In addition to five years on TV’s Baywatch, three-plus years starring in and co-producing Fox’s V.I.P., nine Playboy magazine covers, two marriages, two divorces, and two sons, Pamela Anderson is also the proud owner of two dogs. Star, full name Superstar-Bar, is a golden retriever. Foo is a pug with one eye. Both pets came from shelters, rescued by the fair-haired TV lifeguard.
In fact, the story of Anderson’s retriever entering this world reads like an episode of Baywatch.
“Star was the runt of the litter and was born not breathing. Star was given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and brought back to life,” says Anderson. On the other hand, the plight of her would-be pug called for the actress’s emotional lifesaving skills. “Foo was rescued from Pug rescue and only had one eye,” she says. “I knew that nobody was going to take him so that was the one I wanted.”
From this humble beginning as a canine castaway, Foo moved up in the world to his current position as V.I.P.’s official pooch. However, his role as mascot is only ceremonial. Anderson won’t let him act because she abhors animal exploitation for human entertainment. Taking his place before the cameras is a robotic double. As part of her crusade, the actress won’t even let live fish on the set, and has stocked the tank in V.I.P. headquarters with “really trippy” plastic ones, according to PETA director Dan Mathew.
Anderson’s own rise in the entertainment world was almost as fortuitous as Foo’s. Fame seemed written in the stars of her birth, as well as local headlines that celebrated the first British Columbian baby of the Canadian centennial, Pamela Denise Anderson. Her first modeling job found her at age 22, sitting at a Canadian League Football game and wearing a LaBatt’s beer T-shirt. A cameraman zoomed in, the blond bombshell went up on the big scoreboard, and the crowd loved it. So did LaBatt’s, who signed her up.
After pitching beer came a call from Playboy, and Anderson left for Hollywood. She made some small-time TV appearances, including a spot on Home Improvement as Lisa, the Tool Time girl. Then came the offer of a role on a show about able-bodied young people saving lives in the California sun, and Pamela Anderson found her niche. Slow motion jogging in a red Speedo, her image made an indelible mark on the consciousnesses of Baywatch viewers worldwide.
Fame’s dark side, however, was notoriety, and Anderson’s love life became fodder for a tabloid feeding frenzy. The relentless coverage culminated in the bootlegging of her and on-again-off-again husband Tommy Lee’s raucous vacation video, and the unwitting pair became one of the first couples to have their private sex life distributed on the internet against their will.
Even before this event, the actress resented the onus of her imprisonment by tabloids in the Hollywood zoo, and decided to do something about it. Director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Dan Mathew remembered the letter from Anderson that arrived in the early nineties. It was handwritten:
I’m a big supporter of animal rights, and for many years I have admired the way you help animals.
I act on a show called Baywatch, but all the press seems to care about is my personal life. Anyway, I was thinking maybe I could help you out. Maybe we could use some of this coverage to promote fair treatment of animals…
PETA’s new poster-girl went to work immediately. “She was a natural fit for our ‘Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur’ campaign,” says Mathew. Anderson posed nude for their “Turn a Cold Shoulder to Fur” ad, which ran on billboards in major cities like London, Paris and Berlin. Even though her back faced the camera, the picture was sexy enough that it had to be cropped to go up in New York’s Times Square, then in the throes of “Disney-fication.”
“Chrissie Hynde said it best when she said ‘Pamela’s our secret weapon. She’s the last person you’d expect to be an activist,’” muses Mathew. Pamela Anderson, the epitome of the Playboy bunny, had found a new voice speaking out for animal rights.
Her role as advocate had her lobbying the Prince of Monaco on behalf of the exotic beasts in the Monte Carlo Circus Festival, writing the president of South Africa to plead for elephant preservation, arguing for stray neutering on her new internet venture, PamTV.com, confronting a fur-coat wearer in the LAX Starbucks, bringing out her own cruelty free cosmetics line and flaunting leather alternatives in her fashion shoots. She even commissioned designer Rohit Bal to create a pleather G-string for her to wear on LA’s steamier days.
In 1999, PETA presented their Venus in fake furs with the first Linda McCartney award for her work promoting animal protection. Famous vegetarian and former Beatle Paul McCartney gave Anderson the plaque. She in turn honored the ceremony and plugged PETA by incorporating footage from the benefit into an episode of V.I.P. In All You Need is Val, Anderson’s Vallery Irons saves the show by diffusing a bomb planted in one of guest musicians’ The B-52s beehive hairdos, then goes onstage to receive an award.
Her latest PETA performance has been her sudden withdrawal from the upcoming Bikini Golf Open in Los Cabos, Mexico over a dispute between her cause celebre and the Open’s sponsors. “Corporate America gave a big thumbs down on throwing paint and other violent tactics associated with PETA,” says Canyon Entertainment’s Simone Sheffield, who produced the event. Pressured to strike the bargain of giving up all PETA publicity while still keeping donations for the group, Anderson walked. “It had been announced in the press as a PETA event, and it would have been awkward to back pedal on that. We’re thrilled Pamela stood by us.” Mathew explains.
According to Sheffield, who has overhauled the Bikini Golf Open after Anderson’s departure, renaming it Angels on the Fairway, “It wasn’t about the money, it was about the publicity. Pam is Pam and she stands for what she believes in.”
The home front has also seen dramatic turnarounds for the animal lover. Following a stormy relationship and a domestic disturbance call to the police, in 1998 the actress left her husband, Motley Crüe wild man Tommy Lee. Among the marital indignities she suffered was Tommy’s Rottweiler, egregiously misnamed Justice, who brought a lawsuit on the household by viciously cornering masseuse Doreen Cott and chomping on her rump. Now that rumor has Anderson back with a remorseful Lee and, one assumes, his wayward pooch, what’s a stand up girl and animal lover to do? Animal Fair says, send them both to obedience school!