How accurate is ‘Pam & Tommy?’

pam & tommy
Pam & Tommy / Hulu / YouTube

Hulu’s highly-anticipated limited series Pam & Tommy, starring Lily James and Sebastian Stan as the titular couple, finally premiered this week to rave reviews. The project, which was developed by writing partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, tells the story behind the infamous sex tape that derailed Pamela Anderson’s career while elevating Tommy Lee, her husband at the time, into a rock-and-roll sex god.

What’s most interesting about the salacious saga, however, is that while the unauthorized sex tape became a global sensation, not much was known about the story behind its theft and eventual release. And in hindsight, that story might be even more fascinating than the initial scandal itself.

In 2014, nearly two decades after the tape was stolen, Rolling Stone published a deep dive into the backstory, which began with a disgruntled electrician named Rand Gauthier (played by Rogen in the series) who planned a painstaking heist after being stiffed for about $20,000 in work he had done to Lee’s Malibu home. But even after being fired for “shoddy” work, it was only after Gauthier went to collect his tools from Lee’s home and was met with a shotgun pointed in his face that he was completely driven to the brink. After that incident, Gauthier claimed that he spent the entire summer of 1995 preparing for the heist.

“It’s just one of those stories that you can’t believe hasn’t already been made into a movie or a TV show,” showrunner Rob Siegel told Entertainment Weekly. “The article was [from] 2014, and it’s kind of amazing that it was still out there and it wasn’t snatched up that first day came out. To me, it screams limited series.”

Siegel’s co-showrunner, D.V. DeVincentis, added that the story is accurate in that, while the conversations between the characters were dramatized for the series, “the basic mechanics of what happened with the tape and what happened with Rand Gauthier and with them was pretty much what happened.”

In addition to the dialogue, producers likewise made minor changes to the story, such as portraying Gauthier as a carpenter rather than an electrician. But even as an electrician, Gauthier noted Lee’s unrealistic demands, as he recalled “laying wires, tearing up the walls and painting again and again, because the lightswitch the rock star thought he wanted over here he now wants just there.”

And although Hulu dropped only the first three episodes of Pam & Tommy on Feb. 2, most of what’s been depicted so far tracks with Gauthier’s 2014 account.

In other words, not only did Lee allegedly point a shotgun in his face — but yes, he did indeed drape himself in a white Tibetan yak fur rug and got down on his hands and knees to disguise himself as the couple’s dog to gain access to the property undetected. And after disabling the security cameras, he likewise claims to have gone upstairs and walked into the couple’s bedroom. (Though it’s unclear if Gauthier flipped them the bird as Rogen’s character did in the episode.)

And although there have been conflicting reports about how the safe was stolen from Lee’s garage turned recording studio (Lee later wrote in his 2004 memoir, Tommyland, that whoever robbed them “must have removed the safe with a crane”), the series more or less concurs with Gauthier’s account that he singlehandedly carted the thing off on a dolly and waltzed right out the front gates with it.

Next, entering the garage, he says he carefully moved all of the recording equipment in front of the carpeted wall concealing the safe, including what Lee later described as “a huge Neve recording console that weighs hundreds of pounds, as well as a few racks of outboard gear, each of them about six feet tall, awkward. . .and heavy.”

Then, he tipped the Browning safe, which was six feet by four feet by three feet, onto the dolly, strapped it down, put everything back as he had found it, and wheeled the dolly out onto the driveway, heading downhill toward the street. Suddenly, he says, the metal in the safe triggered the gate, startling Gauthier as the noise of the doors creaking open broke the silence of the pre-dawn hour.

“I almost dropped a load in my pants,” he says.

Other small details from the Rolling Stone piece have also peppered in, such as how Lee also once pointed a sawed-off shotgun at a paparazzi he spied taking photos while he and Anderson were kissing in their garden — which he was arrested for in real life.

But in addition to the heist, the series also stays mostly true to the pair’s whirlwind romance. In the series, Anderson and Lee were depicted meeting at a club, and the following day the drummer and his crew followed the Baywatch star to Cancun for work. And in real life, the couple did indeed marry after four days into an Ecstasy-fueled courtship in Mexico.

And that brings us to the most surreal and entertaining moment from the series’ first episode, subtly titled “Drilling and Pounding.” While Tommy Lee may or may not have had a drug-induced conversation with his penis (voiced by Jason Mantzoukas, in only the most brilliant bit of casting ever), the moment wasn’t completely fabricated out of thin air. In fact, Lee’s memoir actually opens with a dialogue between him and his famous penis.

All this goes to show that when it comes to former lovebirds Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.