Pamela’s Drugstore Hair Dye

She wasn’t like the other stars of her caliber. They never would have dared to be seen in a place like Pharmasave. For that would, first of all, entail actually being out of Los Angeles, where the CVS and/or Walgreens density allowed plenty of opportunity to hit up different locations each time, therefore remain anonymous. “Safe” from the likes of TMZ, in effect. The number of drugstores to choose from in Ladysmith, the Vancouver Island town Pamela had made famous, was not so robust—and Pamela didn’t care who saw her anyway. She was way past the concern over “being seen.” Least of all concern over being seen in a way that she couldn’t curate.

That ability had gone out the window quite some time ago. Not just with a certain illustrious tape that shall remained unnamed, but with the way she was stalked by the hungry fans and even hungrier paparazzi, some of whom actually dug through her trash to see the monthly box of hair dye. With all of them wanting just a “little” piece of her. Such a turn of phrase might provide plenty of implant-oriented fodder for a late-night talk show host. The spooks she was still entertaining even to this day. As a matter of fact, part of the reason she went into the drugstore for new hair dye that week was to prepare for an upcoming appearance on one of them. Let’s just say the one with the host who was among the few to base his talk show in L.A.—the milieu that Pamela still held dearly despite all it had “done” to her. Despite how much it had become a historic site for her trauma.

But she wasn’t obliged to ruminate on that trauma yet again as she went about the business of being “ordinary.” Stars – They’re Just Like Us! Going straight to the aisle she had become so familiar with during her ever-expanding “visit” to the town that she ran away from all those decades ago. Luckily, remote living had become chicer in recent years and, all at once, it was as though Pamela couldn’t resist the urge to retreat—something she probably should have done long ago, at the height of her harassment. Yet there was more pressure then. More expectation. The belief that this was 1) something she had “brought on herself” and 2) that it was part and parcel of being a sex symbol. Just ask Marilyn how much understanding was given to her as the world’s first modern version of that. And Pamela did like the Marilyn comparisons that a certain magazine’s editor-in-chief kept offering about her.

Maybe that’s part of why she was so eager to surrender her days of Sun In-induced blondeness for the sake of pleasing the professionals at “The Mansion.” The glam team that took one look at her and knew that her entire image could be changed with the right shade of blonde, not that “manila” color she had achieved with this cheap method. And yet, boxed hair dye was “cheap” (relatively) too. But it somehow worked like a dream on Pamela’s hair, or maybe she willed it so—for the entire reason she was insistent on the DIY hair method as someone of her star caliber was because she didn’t want to waste what little valuable personal time she had sitting in chairs waiting for someone else to laboriously perform a process she could do in twenty-five minutes.

So here she is, alone in the aisle at Pharmasave. The fluorescent lights accenting some of the less flattering creases and folds that her pancake makeup couldn’t cover. “Scandinavian Blonde, here I come,” she says aloud, to no one in particular. Or maybe it’s just to the slew of invisible cameras we all imagine are following us at any given moment. Except, in her case, such a thought is merited. Unlike her naïve belief that she wouldn’t be immediately and harshly judged for parading the “truth” about how she “really” gets her infamous look (as if most actresses didn’t share the same secret about their unnatural hair color—but somehow it was more glamorous because they paid someone else to beautify them). Worse still, as an attempt to be more relatable, it landed flat when some women started praising her for her honesty and then using her preferred brands and “tricks of the trade,” only to realize that it was just the roots that Pamela dyed. Not her whole head (try to avoid any innuendo-making here).

Thus, of course she can make it all look “effortless” that way. She’s not dealing with the entire mass of tresses, as most people (a.k.a. women) do when they’re taking on the additional grooming task of dyeing their hair. Which they don’t really see as quite the same “treat” as Pamela, who touts the at-home hair dye process as a magical “regift” of one’s time back to them. She can bake or read or whatever other twentyish-minute hobby fits into the preset period. It made some wonder if she was truly aware of how time worked—that she was only adding on to her daily hours of menial labor as opposed to detracting. That the assistance of a “glam squad” type of person would have, in contrast, actually given her way more time (even though she has so much more of it now that she’s not a “relevant”—code for: young—star) to do the things she loves than schlepping to the pharmacy, hoping to find the same shade again and then going back to her isolated lair (Norma Desmond-style) to set the clock on the process.

When one got to the core of why Pamela really did it—now, at least—it was clear the real reason was to fill the hours. The dreaded hours. She decided not to anymore, though, after getting sick off the fumes of a brand she had never tried before (that’s what one gets for being “adventurous,” she supposed). And her hair looked completely deranged afterward. Almost like it did back in the early days when she was an ingenue and had likened the tone generated from her Sun In obsession to “manila.” Maybe, once and for all, she was done being cheap, she decided, glancing at her botched color in the mirror before throwing the box out in the garbage can.


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