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Pam & Tommy: The story behind the world’s first celebrity sex tape

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Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee met on New Year’s Eve 1994 at the Sanctuary nightclub in LA. Two months later, after a four-day romance on the beach in Cancún, Mexico, they were married. Lee had proposed at a nightclub string bikini contest. While the couple went on to have two sons, before divorcing in 1998 when Lee was sentenced to six months in jail for assaulting her, to this day they are best known for one thing: their sex tape.

The leaking of the tape has inspired a new Hulu drama, Pam & Tommy, starring Lily James and Sebastian Stan as the celebrity couple. Ahead of the show premiering on Disney Plus in the UK on 2 February, here’s some background on the real story behind the series.

For the barefoot ceremony in Mexico, Anderson was wearing a white bikini and Lee wore board shorts. The couple each got tattoos of each other’s names on their ring fingers, and Anderson’s mother only found out about the nuptials in the tabloids.

The sex tape was reportedly made during the couple’s honeymoon, and was later stolen from Lee’s Malibu mansion, which was being renovated. Lee had fired an electrician, Rand Gauthier, who he owed a reported $20,000. Gauthier, a former adult film star, had become disgruntled with the couple after they allegedly refused to pay him what they owed. He later broke into Lee and Anderson’s home and stole the contents of their safe, which included the eight-minute sex tape.

According to a police report, the contents of the safe also included an AK47 assault rifle, a .45 calibre rifle, a Mossberg shotgun, a Rolex, a gold and diamond Cartier watch, gold and emerald cufflinks, a ruby and diamond cross, the white bikini Anderson had worn to their beach wedding, and a collection of family photographs.

The electrician used his contacts in the adult film industry to sell the tape online. VHS copies of Pamela’s Hardcore Sex Video were going for $59.99 – around £40 – and being shipped worldwide.

The video is considered the first celebrity sex tape and is certainly the first to be distributed on the internet. Long before Kim Kardashian rocketed to fame with the release of her sex tape with her boyfriend at the time Ray J, Anderson and Lee’s home video went viral.

Lily James and Sebastian Stan in ‘Pam & Tommy’ (Disney)
Lily James and Sebastian Stan in ‘Pam & Tommy’ (Disney)

Lee and Anderson later sued Internet Entertainment Group, one of the companies selling the video. A settlement was reached, but they never received their money due to the business going bankrupt.

By 1997, when internet use had started to grow, the porn industry boomed. In November that year, Seth Warshavsky, a 25-year-old internet whizz, broadcast the sex tape on his porn site Club Love, on a loop for five hours. Pamela’s Hardcore Sex Video earned $77m in online views in less than a year.

By 1998, the film was on sale in most adult video shops in the US, and by 2000, Anderson was named the “most downloaded star” of all time by The Guinness Book of World Records.

The former couple’s marriage was marred by claims of domestic abuse, with Lee imprisoned for allegedly attacking Anderson while she was holding their seven-week-old son in 1998. Anderson also later accused Lee of giving her hepatitis C.

When they divorced, Anderson had the “Tommy” tattoo on her ring finger altered to read “Mommy”.

While Lee has commented on the Hulu show being made – “Let the motherf***ers know, we broke the internet first” – Anderson is yet to make her feelings about the series known.

James, who had tried to contact Anderson independently, has said: “I was really hopeful that she would be involved. I wish it had been different.”

Pam & Tommy will premiere on Disney Plus in the UK on Wednesday 2 February.

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