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Pamela Stephenson

Pamela Stephenson

Pamela Helen Stephenson, Lady Connolly (born 4 December 1949) is a New Zealand-born psychologist, writer, and performer who is now a resident in both the United Kingdom and the United States. She is best known for her work as an actress and comedienne during the 1980s, particularly in Not the Nine O'Clock News; History of the World, Part I; and Superman III. She has written several books, which include a biography of her husband Sir Billy Connolly, and presented a psychology-based interview show called Shrink Rap on British and Australian television.

Pamela Stephenson
Stephenson in 1992
Pamela Helen Stephenson

(1949-12-04) 4 December 1949
Takapuna, Auckland, New Zealand
OccupationActress, clinical psychologist
Years active1971–present

Early life

Pamela Helen Stephenson was born on 4 December 1949 in Takapuna, Auckland. In 1953, she moved to Australia with her scientist parents and two sisters.[1] She attended Boronia Park Primary School in Sydney and then Sydney Church of England Girls' Grammar School, Darlinghurst.

According to her own autobiography, Stephenson was raped at age 16 while she was living in Australia by a 35-year-old heroin addict, contracting an STD as a consequence.[2] She concealed the fact but was expelled from her home by her parents once her medical condition was known: "I remember the feeling well, because I still experience it every time someone rejects me, even in some relatively small way."[3]

Comedy and acting

Stephenson began her acting career in television. In 1972, she starred as Elsie in the ABC-TV production of the opera The Yeomen of the Guard.[4] She starred during 1973–74 as Julie King in the Australian TV series Ryan. She made numerous television and film appearances, including as Michelle Osgood in the Space: 1999 episode "Catacombs of the Moon" (1976),[5] Josephine in the 1977 ABC production of Malcolm Williamson's opera The Violins of Saint-Jacques, and Wendy in the 1977 New Avengers episode "Angels of Death". She had a supporting role in the inaugural episode of Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected in 1979. She had another recurring role as Iris Reade in the UK series Funny Man (1981). She made a TV comedy sketch show pilot, Stephenson's Rocket, which was not taken up.[6] Among her first appearances in the UK, she joined the live on-stage team at The Comic Strip led by Rik Mayall, Peter Richardson and Alexei Sayle at the Raymond Revuebar in Soho. This was not a happy experience, according to an interview she gave in 2014: "Doing stand-up was like a war with everyone playing this game of "I can be funnier than you".[7][8]

Probably her most widely recognised television role was in the 1980s UK comedy television sketch show Not The Nine O'Clock News, alongside Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones (1979–82). Her parodies included Kate Bush in a song called "Oh England, My Leotard" (referencing "Oh England My Lionheart"), and Olivia Newton-John in a song called "Typical Bloody Typical" (referencing "Physical"). She also had a small part in three episodes of the British crime-action television drama series The Professionals. Her personal contribution as a comedian added to the success of Not the Nine O'Clock News, and led to a collaboration with comedy and satire writers Mike Lepine and Mark Leigh. This spawned a book, How To Be A Complete Bitch, and a board game. In 1982–83, she starred in the West End production of Joseph Papp's version of The Pirates of Penzance.[9][10]

She also featured in the American comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live (SNL) (1984–85) making her the first female SNL cast member born outside North America, and the second overall, joining Tony Rosato.[11] Her characters on the show included Angela Bradleigh (Weekend Update commentator) and celebrity impersonations of Madonna (in a fake commercial parodying the singer's "Lucky Star" music video), Billy Idol, Debby Douillard, Peggy Ashcroft, Joan Collins and Cyndi Lauper.

Stephenson acted in a number of films, including Private Collection (1972), Stand Up, Virgin Soldiers (1977), The Comeback (1978), Doctors and Nurses (1981), Mel Brooks's History of the World, Part 1 (1981), Superman III (1983), Bloodbath at the House of Death (1983), Finders Keepers (1984), Scandalous (1984), Ghosts Can Do It (1987), and Les Patterson Saves the World (1987).

Other media appearances

In 1987, Stephenson participated in Prince Edward's charity television special The Grand Knockout Tournament. In 1993, she hosted the Australian lifestyle program Sex.

In December 2010, Stephenson competed in the eighth series of the BBC1 television show Strictly Come Dancing, consistently winning praise. She received on 4 December a perfect score of 10 from each of the four judges for her Viennese Waltz, becoming only the eighth celebrity (up until that point) to do so. She then reached the final along with Matt Baker and Kara Tointon. On 18 December, with dancing partner James Jordan, she came third in the competition.[12]

Also in December 2010, Stephenson was the guest on BBC Radio 3's Private Passions, with a choice of music including Bellini, Satie and Debussy.[13] In 2012, Stephenson travelled as a backpacker to Papua New Guinea in the Television New Zealand travel show Intrepid Journeys.


Stephenson is a US-licensed psychologist who practices and publishes under the name Pamela Stephenson-Connolly. In her private practice in Beverly Hills, she provided mental health care to adult individuals and couples for a range of psychological complaints. Stephenson's professional specialties include human sexuality. She was founder and president of the Los Angeles Sexuality Center, an online sexual research engine that operated for five years until she moved to New York. Stephenson is a past Secretary of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). In 2002 and 2003, she served as conference program co-chair of the annual AASECT Conference. Stephenson is also a member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association and the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health.

Stephenson was an adjunct professor at the California Graduate Institute (CGI – now a part of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology) for six years. She taught Human Sexuality and Sex Therapy, Advanced Human Sexuality and Sex Therapy, and Clinical Practicum in Sex Therapy. She also taught clinical hypnosis at CGI. She received her PhD in 1996, and then in 2009 received an Honorary Doctorate in Science from the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen for her contributions to the field of human sexuality.[14]

Stephenson has completed research projects and other field studies on the gender-liminal people of Samoa, Tonga, and India.[15] She has also presented the TV show Shrink Rap, in which she conducted psychologically-based interviews with well-known people, including Salman Rushdie, Carrie Fisher and Robin Williams. The programme premièred on More4 on 2 April 2007 and was aired in Australia on ABC2 in 2008.[16]


From the 1980s, Stephenson campaigned to raise awareness of food additives and colours, particularly in children's confectionery. She appeared on the daily variety show Midday with Ray Martin, and painted a picture using the colours she extracted from children's lollies in order to demonstrate how many are contained in them. She became involved in the Parents for Safe Food Movement. In 2010, Stephenson travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo with the international medical aid charity Merlin to meet the survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).[17]

Personal life

Stephenson started practising Buddhism in 1979.[18]

Stephenson married actor Nicholas Ball in 1978 but left him shortly afterwards to be with Billy Connolly.[19] She lived with Connolly for ten years before they married in Fiji on 20 December 1989.[20]


In the 1987 United Kingdom general election, Stephenson was a candidate in the Windsor and Maidenhead constituency on behalf of the Blancmange Throwers Party;[21][22] she came sixth with 328 votes.


In late 2004, she sold her house in Hollywood and spent a year on a sailing cruise around the South Pacific Ocean, following the path of Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny Stevenson. She said she was inspired by Fanny (also married to a Scotsman) who had convinced her husband to travel to the tropics for the sake of his fragile health. Her travels were documented in her book Treasure Islands. The boat she bought was renamed "Takapuna" after her birthplace.

A year later, she went on another voyage to discover the fate of an ancestor, a sailing captain who had disappeared in the South Seas. The voyage was the subject of a documentary for Australian television, Murder or Mutiny.

Theatre production

Stephenson formed a dance company in collaboration with Brazilian lambazouk dancer Braz Dos Santos, and wrote and produced a dance-drama stage production called Brazouka. Harley Medcalf was lead producer and Arlene Phillips director. The biographical show told the story of Dos Santos and his dancing. Dos Santos also performed in the show. It premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2014 and toured South Africa and Australia through January 2015.[23][24]


As an author, Pamela Connolly has published seven books. Her biography Billy topped best-seller lists in Britain and several other countries. Head Case describes self-help approaches for a variety of mental health problems. She has been a regular contributor to Psychologies magazine, writes a column on relationships for The Australian Women's Weekly and has a weekly sex therapy column in The Guardian, written under the name Pamela Stephenson Connolly.[25]

  • Stephenson, Pamela (2002). Billy. Overlook Hardcover. ISBN 978-1-58567-308-7.
  • Stephenson, Pamela (2003). Bravemouth: Living with Billy Connolly. Headline Book Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7553-1284-9.
  • Stephenson, Pamela (2005). Treasure Islands: Sailing the South Seas in the Wake of Fanny and Robert Louis Stevenson. Headline Book Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7553-1285-6.
  • Stephenson, Pamela (2005). Murder or Mutiny. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-1-84188-270-3.
  • Stephenson, Pamela (2009). Head Case: Treat Yourself to Better Mental Health. Headline Book Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7553-1282-5.
  • Stephenson, Pamela (2011). Sex Life: How Our Sexual Encounters and Experiences Define Who We Are. Vermilion. ISBN 978-0-09-192985-5.
  • Stephenson, Pamela (2012). The Varnished Untruth MY STORY. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-84983-921-1.


  1. The Varnished Untruth- My Story. Pamela Stephenson Simon & Schuster. 2012
  2. Gould, Laura (2012). "Funny woman Pamela Stephenson opens up about 'rape' ordeal in autobiography". The Advertiser. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  3. Mathieson, Jack (2012). "Junkie rapist took my virginity at 16.. then my parents kicked me out, reveals Billy Connolly's wife Pamela Stephenson". Daily Record. Archived from the original on 14 July 2019. Retrieved 14 July 2019.
  4. "When iron corsets ruled the curves". The Australian Women's Weekly. Vol. 39, no. 50. 10 May 1972. p. 31. Retrieved 18 August 2021 via National Library of Australia.
  5. Muir, John Kenneth (2015). Exploring Space: 1999. McFarland. p. 127. ISBN 9780786455270. Archived from the original on 10 August 2020. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  6. Roberts, J.F. (2012). The True History of the Black Adder. Britain: Arrow books. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-09956-416-4. Archived from the original on 25 January 2020. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  7. "Not the Nine O'Clock News at 40: No longer exactly topical but still surprisingly funny". The Independent. 16 October 2019. Archived from the original on 13 November 2020. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  8. "Not the Nine O'Clock News at 40: No longer exactly topical but still surprisingly funny". Archived from the original on 14 June 2020. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  9. Theatre Record, 19 May 1982 to 2 June 1982, p. 278
  10. Shane, Emma. The Pirates of Penzance Archived 11 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Louise Gold website, accessed 13 February 2011
  11. Gus Wezerek (14 December 2019). "The 'S.N.L.' Stars Who Lasted, and the Ones Who Flamed Out". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 14 December 2019. Retrieved 16 December 2019. Some of the names here will be familiar only to die-hard fans; others, like Murphy, defined what was funny for generations of viewers.
  12. "Series 8, Strictly Come Dancing – BBC One". BBC. Archived from the original on 18 December 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  13. "BBC Radio 3 – Private Passions, Pamela Stephenson Connolly". BBC. Archived from the original on 6 January 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  14. "University Honours Pamela Stephenson-Connolly". Robert Gordon University. Archived from the original on 1 December 2020. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  15. "CasProduction Site Portfolio". Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  16. "Shrink Rap". The List. 23 April 2008. Archived from the original on 16 November 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  17. "Dr Pamela Stephenson in Congo: A special report". Merlin. 7 June 2010. Archived from the original on 11 March 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  18. Waldren, Murray (29 September 2001)
  19. "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  20. "Pamela Stephenson's unflinching autobiography". Newcastle Herald online. 10 November 2012. Archived from the original on 4 April 2018. Retrieved 3 April 2018. After escaping to Bali in a futile attempt to forget Connolly and her failed short marriage to British actor Nicholas Ball, Stephenson returned to the UK and her ‘‘gypsy lover’’. Connolly got sober and the couple became a paparazzi target. A decade after their first meeting, they married in Fiji in 1989 in the presence of Connolly’s two children, Cara and Jamie, as well as the couple’s three young daughters, Amy, Daisy and Scarlett.
  21. Donnie Kerr "It's Party Time! 101 Election Oddities" Archived 1 December 2020 at the Wayback Machine, The People, 20 April 1997
  22. Nosowicz, Dorota (14 November 1999). "10 key players in no-hope polls". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 January 2022.
  23. Kaufman, Andi (16 April 2014). "Pamela Stephenson and Arlene Phillips bring 'Brazilliant Dance Company' to Edinburgh Fringe". What's On Stage. Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  24. Thomas, Sarah (7 November 2014). "Brazouka showcases Pamela Stephenson-Connolly's passion for dance". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 7 April 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  25. "Pamela Stephenson Connolly". The Guardian. London. 24 April 2008. Archived from the original on 30 July 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2010.


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