Stranger than fiction. Pam & Tommy is a fictionalized version of a real-life scandal that engulfed Pamela Anderson and then-husband Tommy Lee in the 1990s, but the truth behind the series is full of unbelievable twists and turns.
The story began in early 1995 when the Mötley Crüe drummer and the Baywatch star tied the knot after knowing each other for 96 hours. Shortly after their wedding, the duo took a vacation to Lake Mead, located on the border of Arizona and Nevada. During the trip, the couple recorded a sex tape for their personal use.
“We weren’t trying to make a porno, just to document our vacation,” Lee said later. “We watched it once when we returned home, then put it in our safe, a 500-pound monstrosity, hidden underneath a carpet in my studio control room in the garage.”
That might have been the end of it, if not for an electrician named Rand Gauthier. After the newlyweds returned home to California, they hired builders to renovate their house in Malibu. Lee was unhappy with the results and fired the workers, which didn’t sit well with Gauthier. He spent the rest of 1995 planning his revenge.
While the Methods of Mayhem frontman and his wife were away in November 1995, Gauthier broke into their house and removed the safe, which contained guns, jewelry and a mysterious VHS tape.
“We put it in and see what it is, and of course, cha-ching,” Gauthier told Rolling Stone in 2014. “The dollar signs fly before our eyes. But we’re going, this is the kind of thing people will get killed over.”
After noticing the safe was missing in January 1996, Lee and Anderson filed a police report, but by that point it was too late. Gauthier worked with Milton “Uncle Miltie” Ingley to distribute the tape, which quickly became available via bootleg copies.
The Barb Wire actress and the musician filed a $10 million lawsuit to halt distribution of the video, but the suit was later dropped — after thousands of people had already seen it. Lee and Anderson, who share sons Brandon and Dylan, divorced in 1998.
Nearly 20 years later, Anderson claimed that she’d “never seen” the tape. “I made not one dollar,” she said during a 2015 appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen. “It was stolen property. We made a deal to stop all the shenanigans.”
In February 2022, Hulu released the limited series Pam & Tommy, starring Lily James and Sebastian Stan in the title roles. The Downton Abbey alum claimed she tried to contact Anderson before playing her, but the activist never took her calls.
“I was really hopeful that she would be involved. I wish it had been different,” James told Net-a-Porter’s Porter in January 2022. “My sole intention was to take care of the story and to play Pamela authentically.”
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Keep scrolling to see what Pam & Tommy‘s major players have been up to since the scandal: