Pam & Tommy: How Much Of The Scandalous Story Behind The Show Is True?

The Hulu limited series "Pam & Tommy" aims to provide a look into the sordid tale of Pamela Anderson, Tommy Lee, and their stolen sex tape. Anyone old enough to have watched a television in the mid-1990s is almost certain to remember the impact the sex tape had on popular culture. It was everywhere; in the news and in entertainment. The most private moments between two of Hollywood's biggest, most tabloid-prone celebrities were suddenly available to anyone with an internet connection and a little bit of disposable income. The sex tape was the first true viral video, seen by millions despite its creators wanting it scrubbed from the public eye. Instead, the tape led to an entire industry of stolen or misappropriated celebrity porn, where the celebrity's right to privacy is often (wrongly) invalidated by the press and public because of their fame. 

"Pam & Tommy" is sympathetic to its titular characters' plight, although significantly more so to Anderson (Lily James), who was wronged at nearly every turn. But how accurate is it to what actually happened? Both Lee and Anderson declined to be involved with the series, leaving the creators to source their information mostly from a Rolling Stone article about the stolen sex tape. While we may never know all of the details, "Pam & Tommy" got the known facts right, and proved that truth is often much stranger than fiction. 

America's not-so-sweethearts

Here are the basic facts, as we know them: Shortly after Anderson and Lee's whirlwind romance and near-immediate nuptials, Lee (Sebastian Stan) hired a team of independent contractors to do construction on his Malibu home. Lee later fired the contractors without paying them for their time or supplies, and when contractor Rand Gauthier returned to pick up his tools, Lee allegedly aimed a gun at him. This infuriated Gauthier, who then returned to the Lee's mansion under the cover of night to steal the couple's safe, which he knew to contain a number of expensive firearms and jewelry. Though Gauthier alleges that he stole the safe by himself, the sheer size of the thing and its location behind Lee's studio recording equipment cast doubt on his stealing the safe solo. After cutting the safe open, he discovered not only the guns and jewelry, but a Hi8 tape, the kind used in camcorders. Gauthier, who had worked as a performer in the porn industry for many years, took the tape to the boss at his studio, Milton "Uncle Miltie" Ingley (played by Nick Offerman in the series). Ingley and Gauthier decided to try and profit off of the tape by whatever means necessary, even though everyone in the porn industry turned them down when they realized the tape was stolen.

Eventually they came up with a distribution system that advertised online and sold the tapes via mail order. The safe had been missing for months before the couple realized it had been stolen and reported the crime to police. By then, Gauthier and Ingley had already destroyed the evidence by completely eradicating the original Hi8 tape and had made several copies to prepare for distribution. Eventually Penthouse magazine got their hands on the tape and were primed to release a story including images, but Anderson and Lee sued them. The couple lost the lawsuit, but Penthouse avoided printing photos from the tape for the same reason the porn studios had refused to distribute it: no one had gotten release forms or consent from the people depicted, making it not only unethical but illegal to show them. Eventually the couple signed a deal with a website for distribution, hoping that providing a legal way to get the tape would help get rid of the bootlegs and at least benefit them monetarily since it was impossible to put the genie back in the bottle. 

The real Rand Gauthier

So who was the real Rand Gauthier? He's one of the primary sources for the Rolling Stone piece that inspired the series, which means that we have to take his part in the series with a grain of salt. Then again, he admits to a number of embarrassing aspects of the tale, including his notoriety as an adult entertainer because of his less-than-massive package size. Gauthier's upbringing was wild; his parents divorced when he was young and he spent time between them. His mother joined the Jehovah's Witnesses and took Gauthier on her door-to-door missionary work; his father was successful actor Dick Gautier, who starred in the Broadway performance of "Bye Bye Birdie" and was Hymie the Robot on the television series "Get Smart." Gauthier later added the 'h' in his name to distinguish himself from his father, in part because he reported his father was cruel, intentionally embarrassing his son in front of the Hollywood elite.  

Gauthier found some confidence after he fell in love with and married an adult entertainer, played in the series by Taylor Schilling. She helped him get his foot in the door in the industry, and eventually Gauthier would perform in more than 75 pornographic films. His connections in the adult entertainment industry would help him distribute the stolen tape. Ingley borrowed money from the mafia to finance the distribution, however, and then ran away to Amsterdam when he realized he would never be able to pay them back. Gauthier ended up "working off" Ingley's debts as an collector, throwing ammonia in people's eyes and breaking their collarbones if they hadn't paid up. After the mobster they owed died, Gauthier moved up the coast of California and decided to focus on his construction and carpentry work. He grows cannabis in his garage and occasionally tells people that he was the man who stole the world's most infamous sex tape, but no one ever believed him. With the success of "Pam & Tommy," they finally might. 

The real Pam & Tommy

"Pam & Tommy" is sympathetic to its titular characters, although it's arguably a little too sympathetic to Lee. Sure, the series paints him as a total jerk who acts like a spoiled rock star, but it doesn't get into the disturbing details of his treatment of his wife that have been widely publicized. Lee even served time in jail for spousal abuse after attacking Anderson by kicking her backside while she was holding their 7-week-old son, Dylan. Lee told the New York Post that his rage at his wife was derived from feeling ignored because she was too focused on their children:

"When Dylan was born, I dropped down to No. 3. Now I was full-on nonexistent. And I couldn't deal with that."

Lee has been somewhat supportive of the series, while Anderson has condemned it repeatedly, and it's easy to see why: it's her suffering we're watching, her anguish as a survivor of abuse and exploitation rendered anew. Lee might have felt a bit violated by the release of the sex tape, but it made him a legend among rock stars. Because of the double standards of sexism, it made Anderson a punchline. Both Anderson and Lee continued their careers in the spotlight. Lee had Motley Crue and Methods of Mayhem, Anderson had her acting career and a stint as a reality TV star on various versions of "Big Brother. She was declared the "most powerful Canadian in Hollywood" by CBC News in 2005, and had a great cameo in the first "Borat" film in 2006. In recent years, the pair have focused on their grown children and more personal endeavors, like Anderson's fervent activism for causes like animal rights and environmental awareness. 

Anderson is helping to create a biography of her life for Netflix that she hopes will clear up some of the mysteries surrounding her life, and maybe then she'll be able to leave this saga behind her. "Pam & Tommy" may be wildly entertaining, binge-worthy television, but it's important to remember the real people behind the scandalous story. 

The finale of "Pam & Tommy" is airing exclusively on Hulu.