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Pamela Anderson says ‘no thanks’ to tanks off Vancouver Island Add to ...

A woman tiptoes barefoot across a stony beach, stepping into chilly water.

She wears a white dress falling to mid-thigh and a cable-knit sweater with sleeves so long as to cover her hands.

She addresses the camera.

“Hi, I’m Pamela Anderson,” she says for those few who might not recognize one of Canada’s best-known exports. “I may have become famous playing a lifeguard on the California beaches, but I grew up on Vancouver Island. This is my grandmother’s property that I actually live on now.”

She is worried about the possibility of a spill polluting the coast and inlets of Vancouver Island.

“When I heard there was going to be crude oil shipped out of Vancouver, I had to say, ‘No tanks.’”

You’ve seen her in Stacked, Barb Wire, Scary Movie 3, and as lifeguard C.J. Parker in Baywatch; you’ve heard her in the Stripperella animated television series; you’ve read her novels Star and Star Struck (okay, maybe you haven’t); you’ve noted her campaigns to get food and medicine to refugee children, as well as her support of animal rights, which led to the Colonel taking a licking for his treatment of chickens.

That’s Pamela Anderson. If she’s not taking off her clothes, she’s taking on a cause.

Getting the pulchritudinous star to make a public-service announcement is a coup for Nanaimo filmmaker Paul Manly. Here’s how it happened.

“She was searching around on the Web for surfing beaches on the West Coast,” he said. “She found the trailer for my film Sombrio, so she ordered a copy of it.”

By coincidence, Mr. Manly had driven past the old Arcady Auto Court just off the highway in Ladysmith earlier that day. The Hollywood star bought the property after her grandmother, Marjorie, died in 2004. The Arcady caused him to think of Ms. Anderson’s appearance in the movie Borat, during which the protagonist attempts to kidnap her.

“I got home and there was an order from her. I filled out the order and sent back an e-mail, ‘Is this the Pamela from Ladysmith? That’s where I grew up, too.’”

Turns out the pair both learned to swim at nearby Transfer Beach, a popular bathing and picnic spot where the community gathers for annual Ladysmith Days celebrations.

(On Vancouver Island, we play six degrees of separation based on our connections to Pamela Anderson. Here goes — my Victoria home was bought from a woman whose mother is Ms. Anderson’s great-aunt.)

Mr. Manly’s documentary Sombrio recounts the bittersweet tale of squatters who enjoy a bucolic life until ordered from the beach. The son of Jim Manly, a United Church minister and a former NDP member of Parliament, he has made films about the perils of free trade and earned attention a few years ago when his footage helped unmask provocateurs from the Sûreté de Quebec masquerading as stone-wielding protesters.

The 46-year-old filmmaker and the 43-year-old performer (born to fame as Ladysmith’s Centennial baby, issuing before dawn on July 1, 1967) struck an online friendship through e-mails. She enjoyed his other short films and offered to help in his projects. The filmmaker had one in mind on the tanker issue.

He showed up with his camera early one morning. “We had coffee, hung around, talked,” he said. “Pretty casual.”

The celebrity and her cause are not without critics. Tom Fletcher, a Victoria-based political columnist, expressed his disfavour in a Tweet: “Another celebrity stumbles upon reality and doesn’t like it. Or understand it. Go back to seals, Pam.”

The one-minute, 17-second film was shot on Ms. Anderson’s waterfront property, for which she had planned a $50-million, six-building complex to be known as Arcadia at Oyster Bay. The development is now on hold, according to reports, a result of the economic downturn.

Mr. Manly has learned a lesson about his craft from the project.

“Star power has some effect on who watches what,” he said.

Last month, he posted a two-minute video outlining the case against allowing the transport of bitumen from Vancouver harbour.

After five weeks online, it has 808 views.

After six days, the Pamela video has 12,267 views. And counting.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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