Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s whirlwind romance made them tabloid fodder, but it was a stolen home video that made them infamous. The new Hulu miniseries Pam & Tommy, premiering Feb. 2, attempts to unpack the true story behind “the greatest love story ever sold,” a stranger-than-fiction tale about sex, greed, and copyright.
To decipher what is real and what is not in Pam & Tommy, starring Lily James and Sebastian Stan, we must start with what we all know to be true: In 1995, the Baywatch star and Mötley Crüe drummer made a private recording while on vacation on Lake Mead that was later stolen by a disgruntled contractor named Rand Gauthier (played by Seth Rogen). It became the most famous sex tape of all time earning an estimated $77 million—and the first viral video of the early internet age.
The eight-episode series, based on the 2014 Rolling Stone article, Pam and Tommy: The Untold Story of the World’s Most Infamous Sex Tape, attempts to put a post-#MeToo lens on a story that undoubtedly deserves fresh eyes. Not unlike how the FX on Hulu documentary Framing Britney Spears made people reconsider the treatment of the pop star, Pam & Tommy wants you to question how the sex tape affected Anderson’s career and her relationship with Lee, who she divorced in 1998 following his arrest for domestic abuse. (The pair, who shared sons, Brandon and Dylan, would go on to remarry in 2008, and divorce again two years later.) Both have said the stress of the sex tape scandal put a strain on their marriage. “We had a wild and crazy beginning that was too much for both of us,” Anderson told People in 2015. (Anderson and Lee were not involved in the making of Pam & Tommy.)
The Hulu series may also leave you questioning whether the pair’s 54-minute home video should be considered a sex tape. After all, it only includes eight minutes of intercourse. The rest shows Lee admiring his tomatoes, Anderson getting a tattoo, and the pair hanging out in a jacuzzi. “It’s, like, super wholesome; it’s romantic,” Rand’s ex-girlfriend Erica (Taylor Schilling) says of the rather endearing footage. Anderson seems to agree with that assessment, telling Andy Cohen in 2020 that it “was not a sex tape,” but a “compilation of vacations that we were naked on.”
The classification of the footage may be up for debate, but one can’t deny that Pam & Tommy is full of bizarre twists and turns that seem too weird to be true—and yet, many of them are. Here’s what to know about what is fact, fiction, or a little bit of both in Pam & Tommy.
Did Tommy Lee threaten Rand Gauthier with a gun, as Gauthier claims?
Gauthier was working on an extensive renovation of Lee and Anderson’s Malibu mansion in the spring of 1995 when, he claims, the couple abruptly fired him without paying him the $20,000 he was owed for the project. Soon after being let go, Gauthier returned to the home with another contractor to collect their tools. According to Gauthier, Lee allegedly pointed a shotgun at them and demanded they “get the f-ck off my property.” In the show, Rogen’s Rand returns alone, but is also threatened by a gun-wielding thong-wearing Lee. (Lee has not commented publicly on Gauthier’s claims.)
Gauthier told Rolling Stone in 2014 that he had planned to write off the sunk costs of the unfinished job, but changed his mind after that incident. “I was never really that popular with people,” he said. “But I had never been held at gunpoint. It screwed with my head.”
That moment was the catalyst for Gauthier’s decision to seek vengeance on the drummer. The contractor told the magazine that he stole the safe as a way of letting Lee know he wasn’t a rock god, he was a man just like him. He assumed he would pawn Lee’s gun collection and Anderson’s jewelry, but a private tape of the couple having sex turned out to be the most valuable thing in there.
Gauthier believed the video would bring him fame and fortune. (Spoiler: it didn’t; the electrician and marijuana grower said that almost no one believes he’s the one who stole the tape.) But he now thinks that by showing the world the then-fading rocker’s impressive genitalia, he gave Lee his second act. “I made his career, is what happened,” Gauthier told Rolling Stone.
Did Rand Gauthier pose as the couple’s dog to get into Pam and Tommy’s home?
Gauthier spent the summer of 1995 planning the perfect heist, but his most ingenious move involved a white Tibetan yak fur rug. Just like his onscreen counterpart, Gauthier used the carpet to disguise himself as the couple’s pooch in order to bypass the security cameras that he had installed. Somehow, his canine impression, which had him crawling across the lawn on his hands and knees, worked. Chalk it up to grainy footage. “The feed is like the f-cking moon landing,” Rogen’s Rand jokes in the first episode.
Gauthier told Rolling Stone in 2014 that the break-in was a solo job—though some, including Lee, questioned how he was able to move the 500-pound safe all by himself. The electrician also claims that he snuck into the couple’s bedroom after disabling the cameras. On the show, Rand gives the unsuspecting lovers the middle finger as they sleep, but the real Gauthier has never said whether he flipped them the bird.
Was Rand Gauthier a porn star?
The Rand we meet in Pam & Tommy is a down-on-his-luck contractor who very much believes in karma. Prior to taking the job working on Pam and Tommy’s mansion, he dabbles in porn—a connection that later helps him leak the couple’s private video. In the show, we see Rand work as a handyman on adult film sets, and later become an actor in occasional projects with his then-girlfriend Erica.
The real Gauthier was the son of Get Smart actor Dick Gautier. (Gauthier added the ‘h’ to his last name as a way of separating himself from his estranged dad.) In the late ‘80s, he dated porn star Erica Boyer (née Amanda Gantt) and through her, he got involved in the adult film scene. He started by building sets and eventually earned 51 acting credits under the name Austin Moore. His films include 1992’s Miracle on 69th Street, 1994’s Willie Wankers and the Fun Factory, and 1995’s Big Boob Bikini Bash, according to IMDb. Gauthier did not, however, appear in City Lickers II, which is Pam & Tommy’s made-up sequel to the 1996 porno City Lickers.
There is, however, some truth to an insinuation on the show that Gauthier got his start in adult films because of his small penis. He told Rolling Stone in 2014, “I just wish my equipment had been a little larger for the industry.”
Did Goldschläger bring Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson together?
While Pam & Tommy speeds up the timeline of Lee and Anderson’s whirlwind romance, it really did start with a shot of Goldschläger, the cinnamon schnapps that has gold flakes floating in it.
Anderson sent Lee the complimentary drink when he visited the Hollywood club Sanctuary, of which she was part owner, on New Year’s Eve in 1994. It was love at first sight for him—though, he wrote in the 2001 Mötley Crüe autobiography, The Dirt, that ecstasy also helped his vision. “On ecstasy, Joan Rivers looks like Pamela Anderson, so imagine what Pamela Anderson looked like,” he said. “She was so beautiful, I couldn’t even bring myself to think of defiling her with thoughts of lust. I just stared at her all night, and she just stared back.”
The first thing Lee did when he met Anderson was lick the side of her face “from chin to temple” just as Tommy does on the show. “She f-cking laughed and, without missing a beat, turned away and licked the face of the girl next to her,” Lee recalled when describing his debaucherous meet-cute with Anderson in The Dirt. “Everyone started passing licks around the table.”
Did Tommy Lee actually follow Pamela Anderson to Mexico?
On the show, the musician immediately follows Pam to Cancun after sparks fly. In real life, their romance took a little longer to get off the ground. Lee did follow the Baywatch alum to Mexico, but it was nearly a month after their first brief encounter. In The Dirt, Lee recalls landing in Mexico and calling every hotel in Cancun in hopes of finding the V.I.P. actress, which he claimed didn’t ingratiate him to his crush. “She wasn’t even going to return my call, she was so pissed. But her friends were on my side this time. They saw how hard I was working and begged her: ‘Go out with him for one drink. It couldn’t hurt,’” Lee wrote. “Well, it did hurt, because four days later we were married.”
After spending a total of 96 hours together, Lee proposed. “I took off my pinky ring, put it on her finger and asked her to marry me,” he recalled in The Dirt. “She said yes, hugged me and stuck her tongue down my throat.” (Fun fact: Lee’s parents, David Bass and Vassiliki Papadimitriou, married within five days of meeting nearly 40 years earlier.)
It’s unclear whether his impromptu proposal included a Carmen Electra diss as it does on the show, but Lee and Anderson were married in a small beach ceremony on February 19, 1995. He wore khaki cutoffs, she wore a white bikini, which was one of the items stored inside the safe. The ceremony ended with Lee throwing his new bride into the ocean.
Did Pamela Anderson idolize Jane Fonda?
In episode 3, as Pam prepares for the publicity tour behind her 1996 film Barb Wire, her publicist asks whose career she admires, to which the actress replies Fonda. “When she first started out, she was just this girl next door … then she did Barbarella and she became this huge sex symbol,” Pam explains. She notes that Fonda flipped the script and started taking serious roles before becoming an activist and eventually building a fitness empire. “She was all these totally opposite things all at once,” Pam continues. “She never tried to please anybody. She was just like, ‘You know what, I am this badass-sex-bomb-anti-war-workout-video-selling-actress-chick and if you have a problem with it f-ck you.’ What’s cooler than that?”
While there is no evidence that Anderson idolized Fonda or her career, the show’s comparison draws interesting points. Fonda’s trajectory from sex symbol to Oscar-winning activist could have been a road map to success for the Playboy model-turned-actress’ post-Baywatch career. Now, it’s hard for anyone to claim that Barb Wire’s abysmal reviews and box office numbers were the result of the sex tape being stolen. (It made less than $3.8 million its first weekend on a $9 million budget.) But the scandal did appear to hurt Anderson’s chances of being cast in two other notable Hollywood films: Austin Powers and L.A. Confidential. Those roles might have given Anderson an opportunity to show what else she could do as an actress. Kim Basinger won an Academy Award for her performance as L.A. Confidential’s femme fatale Lynn Bracken.
Does Tommy Lee’s penis have the ability to talk?
Of course not. But a scene in episode 2, in which Tommy declares his love for Pam in a heart-to-heart with his penis (voiced by The Good Place’s Jason Mantzoukas) was inspired by Lee’s 2004 memoir, Tommyland. The book opens with a dialogue between Lee and his member, fittingly named “Dick,” who chimes in throughout the autobiography to co-narrate moments throughout the rocker’s life.
While director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) told Variety that working with the scene’s animatronic penis was “just awkward,” Stan found it surprisingly easy to open up to the fake phallus. “By the end of it,” he said. “I treated it like it was an intimate buddy conversation that one might have when they’re falling in love.”
Does Tommy Lee really hate Seattle’s music scene?
Throughout Pam & Tommy, the heavy metal rocker shows nothing but disdain for the capital of grunge and the genre that the series insinuates thwarted Mötley Crüe’s comeback. We see his band get bumped from the biggest studio by Third Eye Blind. He’s also completely dismissive of Sleater-Kinney, Carrie Brownstein’s band that’s signed to the Seattle indie label Sub Pop. If that wasn’t enough, he literally screams, “F-ck Seattle,” at one point.
The real Lee, however, only had love for Nirvana and the other bands that put that city on the map. “I welcomed [Nirvana] with the biggest open arms on the planet,” he told Apple Music’s Zane Lowe in 2020. “I was, like, ‘Yes. Somebody’s f-cking stirring it up.’ Thank you.” At the time, “everything was just sounding the same,” he continued. “And I love it when someone throws a f-cking grenade into the mix and goes, ‘Nope. We’re going this way.’”
Did Louis “Butchie” Peraino torture Rand Gauthier with cherries?
When Mr. Peraino (Andrew Dice Clay)—not Butchie, never call him Butchie—can’t find Rand’s porn producer partner Milton “Uncle Miltie” Ingley (Nick Offerman) with his money, he gets Rand to speak up by force feeding him cherries soaked in Everclear, a potent alcohol with a bad reputation. This was the real Peraino’s calling card, according to Gauthier, who told Rolling Stone in 2014, that the crime boss who bankrolled Deep Throat had him over for dinner, got him drunk and brought out Everclear-soaked Bing cherries as a way of getting him to divulge his secrets.
Like his onscreen counterpart, Gauthier paid Peraino back by making collections for him. While Rogen’s Rand seemed hesitant about hurting people, Gauthier bragged to Rolling Stone about the ways in which he got Peraino his money. He claimed he would throw coffee cups full of ammonia in the faces of the debtors before breaking their collarbones.
Did Pamela Anderson really clap back at Jay Leno for his sex tape jokes?
In episode 5, a pregnant Pam appears on The Tonight Show before the release of Barb Wire and is asked about the tape by host Jay Leno. “What tape?” she jokes. When he then asks what the “exposure” has been like, the camera closes in on Pam’s face and she gets real about the toll the ordeal has taken on her.
“It’s horrible,” she says. “To have something so intimate stolen from you, you know, something private from inside your marriage and have it taken without your permission, exposed to the world. It’s devastating. This is devastating to us.” She then smiles and the late-night show cuts to commercial as if she didn’t just bare her soul.
The series perfectly recreates Anderson’s look from her 1996 appearance on The Tonight Show, but she didn’t actually say this to Leno during this particular appearance. Instead, she talked about the joys of pregnancy and her frustrations over stalker-like paparazzi. But when she returned to the show two years later, she called out the host for making jokes at her and Lee’s expense with a familiar line. “You’re supposed to be my friend and you jump on the bandwagon, everyone’s making fun of us,” Anderson said. “It’s not funny. This is devastating to us.”
Did Rand Gauthier ever apologize to Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee for stealing the tape?
In Pam & Tommy, Rand realizes his mistake and attempts to make things right with Lee, Anderson, and karma. Unfortunately, the couple, who are trying to escape the watchful eye of the paparazzi, nearly run him over. Gauthier has not said whether he ever tried to make amends with the pair. However, he told Rolling Stone in 2014 that Lee had possibly tried to get in touch with him via Facebook. A page under the name “Tommy Lee” allegedly sent him the message: “Hey you f-cking f—ot.”
Like his character, Gauthier now sees things involving the tape a little differently, telling Rolling Stone the video is “cute. They’re in love and a couple and they’re just having fun with each other, and I think that’s great,” he said. “I’m jealous. I wish I had something like that.”
Did Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee sign their rights to the video away for free?
On Nov. 27, 1997, Anderson and Lee signed the copyright of the sex tape over to Club Love founder Seth Warshavsky for nothing, but they did so rather unwittingly. They reportedly believed that they were giving Warshavsky, an early investor in internet porn, permission to show the tape online only, but the release was intentionally broad. “I remember negotiating and thinking, ‘There is no way they’ll ever sign this,’” Warshavsky’s then-lawyer Derek Newman told Rolling Stone in 2014 about the wording of the document.
But they did. In The Dirt, Lee revealed that their “lawyers and managers advised us that the best way to minimize the damages was to sign a contract saying that, since the company had us by the balls, we would reluctantly allow a one-time Webcast so long as they didn’t sell, copy, trade or rebroadcast it.” The couple saw this as a win. Lee said that they thought “hardly anyone would see the video on the Internet, and we could recover the tape and start over.” How wrong they were.
Warshavsky was able to make a deal with Vivid Entertainment, the company that would later put out sex tapes featuring Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton, to legally sell copies of the movie on DVD, VHS and CD-ROM. By February 1998, the video was available in adult video stores, raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, it’s estimated to have made more than $77 million; none of which reportedly went to Anderson or Lee.
There are some, however, who believe that the couple made a private deal to share in any profits made. In 2014, Rolling Stone reported that “several people claim this is the case, including a former Vivid Entertainment employee.” Porn star Ron Jeremy also told the magazine that he once asked Anderson if she received any money for the tape to which she smiled and said, “Well, you know.”
Lee and Anderson have always denied that they received any compensation in connection with the video. “I made not one dollar. It was stolen property,” Anderson said during a 2015 appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen. “We made a deal to stop the shenanigans.”
- Elliot Page: Embracing My Trans Identity Saved Me
- How Safe Is India's Railway Network?
- The 'Dopamine Detox' Is Having a Moment
- Column: How the World Must Respond to AI
- What the Debt Ceiling Deal Means for Student Loan Borrowers
- LGBTQ Reality TV Takes on a Painful Moment
- What NASA Can Teach SpaceX About Protecting the Environment
- The Best Movies of 2023 So Far