Did You Know Pamela Anderson Was On Home Improvement?

Monday, April 18, 2022

In the 1990s, Pamela Anderson was everywhere.  She's most famous for starring in hit television shows like Baywatch, the cult-favorite movie Barb Wire, numerous Playboy appearances, and the infamous "tape" with her now ex-husband, Tommy Lee.  

It's been well documented here on YesterYear that I grew up loving the Tim Allen sitcom Home Improvement.  You can check out tributes I wrote to special holiday episodes by clicking the following links:  Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas

A few years back, I watched reruns of our old favorite, and I noticed that Heidi the Tool Girl wasn't exactly... Heidi.  

Odd, I never noticed that before.  If I did, I was too young to notice or even care.  

It had been years since I rewatched the series, and now it stuck out like a sore thumb.  How could I not have noticed?  

As the episode went on, I realized her name was Lisa.  And Lisa looked awfully familiar, too. 


It was Pamela Anderson!  

How did I not know this?  I pride myself on knowing all sorts of trivia that will never win me anything but a pat on the back, but I have to admit, this escaped me.  I vaguely remembered the Tool Time assistant being different.  Come to think of it, during other watching of reruns over the years, I must have noticed then but not thought anything of it.

I didn't put two-and-two together until that day a few years back, and it's something that I've had a mild curiosity about since.  So, why not look back and see what we can find out about when Pamela Anderson was on Home Improvement!  

Pamela Denise Anderson was born July 1, 1967, in Ladysmith, British Columbia, Canada.  After graduating high school in 1985, she moved to Vancouver to become a fitness instructor.  By chance, in 1989, Pamela was attending a CFL (Canadian Football League) game and was featured on the big screen wearing a tight-fitting Labatt's beer t-shirt.  

Labatt's would find her and hire the 22-year-old Anderson as a spokesmodel following that game.  Her boyfriend at the time, photographer Dan Ilicic would produce a relatively famous (and collectible) poster featuring Anderson and Labatt's, called "The Blue Zone Girl."  


That same year, Anderson was featured as the cover girl in the February 1989 edition of Playboy Magazine. Pam would be featured numerous times in Playboy over 22 years.  She has the honor of being the cover girl more often than any other model in Playboy history.  

When her one-year contract with Labatt's ended, she moved from Canada to Los Angeles to pursue an acting and modeling career.  Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, she landed the role on a new series produced by the ABC network, Home Improvement.  


Hired to play Lisa, the 'original' Tool Girl for the show-within-a-show Tool Time, Pamela was actually cast as a last-minute substitute for Ashley Judd.  In an interview with news.au.com, Ashley Judd was initially booked to portray the Tool Girl but pulled out of the pilot at the last minute, fearing that getting a job on television would ruin her film aspirations.  

Lisa, often the "window dressing" on both the fictional Tool Time and the actual show Home Improvement, made a lasting impression in her brief appearances.  Often just introducing guests or handing tools to Tim or Al, Anderson made the most of her time on screen.  


Eventually, another opportunity came knocking for the young actress that made her turn in her tool belt for an iconic red swimsuit.  

In 1992, the popular lifeguard drama Baywatch wanted to freshen up season three by adding a new member to its cast of heartthrobs and turned their eyes on Anderson.  Based on her popularity of the Playboy cover shoot in 1989 and the runaway success of Home Improvement, Pam fit the bill.  She starred as C.J. Parker from 1992 to 1996, in a role that launched a thousand pin-ups, photoshoots, and articles aimed at an entire generation of teenage boys and grown men.  


Eventually, the dual shooting schedule was too much for Pamela and she left Home Improvement.  Lisa's character was written off the show by sending her to community college to study nursing.  

In all, Pamela Anderson appeared in 23 episodes over two seasons.

The series hired Debbie Dunning to replace her as the new Tool Girl, Heidi Keppert.  

Following her run on Baywatch, Pam starred in the 1996 comic book movie Barb Wire as Barbara Rose Kopetski.  Funny enough, it was rumored for years that Barbara Rose Kopetski was her real name, which it is not.  Barb Wire was a futuristic, thinly veiled remake of the classic film Casablanca.  The movie was not a success, but it did get Anderson her trademark barbed wire tattoo on her upper left arm.  Since barbed wire tattoos were in style in the 90s, Pam decided to just have it made permanent rather than have it applied by make-up artists every day.  She had it removed many years later, in 2016.  

After Baywatch, Pamela would move from the ensemble cast to the star of a syndicated "action/dramedy" series, V.I.P. as Vallery Irons.  Running four seasons from 1998 to 2002, Anderson would play an everyday woman who accidentally fell into the world of celebrity security and protection.  The show blended action and humor, with Anderson often poking fun at her tabloid image, as the show explored the sometimes treacherous and exciting world of the rich and famous.  

After V.I.P., Anderson made many minor appearances on television, game shows, galas, and awards shows.  She has since become an outspoken supporter of many causes, most notably P.E.T.A. (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals).  In 2015, she met with Vladimir Putin and top Kremlin officials to help save whales and other animal rights in Russia.  

She's also been outspoken against pornography, penning a 2016 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal alongside Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. They called online pornography a "public hazard of unprecedented seriousness."  The two co-wrote a book in 2018 on the same topic.

In recent years, she's been a public friend and ally of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.  In the final days of his term, Anderson made appearances on Fox News pleading with President Trump to pardon Assange.  

Home Improvement's early success was the perfect launch point for Pam Anderson's career.  It's fair to say that without Lisa the Tool Girl, there would have been no C.J. Parker on Baywatch, no Barb in Barb Wire, and no marriage to Tommy Lee resulting in the infamous tape.  

In what was mostly a NSFW (Not Safe For Work) career, Pamela's got its start in a family-friendly show like Home Improvement.  

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