One of my most vivid memories from my first trip to Hollywood years ago, was Marilyn Monroe’s refrigerator in The Hollywood Museum.
The displays showcase Monroe’s legacy with photos, costumes, and smaller personal items. The Museum boasts the biggest collection of Monroe memorabilia in the world. She was a frequent visitor to the Max Factor Make-up Studio, housed there. But the fridge is much more telling than concealer, wigs and dresses.
It’s a stainless steel, 1962 Hotpoint. She had the sides painted turquoise to match her kitchen tiles. On the day of her death it was almost empty. There was only a partly used carton of milk and – if I remember correctly – one lemon. This was a woman who wasn’t taking care of herself. Tabloid media had previously published her weekly grocery lists. She loved corn, eggs, butter, and bread. Not at the end, though.
I thought about Marilyn when we watched the Netflix documentary, Pamela, A Love Story. (Pam has also released a memoir titled Love, Pamela.) Like Marilyn, Pam was known for her bombshell looks and sex appeal. Unlike Marilyn, Pam is very much alive. But the theft and release of a personal tape dealt her career a near-fatal blow. She and then-husband Tommy Lee lost control of tape and then the narrative of their own lives. To this day, people believe scads of lies about what happened. The Hulu series Pam and Tommy only opened all those wounds again for those involved.
Pam’s sons, Brandon and Dylan, are grown men. Brandon helped make the doc. One anecdote Pam shares is so telling about her role as a full-time Mom after she and Tommy divorced. Pam and the boys would go to the Playboy Mansion for Easter every year. One Easter, Brandon came running up to her saying, “Mom, Mom, do you know what Hef does for a living?”
“No, honey, what?”, asks Pam.
“He takes pictures of naked women!” Brandon was horrified.
“Ewwwwww!” said Pam. Her little boy agreed and ran back to the Easter egg hunt.
A Mom First
Pamela wasn’t in Hef’s harem. Hugh Hefner was her boss. Lots of little kids don’t know what mommy and daddy do for work. Brandon and Dylan say they knew there was a lot of attention on their family. And their Dad was out of the picture for a while but has been back in it for most of their lives. Pam lost her career just as she started a new one as a Mom. A great distraction and, she says, her most important role.
In the doc she talks about her many marriages. And like Marilyn, Pam endured childhood sexual abuse. Each of us is shaped by the triumphs and traumas from our childhoods. These women are no different.
We came away from watching the doc feeling sad for Pam. Her life turned out very differently from what she wanted it to be, mostly from forces outside her control.
Pamela Anderson has been living alone in her late Grandma’s home near Ladysmith, BC, where she grew up. She says she’s done with marriage but, she hopes, not with love. And her career is enjoying a renaissance. Maybe she’ll get the career she wanted after all. Her HGTV reno show Pamela’s Garden of Eden has been renewed for a second season. She’ll host Pamela’s Cooking With Love for the Food Network. She has starred on Broadway in Chicago and proudly says she didn’t have a ghost writer for her memoir.
I’ve never met Pamela but I did interview Tommy in person years ago. He was sweet and polite and made me a cup of tea. His social media posts are still raunchy and NSFW. But perhaps that’s what drew them together. Both having outrageous public personas that belie the ordinary people they are underneath it all.