Fact vs Fiction: Pam & Tommy season 1 episode 8: how did the sex tape scandal end?

Sebastian Stan and Lily James in Pam & Tommy
Sebastian Stan and Lily James in Pam & Tommy (Image credit: Erin Simkin/Hulu)

This post contains spoilers for Pam & Tommy season 1 episode 8, "Seattle." For the previous episode head here.  

Even though the Pamela Anderson (Lily James) and Tommy Lee (Sebastian Stan) sex tape was acquired through an illegal act, the legal battle to prevent its sale drags on in the final part of Hulu’s limited series Pam & Tommy. Perpetrator Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen) did not get the fortune he envisioned, instead another figure who used the unregulated early days of the World Wide Web to his advantage to capitalize on the tape. 

Seth Warshavsky (Fred Hechinger) was first introduced in episode 4 when he visited a porn set to promote his online live streaming enterprise Internet Entertainment Group (IEG). The Seattle-based 20-something entrepreneur is dismissed by Rand, but he mastered the "power of the web" in ways Rand could only dream of.

Meanwhile, Pam is still pregnant and trying to push her career forward after the Barb Wire box office bomb with auditions for movies like LA Confidential and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Pam vents her frustrations about the tape impacting her ability to score a new project when she fails to land either movie.   

"It has to die down. It’s f***ing everywhere — newspapers, magazines, TV. There’s no place left for it to go," Tommy naively says to an exasperated Pam. Even though the tape first appeared on the internet, Tommy doesn’t consider this platform as a potential source because it is still in its infancy. However, the couple quickly finds out this scandal is not going away. 

This final episode deals with how the tape ended up being sold inside Tower Records and not just the parking lot. It also shows the dissolution of Pam & Tommy's relationship, while only briefly mentioning the jail term Lee served after he pled no contest to "felony spousal battery."

We are going to separate fact from fiction in the limited series Pam & Tommy. This episode-by-episode guide concludes with a look at the person who obtained the legal copyright to the tape and whether Rand ever went to prison.   

Who is Seth Warshavsky?

Lily James in Pam & Tommy

Lily James in Pam & Tommy (Image credit: Erin Simkin/Hulu)

Even before Seth Warshavsky entered the Pam and Tommy sex tape discussion he had already made headlines (opens in new tab) thanks to the monumental success of IEG. Warshavsky told The Los Angeles Times in March 1997 that his Seattle-based business was "registering solid profit on revenue that could top $20 million this year." This was all before he obtained the rights to Anderson and Lee’s tape.

Amanda Chicago Lewis refers to Warshavsky as "a 25-year-old internet wunderkind" in the Rolling Stone article (opens in new tab) that Pam & Tommy is based on. "In addition to developing early versions of pay-per-click ads, streaming video and online credit card processing, Warshavsky claimed to have live nude performers on his flagship site, Club Love, responding to the whims of viewers worldwide," the story detailed. 

Even in the slower days of dial-up there was a booming market for virtual adult entertainment interaction. Despite his foresight, Chicago Lewis describes Warshavsky as unpopular and seen as "a sniveling huckster who wrote bad checks and owed lots of people money." So how did he come to own the rights to Pam and Tommy’s private material?  

Did the Pam & Tommy sell the rights to the sex tape?

Lily James and Sebastian Stan in Pam & Tommy

Lily James and Sebastian Stan in Pam & Tommy (Image credit: Erin Simkin/Hulu)

In Pam & Tommy, the couples’ lawyer refers to the VHS copy of the tape as the flu in comparison to the plague-like spread of the online version. In 2022, a viral video is part of our lexicon, but when the tape became available to stream for free in early November 1997 this term was not part of our vernacular. 

Giving this material away is confounding to the couple but it drummed up publicity that money couldn’t buy. It doesn’t help that a judge refused to issue an injunction against Warshavsky as Chicago Lewis reports; once again the legal system worked against the people who were the original victims of a crime. 

"Give it to him. Grant him the rights for free," Pam tells their lawyer after Seth has made an offer he thinks they can’t refuse. It is Warshavsky’s lawyer, Derek Newman, who laid out the offer, not Seth as the series depicts. 

"I remember negotiating and thinking, 'There is no way they’ll ever sign this,'" Newman told Chicago Lewis. The couple thought it would only allow Warshavsky to air it online, but signing over the rights included physical copies too. Anderson and Lee signed the deal on November 25, 1997 — when Anderson was pregnant with her second child, not her first as the series timeline shows. 

Four months later copies were being sold in stores. "I made not one dollar. It was stolen property," Anderson reiterated in 2015 on Watch What Happens Live (opens in new tab). The latter is disputed by some sources in the Rolling Stone piece, but the series keeps with this repeated sentiment from Anderson. 

It is estimated that the tape made $77 million over a 12 month period and Chicago Lewis notes this is just the "legitimate" sales. Warshavsky ended up moving to Bangkok in 2002 after the FBI and Department of Justice opened investigations on his businesses. "No lawyer spoke on his behalf, and when a judge ordered his defunct company to pay Anderson and Lee $740,000 each, the couple never saw that money," reports Lewis. The rights for the tape lapsed in 2011.  

Did Rand or Uncle Miltie ever go to prison?

Seth Rogen in Pam & Tommy

Seth Rogen in Pam & Tommy (Image credit: Erin Simkin/Hulu)

Surprisingly, no. Uncle Miltie Ingley did return from Amsterdam in 1999 when he heard "Butchie" had passed away. He eventually left the porn business. "I loved Milton but he ripped us all off," Gauthier told Rolling Stone about his ex-partner who died in 2006. 

Even though everyone knows the identity of the man who committed this crime, Rand Gauthier did not spend a single day behind bars for this theft. When Rolling Stone spoke to him he still worked as an electrician and had also branched out into becoming a marijuana farmer in Northern California. 

Meanwhile, it was recently announced that Pamela Anderson is making a documentary with Netflix about her life. This endeavor is being made with Anderson's consent (unlike the Hulu series).   

Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.