You've seen the body, now read the book

Until now, Pamela Anderson's only contribution to fiction was her bust measurement. She hopes to change all that with a racy new novel, Star. Sholto Byrnes joins her literary circle in New York
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The Independent Culture

It's noon outside the Barnes & Noble book store in the Rockefeller Center, New York, and a queue stretches down 48th Street from Fifth Avenue all the way to the Avenue of the Americas. An elderly couple pause in front of the store. "What's going on?" asks the wife, a diminutive, myopic woman, screwing up her face in puzzlement. She spots the poster in the window nearest the door. "Is Tommy Franks here today?" The retired general smiling back at her is not on hand to sign copies of his autobiography. "It's Pamela Anderson," replies her husband, an ox of a man who's a good head and shoulders taller than his spouse. He shouts in the way the hard-of-hearing often do. His wife looks blank. "Pamela Anderson," he repeats, loud enough for passers-by to turn their heads. "She's got these wondrous breasts," he explains, his hands circling outwards as though to sketch the outline of two enormous watermelons. "She's famous." His wife remains expressionless.

It's noon outside the Barnes & Noble book store in the Rockefeller Center, New York, and a queue stretches down 48th Street from Fifth Avenue all the way to the Avenue of the Americas. An elderly couple pause in front of the store. "What's going on?" asks the wife, a diminutive, myopic woman, screwing up her face in puzzlement. She spots the poster in the window nearest the door. "Is Tommy Franks here today?" The retired general smiling back at her is not on hand to sign copies of his autobiography. "It's Pamela Anderson," replies her husband, an ox of a man who's a good head and shoulders taller than his spouse. He shouts in the way the hard-of-hearing often do. His wife looks blank. "Pamela Anderson," he repeats, loud enough for passers-by to turn their heads. "She's got these wondrous breasts," he explains, his hands circling outwards as though to sketch the outline of two enormous watermelons. "She's famous." His wife remains expressionless.

Over in the press queue tempers are rising as a newcomer arrives and fails to respect the order already established. "Hey!" calls out one photographer to a visibly stressed coordinator from the shop. "Don't let him go to the front. We're here, we were first. Don't go there, buddy," he warns. The sun and the steamy conditions are stripping away whatever veneer of tolerance and patience the waiting press originally possessed. This is New York, a city that snaps in an instant, a careless word or the slightest delay enough to elicit an abusive torrent. A city that never sleeps is bound to be an irritable one, and the unbearable humidity makes it worse.

Round the corner, marshals wander up and down the line. "Have you got the book?" they ask. "Give it to me," and they flip the dust jacket over to the title page. "If it's not in the right place," they say sternly, "it causes a delay." This is clearly not something even to be contemplated. That the great author, Pamela Anderson, should have to suffer a delay - let's not go there either, buddy.

To be fair to Ms Anderson, this is an important day for her. She is making her literary debut with Star: a novel, which the publicity material announces is, "a breathless romp through Tinseltown and tabloids" that "goes well beyond the clichéd air-kisses and casting couches of Hollywood to show what really happens when A-list meets D-cup, when girl becomes goddess". Those waiting for Anderson to turn up for the book-signing clutch their copies of Star, the title of which is framed by a pink star on the front cover. It, and other, smaller stars, also preserve the modesty of the author, whose full-length form, naked apart from a pair of tasteful white stilettos, adorns the dust jacket. The image is repeated inside (signalled by a legend on the back - "Bonus pin-up inside jacket!") with the main star omitted so that the author's wondrous breasts can be admired in all their rock-hard glory.

Even an actress as respected as Anderson is for her versatility; her modesty; her outstanding interpretation of challenging roles; is entitled to worry about the critical reaction to her first book. Can she transfer the talents she displayed as CJ in Baywatch to a different artistic genre? Will the success of her film Barb Wire be matched in the literary field? Dare one mention the Pulitzer Prize? The Prix Goncourt?

Sadly, it seems that not all are there to hail the new Philip Roth or the successor to Maya Angelou. Manny, a teenager from the Bronx, in sports vest and shorts, is succinct. "She's got great tits, man. This is my chance to get up close to those babies." A couple of photographers are unswayed even by this consideration. "I'm a Demi Moore man," says one. "She's got class. Not Pam Anderson, no. Britney? No."

Eventually a cheer goes up. Anderson has arrived at the 48th Street entrance, and a crowd blocks traffic solid as she and her entourage step out of a limousine. NYPD cops man the barricades and push the crowd back as it surges toward the object of its fascination, who turns, flashes a smile, and is gone in a cloud of platinum-blonde hair. Inside, when the press are finally allowed into the pen, Barnes & Noble staff keep strict order. Those with blue passes go first to the barrier; two lines of photographers get five minutes to snap the author in a hot-pink halter top, matching clutch purse (and toenail varnish), faded blue jeans, and, excitingly, what look like the same stilettos she's wearing on the dust jacket.

Her ghost writer, Eric Shaw Quinn, sits behind the table next to her on the left. But no one seems too interested in him, despite his contribution to the new literary sensation. At one point, Anderson, by now standing, playfully holds a copy of the novel in front of Quinn's face. Twenty cameras instantly record a picture of the headless man, who takes it in good grace. Perhaps he knows that in all great partnerships - Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Little and Large - there is always one on whom, however unfairly, the spotlight predominantly falls.

Behind the photographers with blue passes, those of us with purple wait. Larry, who works for a celebrity picture agency, tries to set up before his time. "Don't spoil it for the rest of us, Larry," calls one snapper whose girth is almost equal to his height. He doesn't have to worry. A young woman from Barnes & Noble is on Larry's case. "If you try to take even one picture, you're outta here!" Larry smiles sheepishly and puts his camera down.

Then there is a murmur from the photographers at the front. We can see another platinum-blonde head bobbing through the bookstore. It is Victoria Gotti, daughter of John Gotti, the late Mafia boss known as "the Dapper Don". Ms Gotti, who looks far more plastic even than Anderson and rather scary, too, is starring in Growing Up Gotti, a new "real-life" series on the A&E television channel featuring her, her three sons and their Long Island mansion. She is, appropriately enough given the title of Anderson's novel, the editor-at-large of a celebrity news journal called Star Magazine. She knows the author as she has interviewed Anderson in her role as the entertainment correspondent of the American television programme Extra! Rather bizarrely, she is also the author of a medical paper on heart problems, "Women and Mitral Valve Prolapse", and has been named Woman of the Year by the National Chapter of the American Heart Association. No doubt she just happened to be passing and came to wish the debut novelist luck. The waiting photographers are delighted.

I am told very firmly that Anderson is giving no interviews and am kept at the back until it's time for the purple group to move up to the barrier. With no chance to speak to her, I try to observe from as close up as I can. Her make-up is thick, her nose more snubbed than one imagines, a posed smile stuck rigidly to her lips. I can't help, though, focusing rather more than is polite on her breasts. Actually, given the fame they have brought her, perhaps it's impolite not to examine them, at least briefly; it would be like going to Egypt and not seeing the pyramids, or Paris and not popping into the Louvre. They are indeed wondrous, in size at any rate. But not particularly sexy. They look a little too hard, like the arches on an overinflated air bed, and possibly as uncomfortable to rest one's head on.

It seems that the only way to meet her is to buy a book and get her to sign it. Elaine, a 45-year-old nurse from New Jersey, is standing in front of me in the queue. "I had to come," she tells me, "because I think she's such an inspiring role model." Really? "The way she achieved such success, but she always seems so sweet and kind." What about the bootleg porn videos of her with her ex-husband, Tommy Lee? "Oh, that was just so dreadful. I felt so sorry for her."

When we finally make our way into the inner sanctum we are stopped and held back, have our bags taken, are told firmly not to ask the books to be personalised and then whisked in front of the seated star. She is busy talking to one of her people while she scrawls "Pamela" with a top-heavy "P" that encircles the rest of her name. Meanwhile, Quinn appears grateful that someone has actually noticed his presence. He looks at me meaningfully, and says "thank you" in such a way that suggests he is deeply, deeply moved that I have bought a copy of his book.

Outside, crowds are gathering again to catch Anderson on her way out. Her limo is late, but the celebrity bodyguard Chuck Zito strolls out and joshes with the crowd. Chuck, who is also an actor and a former president of the New York chapter of the Hells Angels, is an author too, his autobiography Street Justice spawning a forthcoming TV series of the same name. A frumpy woman with light blonde hair walks out. "Hi Pam!" shouts one joker, prompting laughter from the crowd. They're happy to wait for what turns out to be the briefest of exits. While hundreds of flashes go off and mobile phones with lenses are held high, Quinn can't believe the attention he is just about a part of. He holds up his mobile to capture all those taking pictures that might just include him. With Anderson gone, part of the crowd turns to Zito, who is departing in a Sixties Corvette Stingray festooned with Batman signs.

The cops strut about as the Pam fans disperse. "This is nothing," says one. "Howard Stern's was the longest line I've seen, it went down Madison for at least seven blocks." Afterwards, I read the novel. The main character, Star Wood Leigh, has much in common with Anderson, appearing in a TV show about lifeguards, meeting a rock star who introduces himself by licking her face (as Tommy Lee did), and sleeping with a procession of men - I count 12 in the book, not including "extras" in the orgy scenes.

It also features some memorable lines. Early on, Star experiences, "a spider sense that something was missing, like that feeling you get when you stand looking into 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". One boyfriend is described as being, "not the most imaginative lover, but like a favourite dildo, he was always ready to go and willing to keep at it until she was satisfied". Star also displays an unusual lack of awareness of the wider world. When a blimp field is pointed out to her, she says: "Blimps grow in fields?"

To her fans, such prose borders on the genius. Two who attended the signing have already reviewed the novel on Amazon and awarded it four out of five stars. Another reviewer writes: "I was moved by her ability to aptly and with heartfelt emotion give the reader such an honest and inspiring message. Five out of five stars barely justifies the almost poetic merit that this piece delivers."

My view? Star: a novel is a sure bet for the Pulitzer. Definitely.

'Star: a novel' is published by Simon & Schuster in the US and is available via www.amazon.co.uk (£18.26+P&P); it will be published in the UK in November

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