How to Stuff a Lettuce Bikini

To the Costa Mesa thugs who used to beat up Dan Mathews: The fat gay punk kid grew up to save lives and jet set with Pam Anderson. Howzabout you?

"I plan to use waltzing as a weapon to charm the women out of their furs," he wrote.

"They were so scared of Dan," Anderson said. "They thought we were going to set rats loose and swing animals over our heads. I was like, 'Why would we do that? That would hurt the rats and the animal I'm swinging over my head.' People are just very afraid for no reason."

Well, come on: there are reasons and some of them involve red paint. And Mathews maintains that PETA will occasionally employ guerrilla tactics no matter how many kids join.

"Much of what we do is to attract young people, but we never set out to be a popular group or the biggest group," he said. "That's just happened. We see our role as that of the provocateur."

After the session at Klasky Csupo, we head over to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to pick their brains. Mathews is impressed by that organization's ability to reach the media, how journalists, TV and film producers seek GLAAD's counsel when writing stories or scripts involving gays. He would like PETA to become a similar resource. He tells GLAAD's Nick Adams as much, and Adams tells him that he's always admired PETA's unremitting "rage."


Dining with Pam Anderson and her weapons of mass distruction

They talk about how to reach out, how to get past scaring people and help educate them. Somewhere in the conversation, Mathews says one of the things he's trying to get out to more media outlets and law enforcement departments is that most serial killers begin by torturing and killing animals. He tells of one example, a man who enjoyed putting live kittens on a barbecue. Adams turns his head in disgust and says, "I could never do your job." This from a man who deals with "Fags go to hell."

Adams suggests that Mathews move back to California to make and monitor industry relationships for PETA. But Mathews says he can only take LA for three days at a time. He does come out about twice a month, but he's just as likely to pick up Connie and head to Trinity Broadcast Network's headquarters in Costa Mesa and check out a Jesus movie in Sensaround: "The Jesus they have in that movie is so hot."

He lives in Norfolk, Virginia, where PETA relocated in 1996 and whose claim to fame is that it's home to the Atlantic fleet. Life in Norfolk would seem a horrible sentence for someone who hangs with the jet set, but Mathews says he prefers Norfolk, which he calls "civilized," adding that it's "fun to live in a Navy town in the age of 'Don't ask, don't tell.'" Still, after a trip to Amoeba Records in Hollywood to get gifts for Pam, he does admit that "one of the drawbacks to living in Hooterville is that there aren't any good record stores."

The truth is he's no more sophisticated than the folks of Norfolk, and says the reason he's excited to go to Vegas is that it's not only a chance to hang with Pam but that he loves trash. "I'm very low class. If it's a choice between Paris and Tulsa, frankly, I'll take Tulsa."

He offers as evidence the fact that the only thing for which he does not let his PETA life intrude—he missed his own 25th birthday to meet with a toothless cow skinner who gave him evidence of cattle being skinned alive—is that he schedules nothing between 7 and 8 p.m. on Saturdays so he can watch Lawrence Welk.

"I love it," he said. "It's like some freaky acid trip. I was watching one recently that was called 'Songs About Space,' and I swear, one of them involved Bobby and Cissy doing an interpretive dance to the theme from Close Encounters wearing gold-foil jumpsuits. It was like the whole country was having a revolution in the '60s, but you'd never know it from watching Lawrence Welk."

The best veggie burger he's ever eaten was at the Lawrence Welk Resort in Escondido.

HOW TO STUFF A LETTUCE BIKINI

So now, finally, we're at the private airport where we meet Ms. Anderson, who's a real nice kid if you've never had the pleasure. She has been an animal advocate since she was young, and, in fact, called PETA several times to do things for the organization before they took her up on it: "I said, 'Hi, I'm on a show called Baywatch, and I think I can do something for you.'"

She and Mathews are flying to Vegas at the request of a new magazine celebrating its launch. They asked her to come; she said sure, if you cut PETA a check, and so, tonight, Mathews will accept a giant novelty check for $10,000.

"I never feel like I'm doing enough," she says, and then remembers the rolls of posters depicting her wearing nothing but lettuce. Very little lettuce. She takes them out and laughs and Mathews laughs. He says that he read where someone said that Pam promoted PETA's cause by using her "weapons of mass distraction" and gestures toward her breasts like a model displaying a toaster on The Price Is Right.

Pam laughs and laughs.

"That's fantastic," she says. "Oh, I can't believe we didn't come up with that!"

"Don't worry," Mathews says, still laughing. "We'll pretend that we did."

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