“POUT, YOU’RE OUT.” THAT’S THE MOTTO AT Baywatch, otherwise known as Babewatch, the syndicated hit series about a troop of splashy L.A. lifeguards, all of whom seem to have been molded from some supersexy amalgam of hormones and Coppertone. But there are days the cast has to spend hours shooting in the Pacific surf, making them water-wrinkled and sulky. So the “pout” rule is warranted—although it need never be applied to the unflappably upbeat Pamela Anderson, 26, who plays the series’ resident flower child, C.J. Parker. “I love Pam’s attitude,” says David Hasselhoff, co-executive producer and star of the series. “At the end of the day, she’s taking karate lessons out on the parking lot, and I’m going, ‘Yeah! yeah!’ ”
She is not a nah, nah kind of woman, this Playboy centerfold and former star of ABC’s Home Improvement, on which she played Lisa the Tool Girl, TV handyman Tim Allen’s curvaceous assistant. In fact, C.J Parker’s new age proclivities—quoting spiritual wisdom of the ages, cooking with tofu and healing with crystals—were inspired by Anderson herself, a dedicated meditator who once said the person she’d most like to meet is Indian holy man Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda. And, indeed, a yogi would feel cozy in Anderson’s pristine two-bedroom Malibu condo, scented with incense, furnished in pine. As she settles onto an off-white sofa, Anderson tucks her bare feel (toe ring on right foot) into the sofa and—no, she isn’t assuming the lotus position. She’s just settling in before talking about how her unbridled free spirit won out in a crisis of the heart last month: her broken engagement to actor Scott Baio, 33.
Anderson met Baio at a New Year’s Eve party at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles in 1989. They were together for a year, were apart for two years, then began seeing each other this summer. “Scott’s a great guy,” says Anderson. “But he’s very practical and logical. I live day by day, and he’s not spontaneous at all. But I thought, ‘Maybe that’s good for me.’ ” As soon as she said yes in September, though, a knot in her stomach told her being Mrs. Logical wasn’t for her. She called Baio in Denver, where he is shooting Diagnosis Murder, a new CBS mystery series with Dick Van Dyke, and they agreed to a parting of the ways. (For his part, Baio insists that he was the one who called it quits. “It’s a bad time for me,” he says. “I’m in Denver for quite a while, and it’s not conducive to having a relationship.”) The other actor in Anderson’s life has been Baywatch costar David Charvet, whom she dated in the Baio-free period. “But it was too hard for two beginning actors to be together,” she says. “It felt like a competition.”
Reflecting on this romantic turnover, Hasselhoff suggests another parallel between Anderson and the woman she plays on Baywatch. “C.J. falls in love quickly,” he says. “I tell Pam I have to pick up the tabloids to see who she’s dating now.”
C.J.—sorry—Pam grew up in Comox, British Columbia (pop. 6,000), where she knew the hardscrabble life. For a long time, she says, “my parents were never really able to get above zero.” Her father, Barry, is a furnace repairman; her mother, Carol, is a waitress. Another problem was alcoholism, which runs in both sides of the family, Anderson says; her dad admits to having had a drinking problem for years but says he now has it under control. (Anderson and her brother, Gerry, 22, have learned their lesson: They never drink anything more than a glass of red wine.)
Despite the hardships, “I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anything,” she says. “It turned me into a survivor.” And something of a mystic. Her grandfather Herman Anderson, an immigrant from Helsinki, taught her to meditate (not to mention how to swear in Finnish). “Everyone thought he was kind of kooky,” she says. “He would lock himself in his room for three months, writing his dreams down.”
Even Grandpa couldn’t have dreamed up Pamela’s path to stardom. She moved to Vancouver in 1988, three years after graduating from high school, and worked as a fitness instructor. One summer day in 1989, her next-door neighbors invited her to a Canadian pro-football game. During a lull in the action, a cameraman focused on Pamela, and the crowd roared approval at the gorgeous young blonde projected onto the stadium’s giant TV screen. The fact that she was wearing a Labatt’s beer T-shirt didn’t escape the notice of executives at the brewing company, who hired her for commercials. Not long after that, Playboy called. She was initially reluctant to pose, she says, “but a body is beautiful. It’s the most natural thing in the world to be nude.” And all of Comox agrees, says her mom—at least regarding Pam’s body. “You see a lot uglier people with next to nothing on down at the beach,” says Mrs. Anderson.
Pamela moved to L.A. not long after Playboy hit the stands, breaking into acting with small parts on Married…with Children and other series before landing the role of Lisa on Home Improvement in 1991. She loved working with star Tim Allen, she says, but it was too hard to juggle that show and Baywatch, where she was cast as C.J. last year. The new role was meatier, and it quickly became more holistic. Hasselhoff and his co-producers were struck by Anderson’s sunny Zen—and grafted it onto C.J.
Is all this lofty spirituality some trick to counter the impression left by the Playboy photos, by the shapely body that races through the surf of Babewatch No, Anderson insists, shaking her mane. “I love the dumb blonde image,” she says. “Then I have nothing to live up to. I can only surprise people.”
TOM CUNNEFF in Los Angeles