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Pam & Prejudice

A short time after the Marie Claire interview (February 2003 issue) and beginning writing for that other magazine in a regular manner, Pamela told the BBC hold mag eve some more thoughts and issues. Hope, it is not considered redundant… This account is from writer Suzan Colon and the photographs (one provided below) from Richard McLaren.

When writer Suzan Colon was assigned to look beyond public perceptions and uncover the real Pamela Anderson for eve, it was the third time in six years that she had interviewed the former Baywatch star. ‘The first time we met was in very strained circumstances — Pamela had just moved into a new house after leaving husband Tommy Lee for the first time. It felt so strange that I knew where she lived, but her husband didn't. Despite the fact that she was obviously shaken, she welcomed me into her home. I met her parents and children, and she was an amazing hostess and interview. It's never a dull moment when I talk to her, and this time was no exception…’

‘I'm keeping the ring, whether we get married or not!’ Oh dear, Pamela Anderson has only been at the studio for her eve cover shoot five minutes, and already she's baring all. She made quite an impression by arriving (on time) in tiny whit bellbottoms, a gold belly chain and a sawed-off white T-shirt that she's slit up the back and tied tightly, showing off her, er, considerable assets. Before having a scrap of make-up applied to her flawless, freckled skin, she's rooting around in a denim bag for her engagement ring from her fiancé, Kid Rock.

‘It's in here somewhere...’ She pulls out a gold ring with a three-carat rock the size of a Heinz baked bean (vegetarian, of course — we are talking about a PETA spokeswoman). ‘Is it big?’ she wonders. ‘I suppose it is. He said it symbolises our relationship: we have more than some, but not as much as others. I guess that's romantic?’ She pushes it halfway down her ring finger. At the base there is a scar. ‘That's where I had the 'Tommy' removed,’ she says, referring to the wedding-ring tattoo bearing the name of her ex-husband Tommy Lee. She pulls off the ring and puts it back in her bag.

Um…does she not like the setting? She sighs briefly before answering in her signature rapid-fire delivery: ‘I don't wear it because it just becomes all about the ring then. It was in all the gossip columns that we were supposed to get married this weekend. Ha! We so did not get married this weekend.’

At that moment, Pamela's manager herds everyone out of the studio, explaining that Pam has had a rough weekend and when too many people are around she suffers from ‘emotional claustrophobia’. But this is exactly the type of thing that makes Pamela a celebrity in the classic Hollywood tradition. As the star of Baywatch and the movie Barb Wire, she may never have been nominated for an Oscar, but in her personal life, her gift for drama is unparalleled.

Her Cinderella story started to go south with her quickie marriage to Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee. The couple was best known for their X-rated home movies until the night Pamela frantically called police to their home, saying Tommy had attacked her. ‘He kicked me in the back,’ she said at the time. ‘The babies were crying, I was screaming. His eyes were glass. He went completely blank.’ She returned to him briefly, but left again, and has since become engaged to Robert Ritchie, a.k.a. Kid Rock.

But her honesty is both refreshing and admirable. Rather than sweep the episodes of abuse under the carpet as many celebrities would, Pamela has spoken out extensively against domestic violence. Using her own experiences as an example of how it can happen to anyone, she recently appeared on Hitting Home, a BBC documentary about the women and children who are victims of their own loved ones.

After the eve shot, she looks more like the Pam we know — full make-up, long eyelashes, very big hair, lace-up jeans and embroidened pink coat. It's late when we climb into her car and head for her Malibu home.

Pam sitting, black & white picture “It kind of shocks people — Pamela Anderson: Sunday school teacher: Shut your churches now!”

This was a busy day. What's your typical week like?

‘I'm a retired actress, but I feel like I still work so much. There's the Baywatch reunion movie, which is coming soon; I've been working on an animated TV series, Stripperella; there are lots of photo shoots, a lot of travelling. I have a rule that I can only be away from my kids for three days at a time, so it's whirlwind trips, which make me cranky. But I can't stay cranky, once I see the posters and things my kids make — ‘Welcome Home Mommy.’ It's so cute. I melt all over the place.’

How old are they now?

‘Dilly [Dylan] is five and Brandon is six. They're the cutest little boys. Brandon's like, “Do you know you're the best mommy in the world?” But the other day, he came out of school, looked at me with his arms crossed and said, “You're Pamela Anderson!” I guess kids were starting to point me out. So now we walk down the street and if someone looks at me, he's like “Yeah, yeah, it's Pamela Anderson, she's my mom.”’

So what's happening this week?

‘I don't know. It's been… rough, in some ways. The whole relationship thing — relationships are tough. Oh my God! I have to put my ring back on or I'll be in so much trouble. [To her driver] Errol! We're going to have to pull over. My ring is in a bag in the back. [Errol pulls over and gets her bag.] I took it off for the photos. But then again, I am kind of pissed of at the moment. Uh-oh, I have Tourette's Syndrome. It's not the best of weeks; it's the worst of weeks. This is everything I'm not supposed to say. You know, relationships are hard, especially if you've had a serious one in the past. I need my ring and my pills… I'm kidding. These are homeopathic. [Finds ring, struggles to jam it on.] Oh, it's not fitting. I comes of easier than it goes on [laughs]. Read into that as much as you want.’

So things with Kid Rock are, um, on the rocks?

‘Oh boy, I mean, I'm… Everything is fairly good at the moment. I'm tired, I'm exhausted, I'm lonely. Other than that, I'm great. My little boys and I, we'll never be alone, the three of us. That's all that matters.’

Your marriage to Tommy Lee was abusive. Is that why you did the BBC documentary Hitting Home?

Hitting Home was a therapy for me, going through the domestic violence shelters and meeting the women. Many of them were just out of abusive homes, but they seemed to have a lot of strength. People could really relate to things I was saying about being in the relationships that I've been in and am in, especially when people always say “Why do you go back or stay in these relationships?” Well, because it's all you know. Sometimes you're made to feel crazy in a relationship where control is an issue. Abuse isn't just about hitting somebody. It can be psychological, emotional, financial. It makes you ill how many people experience domestic violence and how many die at the hands of their mate.’

Why do you think men become abusive?

‘It's insecurity. It takes a real secure man to make a woman feel secure. Men who batter women usually grow up battered themselves, or watched their fathers do it to their mothers. I grew up with a certain amount of abuse, so I can understand where that can go. Some people don't know any other way. And communication is tough in relationships if that's how you were raised.’

So whether you're the abused or the abuser, you tend to repeat the pattern.

‘Yes. It's hard to leave an abusive relationship. You not only have to sneak out of the house and protect your children, but then you have to deal with family, the court system, and people who judge you. You have to do it for your kids, because if you stay in an abusive relationship they're going to grow up to be abusive or abused. I don't want to get into this too much, but you're going to have these relationships for the rest of your life if you have kids. So there has to come a point where, for your own sake, yo move on. You forgive, but you don't forget.’

Are you referring to the recent custody battle you had with your ex-husband, Tommy Lee?

‘Yes, I've had to deal with that. But my kids have always been with me, they always will be with me. I'm a very protective mother, so when people say things, the mother bear comes out. It's tough being a working mum, dealing with legal issues with your ex, as well as trying to have a relationship… trying to have a relationship outside of another relationship that you're going to have to continue for the rest of your life. It's very, very hard, or impossible. I don't know yet. I'm right there, going “I don't know. I don't know.”’

“It's very important to me that my kids feel loved. Money can't buy the time I'm spending with them now.”

Not to mention when you're in gossip columns. So you didn't get married this weekend after all?

‘No, that's not something I want to jump into real quickly. Sometimes I can't believe… [laughs nervously] I came from a small town, I watched my parents having the relationship they had, the jobs they had, the money they had. Now I'm in Malibu in a beautiful home, with two beautiful kids and the world at my fingertips. And then I have these rock-star boyfriends… I feel like then I'm in over my head! Like maybe I need to go back home, just live on the beach. Actually I'm very happy where I am, but sometimes your perspective just gets kind of thrown off. But it's all relative.’

It sounds like you need to simplify your life.

‘Right. Like, in my home I have a very simple life. I have friends come over and they go, ‘You don't have a nanny, you don't have housekeepers, you cook, you clean, you're in here folding laundry.’ I pride myself on that because I feel like I am living as simply as I can and trying to teach my children compassion and sensitivity towards people and animals. But somtimes you find yourself in a spot and you go: “Why am I doing this to myself?” Why would I put more obstacles in my life? I love my kids so much. I want to have the rest of our lives to be happy. I mean, we have been happy in the past, but we have had… I just want it…’

You've had a lot going on.

‘A lot going on. And it's real important to me that they feel loved. Money can't buy the time I'm spending with my kids now, and I don't miss going to work for 14, 15 hours a day. At my age, 35, I feel I have accomplished a lot, because I have a brand now that I can exploit, so I can stay home and drive my kids to school, go to PTA meetings. I recently started working with a children's ministry in my church. I'm volunteering on Sunday, so I'm actually a Sunday school teacher.’

Excuse me? You're teaching Sunday school? Aren't the parents surprised to see you there?

[Nods knowingly]‘“She goes to church?” It kind of shocks people — Pamela Anderson: Sunday school teacher. Shut your churches down!’

‘I am Pam’: the story so far

Last year, you revealed that you have hepatitis C. How is your health now.

&8216;I feel pretty good. I have my moments. I had a biopsy, and the liver is graded from zero to four, four being liver failure, zero being healthy liver. I'm a one. You can live with this disease your whole life and not even know you have it, so I've done public service announcements to encourage testing because it's a real easy thing to catch with any kind of blood-to-blood contact.’

Is that how you contracted the disease?

‘My doctor told me how I got it: sharing a tattoo needle with somebody. I made a pact with myself that, form this point forward, even though the truth is the truth, I don't want to drive a wedge any further between me and… I'm trying with all my heart and soul to create a positive relationship for my kids and their father.’

On hepatitis C “I don't think I have an image I can damage. I am who I am.”

Are you in any special treatment?

‘I'm building my immune system homeopathically and with alternative medicine. I'm seeing an osteopath, I exercise, and I'm a vegetarian. But I'll do another biopsy in a few months and see what's going on.’

Do you regret being so open about your life?

‘It's been beneficial to me to be open and help other people, because it helps me. I've never been one to worry about my image. During one interview when I was talking about hepatitis C, this woman was suprised I was smart. I was like thank you, hepatitis for giving me the chance to form a full sentence! Other people might not want things to get out there because of their image, but I don't think I have an image I can damage! I am who I am. I don't think I'm a bad person.’

I don't think anybody thinks you're a bad person.

‘Tell my fiancé that. No, I'm kidding. Zip it, right? I try to be a good person… I'm not doing the “woe is me” thing, but… Sometimes you become the patron saint of the lost cause and you expend a lot of energy trying to rehabilitate something or somebody. And you can't do it. Sometimes you're not helping by helping. I think sometimes people have the need to control, especially when someone has a career or has an independence about them. And that's when all sorts of horrible things happen. Like I said, it takes a very secure man to make a woman feel secure. If you ever see those men who are so sweet and make someone feel so good about themselves, that's love. It's an amazing thing, and they are out there. There's hope… Oh, we're getting close to home.’

If you had a video of your entire life, which parts would you fast-forward over and which would you rewind?

‘To be honest, there is no stuff I'd want to fast-forward. Well maybe now. Not this moment, but… Sometimes you feel like you're repeating things.’

Like what?

‘I don't know, I… I'm not real good at my foot down. It's gotten me in a lot of trouble. So I feel I'm in a bed position now.’

Do you want to elaborate on that?

‘We don't want to much to dwell on the relationship. It's more for them, Tommy and Bob, even mentioning people in interviews gives them heat. It's like, this is the way, it is right now. Everything isn't peaches and roses. But it will be. It's all going to be fine in the end. You get yourself in that downward spiral sometimes and you start feeling all sorts of horrible things about yourself. It happens to everybody. Especially being a mom, you've got to get it together. The kids are the most important thing along with your health, and as long as you have those three things, you're golden. Man, no man, it doesn't matter. It's nice to have and if it doesn't happen… Please. It'll happen eventually.’

Pam's neighborhood is made up of terraced houses … very nice terraced houses, mind you, but not quite the mansions you'd think. Inside, her house is mostly in white, with a chandelier, fairy lights everywhere and tons of photos of her sons on the fridge. Pam leads me out into the garden, where Bob 'Kid Rock' Ritchie is sitting on a bench. With his backwards baseball cap and chin beard, he's even scruffier in real life. However, he stands up like a gent and extends his hand. Then he introduces his friend: sitting on the other garden bench, playing a guitar, is none other than John Schneider. Yes, Bo Duke from The Dukes of Hazard.

Pam mentions that they're late for dinner, a subtle hint that it's time for me to leave. She politely escorts me outside, where … another double take … I see an orange car parked across the road. That's not really the General Lee, is it? ‘Oh yes’, says Pam matter-of-factly. ‘That's John's car. Bob owns the other one. John thinks it's funny when people see him in and go, ‘Bo Duke!’’

Pam instructs her driver to take me to the airport and says, ‘Take good care of her, Errol.’ I'd like to say the same to him. Celebrity, working mother, rock-star girlfriend, Sunday school teacher… But the real Pamela Anderson is a woman like any other who has the power to make — or break — her own destiny.

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