“I didn’t realize how much anger I was holding in Pandora’s box,” Pamela Anderson writes in her new memoir, Love, Pamela. And she’s not holding it in anymore. Anderson openly acknowledges her rage as she forcefully confronts injustices throughout her life: traumatic sexual abuse, fraught and frayed ties to famous men, the shame caused by the release of a stolen sex tape, the mockery much of the media made of her marriages. Love, Pamela is a wild ride traversing terrain around the star most of us have never accessed.
The book blends prose and poetry, pairing simple clipped verse with impressive philosophical references—an often-overlooked fact about Anderson is that she is a voracious reader—in an intimate look at the underside of a blond bombshell Anderson explains as a construct, and one she increasingly controls for her own activist ends. The mix of prose and poetry creates an impressionist experience, immersing you in a colorful biography already famously familiar thanks to celebrity media.
Anderson was born in July of 1967 in a rural enclave of British Columbia. She says she was actually a tomboy growing up. She wasn’t drawn to the usual feminine scripts for girls; self-worth and communing with mother nature were always front of mind. Her childhood had many rough parts, including falling prey to an abusive female babysitter, a moment so dark she tried to escape by digging a hole to China. Adolescence proved equally challenging. As a pre-teen, she was raped by a college student after being tricked into meeting him. “Eventually I just blocked it out,” she writes. Such violent experiences early on with men bring a demoralizing admission: “I was sexualized so young I skipped past the promiscuity phase.”
A fateful encounter at a football game sees her scouted for modeling, eventually put on a bus to Los Angeles to pose for Playboy. The drawing card for taking the gig, she writes, was that half of her earnings were sent back to her parents—and her mother approved of her decision. Fraught relationships to male partners soon feature heavily, especially as her profile rises and the male gaze encroaches. One boyfriend smashes silverware and plates in their kitchen as she fields a call from Playboy. The magazine provided the first refuge from male wrath, as she explains that sometimes standing in the spotlight ensures you don’t face their violence.
Baywatch ballooned Anderson’s international celebrity profile, which in turn led to the invasive lens of the paparazzi. During a press junket in Uruguay, Anderson says she was stampeded by a mob of fans who tore apart the event’s main stage and ripped at her clothes before she was whisked away by her security detail. (Later in the film Borat, she nods at this experience as the Borat character throws a sack over Anderson and tries to abduct her. As she so often reminds readers, humor can help abate trauma.) Often in Love, Pamela, Anderson reminds of the physical and emotional fragility that lay behind a public image many have seen as artificial and vacant.
Then there was her relationship with Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, who spiked her drink during their first foray together, creating an “ecstasy-induced love weekend.” It’s an intense and all-consuming bond that soon creates a dangerous cycle of abuse and emotional turmoil. As Lee succumbs to heavy drinking and violent outbursts, Anderson says she retreated inward, both from him and the harsh glare of the cameras, crescendoing in an attempted overdose. The release of their sex tape—stitched together home videos from the early days of their relationship—had a corrosive effect and unraveled the marriage: “It ruined lives, starting with our relationship.” Anderson has never watched the tape.
While heady relationships (some six marriages) and media exploitation (that tape) are painful memories to revisit, Anderson is at her most animated talking about her two sons with Lee and her political activism. Her work with P.E.T.A. and involvement with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange all started because of a belief in leveraging fame for the greater good: “I decided to turn my kind of activism into something full-force.” It’s these acts, recounted at length in the memoir, that make for gratifying reading. They show the intellectual bent and strategic thinking that Anderson has always adopted to try and right wrongs. She recounts, for example, how she took a paid T.V. gig in Australia only in an attempt to meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and ask him to facilitate Assange’s release from a British supermax prison. While the initiative failed—Morrison made leering jokes about it (“women were unimpressed,” Anderson writes dryly)—it nevertheless garnered international news and helped alert more people to what Anderson considers the unjust imprisonment of Assange.
In 2022 Anderson stepped into the role of Roxie Hart in the Broadway revival of Chicago for eight weeks. It was—for someone who had been a serious reader of acting theory—the fulfillment of a quiet dream to attract wider appreciation for her abilities as an entertainer. Some of the themes of Roxie Hart’s story resonate while reading Love, Pamela, namely the eroding effect fame can have. In one telling moment, Anderson explains how Kid Rock ended their marriage after seeing her appearance in Borat. After they attended the premiere together, he took a bedside photo and smashed it, saying the framed picture of her and her friend photographer David LaChapelle demonstrated that he would never play a lead role in her life. Except as it turns out, it wasn’t a photo of Anderson and LaChapelle; it was a picture of Marilyn Monroe and photographer Bert Stern.
In and amongst these remembrances, Love, Pamela is punctuated with Anderson’s poetry. While the verses are sometimes uneven, they nevertheless expand our insight into the star with rhythmic reminders of her inner mind, so excised from her media image. Anderson has been a celebrity known largely for her pronounced physical features and exaggerated feminine personae. Her memoir asks us to look beyond the centerfold spread, sex tape, and platinum hair to her politically active, emotionally fragile, and intellectually hungry world—even if it’s always been out of focus.
That’s the conflict at the heart of Love, Pamela: the Anderson of Playboy, Baywatch, and the internet are all seemingly divorced from the Anderson shaped by Eastern philosophy, veganism, and climate-change activism. Anderson acknowledges that she has utilized her sex appeal to advance the causes and pursuits close to her heart—to affect change and exert control far away from the carnage of her very public personal life. “It is natural/ to blend feminism/ and femininity,” she opines, “Learning the art of the tease/ while holding dear/ the value of self-worth.” Anderson is at her most anchored and palpable probing the inner sanctums of her life, and Love, Pamela is a defiant and loud testament to that.