told Movieline in 1995. “I thought he was a cool, friendly, nice guy. I gave him my number.” Six weeks later, Lee accompanied her for a photo shoot in Cancun, Mexico. The two eloped four days into their trip and tattooed each other’s names on their ring fingers. When they returned from Mexico, Pamela moved into Lee’s home in Malibu. Eventually, the marriage went south and Anderson married singer Kid Rock for four months in 2006, poker player Rick Salomon for two months in 2007 (and a year from 2014 to 2015), producer Jon Peters for 12 days in 2020, and bodyguard Dan Hayhurst for a year from 2021 to 2022. In an interview with Parade in 2015 Anderson revealed that she has no definition when it comes to her ideal relationship. “Even though I’ve been madly in love and have been with wonderfully incredible creative interesting people, everyone has their own opinion of what a husband should be, what a modern relationship should be, what an old fashioned relationship should be,” she said. “It’s coming to terms with what works for me, what works for us, what works for a loving relationship. And I can’t tell you that I’ve figured it out.” She continued, “But what I try and do—as everything I learn—is apply it to my life. And it’s everything across the board, from being the best activist I can be, the best parent I can be, the best wife I can be. Sometimes relationships just have their time and then they’re done and I wish there wasn’t so much pain involved. But sometimes from a broken heart comes a lot of healing. And I think that’s where compassion is born too.” Within a few months of their marriage Lee and Anderson were expecting a baby. The couple were beyond happy as for Anderson in many ways this felt like a redo. Obviously her childhood was difficult and she wanted to provide their baby with an amazing life full of love and riches. Unfortunately, with all of her commitments, she was running herself ragged and after only a few months she miscarried. The couple were devastated.
Anderson fell into a deep depression.
THE SEX TAPE SCANDAL
A sex tape of Anderson and Lee filmed on a houseboat was stolen from their home in 1995 and was widely distributed on the Internet. Anderson sued the video distribution company, Internet Entertainment Group. Pamela was pregnant during the trial and fearful of the extreme stress causing harm to her pregnancy, dismissed the case. Thereafter, the company began making the tape available to subscribers to its websites again, resulting in triple the normal traffic on the sites. It was said the Lees entered a confidential agreement over releasing rights to the video, but Pamela said that wasn’t true. Once a media darling, she was now a walking punchline. Leno, Letterman and all the famous late-night comedians joked about
the couple every night in their monologues. Her career was being destroyed and things only got worse.
Pamela filed for divorce from Tommy on February 28, 1995, days after he was charged with spousal and child abuse. Pamela cited irreconcilable differences in her divorce documents and sought full custody of her and Lee’s sons: Brandon, who was 20 months at the time, and Dylan Jagger, who was 2 months. Tommy was arrested on February 24, 1995, after Pamela called the police and reported that her husband had kicked her in the back three times as she cradled her son Dylan, who was 7 weeks old at the time. The incident occurred the same day as his arrest. Tommy faced three felony charges of spousal abuse, child abuse and unlawful possession of a firearm, but was sentenced to jail for six months for just the spousal abuse charge after he pled no contest (which has the same effect as a guilty plea) to the charge in exchange for the others charges to be dropped. After Tommy was released from jail, he and Pamela finalized their divorce in 1998 but dated on and off for years until their final split in 2001. Throughout the piece she seems on a mission to find herself. She talks about being married many times but could never find the same type of love and excitement she had with Lee. One of her boys chimes in that her mother loves to fall in love. Often Anderson is sitting on her bed, talking directly to the camera, looking at her tapes and diaries and photos, expressing her enthusiasm for life but at the same time reconciling that she was horrible with money and only cared about her credit card not being over the limit. In some ways she seems like a little girl who either never grew up or sort of lived in this fantasy world so long she didn’t need to grow up, as everything was always taken care of. Concurrently, one wonders if her childhood was so devastating she’s now living with her reconciled parents back on the island to make things right in her mind. This is how it should have been. Anderson reminds us she starred in the box office razzie Barbwire and before fading off into the sunset sort of rejuvenated her career by becoming involved with PETA. She became the center of controversy when she posed for a PETA ad wearing a bikini with sections drawn on her body dividing it into ribs, rump, shoulder, etc., like a diagram of meat cuts; the ad’s tagline was “All Animals Have the Same Parts”. The ad was banned in Montreal, Quebec, on grounds that it was sexist. Anderson retorted, “In a city that is known for its exotic dancing and for being progressive and edgy, how sad that a woman would be banned from using her own body in a political protest over the suffering of cows and chickens. In some parts of the world, women are forced to cover their whole bodies with burqas – is that next? I didn’t think that Canada would be so puritanical.” According to a Vogue article, “The film has reportedly been years in the making, but the timing of its launch, on January 31, 2023, is significant given the renewed interest in Anderson’s past following the release of Pam & Tommy, the eight-part series that fictionalizes Anderson and Tommy Lee’s tumultuous marriage and the scandal that engulfed them after their sex tape was leaked.” Pam & Tommy was written and filmed without Pam’s approval. “those close to her have spoken about her refusal to watch it and how painful it has been for her to have audiences revisit such a distressing period of her life. After the tape was made public, it was a very traumatizing situation and it’s unfair that she is being re-subjected to this trauma, like re-opening a wound,” a source informed People Magazine. “It’s her life and she should have the decision [as to] whether it’s turned into a commodity for public consumption.”
In the end, the documentary reveals Anderson has had to be a fighter throughout her entire life. Even though she has been blessed with good fortune, bad things have happened to her and it’s her response to the tragedies which makes the audience fall in love with her but also wish she has a happy ending.