Nineties scandals are sure ripe for the picking in Hollywood as of late! First, Ryan Murphy came out with “Impeachment: American Crime Story” detailing Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Then, the 2021 biopic “Spencer” chronicling the end of Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles was released. And now, “Pam & Tommy,” Hulu’s new eight-episode limited series about Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s infamous sex tape, has hit the airwaves. Based upon a 2014 Rolling Stone article by Amanda Chicago Lewis and featuring Lily James and Sebastian Stan in the lead roles, the tale is tailor-made for the screen!
Though only together for three short years following a whirlwind four-day courtship that culminated in a spontaneous beachside wedding, the duo will always be inexorably linked in the cultural consciousness thanks to their sex tape, which was stolen by a disgruntled employee in 1995 and then leaked a few months later for all the world to see.
As the sordid story goes, shortly after tying the knot, the tabloid darlings hired a construction team to carry out a slew of outlandish renovations on their Malibu mansion. On that team was electrician/carpenter/sometimes porn star Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen), who soon tired of Tommy’s vacillating demands, not to mention the massive IOUs the rocker was quickly accumulating. When Rand finally confronted him to ask for the $20,000 he was owed, the Mötley Crüe drummer balked, pulled a gun and forced the crew off his property. The event left Gauthier understandably traumatized – and reeling in debt. So he decided to seek repayment via alternative measures, i.e. breaking into the couple’s digs (while crawling on his hands and knees covered in a white Tibetan yak fur rug so as to disguise himself as Pamela’s dog for the CCTV cameras) to steal their massive six-foot by four-foot by three-foot safe. As noted on Celebrity Net Worth, “Rand knew he could evade the home’s security systems because… HE INSTALLED THE SYSTEM!” You can’t make this stuff up!
As outlandish as the scheme might seem, all went according to plan and, safe firmly in hand offsite, Rand “spent an hour cutting into the back with a borrowed demolition saw outfitted with a composite diamond carbide blade,” according to Rolling Stone. Inside, he discovered jewelry, guns and, much to his surprise and delight, a sex tape Pam and Tommy had made on their honeymoon. Seeing dollar signs, he began selling copies online and, before he knew it, the footage went viral, before that was even a thing. Though the illicit 54-minute video eventually racked up a whopping $77 million in sales, incredibly Rand told Lewis he never saw a cent of it! She notes, “Instead he watched his life fall apart as his greed destroyed nearly every shred of the happiness he’d carved out for his adult self.” The script truly writes itself!
The series, not surprisingly, has been generating fanfare from the start, in large part due to the incredible transformations Stan and James underwent to become Lee and Anderson. The painstaking process, spearheaded by makeup artist David Williams, hairstylist Barry Lee Moe and makeup effects designer Jason Collins, made use of what KION News calls a “puppeteered appendage” and, in James’ case, “a combination of 15 pairs of lace eyebrows, four wigs, two rows of hand-sculpted dentures, a breastplate and a prosthetic forehead — and that’s before Williams could even think about recreating Anderson’s makeup.” The effect is an unbelievable reproduction of the “Baywatch” star’s likeness – right down to the barely noticeable scars on her arm from a leech attack she endured when she was nine!
“Pam & Tommy” is worth a watch for the incredible metamorphosis of the two lead actors alone. And the locations are also pretty darn fun! Set and filmed in Los Angeles and its environs, the somewhat campy series authentically brings a 1990s-era version of the city to life. As first identified by the 90210Locations website, a few key sites featured include Avalon Hollywood, which stands in for Sanctuary, the nightclub where the couple first met on New Year’s Eve 1994 when, as Pamela later recalled, Tommy “came up, grabbed me and licked my face. I thought he was a cool, friendly, nice guy. I gave him my number.” And they say chivalry is dead! The Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort in Oxnard plays the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun, where the rocker followed the “Baywatch” star and ultimately wooed her into a quickie marriage. Downtown L.A.’s historic Olvera St. plays the Cancun marketplace where Pam and Tommy race to find a priest to perform the ceremony. And Barone’s Famous Italian Restaurant in Valley Glen (which also cameoed in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”) plays both the eatery where Rand and Uncle Miltie (Nick Offerman) meet with moneyman Butchie (Andrew Dice Clay) to secure funding to mass-produce the sex tape and where Rand later takes his ex-wife, Erica (Taylor Schilling), on a date.