Pamela Anderson's breasts, R.I.P.

They may not have been yours, but you wore them well.

Published April 27, 1999 1:26PM (EDT)

Dear Pamela,

It's hard to believe you did it: You went and had your breast implants
removed. The legions of Pamela watchers are agog, Leno is cracking wise about
it, and Ripley's wants to put your implants on display in its Hollywood
museum. Mostly, though, everyone is just wondering why?

The official reason you gave is "I just wanted my body to
return to its original state." When a friend of mine heard this, he said,
"That's like Samson going out and getting a buzz-cut." People are assuming
you had the surgery because the implants caused you problems (though you
claim they have not), and they can't imagine why someone who rode to fame and
fortune on the cleavage ticket would extrude her most marketable asset. But
you know what, Pamela? I think I get it.

Breast implants have always been a controversial surgical
enhancement. We sneer at the implanted woman, because by paying
thousands of dollars and exposing herself to the risks of surgery to have her
breasts enlarged, she's going to lengths to advertise her
sensuality. She's pursuing an old-fashioned notion of femininity by putting
her breasts front and center. Big breasts -- especially fake ones -- are
vulgar, down-market and attract the gaze of the common male. So maybe you're sick of catching the heat, Pamela. You've spent years suffering slings and arrows regarding your man-made endowments.

You've had a good run of it -- you've been in Playboy eight times (nine if you count the pre-boob job layout), and have enjoyed great success as a pin-up and TV cutie pie. But "cute" can't go on forever, and maybe you've realized that. You'll be 32 this year, and perhaps now is the time to attempt a segue into something more mature. You're showing the signs of adulthood -- first by dumping your abusive rocker husband, Tommy Lee, last year, and now taking out your implants. You are growing up.

But that's just my first and best guess. What's the real reason? Is
it because you knew that no matter how much the implants turned people on,
in the end the implants would only turn on you? Statistics suggest that
virtually all silicone implants will leak after eight to 10 years, and even if that doesn't happen, there's still a host of things that can go wrong: rupture,
infection, calcium deposits. And saline implants -- though considered safer
because their silicone shell is a lot thicker and saline can be harmlessly
absorbed into the body should the implants leak -- aren't foolproof. The saline
can slosh around palpably inside the implant, and as for their failure,
doctors often say, "It's not a matter of if, but when."

Is it because you are tired of being the nation's porno sweetheart?
My gosh, it was just last week you made the front page of the Wall Street
Journal as the hit queen of the Internet. Maybe it's no compliment considering
most of the hits you inspire are people snooping for that sex tape you and
Tommy Lee made. That's going to be a tough blemish to erase from your record,
implants or no implants. At least you will no longer be described in the media
as "pneumatic."

Or is it because you see implants as "over"? If so, you are bucking
the trend. Between 1992 and 1997, the number of breast augmentation surgeries
tripled. And since 1992 -- the height of the silicone scare -- the
removal of breast implants has plummeted 84 percent.

Pamela, you are ahead of your time.

I know all about the implant removal surgery. They find a (hopefully
inconspicuous) spot on the breast in which they make an incision
(unfortunately, it needs to be considerably longer than the one originally
made to insert the implants) and cut out the implant. They probably did a
capsulectomy on you, too, which involves surgically removing the hard,
encapsulating scar tissue that frequently forms around the implants.
And since your breasts would no doubt be droopy sans implants, maybe they set
you up with a mastopexy, too -- a boob lift. This involves
partially or totally removing the areola, trimming off the excess breast
flesh around the areola region and the bottom of the breast, gathering
the edges of the breast tissue together so as to make the breast higher and
firmer, then reattaching the areola and stitching it all closed. The
procedure leaves an anchor-shaped scar that runs around the nipple, down
the center of the lower breast and along the underside, but it sure beats
looking deflated. (Sometimes they pop in a smaller set of implants to
help fill you out, but I won't pry as to whether you did that or not.) Then
you spend a few days in a surgical bra, and three or four weeks wearing a
soft support bra over gauze bandages, 24-7.

I'm sure you'll look terrific with your downsized poitrine, but I
must say that despite the many icky aspects of implants, when you had them,
you used them well. You showed up in so many great outfits that would
flatten, humiliate or simply roll down to the waist of us natural
folk. Oh, the latex dresses, the silver strapless Dolce & Gabbana sheath and
the notorious Barb Wire leather corset. In all of these ensembles, you stood
firm and proud -- entirely without the aid of underwiring. Not to mention your
bounding down the beach in that "Baywatch" maillot. No woman has rocked a red
one-piece that way since Farrah Fawcett.

There have since been other techno-blonds surfing in your wake on
the "Baywatch" set. But forget Gena Lee Nolin, forget Donna D'Errico. You are
the original, Pam. So flossy and so nasty. You join Marilyn, Farrah and Bo in
the pantheon of Hefner-anointed blond pop goddesses. You will persevere
because you are a good sport -- seemingly always able to roll with the punches
and laugh at yourself. Not like that annoying ice princess Sharon Stone, who
is constantly mentioning how smart she is ("My IQ is 156! My IQ is 156!") and
imperiously flaring her nostrils. You are different. You are a populist
hottie and all-American good time girl.

I'm dying to find out -- did you know you were going to do this six
months back when you were the cover girl for Esquire's cleavage culture
? And will we see your new body in Playboy?

Taking out your implants might boost your intellectual credibility -- such as
it is -- but I don't want you to go overboard and start petitioning for
suede-patch approval. It's like Hillary Clinton baking chocolate chip cookies
way back when -- a dicey political gambit that, frankly, plays to the wrong
crowd and might well backfire.

Aw shoot, Pamela, I can't tell you what to do based on what I want.
That'd be like all those people who were pissed when Courtney Love cleaned up
and went Hollywood -- they wanted her to stay strung out and painted up like a
trashy little clown because she embodied their nefarious bohemian fantasies.
That ain't right. You are your own woman, do what you must. If you really
want to shoot for that "serious" thing, however, you have my
permission to use my idea of posing in a wet Harper's T-shirt. God knows
I'll probably never get around to it.

I'm not sure what the future holds for you now, Pammy, but know that
you will always have a place in my heart, and your post-operative poster will always have a place on my wall.


By Lily Burana

Lily Burana is the author of four books, most recently, “Grace for Amateurs: Field Notes on a Journey Back to Faith” (W/Harper). Follow her @lilyburana

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