Pamela Anderson is seen on FaceTime in Vancouver, Canada, May 12, 2020. Anderson is camming and canning and canvassing from her idyllic compound on Vancouver Island. (Quil Lemons/The New York Times)Nothing can prepare you for FaceTiming Pamela Anderson. One second there is only you — staring, through a layer of iPhone glass, at your tired, trapped reflection, both of you hoping that is not how you actually look — and the next second there is Pamela Anderson, brightening the screen instantaneously and completely, the way a ray of sun stretching beyond a cloud can seem to bounce off the whole Pacific. She is striding across the great outdoors, and she is smiling and she is saying hello but singing it “Heh-LOOOW!” like she is delighted and excited to talk to you. As if you were not bothering her. But it can’t have been Anderson’s — Pamela’s? Pam’s? “Anytime anyone calls me Pam, I feel like they’re mad at me. But anything is fine!” — dream of dreams to drop everything in the middle of her day to answer nosy questions for over an hour. She has a 6-acre pocket of a Canadian island to run. She has shrubs to select based on criteria of prickliness (for privacy) and beauty (for overall visual harmony). She has formal letters to write to the men and women — mostly men — who hold their nations’ nuclear codes, about subjects close to her heart. She has got Anaïs Nin to reread, and Russian to study, and a cam site to unveil. The last of these tasks, on a recent Friday afternoon, granted the intrusion into Anderson’s peaceful, insular existence. She was preparing for the refurbished debut of Jasmin, a not necessarily sexually explicit webcam, or “camming” site, which offers live online broadcasts and prerecorded content, and has been envisioned as a tamer offshoot of LiveJasmin, one of the most popular, nearly always sexually explicit cam sites on the web. Jasmin had hired Anderson in 2019 as its spokeswoman and creative director, pledging in a subsequent news release that she would appear daily there, and to connect “users with lifestyle, relationship and sex positivity influencers.” Briskly strolling the grounds of her Vancouver Island, British Columbia, property, Anderson, an effervescent 52, cast an impression of a woman who doesn’t take herself too seriously, except in the way dreamy people tend to treat everything in the universe with equal seriousness. She spoke a mile a minute (1.6 kilometers Canadian) about her rustic life and the “misunderstood market” that is camming, her voice for the most part perky and girlish, except for occasional plummets into deadpan. After describing a fairy-tale existence with various cute marine mammals forever frolicking on and around her small wooden dock, she added, with faux causticness, that the seals “look like big Rottweilers swimming around.” After declaring optimistically, “I think I have a lot to say that might be interesting to people,” she did an abrupt volte-face, switching to a low, confessional timbre: “Who knows? Who knows, right, what I’m doing? I don’t know. Maybe no one will be interested.” The property belonged to her paternal grandmother, Marjorie, who used to run a small general store out of one of the buildings on site. Anderson bought it from her decades ago so that, she said, her grandmother could have the market value in cash to distribute to her children, and the land could stay in the family. It’s on the water, in the same small town in British Columbia where Anderson grew up; she moved back in July, after spending a couple of years in the South of France. “There used to be nine cabins here,” Anderson said, pausing for breath between sentence bursts as she roamed. “My mom and dad probably conceived me here. They lived in Cabin 9. And they got married on the property.” “See these little bedrooms?” she asked, showing off cozy A-frame accommodations. Anderson explained, in detail, where everyone in her father’s family used to sleep. “They’re so cute! Tiny.” One of the small white bedrooms is where she sleeps now. “At my window, I have a woodpecker who’s burrowed a little nest. He wakes me up every morning, banging his head against the wall.” She switched to a singsong voice, singing her next words up the scale: “They’re! So! Loud!” “What else is here?” she asked herself. By her own admission, Anderson “kind of abandoned” the property for 20 years after her grandmother’s death. “It was really dilapidated,” she said. Some of the crews she had hired to fix it up called it “the haunted house.” Some people (including her parents, who live nearby) believe it is haunted. “Oh, they have stories, like there’s dead bodies. And everyone has nicknames, the people that lived on here.” (“Here’s Acid Eddie’s house,” she would say later, while crossing in front of a small cabin.) “Someone buried gold on the property. I’m like, ‘Really?’” she scoffed. Years ago Anderson and an investment partner filed documents to build a collection of condominiums and town houses on the property, but the development plans fizzled. On the phone, Anderson said she has “no plans to make it a business. I just want to live here.” “It’s for family. Or for, if I had a photo shoot here, I could put the whole crew here.” In addition to the main house, Anderson envisions a greenhouse, a utility building, a couple of cabins and a vegetable garden whose bounty she will can. (“With my mother!”) Her flower garden will be the colors of late dusk: blues, purples and pinks. “I don’t like oranges or reds, so I’m staying away from that,” she said. She knows her plant names: bleeding hearts, trilliums, Hicks yew hedge. She knows the exact number of shocking pink Yves Piaget rose bushes she will require: 62, already ordered. “When I ever had problems at any time in my life, I would come here and dream really vividly,” Anderson said. “When I go into the middle of my field, with all the trees surrounding me — it’s just like they’ve known me my whole life.” The weather in British Columbia keeps her calm, she said, although “I don’t really dress for the cold.” In sunny Los Angeles, whose beaches Anderson found fame patrolling on the television series “Baywatch,” “I think I have more of a nervous kind of energy, or I’m hyper,” she said. Epistolary pursuits Anderson was famously “discovered” in 1989, when a cameraman at the Canadian football game she was attending (clad in a crop top that advertised the Labatt brewing company) broadcast her image on the stadium’s jumbo video screens. Her life as a highly visible public figure began in earnest when she was featured as the centerfold in the February 1990 issue of Playboy. The acting career followed, as did much more Playboy. She has been so recognizable for so long that members of her species have grown comfortable interacting with her more as a novelty than a fellow person — an “it,” in the sense of a stranger walking up to her and declaring, “I heard you were here and I had to come see it!” Describing a common scenario, Anderson said, laughing: “My hair’s all scraggly, all over the place. I’m wearing a sarong and, you know, fake Ugg boots. It’s not a pretty look. Yeah, I feel like ‘it!’ ” But in her hometown, where there are some 8,500 residents, she said, her presence causes little commotion. Recently, an old man (wearing a mask) biked up to her in a parking lot and asked how Julian Assange was doing. Anderson’s years of highly photographed visits to see Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he evaded extradition for seven years, and in the London prison where he is currently held, prompted much speculation about the nature of their relationship. Thus she successfully drew public attention to what she viewed as a conspiracy to quell press freedoms. Speaking with Anderson, as a reporter, is soothing in aggregate and maddening in specific. Her conversation is a bountiful natural resource that endlessly regenerates itself. It would seem well-suited to a webcam venture — consider the shy voyeurs who seek to have engaging interactions with a woman but are perpetually unsure of what to say next. But paths of conversation taken with Anderson quickly, immutably and somewhat bemusingly concluded in one of three areas: her activism, her conviction that people must question everything they hear and read, or her general philosophy of c’est la vie. This is not to suggest Anderson is a lazy conversationalist. On the contrary, it takes an active, determined thinker to constantly find new routes back to the same three topics (four if you count Jasmin). And they are worthy topics. But there are others. Anyway, several things are clear. Anderson is an impassioned advocate for animals, for the larger ecosystem of Earth and for those who “question authority.” “People have to educate themselves and not get into a place where they’re so stressed out that they’ll do anything that they’re told,” she said. Anyone mistaking Anderson for a good-time gal would do well to peruse her personal website, where, under the opaque label “journaling,” lies an archive of her meticulously formatted open letters written to public figures, on the subject of Assange and other topics. A letter to “His Excellency President Vladimir Putin” (regarding “the designation of marine protected areas in the East Antarctic, the Weddell Sea and the Antarctic Peninsula”) dutifully includes the postal address of the Russian presidential executive office (“23 Ulitsa Ilyinka, 103132, Moscow”). “Dear Messrs. Kenney and Dreeshen,” reads the salutation on a missive addressed to Alberta’s premier and its minister of agriculture and forestry (urging them to direct the Calgary Stampede, a rodeo, to ban chuck wagon horse races.) A letter to the president of France, Emmanuel Macron (regarding the living conditions of French circus animals), informs the recipient of a possible violation of “la loi française (l’article L214-1 du Code rural).” She has also written to President Donald Trump. On Nov. 8, 2019, a week after the United Nations special rapporteur on torture reported that Assange’s life was at risk in prison, and nearly a year to the day after she referred to Trump on Twitter as a “narcissist perv” and “completely selfish idiotic fool who must work for the devil,” Anderson wrote a letter to the president and first lady in which she appeared to be reaching for things to compliment. After remarking that his “emotional” style ”strikes a chord with people,” she implored him to champion the free press by pardoning Assange. “To save Democracy would be your defining moment stamped in the pages of history and will turn your presidency around.” “It’s not being fake or manipulative,” Anderson said on the phone, of the discrepancy. “I just — is there anything positive we can say? Because that’s what makes change, if we can find positive things and focus on positive things.” “Every country is different,” she added. “It’s very important to, culturally, treat people with respect. I’m always curious about culture, and how to talk to people in different places. “Dealing with an American man might be different than dealing with somebody else. Ego.” She laughed. “There’s things to consider in different places. I know many people think there’s no positive things, but there’s always something you can find that maybe you can encourage.” Despite Anderson’s coaxing, Trump did not issue the pardon. With Assange in prison, Anderson said, “there’s nothing more I can do. And he even said to me, ‘Pamela, I’d rather you just keep living your life and being you. And that’s how you help me. Don’t put yourself in any awkward positions because of your love for me.’” (Anderson characterizes their relationship as a friendship.) Love and marriage Right now, amid the pandemic, one of Anderson’s primary concerns is the news — specifically, that her parents are watching too many American news programs. “They can sit in front of CNN, and they just devour that and MSNBC. And I said, ‘If you’re watching that, maybe you should watch RT” — the state-backed Russian news network — “as well, because somewhere in the middle is the truth. Or Al-Jazeera or BBC. Get a lot of different things going if you like to watch news.” Anderson herself was recently the subject of some entertainment news headlines for what was described as a secret marriage to Jon Peters, a movie producer and her friend of more than 30 years, that ended after 12 days, before the paperwork for a marriage certificate had been filed. “I wasn’t married,” Anderson said when the subject was broached. “No,” she said, sounding, for the first time in conversation, rather sad. “I’m a romantic. I think I’m an easy target. And I think people just live in fear. “I don’t know what all that was about, but I think fear really played a lot into it.” “It was just kind of a little moment,” she said. “A moment that came and went, but there was no wedding; there was no marriage; there was no anything. It’s like it never even happened. That sounds bizarre.” She laughed. “But that’s it.” How did she get to that moment? “I was in India, and I went to this panchakarma cleanse, and I’d been gone for three weeks in this ayurvedic center, meditating, just so clear. I came back and VWOOM, within 24 hours, I saw Jon. It was like this little whirlwind thing, and it was over really quick, and it was nothing. Nothing physical. It’s just a friendship. “We’re all wounded people,” she said. “And I’m a big believer in fate, destiny, all those crazy things. So I just — there’s something about knowing somebody for so long and thinking, ‘Oh!’ It’s — no hearts were broken. I don’t know what his intentions were. And it’s almost like I don’t even want to think about it too much because it’d be probably too hurtful.” The New York Post reported that, after the nonmarriage ended, Peters sent an email to Page Six in which he claimed to have paid $200,000 worth of bills for Anderson. He subsequently denied making the claim in an interview with Anderson’s hometown newspaper, The Ladysmith Chemainus Chronicle. (“I don’t need anyone to pay my bills,” Anderson told The Chronicle.) “I hope he’s doing OK actually, during this whole crisis because I want to make sure he’s healthy and … .” She trailed off. “But I’m not in touch with him.” It is slightly disarming to hear someone describe herself as “very poetic,” but Anderson does and, in fairness to her, does seem to be. “I have my ups and downs,” she said. “But I like my downs. I like it when I’m down. And I like to ride that out.” When her two adult sons are upset about something, she said, she tells them “Get your guitar out. Paint a picture. Write a poem. This is a blessing you’ve been given. When your ribs hurt and you feel something inside, that’s what artists crave; they need that. You’ll be happy again. This will pass, and you’ll appreciate it. How can you know hot if you don’t know cold?” She really does talk like that. And she does really write a lot of poems, many viewable on her website. “Thank God it happened the way it happened, and I’m here and I’m happy,” she said, of the not-quite-marriage, and added in the same breath, “I’ve only been married — I’ve been married three times. People think I’ve been married five times. I don’t know why. I’ve been married three times. I’ve been married to Tommy” (Lee, of the band Mötley Crüe, and the sons’ father); “I’ve been married to Bob” (Ritchie, better known as Kid Rock); “and to Rick” (Salomon). “And that is it. Three marriages. I know that’s a lot,” she said, and giggled, “but it’s less than five.” Could she see herself getting married again? “Absolutely! Just one more time. Just one more time, please, God. One more time only. Only!” ‘Live Your Dream’ On Jasmin, influencers set a rate (between $1.99 and $14.99 per minute), which users pay to interact with them over text, video chat or direct message. The company said influencers are paid according to a “sliding-scale percentage revenue share style model”, taking home 30% to 60%, and that percentages are determined by how frequently an influencer engages with users. Anderson presented the venture as an opportunity to establish emotional connections and combat loneliness. “Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger than a friend or parents,” she said. “We need to communicate. Humans need humans.” Some people, she knows, will see paying to interact as an imitation of intimacy, instead of fostering the real thing. “I think people tend to always want it to be like it used to be — romanticize the past,” she said. “We need to romanticize the future. And romanticize where we are now. “Maybe there’s a way to complement our relationships by using some of these platforms.” “They say, ‘Pamela revealed,’” she said, referring to a label on her Jasmin page, “because I’ve never really shown this kind of side to me.” Yet the content under that heading would seem to showcase the side of Anderson with which the public is familiar: It consists of two gauzy, black-and-white video shorts in which Anderson, corset clad, plays dress up with pearls and has a photo shoot. It could perhaps be deemed revealing — certainly there is flesh on display — but there’s not much in the way of new specifics. This is emblematic of the conundrum Anderson, a self-proclaimed “open book,” presents in conversation, which is not so much an impasse as an impenetrable fog of “romanticism,” a concept she makes references to frequently, but vaguely. It seems roughly intended to denote aspirations and pursuits that are noble, important and free of chemical preservatives. When asked if she had any practical advice she thought may be useful to someone under coronavirus lockdown, Anderson said, “Hmm,” and then, “Just, you know, live your dream.” At the suggestion that “Live your dream” is not highly practical advice, she stood her ground. “I think that is practical advice, because it’s a choice. It’s just another way of looking at things.” And then the FaceTime ended. Anderson went off to tend to her property and live her dream.
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