Sunday, June 12, 2005

Pam Anderson, breast-selling author

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Most people know Pamela Anderson for two things -- two very large, very prominent aspects of her person. These two very large things simply refuse to be ignored, particularly as both of them are so often the focus of media attention. They've worked together harmoniously to lift Pam Anderson's career to the kind of peaks rarely seen in Hollywood. And let's be frank -- Pam Anderson milks them for all they're worth. Yes, Anderson has been shaped largely -- which is to say, largely shaped -- by those two great big parts of her public persona: acting and animal rights activism.

But can she bake a cherry pie? If by "bake a cherry pie" you mean "write a barely fictional account of her life disguised as a dishy beach-read novel," the answer is yes!

Star, Anderson's debut novel, is now out in paperback, and being in the news business I was lucky enough to get my mitts on a preview copy. No, you can't have my job.

The book (or whatever) centers around the life and loves of Esther Wood Leigh, known to her friends as Star. According to the press release, the ever-oversexed Anderson devised the moniker using the old "porn name" formula: the name of your first pet plus the name of the first street you lived on.

"Star Wood Leigh ... is actually what my porn name would be if I decided to change careers!" she states, stretching the meaning of the word "if." Come on -- I saw the video.

But let's get to the actual novel. It's more than 300 pages and has no pictures, except for a shot of Pam Anderson on the cover, naked. So there's that.

The book opens with a bang, if by "bang: you mean "several pages of exposition." At the novel's start, Star is a young girl in Florida with her parents, Lucille and Rick, two of the more subtle names in the book.

Star has two jobs cutting hair and shucking oysters (not at the same place) and a cute boyfriend named Insignificant Character. Suddenly, Star has one of those inexplicable cases of ennui so common among oyster-shucking hairdressers with a delicate constitution:

"It was a spider sense that something was missing," Pam writes, "like that feeling you get when you stand in front of the refrigerator, not really hungry, but unable to stop looking. The feeling that this time, it might be there, right behind the ketchup and the pickled beets."

Before she can check the butter compartment, Star receives an unscheduled visited from The Boob Fairy, who leaves her with "one of a pair of unruly and self-willed nipples." Her luck only worsens when the second one shows up, even less civil than the first. But don't worry -- they come in handy later.

A few pages and erotic scenes later, Star leaves her boyfriend -- something about him being a jerk. They fight in a scene about as tense as a banana peel ("Look, Star, I like you just fine"), and she ditches him. Always one to push her resume, Star leaves "with the speed that had made her the setter for the state
champion Double A girls volleyball team for five straight years."

From there, Star has nowhere to go but up! Or into the dirty magazine industry.

She moves to Los Angeles, and we pause momentarily to take in a film-strip-style description of L.A. that seems cribbed from the encyclopedia: "A coastal desert plain, it is met at the shore by a mountain range that runs like a backdrop along the northern boundary of the Los Angeles basin." Fascinating! After completing the geographic survey, Star moves into Mann Castle, headquarters of Mann magazine, where suave, pajama-clad publisher Mr. Mann cavorts with the nude ladies who populate his porno mag. Pam has spiced her debut novel with many things -- sex, gossip, garbled metaphors -- but imaginative details aren't one of them.

Anyway, the next chapter plods along with hardly anybody getting naked ("'Oh, pooh,' Star pouted") for almost 12 whole pages, until Star has her first nude photo shoot. She pukes with fear, which should make for singularly unerotic photos, if you ask me.

The novel hits its narrative midpoint about page 169, when Star ends up in a shouting match with a guy with the improbable name of Van Pursens.

Van is upset because Star has publicly called him an eggplant. That is not a typo: "'Don't make this any worse than it is,' Van said. 'I read it in the Daily Reporter.'" Star dares to question even the venerable Daily Reporter, denying the allegation fiercely: "Well, I don't even know what the Daily Reporter is, but I can tell you this, you're no eggplant. I like eggplant." The scene reads like a cross between Raymond Chandler and Mad Libs.

Much of the book's second half is like an episode of "E! True Hollywood Story," but with noticeably odder names. Also, suckier. Star lands a job on a "Home Improvement"-style sitcom, called "Hammer Time" here; then, it's on to "Baywatch," or "Lifeguards Inc." Star also dates various rock and rap stars, finds herself in an orgy here and there, and continues her path to spiritual enlightenment ("'Implants?' Star said. ... 'What do you think? Should I?'").

I shouldn't spoil the book's ending -- but let's just say Star gets the implants. I hate to give away any more of the juicy details, if by "juicy details" you mean "stuff I remember Jay Leno joking about six years ago."

For the rest of the plot, you'll just have to read it yourself. It's worth the half-hour. Any longer than that and you're just being an eggplant.

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