PAMELA, A LOVE STORY (
Director: Ryan White
Starring: Pamela Anderson, Tommy Lee, Brandon Lee, Dylan Lee
THE FIRST TIME I EVER took notice of Pamela Anderson was when the Pam & Tommy sex tape hit the black market sometime around November 1997. The girl I just started dating had a friend who was seeing a guy who scored a bootleg VHS cassette of Pam & Tommy Lee: Uncovered & Uncensored. The plan was to meet up at his place that coming Friday to see what all of the fuss was about. We brought pizza and made a night of it.
(Before that Friday, Anderson never landed on my cultural radar. To me, she seemed like the new Suzanne Somers, just as shallow, but updated and tricked out for the ‘90s with bigger breasts and blonder hair. Like Somers, Anderson posed for Playboy and acted in a lot of sexy, but ditzy-blonde roles, offering nothing of substance, but she had the world by the tail anyway.)
While the four of us sat in the dark that night, watching Uncovered & Uncensored, I observed two things:
- Tommy Lee’s dick could have negotiated for top billing. When it made its first appearance, we each let out respectful gasps.
- This video wasn’t sexual at all. Intimate and vulnerable, yes, but not sexy or hot. It also seemed intrusive to watch.
At one point in the video, Anderson gives her new husband an awkward, unflattering blowjob as their rented yacht floats around Lake Mead. With Lee’s handheld camera about a foot away from Anderson’s nearly unhinged jaw, my girlfriend said, “Oh man, there is no way she’s OK with this tape.”
IT’S BEEN OVER 25 YEARS and the Pam and Tommy sex tape seems like a ‘90s novelty, like “The Macarena” or Beanie Babies, and hundreds of celebrity and pseudo-celebrity sex tapes have rained down on us since. As someone who’s seen ‘em all, nothing comes close to the weight and significance that Uncovered & Uncensored still holds in terms of how we now observe privacy and celebrity.
In Pamela, a Love Story, when the sex tape is finally brought up, Anderson mentions that its leak marked the moment when any chance of her cultivating a respectable career in entertainment died. (You may not think she had much of a shot in the movie industry, but if Jane Fonda can recover from Barbarella and win a couple of Academy Awards later on in her career, there’s no reason why Anderson couldn’t have shaken off Barb Wire and win an Oscar of her own down the road.)
While Pamela is visually pleasant to look at (it’s lit perfectly with natural, radiant sunlight that pours into Anderson’s idyllic Canadian lakefront home as she digs through old boxes of journals she’s kept since she was a teen), it’s depressing as fuck to watch. When she’s not being molested by babysitters or getting knocked around by possessive ex-boyfriends, Anderson is being badgered by male talk show hosts about her body, and when those things aren’t happening, she’s romanticizing her parents’ abusive hot-and-cold marriage.
And that’s where this thing gets really hard to watch. Early on in the documentary, Anderson is very honest about how, when she was a pre-teen, she would observe her parents in violent, knock-down, drag-out fights and ten minutes later, she’d hear them in their bedroom, having wild, loud make-up sex. As you listen to Anderson wistfully recount the good old days with Lee throughout the third act – the violent fights and the red-hot sex – you realize how much her parents dysfunctional relationship is still hardwired in her.
Observing that, It’s not illogical to come to the conclusion that Anderson really just wants Lee to divorce his wife, remarry her, retire from daily grind, and live out the rest of their days at her lakefront home. It’s the exact trajectory that Anderson’s on-again, off-again parents’ relationship took, and it’s interesting to see her struggle with the familial cycle. Also, who could blame her for wanting that?
Ultimately, Pamela illustrates how much Anderson loves love. She loves the fairytale love she and Lee used to have, like when he showed up in Shogun Warrior armor atop a black stallion on Christmas eve and asked her to marry him again. Back in 1996 when those sorts of romantic stunts happened, Anderson and Lee were “Pam & Tommy:” rich, hot, eccentric, young, global superstars with access to world class drugs. They were childless and enjoying the honeymoon period.
Today, as Pamela, a Love Story ends, we learn that Anderson is currently single and Lee has been married to a flighty internet influencer for a few years, and I can’t help but wonder if this documentary was just her low-key way of letting Lee know she'll be waiting for him when he gets bored with his Millennial wife. It sounds dumb, but it’s the sort of thing someone like Anderson would think is romantic. Hopefully, it works.
Pamela, a Love Story is currently on Netflix