This post contains spoilers for Pam & Tommy season 1 episode 1, "Drilling and Pounding."
The new limited series Pam & Tommy, starring Lily James and Sebastian Stan as Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, continues the trend of recontextualizing media events from the ‘90s through a 21st-century lens. The theft and subsequent distribution of a stolen intimate home movie from Mötley Crüe drummer Lee’s safe occurred in the early days of the internet, which saw this platform wielded in a way never seen before. It is well-known what eventually happened with the sex tape, but the events that led to its distribution will leave you wondering did it actually go down like that? James and Stan look the part as the titular couple, but what else is spot on?
Audiences expect “based on true events” productions to condense, alter and skip moments for narrative reasons. Pam & Tommy is no different. The series from Robert Siegel is adapted from a 2014 Rolling Stone article by Amanda Chicago Lewis entitled “Pam & Tommy: The Untold Story of the World’s Most Infamous Sex Tape.”
The opening episode Pam & Tommy begins in 1995 and introduces the man behind the theft and the events that led up to this crime. Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen) is the carpenter who thought Tommy Lee deserved a healthy dose of karmic payback after he refused to pay for work (and materials) that had already been completed on his Malibu home. The premiere details Rand’s journey from aggrieved to fully enacting his plan to get the money that is owed to him — no matter the method. Pamela Anderson is a title character, but she is very much on the periphery in “Drilling and Pounding.” Of the pair, it is Tommy who is a larger-than-life presence.
We are going to separate fact from fiction in the limited series Pam & Tommy. This episode-by-episode guide begins with a look at the robbery that started this whole saga and the motivation behind it. Plus, how on-trend was Tommy with his waterbed dream that led to Rand’s dismissal?
Did Tommy Lee not pay his contractors?
“Money is no object” is Tommy’s casual response to Rand’s concerns about costs he is fronting (despite being told he would get the money in advance). However, according to Gauthier, he was owed around $20,000 when he was fired for work that Lee claimed was “shoddily done” — as Tommy does in the series. Despite this immense sum, the contractor said he was willing to write it off until Lee pointed a shotgun at him and fellow contractor Troy Tompkins when they went to collect their tools. “Get the f*** off my property,” was the response.
It is only Rand who returns to get his tools in “Drilling and Pounding,” but the shotgun is pointed in his direction and the rock star claims the tools are collateral before uttering this same dismissal.
Did Rand Gauthier act alone?
The audacious heist is one that Tommy Lee claimed in his memoir, Tommylannd, would require a crane to lift the “500-pound monstrosity.” In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2014, Gauthier claimed he committed this theft alone with the aid of a U-Haul dolly to help transport the safe from Lee’s garage to his van that was parked on the street. In Pam & Tommy, Rand tells fellow fired (and unpaid) contractor Lonnie (Larry Brown), likely a fictionalized version of Troy Tompkins, how he is going to execute the plan and even gives Lonnie the time he is going to break in. The reason why Rand knows how to disable the security system is that he installed it, and he also knows there is no way to approach the camera without being seen.
To circumvent this problem he purchases a white Tibetan yak fur rug so he can masquerade as the couple’s dog. This plays out in the series and real life, which ensures he does not get caught in the act. After removing the safe, he triggers the electric gates, which make a loud noise but don’t alert anyone to his crime.
There are lots of unlikely moments during Gauthier's heist (at no point did he tell Rolling Stone that he creepily stood at the foot of their bed while they slept), in particular how he lifted the safe into the van unaided. The series leaves this moment up to our imaginations, but implies Lonnie did help. In reality, the other contractor who was held at gunpoint is called Troy Tompkins and was once thought to be the driver (though he could not be reached for comment by Rolling Stone). Tompkins was suspected at the time and Chicago Lewis reports that Tompkins' wife at the time had advised Anderson to keep her valuables in the safe.
The aftermath that sees Rand breaking into the safe using a demolition saw in an isolated spot is accurate. Gauthier claims he did not find the guns listed on the police report (the series shows Rand selling the multiple firearms), but he doesn’t deny discovering the white bridal bikini, personal photos, expensive timepieces, jewelry and a Hi8 tape.
Was a waterbed on Tommy Lee’s list of requests?
There was a time when waterbeds were synonymous with a playboy lifestyle (yes, Hugh Hefner is said to have had one) and in 1986 they made up 20% of the bed market. It is hardly surprising Tommy requests one as part of his dream “love pad 2000” — even if it wasn’t part of his original vision. Waterbeds are having a resurgence on screen (see also the 1970s set Licorice Pizza) but have long since fallen out of favor in the 21st century. The adventurous bed was linked to the sexual revolution that kicked off at the end of the 1960s, but is now considered high maintenance. Bed technology has moved on to less aquatic requirements.
While we can’t say for certain, there is no mention of a waterbed in the list of expensive renovations in Chicago Lewis’ piece, which includes a koi pond, a pillow room and a “30-foot swing in the living room, hanging above the white baby grand piano.”
More Pam and Tommy Fact vs. Fiction
- Fact vs. Fiction — 'Pam & Tommy' season 1 episode 2: did Pam & Tommy really have a whirlwind romance?
- Fact vs. Fiction — 'Pam & Tommy' season 1 episode 3: how did the stolen sex tape get leaked?
- Fact vs. Fiction — 'Pam & Tommy' season 1 episode 4: did Pam & Tommy really not know their sex tape was stolen?
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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.