This interview originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of High Times.
Following the birth of Hollywood, the “sex goddess” emerged. In the beginning, there was Clara Bow, followed by Mae West and Jean Harlow. In fact, there seems to have been a “bombshell” for every era of recent American history: Betty Grable during World War II, and Marilyn Monroe in the ’50s and ’60s, of course! Then Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, Raquel Welch, Farrah Fawcett, Bo Derek ….
But none have had the longevity of Pamela Anderson. She posed for Playboy in 1989, then was widely “noticed” in 1991 when she took the role of Lisa, the “Tool Time” girl, on the hit TV series Home Improvement. As C.J. Parker in Baywatch, Anderson became an international star, the lifeguard whom millions of men dreamed would come to their rescue. Over the course of her career, she’s also appeared on the cover of Playboy 15 times.
There’s a widely held perception that a bombshell must be empty-headed. But as Anderson says, “Don’t underestimate me.” She uses her massive celebrity to endorse and promote a wide range of social issues, from veganism and animal rights to speaking out against the scourges of sex trafficking, domestic abuse and Internet porn addiction. In a September Wall Street Journal essay prompted by the latest sexting scandal of former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, Anderson denounced pornography as “a boring, wasteful and dead-end outlet for people too lazy to reap the ample rewards of healthy sexuality.”
Pam sat down with High Times to talk about the nature of fame, beauty, parenting and other issues. And while she doesn’t use cannabis herself, she clearly sees the folly of keeping the plant illegal.
Your era as a so-called “sex goddess” has lasted over two decades. What do you think accounts for that?
I think I was fortunate to be around in the last age of mystery. There is so much access these days. The Internet has changed everything; everyone is famous. Everyone wants to be seen—seen too much. It’s a dilution of sexy people everywhere.
Often, High Times gets negative comments for running pictures of beautiful women holding cannabis plants. And often, these arguments seem to be anti-beauty in nature, as opposed to being concerned about sexism. What’s your take on society’s frequent criticism of sexy images?
I think a beautiful girl is a beautiful girl. “Sexy” comes from within. I think it’s all gone a bit off course: Internet pornography has become an addiction, destroying lives and loving relationships. It’s frightening that people don’t see this undercurrent of madness stoking the fires of perversion. Desensitization makes lousy lovers.
I miss sexy. Playboy was sexy … innocent. I know your question was about sexism, but we all have a role to play in this. I’m looking at mine. I know it seems odd coming from me—stolen sex tape and all—but this is what keeps me up at night. I’m worried the world will forget how to make love. And I want us to somehow, freely, think together. Let’s keep each other happy, healthy and safe—respected—and love each other well.
Does being considered beautiful get tiresome, as if you have a responsibility to your looks, making sure you look your best at all times?
I’ve never thought my looks were my strong point. Maybe that makes getting older easier. Hah!
Every woman always wants to look her best. But my favorite time is when I can let my freckles out—with leftover mascara and smudgy black from the night before.
Bedhead … I guess that’s my “look.” My mom is always telling me to comb my hair.
In this issue, we’re focusing on marijuana’s benefits to fitness. Is cannabis part of a healthy lifestyle for you?
I actually don’t smoke. I’ve tried on occasion over my lifetime. I’m looking forward for it to be safely regulated and legalized. I support the decriminalization of marijuana; I know it has helped many people. And nobody needs to go to jail for marijuana. I’m glad Obama pardoned a lot of people lately for petty offenses.
How have you addressed the issue of cannabis with your kids as they matured?
I told my kids they were allergic to smoke … partially true! Moderation is always key. Or if that’s not a word in your vocabulary: abstinence. That’s with any mind-altering substance. Self-medication is an issue to be concerned with.
I try to talk to my boys about everything, so we get through any wounds together. It’s okay to feel emotions. Boys really need to hear that.
What do you think accounts for America’s resistance to legalization?
People are afraid. They don’t want change. It’s hard to understand the legalization of a “drug” you were told not to do your whole life. I think it will solve a lot of problems to legalize. It takes the “thrill” out of it. Some will do less; some will do more. But it will be less dangerous.
Americans seem to be in the Stone Age as far as their diets are concerned. What’s your most persuasive argument for being a vegan?
I don’t need to hurt any being to feed myself.
Sometimes when animals are abused, people seem to care more than they do about human suffering. What motivates that in human beings?
Is that true? I think people who care… just care.
What issue or issues make you angriest?
Sometimes, the reality show of politics in America at the moment. It’s embarrassing—we just have to get through it. I’m glad a woman will be president of the United States. That alone will help the world.
What motivates your compassion?
I think people who have faced adversity have empathy. I believe that love heals. An act of kindness, a choice—we make choices every day. If we can think of others in all of our actions, we are living a sensual life.
We’re hoping that Leonard Peltier gets clemency. You’ve become a good friend of his. What light can you shed on Leonard as a person and his plight?
His health is not good. And he should be set free—it would send a tremendous message. I hope Obama grants Leonard clemency. This is the time when he could. Go to FreePeltier.org and sign the petition. Watch or listen to “Freedom” by Rage Against the Machine.
Are you an optimistic person? Does the state of the world depress you, or do you feel humans can do better?
I’m a mother … I worry. I worry about climate change, the oceans, endangered species. I work to help victims of domestic abuse and sex trafficking. There’s a sickness surrounding pornography and people enslaved by the sex industry.
We have to learn how to make love again. It will save us.
Your relationships with men have sometimes been less than what you’d hope they would be. Are relationships hard for you? If so, why is that?
I don’t tolerate abuse, but I see the best in people—even people who refuse to see the best in themselves. I leave only when there are no other options. I believe everyone deserves love—even a second chance. We’re all human, full of flaws. Just never put yourself in danger.
I first became impressed with you when I saw you on Court TV during that trial where a movie company tried to sue you. You were awesome! You took their attorney apart and won the case. Are you a combative person? What gets under your skin?
I get misunderstood a lot, underestimated at times. Never mistake my kindness for weakness.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Kindness is the mightiest force in the world. Sensuality is a sexy kindness. I hope I’m a part of the sensual revolution that holds us together, instead of this bizarre divisiveness tearing loved ones apart.
For all of HIGH TIMES’ culture coverage, click here.
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