Television

What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in the Pam & Tommy Episode About Pam’s Rise to Fame

Was Pamela Anderson really discovered on the Jumbotron at a Canadian football game?

Woman with blond feathered hair in a tight Labatt Blue T-shirt sitting in the stands of a stadium
Lily James as Pamela Anderson in Pam & Tommy. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Getty Images and Erin Simkin/Hulu.

In Episode 6 of Pam & Tommy, Pamela Anderson is deposed by Penthouse’s lawyer and forced to watch excerpts from her own sex tape in an inquisition that feels as violating as the original theft. The episode also traces how the fresh-faced model first came under the silk-robed wing of Hugh Hefner, who launched her on her career as an international sex symbol. Let’s separate what’s fact from what’s fiction.

[Read: What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in Pam & Tommy Episode 5]

Was Pam Discovered on a Jumbotron?

Pam is at a football game in Vancouver in August 1989 with her then-boyfriend when the Jumbotron camera, scanning the crowd for pretty girls, catches sight of her. Shortly after, a man makes his way through the bleachers to give her his card, telling her he’s a marketing manager for Labatt beer and asking her if she’s done any modeling. The boyfriend dismisses the approach by the Labatt’s exec as just a scam and tells her not to follow up, but Pam takes a break from her waitress job to sneak in a phone call to him. Next thing she knows, she’s big in Canada as the “Blue Zone Girl” on a Labatt’s poster wearing a branded cutoff T-shirt, leading to a call from Playboy.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

This is largely true, although details and chronology have been changed. Anderson and her then-boyfriend, a photographer named Dan Ilicic, were watching a British Columbia Lions football game when she appeared on the Jumbotron wearing a cutoff Labatt’s T-shirt and generated a big audience response. However, far from discouraging her from taking the Labatt offer, Ilicic created a poster of Pam in a T-shirt bearing the Labatt slogan “Enter the Blue Zone”—and according to another photographer, David Sereda, who had shot modeling sessions with Anderson, Ilicic and Anderson had pitched her to Labatt even before she went to the game and appeared on the Jumbotron. The ploy worked and Labatt signed Anderson as a spokesmodel and created an official “Blue Zone Girl” poster shot by Ilicic. Modeling jobs for a couple of other beer companies followed, and then Playboy called.

Advertisement
Advertisement

But the Playboy summons did not come quite so out of the blue. Again, Anderson had already laid the groundwork by having another photographer send photos of her to the magazine, so in contrast to the series’s depiction of her as a pretty girl to whom things just happened, it seems Anderson took a more proactive approach to her career. Also, at the time of her big break, Anderson was working not as a waitress but as a fitness instructor, and had already appeared as an extra in some films and television shows made in the Vancouver area, in addition to modeling swimsuits and fitness wear.

Were Pam and Hugh Hefner Close?

Side by side photos of Hefner and Seely both wearing a red robe with a black collar
Hugh Hefner, and Mike Seely as Hugh Hefner. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Robert Mora/Getty Images and Hulu.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Pam goes to her first Playboy shoot and proves to be a natural. As she’s finishing up, Hugh Hefner (Mike Seely) summons her to his study for a private conversation—but it really is just a supportive conversation, with no casting couch involved. He offers her career advice and reassures her that “you really are special.”

Anderson did indeed develop a special bond with the Playboy publisher. She worked with Playboy for more than two decades, boasting more covers than any other model. After Hefner’s death, she posted on Instagram, “You gave me my life. Everything anyone loves about me is because you understood me. Accepted me and encouraged me to be myself.”

She has often spoken of Hefner as a sort of avuncular mentor, telling Piers Morgan in a TV interview, “He was a pioneer. A true gentleman and he was charming. He loved women and he empowered women. He was very forward-thinking and created his own life. Nobody could copy him. It was nothing salacious. I thought it was very innocent.” There’s no evidence of an illicit affair between the two, just Anderson going with the usual Playboy “anything goes” flow: In 2008, for example, she presented the cake at Hef’s 82nd birthday party wearing nothing but high heels.

Did Visiting the Playboy Mansion Inspire Pam to Get Implants?

After the first shoot, Pam tells her mother that all the girls she’s seen at the Playboy Mansion have enhanced breasts and that she is considering going up a size or two to help her career.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

There is no documentation of this conversation. However, Anderson’s first shoot for Playboy was in October 1989, and she got her first implants in 1990 after being chosen as Playmate of the Month, so it’s plausible that Playboy’s culture influenced her decision. Nine years later, she decided to have the implants removed (going from a D to a C cup), telling Entertainment Tonight, “I feel like I’m a petite person, and just having these large breasts was, it just didn’t feel right anymore. … I think, after having children and nursing, I felt like I was Dolly Parton for the longest time and I thought, I just want my natural body back.”

Was Pam Forced to Watch the Sex Tape During Her Deposition?

Side by side photos of Anderson in a conservative light blue button-down shirt walking and James as Anderson in a similar shirt sitting at a conference table looking concerned
Pamela Anderson, and Lily James as Pamela Anderson. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by John Chapple/Getty Images and Erin Simkin/Hulu.
Advertisement
Advertisement

Pam’s deposition is a brutal experience, with Penthouse’s lawyer asking her questions like “How old were you the first time you publicly exposed your genitals?” and suggesting Pam herself leaked the tape to the magazine’s publisher, Bob Guccione, because she wanted to pose for Penthouse but couldn’t appear to consent because it would hurt her relationship with Guccione’s great rival, Hefner. The lawyer insinuates that because she has had no compunction about posing naked for money, it is unlikely she would object on privacy grounds to the tape being publicly distributed and she must be involved in its release for financial gain.

There is no way of knowing what actually happened during the deposition because the details were never released to the public. However, this argument resembles one a Penthouse lawyer made in fighting Anderson and Tommy Lee’s request for an injunction to stop the publication of images from the sex tape: Penthouse said that because Anderson posed nude and the couple discussed their sex life in interviews, they had forfeited their privacy rights.

Advertisement