Whether or not Pamela Anderson Lee wins her $90 million lawsuit to keep the sex tapes she made with rockers Tommy Lee and Bret Michaels off the Internet, the former Baywatch beauty is already one of the most exploited babes in cyberspace. Thousands of websites pander her name, face and other body parts. She is suing the tip of an iceberg, albeit a very large tip and a very large iceberg.
The iceberg is cyberporn, one of the few industries to be profitable on the Internet. The tip is 24-year-old Seth Warshavsky, president of Internet Entertainment Group <www.ieg.com>, a new media company in Seattle that even without Pamela's videos expected to gross $20 million in 1997 through its interactive live porn websites.
Warshavsky has been called a virtual Hugh Hefner or Bob Guccione. In fact, when Penthouse magazine went online, it hired Warshavsky to create and operate its site. The former phone-sex entrepreneur could also be called the Bill Gates of porn, because his cyber peep shows use cutting edge computer technology.
Last year the Wall Street Journal ran a front page story on cyberporn in which it described Warshavsky as "short, scrubbed and apple-cheeked," and "looks hardly old enough to shave, let alone direct a sprawling adult-entertainment operation." But while most adult websites consist of little more than dirty pictures, he constructed a small studio where naked women frolic in front of video cameras, all day everyday. The studio includes a bedroom, dungeon and shower equipped with webcams and microphones.
From the privacy of your home -- or office -- you can watch the women strip and touch themselves in real time on your computer screen. Membership is $9 a month, plus $50 for a 30-minute cyber peep show. For more money you can talk to the women over the phone and "direct" them.
Thousands of websites with names like "Club Love" and "Mistress X" provide access, luring customers into the site with free samples, then making them buy a membership to see more. The video images are jerky and no bigger than a trading card, but far more engaging than, say, America Online, which still presents celebrities using typed text messages, without pictures or sound, much less video. As for the women involved, it may be the skin trade, but a lot safer than prostitution.
According to a recent issue of Wired, Forrester Research of Cambridge, Mass., estimates that sex sites accounted for a tenth of all the money made on the Internet last year, or more than $100 million, while people in the business think the figure may be closer to $1.2 billion or even $3 billion. Wired said the one thing experts do agree on is that of all the commercial news, gaming, entertainment and information websites, sex sites are about the only ones making money.
That such a large cyberporn outlet as Warshavsky's IEG would be willing to spend millions of dollars on lawsuits and copyrights for Pamela's sex tapes attests to her huge commercial appeal on the Internet. Indeed, IEG may be the biggest, but it's hardly the only website cashing in on her, uh, assets. Search engines list thousands of Pamela websites. Many are X-rated, others are fan pages, and some defy description.
Like the "Pam Anderson Cavorting with Naked Space Aliens Conspiracy Homepage" <www.world-o-babes.com/pam>, which shows her, well, cavorting with naked space aliens. Or "Pamela Anderson Lee's Breasts as a Function of Time" <www.superpam.com>, which uses charts and graphs to correlate the enlargement of her breasts with the depletion of world silicone reserves.
Everyone else is cashing in on Pamela, so why not Pamela? The official Pamela website, "pamela anderson lee," is operated by her brother. They are trying to sell memberships for $6 a month, or $67 a lifetime, to "enter the career and mind of the most talked about celebrity worldwide."
I have a couple of suggestions for
they could sell more memberships,
but I don't think they are going to want to hear them.