Pamela Anderson’s image has been splashed all over the place – with and without her permission – and yet she’s had financial problems for much of her life.
This is another revelation in her Netflix documentary, Pamela, a love story. The film, directed by Ryan White, goes to her home in Ladysmith, British Columbia — where she moved full-time in 2020 after offloading her property in Malibu, California. It’s on the water, has a boathouse, and is spread out enough for her parents to have a home on the property. But it’s been described as “humble” — a funny word to associate with someone who’s always been larger than life — and it looks that way, especially when it comes to celebrities.
In the film, Anderson talks about turning down $5 million for her infamous stolen tape cut from home videos made with then-husband Tommy Lee in the 1990s, with the two of them not making a dime. Playboy proverbially she never struck it rich as a model and she didn’t have an agent when she landed her deal on the world’s most watched TV show, Baywatch. There was no glam squad for the dock. In one scene, Anderson – one of the most famous blondes in the world – goes to a local drug story to buy a can of hair dye.
Her son Brandon Lee, the film’s producer, bluntly says his mother was in debt for most of her life as they discussed the tape, which she insisted she had no regrets about not monetizing — even if the offer was was a billion – because it was a violation. Anderson also expressed continued concern about her credit cards being declined. (She’s made headlines over the years for delinquent taxes, been involved in several high-profile lawsuits, and lost money tearing down and rebuilding that Malibu house, spending $8 million in cash that she’s reportedly struggling to pay.)
White, who helmed the documentary, tells Yahoo Entertainment that he was “shocked” to learn of her financial troubles, especially since she received so little from the global hit Baywatch, in which he appeared in the mid-1990s for five years.
“She was the most famous woman in the world on the most famous show in the world and she has no egg Baywatch to rely on,” White wondered.
White says he “just assumed” that Anderson, an “icon” in pop culture, would “be extremely rich.” He didn’t realize she wasn’t there until halfway through filming. He told how they had been out to eat together outside of Las Vegas and she insisted on paying.
“She said, like, ‘Ryan, you always pay,'” which is usual for a dock director, “‘just let me pay this once,'” he recalled. “While handing over a credit card, she did it as a half-joke [about how her credit card sometimes] it doesn’t work… I laughed but she said, “No really, many times throughout my career my credit cards have been declined. I’m just not a good financial planner.”
He added: “It’s shocking because of how famous she is and how much of a part of American pop culture she’s been for the last 30 years that she’s been in financial trouble so many times. It was really revealing and really humanizing.” (In an interview last Friday, famed producer John Peters, who was married to Anderson just 12 days after a decades-long relationship, announced that he was leaving Anderson $10 million in his will, “whether or not she has need or not.”)
In the film, Brandon told his mother that he wished she had made money from the stolen tape — as traumatic as it was for her — because her career took such a hit from the tape. Both he and Dylan both in the film, looking at Anderson’s life from the beginning to the present day.
White says they’re “such an unconventional family in so many ways… You can’t categorize this family. They’re crazy in the best way, so open and honest with each other and have nothing to hide. It’s like this open door policy to talk about anything.”
Working with Anderson, White had to be “nimble,” he says, because he wasn’t sure exactly what she would do next. The film uses her archival video collection (the “hundreds and hundreds” of tapes she had in the attic of her boathouse) as well as piles of diaries she kept from her teenage years until their presentation, so some days she’ll agree to watch an old clip — like her wedding in Cancun to Lee in 1995 — but then it would bring up too much emotion, and the next time he asked, she’d decline.
“No, that time has passed. I think you’ve got enough,” he recalled her saying. “And what I love about Pamela is that she’s very, very authentic. Nothing in my movie – not even the hair dye stuff… – I’m like, I hope that doesn’t feel contrived because that was literal [me] asking “Where are you going?” and she says “I’m going to the pharmacy” [and me tagging along] “not knowing she was going to dye her hair, not even knowing she dyed her own hair.”
He adds: “Every time I tried to direct Pamela or say, ‘How about we do this today?’ She always said, ‘No,’” he laughs. “She always likes to do her own thing. So I learned to be very nimble and always be open to surprise. And I was multiple times throughout the filmmaking process.”
Pamela, a love story airs Tuesdays at 3am ET on Netflix. Same Day, Anderson’s memoir, Love, Pamela, goes on sale.