The Ballad of Pamela Anderson & Tommy Lee

Tommy's own story of how he loved and lost Pam – plus other tales from Mötley Crüe's dark past

May 10, 2001
pamela anderson and tommy lee
Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee on the cover of Rolling Stone.
Steve Wayda

On April 24th, 1981, Mötley Crüe played their very first gig at the Starwood in West Hollywood, opening for the long-running metal act Y&T. The show was less memorable for the music than for its violence: Nikki Sixx smashed his bass into the face of one belligerent Y&T fan, drummer Tommy Lee nailed the guy with a drumstick, singer Vince Neil pummeled another audience member with his fists, and Mick Mars, as usual, kept his head down and just played big, bad guitar. A holy terror had been unleashed on Los Angeles' Sunset Strip, which, thanks to the fistfighting, cross-dressing, Jack-guzzling antics of Mötley Crüe, soon became ground zero for glam metal.

With their second album, "Shout at the Devil," Mötley Crüle brought the Sunset Strip scene to the world, beginning a long string of anthemic bad-boy singles with "Shout at the Devil" and "Looks That Kill." With success came women, drugs and self-destruction. They fucked each other's girlfriends, took drugs with the best of them and were so out of control on tour that their road manager would handcuff them to their beds. More than any other band, Mötley Crüe came to epitomize Eighties decadence, and all its pitfalls. In 1984, Neil totaled his car in a drunken-driving accident, and one of his passengers – Razzle, drummer for the Finnish metal group Hanoi Rocks – was killed. Years later, Sixx flatlined after a heroin overdose, then shot up again as soon as he regained consciousness. In the meantime, hits like "Home Sweet Home" and "Girls, Girls, Girls" kept coming, earning the band the August 13th, 1987, cover of "Rolling Stone." Forced to clean up its act, the band checked itself into rehab in 1988 and then recorded "Dr. Feelgood," which gave the group its first Number One record. Mötley Crüe closed out the Eighties with some 16 million albums sold.

Below, in an exclusive excerpt from their autobiography, "The Dirt," Vince Neil recalls the chaotic early days of Mötley Crüe, back in 1981, before the band had signed to a major record label, gotten mixed up in celebrity marriages or been to an AA meeting.

Mötley Beginnings

Her name was Bullwinkle. We called her that because she had a face like a moose. But Tommy, even though he could get any girl he wanted on the Sunset Strip, would not break up with her. He loved her and wanted to marry her, he kept telling us, because she could spray her cum across the room.

Unfortunately, it wasn't just cum she sent flying around the house. It was dishes, clothes, chairs, fists – basically anything within reach of her temper. Up until then, and I'd lived in Compton, I'd never seen anyone get that violent. One wrong word or look would cause her to explode in a jealous rage. One night, Tommy tried to keep her away by jamming the door to the house shut – the lock was long since broken from being kicked in by the police – and she grabbed a fire extinguisher and threw it through the window to get inside. The police returned that night and drew their guns on Tommy while Nikki and I hid in the bathroom. I'm not sure which we were more scared of: Bullwinkle or the cops.

We never repaired the window. That would have been too much work. People would pour into the house, located near the Whisky A Go-Go, for after-hours parties, either through the broken window or the warped, rotting brown front door, which would only stay closed if we folded a piece of cardboard and wedged it underneath. I shared a room with Tommy, while Nikki, that fucker, got the big room to himself. When we moved in, we agreed to rotate, and every month a different person would get the solo room. But it never happened. It was too much work.

It was 1981, and we were broke, with a thousand seven-inch singles that our manager had pressed for us and a few decimated possessions to our name. In the front room: one leather couch and a stereo that Tommy's parents had given him for Christmas. The ceiling was covered with small, round dents, because every time the neighbors complained about the noise, we'd retaliate by pounding on the ceiling with broom handles and guitar necks. The carpet was filthy with alcohol, blood and cigarette burns, and the walls were scorched black.

If we ever wanted to use the oven, we had to leave it on high for a good ten minutes to kill the regiments of roaches crawling around inside. We couldn't afford pesticides, so to exterminate the roaches on the walls, we would take hair spray, hold a lighter to the nozzle and torch the bastards. Of course, we could afford (or afford to steal) important things, like hair spray, because you had to have your hair jacked up if you wanted to make the rounds at the clubs.

The kitchen was smaller than a bathroom, and just as putrid. In the fridge there'd usually be some old tuna fish, beer, Oscar Mayer bologna, expired mayonnaise and, maybe, hot dogs, if it was the beginning of the week and we'd either stolen them from the liquor store downstairs or bought them with spare money. Usually, though, Big Bill, a 450-pound biker and bouncer from the Troubadour (who died a year later from a cocaine overdose), would come over and eat all the hot dogs. We'd be too scared to tell him it was all we had. There was a couple who lived down the street and felt sorry for us, so every now and then they'd bring over a big bowl of spaghetti. When we were really hard up, Nikki and I would date girls who worked in grocery stores just for the free food. But we always bought our own booze. It was a matter of pride.

In the kitchen sink festered the only dishes we owned: two drinking glasses and one plate, which we'd rinse off now and then. Sometimes there was enough crud caked on the plate to scrape a full meal from, and Tommy wasn't above doing that. Whenever the trash piled up, we'd open the small sliding door in the kitchen and throw it onto the patio. In theory, the patio would have been a nice place - the size of a barbecue and a chair – but instead there were bags and bags of beer cans and booze bottles, piled up so high that we'd have to hold back the trash to keep it from spilling into the house every time we opened the door. The neighbors complained about the smell and the rats that had started swarming all over our patio, but there was no way we were touching it, even after the Los Angeles Department of Health Services showed up with legal papers requiring us to clean the environmental disaster we had created.

The bedroom Tommy and I shared was to the left of the hallway, full of empty bottles and dirty clothes. We each slept on a mattress on the floor draped with one formerly white sheet that had turned the color of squashed roach. But we thought we were pretty suave because we had a mirrored door on our closet. Or we did. One night, David Lee Roth came over and was sitting on the floor with a big pile of blow, keeping it all to himself as usual, when the door fell off the hinges and cracked across the back of his head. Dave halted his monologue for a half-second and then continued. He didn't lose a single flake of his drugs.

Nikki had a TV in his room and a set of doors that opened into the living room. But he had nailed them shut for some reason. He'd sit there on the floor, writing "Shout at the Devil" while everyone was partying around him. Every night after we played the Whisky, half the crowd would come back to our house and drink and do blow, smack, Percodan, quaaludes and whatever else we could get for free. I was the only one shooting up back then, because a spoiled-rich, bisexual, ménage-à-trois-loving, 280Z-owning blonde named Lovey had taught me how to inject coke.

At all hours, girls would arrive in shifts. One would be climbing out the window while another was coming in the door. Me and Tommy had our window, and Nikki had his. All we'd have to say is, "Somebody's here. You have to go." And they'd go – although sometimes only as far as across the hall.

One chick who used to come over was an obnoxiously overweight redhead who couldn't even fit through the window. But she had a Jaguar XJS, which was Tommy's favorite car. He wanted to drive that car more than anything. Finally, she told him that if he fucked her, she'd let him drive the Jaguar. That night, Nikki and I walked into the house to find Tommy with his spindly legs flat on the floor and this big, naked quivering mass bouncing mercilessly up and down on top of him. We just stepped over him, grabbed a rum and Coke and sat on our couch to watch the spectacle: They looked like a red Volkswagen with four whitewall tires sticking out the bottom and getting flatter by the second. The second Tommy finished, he buttoned up his pants and looked at us.

"I gotta go, man." He beamed, proud, "I'm gonna drive her car."

We lived in that pigsty as long as a child stays in the womb before scattering to move in with girls we had met. The whole time we lived there, all we wanted was a record deal. But all we ended up with was booze, drugs, chicks, squalor and court orders. That place gave birth to Mötley Crüe, and like a pack of mad dogs, we abandoned the bitch, leaving with enough reckless, aggravated testosterone to spawn a million bastard embryo metal bands.

The Ballad of Pam and Tommy

In the Nineties, as Mötley Crüe's musical star waned, the personal lives of the band members exploded with the celebrity and tragedy that tabloid dreams are made of. The band fired its management and temporarily split with its singer, Vince Neil, who went on an orgy of dating – from porn stars like Savannah to TV stars like Shannen Doherty – until he discovered that his daughter was sick with a tumor in her kidney. He watched his four year old, Skylar, slowly die of cancer, which triggered a self-destructive, suicidal binge. In the meantime, Tommy Lee divorced Heather Locklear after seven years of marriage and, in 1995, quickly romanced and married Pamela Anderson, creating, unexpectedly, the most discussed and scrutinized marriage in America. Here, Tommy Lee discusses the highs and lows of life with Anderson from his perspective.

My fate was sealed with my first crush on this rad little girl who lived down the street from me in Covina. I'd follow her around on my bicycle and spy in her window at night like a pint-size stalker. All I wanted to do was kiss her. I had seen my mom and dad kiss, and it looked pretty cool. I figured I was ready to try it for myself.

I've learned in life that if you chase something for long enough, pretty soon it will start chasing you. After a while, my neighbor started following me around everywhere, and we became crazy about each other. One time, we somehow ended up hanging out behind a bunch of bushes in this cool, grassy, shaded area that nobody could see. The little bushes had small, bright-red berries growing from them. They were the color of her lips. Without even thinking, I picked a berry off one of the bushes and held it between our mouths. Then we wrapped our lips around the berry and kissed for the first time. It felt so romantic and magical: I thought that if we kissed with this little red berry between us, we'd somehow become something else. Maybe she'd turn into a princess and I'd become a knight and take her out of Covina on my white horse. And we'd live happily ever after. Unless somebody destroyed the magic berry. If that happened, we'd return to Covina and be just two dumb little kids again. That's how it's always been in my life: There's always been a storm cloud lurking in the distance, waiting to fuck up everything good and perfect.

I inherited that storm cloud from my mother. Her life was like that: Everything good was surrounded by tragedy. Her name was Vassilikki Papadimitriou, and she was Miss Greece in the Fifties. My dad, David Lee Thomas, was an Army sergeant, and he proposed to my mom the first time he ever fucking saw her. They were married within five days of meeting, just like Pamela and I would be almost forty years later. He didn't speak a word of Greek, she didn't speak a word of English. They drew pictures when they wanted to communicate, or she'd write something in Greek and my dad would struggle to make sense of the characters using a Greek-English dictionary.

Just after I was born, my parents left Athens and moved to a Los Angeles suburb called Covina. It was hard for my mother. She used to be a totally rad model, and now here she was in America, making a living cleaning other people's houses like a fucking servant. She was living in a new country, and she had no family, no friends, no money, and she hardly spoke a word of English. She missed home so much, she named my younger sister Athena.

My dad worked for the L.A. County Road Department, fixing highway-repair trucks and tractors. My mom always hoped he'd make enough money so she could quit her job and hire a housekeeper, but he never did. My mom would talk to me in Greek, and I wouldn't be able to comprehend a word she was saying. I had no idea why I could understand everybody else around me but I couldn't make out a word my mother was saying. Experiences like that led to the constant fear and insecurity I feel as an adult.

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