Cheques, Seals and Comedians

Pamela Anderson and Sam Simon’s effort to shut down the seal trade turns into a fiasco, but who looks more foolish?


Sam Simon is a name that may not resonate to many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, but in reality, he probably deserves some attention or recognition for one of a laundry list of reasons. For starters, Simon can be summed up as a television wizard. He has written, produced and directed television for decades, with Taxi and The Simpsons serving as some of his more recognizable endeavours. He was also been involved with Cheers, The Tracey Ullman Show, The Drew Carey Show and Friends in case those first two fail to ring a bell. Aside from stints as a boxing manager, philanthropist and very accomplished poker player, Simon is quite the humanitarian and animal rights activist. His group, the Sam Simon Foundation has spent millions helping to train and rehabilitate stray dogs. Simon has recently been diagnosed with terminal colorectal cancer, and with a short-life expectancy, has pledged to donate his entire fortune to charity.
So why am I, a writer/journalist based in St. John’s Newfoundland, talking about this good-natured humanitarian? Well, on December 17th, Simon led a press-conference in the parking lot of the FFAS building here in St. John’s, with the aim to cease the East coast seal trade. Simon’s offered a $1 million bonus as an incentive if the Canadian Sealers Association complied. Accompanying Mr. Simon on this cold winter day: None other than (in) famous Canadian actress Pamela Anderson, who is no stranger to protesting and speaking out on the issue of animal rights.
“I have flown from Los Angeles to St. John’s to hand-deliver my offer of $1 million bonus payable to Canadian sealers if your association facilitates a government buyout of the fading East coast seal trade,” Simon spoke, reading from a letter he sent to President of the Canadian Sealers Association Eldred Woodford. “Many Canadians echo this thought, including my traveling companion, Pamela Anderson. We’re here with an incentive to help workers and spare animals.”
Jan5_17Simon and Anderson, along with PETA’s senior-vice president Dan Matthews, were heckled by pro-sealing advocates, who showered them with chants of ‘liar’, as they listed off their reasons for bringing this issue to the doorstep of the Newfoundland sealing industry.
Things quickly escalated into a full-on gong show, as Newfoundland actor and comedian Mark Critch ambushed the group, offering Anderson a million dollar check of his own, on the condition that she retire from acting. “We’ve all seen the cruel videos, ‘Barb Wire,’ ‘Bay Watch Nights,’ ‘Barbarella,'” Critch said.”‘Stripperella,'” Anderson corrected.
Jan5_06“‘Stripperella, sorry, thank-you. They make me embarrassed to be a Canadian,” Critch said.
“There are so many members of the sealers’ association, it breaks down to $165 a person. Will you give up your livelihood for $165?,” Critch said directed at Anderson.
The procession moved in doors for some more verbal jabbing between pro-sealing advocates and Simon and Anderson’s ban of protestors, before the group relented and drove away, looking noticeably more deflated than upon their arrival.
Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) president Earle McCurdy was quoted as saying the offer was “offensive and exasperating.”
My great, great grandfather Philip Holloway was a casualty of the Newfoundland sealing disaster of 1914, so whatever leverage that may permit me to weigh-in on this issue, I will regretfully save for another story, at another time. Whether I am for or against the seal hunt is rather inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but the entire event did strike a chord with me. Standing in the chilly Newfoundland winter, what stood out to me was that both sides, Simon and Anderson’s band of flag waving peace keepers, and the insult-hurling but perhaps justifiably passionate group of pro-sealing advocates, both came across looking somewhat foolish by the entire ordeal.
Had members of the sealing association come forward, and I don’t mean with hat in hand, and spoke camly and concisely, laying their argument on the table, I have no question they could have reduced the position of Simon, Anderson and co to rubble. With plot holes that you could drive an escalade through, it would not have been to challenging. But the story, as I see it, for whatever that may be worth, is that consummate humanitarian Simon, and the former Baywatch bombshell Anderson, who resembled a meek version of Marilyn Monroe, clad in scarf and trench coat, were absolutely shredded, mocked and belittled by the opposing cohort. 16th century Welsh poet George Herbert famously quoted “Be calm in arguing; for fierceness makes error a fault, and truth discourtesy.” We as a people, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians stand up for what we believe in, and do so proudly. Fighting for what we believe is right and just is apart of our morale fiber, and not something anyone has the right or ability to take away. But, there is a time, a place, and a proper way to approach an argument, and lampooning a terminally ill humanitarian and a good-intentioned but misguided celebutante, will not paint a pretty picture of the normally good-natured and friendly people of this province. It takes something truly unique to make Canada’s most kind and generous people seem like bully’s, and I hope that at the end of the day, that is not the black hat we wear from a day I as a Newfoundlander would gladly soon forget.

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