Pam & Tommy: true story behind Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee series - and where are they now?

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Lily James plays Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and Sebastian Stan plays heavy metal drummer Tommy Lee in the Disney+ series
Lily James as Pamela Anderson, Sebastian Stan as Tommy Lee (Credit: Hulu/Disney+)Lily James as Pamela Anderson, Sebastian Stan as Tommy Lee (Credit: Hulu/Disney+)
Lily James as Pamela Anderson, Sebastian Stan as Tommy Lee (Credit: Hulu/Disney+) | Hulu/Disney+

True crime biopic Pam & Tommy arrived on Disney+ on February 2.

The eight-part limited series dramatises one of the biggest celebrity scandals of the 1990s: the theft and subsequent sale of Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and rock and roll drummer Tommy Lee’s honeymoon sex tape.

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Here’s everything you need to know about the true story behind the series.

Who were Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee?

Pamela Anderson was a model and an actor. She’d first become famous as a regular fixture of the Playboy magazine, and began her acting career appearing in sitcom Home Improvement, but she became an internationally recognised star for her role in Baywatch.

Tommy Lee, meanwhile, was the drummer of Mötley Crüe, a heavy metal rock and roll band that were particular popular in the 1980s.

How did they meet?

The pair met on New Year’s Eve 1994. In February, Lee followed Anderson to a photoshoot in Cancún – after an intense few days together, Lee proposed and they got married on the beach in front of a small group of onlookers.

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Rather than weddings rings, Lee and Anderson got tattoos of their names around their fingers. They went to Lake Mead, in the Southwestern US, for their honeymoon; Lee recorded a lot of vacation videos, including their sex tape.

How was their sex tape stolen, and how was it sold?

During 1995, Lee was having his home renovated. He racked up huge bills, but ultimately refused to pay the carpenters and electricians working on the house – and threatened to shoot one of them, Rand Gauthier, when he tried to collect his tools from the house.

Gauthier resolved to steal Lee’s safe to enact karmic revenge – he had installed Tommy Lee’s security cameras, so he knew how to disconnect them. Gauthier also knew they weren’t particularly high resolution, so if he wore a white blanket and crawled on all fours he’d look like Lee’s dog.

Gauthier broke into Lee and Anderson’s home, and stole their safe, dragging it to his van. He took it to a forest to break into it, and found jewellery, guns, and a Hi8 tape.

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Hi8 was quite an obscure video format at the time, which most people wouldn’t have been able to play it – Gauthier, however, had a number of friends in the adult film industry from his own brief involvement in it, and took the tape to producer Milton Ingley.

Ingley played the tape, and the two realised it was a private video of Anderson and Lee having sex on their honeymoon. They took it to a number of different entertainment companies (adult and otherwise) to try to sell it, but no would accept it, fearing legal consequences.

Gauthier proposed they sell the tape via mail order online, starting an anonymous website that people could buy the tape from individually. They took a loan from a local Mafia boss to fund the initial start-up costs (making copies of the tape, posting them, etc).

What happened next?

The tape spread, and quickly. Still, it took around two months for Lee and Anderson to realise that the safe had been stolen – when they tried to take legal action to block it from being proliferated further, it only drew even more attention to it.

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Playboy rival Penthouse threatened to print still images from the video. Lee insisted on suing Penthouse (against Anderson’s wishes) – Anderson was forced to go through a lengthy deposition process, answering humiliating questions about her life and past.

A court ruled that the tape and images from it could be published, because it was considered a matter of public interest. Eventually, Seattle based start-up Internet Entertainment Group began to stream the video online for free – to try and limit the number of people who would see it, Anderson and Lee agreed to sign away the copyright to IEG and allow them to put the video behind a paywall.

The contract they signed, however, was massively favourable to IEG, who not only streamed the video online but began to sell physical copies in stores as well.

Where are they now?

Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee divorced in 1998, shortly after Lee was arrested for spousal abuse. He spent six months in jail for attacking Anderson while she was holding one of their two children (this is something the series largely eschews depicting).

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They tried to reconcile on Lee’s release from jail in 1999, but this was short-lived, leading to custody battles for their children in the early 2000s.

In 2008, they started a relationship again, but this broke apart in 2010. In 2015, Anderson said Lee was the great love of her life; in 2018, she said he was a disaster and wanted little to do with him; in 2021, they appeared together at the launch of their son Brandon’s fashion line.

Neither have commented on the new series publicly, nor were involved in its production, but it has been reported that sources close to them both have indicated that Anderson is against the series but Lee is in favour of it.

Rand Gauthier moved away, further along the coast. He focuses full time on his electrical work, and you can actually find his work profile online to hire him as an electrician if you live in the California area.

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Pam & Tommy is based on a Rolling Stone article written in 2014. The article extensively interviews Gauthier and his associates – Anderson and Lee weren’t available for comment – and makes for a really interesting read. You can find it here.

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