Pam and Tommy: The Untold Story of the World’s Most Infamous Sex Tape
It’s funny what being held at gunpoint will do to you. And being held at gunpoint by a megalomaniacal rock star? Well, that doesn’t feel very good at all.
Not when the rock star has spent the past three months, the entire spring of 1995, living a fantasy life right in front of you, sipping martinis and passing a joint around at 11a.m. with his new wife, a pert blonde actress who inspires over a billion people around the world to drool each week as she runs across the beach in a tight red bathing suit. Not when you’ve been laying wires, tearing up the walls and painting again and again, because the light switch the rock star thought he wanted over here he now wants just there.
By the time Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson abruptly fired the handful of the people renovating their Malibu mansion, refusing to pay for work they said was shoddily done, electrician Rand Gauthier was so sick of the celebrity couple’s demands that he was ready to simply write off the $20,000 he says they owed him. But when he and a general contractor came back to the couple’s mansion on Mulholland Highway to get their tools and Tommy Lee pointed a shotgun at them, saying, “Get the fuck off my property,” Gauthier got seriously pissed.
Lee made Gauthier feel small, and Gauthier had spent his entire life feeling small. Here was a guy who, on his 18th birthday, lost his virginity to a Vegas hooker. Here was an L.A. boy through and through, struggling to dissociate himself from his famous father, who starred in the original Bye Bye Birdie on Broadway and was Hymie the Robot on the Sixties sitcom Get Smart. By the Nineties, Gauthier had gleaming, tanned muscles, broad shoulders, an eager, trusting smile and a voice that’s equal parts surfer and Ernie from Sesame Street. Most people dismiss him as a doofus, a conspiracy theorist who likes fast, powerful cars and dating porn stars. He even did some scenes himself, and spent his time hanging around an adult-film studio, building sets and chatting up starlets. A studio troll, they called him.
“I was never really that popular with people, ” he says. “But I had never been held at gunpoint. It screwed with my head.”
Now he wanted revenge. He wanted the drummer to feel vulnerable, to realize that he was just a human being, not an invincible rock god, even if he had sold 20 million records by the age of 32. So Gauthier decided to steal the giant safe he knew was tucked in the garage, the one with all of Lee’s guns and Anderson’s jewelry, and have a laugh at their expense.
He had no idea that the safe also contained a homemade tape that would promise him dazzling riches and then ruin his life. And instead of taking Lee down a notch, he would help cement the musician’s legacy, letting the world know he had one of the biggest dicks in rock & roll.
“I made his career, is what happened,” says Gauthier, now a foggy 57-year-old who still works as an electrician and grows marijuana in his garage outside Santa Rosa, California.
But Lee might not see it that way. Two years ago, Gauthier received a Facebook message from a page bearing the name Tommy Lee. All it said was: “Hey you fucking faggot.”
The Pam and Tommy sex tape is the most infamous stolen celebrity artifact on the planet, with a wink usually accompanying the word “stolen.” It wasn’t the first time a video of a famous person fornicating appeared in the public realm, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. But it was a porno that appealed to people who didn’t usually watch pornos, a voyeuristic dive into the guileless intimacy between two tabloid darlings: Anderson, perennial Playboy cover model and star of Baywatch, and Lee, the hard-partying drummer from Mötley Crüe.
Starting in the spring of 1996, as information trickled out about what was on the tape, everyone wanted to see it, whether to gawk at the home life of two superstars or condemn the empty-headed, sex-addicted narcissists who presumably leaked it themselves. The couple already had a reputation for carnal and pharmaceutical indulgence, but peeping on their love play offered an entirely new level of dirty, thrilling violation, as we leap-frogged PR flacks, centerfold photographers and even the paparazzi to land squarely in the most private of worlds.
And yet the tape was, without question, physically and illegally taken from Anderson and Lee’s home. Recording themselves in the spring and summer of 1995, the couple truly didn’t know anyone else was ever going to see this, so their video has none of the self-conscious posturing of reality TV and social media. You will never see a celebrity flash a smile in public that is as genuine as Tommy Lee’s after he money-shots all over his wife’s chest at her request.
This is not gonzo pornography – it’s a 54-minute home video, depicting about eight minutes of the sex Americans are most likely to sanction: white, straight, married and in love.
“It’s the greatest tape I have ever seen in my life,” Howard Stern said in late 1997. “What’s cool about it is that, like, you get to live their lives with them.”
But what the Pamela Anderson-Tommy Lee sex tape taught us is that an unassuming individual could acquire a piece of content, offer it up to the Internet and watch it ricochet around the planet. How, exactly, this footage traveled from a locked safe to screens and store shelves worldwide warns of everything that was coming in the next two decades, everything that would shift in technology and culture and celebrity. Before Kim Kardashian, before TMZ, before RedTube, before the Fappening, there was Pam and Tommy.
The tape took two years to go from bootleg to viral, and when it did it made an estimated $77 million in less than 12 months – and that’s just on legitimate sales. So how did the person who stole the safe manage to evade the police, the lawyers, the media and the biker gangs, but never see a cent? This is the story of a man who staked his livelihood on a video in the hopes that it would save him. 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.
Gauthier says he spent the entire summer of 1995 preparing for the heist, driving over to the Lees’ house several nights a week to sit and stare, waiting outside until three or four in the morning. Plotting. Stewing. “I took my time,” Gauthier recalls. “I cased the joint.”
His plan was to throw a white Tibetan yak fur rug over his back and crawl to the garage on his hands and knees in the middle of the night, so the security cameras, which Gauthier himself had installed, would seem to show a dog like the one the couple had. Lee and Anderson lived in a three-story Spanish-style house, with a garage that had been converted into a recording studio on the bottom floor.
Unfamiliar trucks, vans and cars were often parked outside the house, so no one suspected anything. The property was adjacent to state-owned land where the paparazzi would lurk, and the couple sometimes saw boom mics hanging over the fence. At one point Lee was arrested for pointing a sawed-off shotgun at a camera he spied while he and Anderson were kissing in the garden.
Photos went for a high price, as the public was obsessed with the pair, who had married in February after a four-day, Ecstasy-enhanced courtship in Mexico. Lee’s previous marriage to the actress Heather Locklear had ended in accusations of domestic violence, infidelity and drug and alcohol abuse. Anderson, with her leather dresses and her notorious double-D breast implants, seemed a better match for a guy who was known for mooning the audience. In April 1995, stolen Polaroids of the couple in bed made their way to the French and Dutch editions of Penthouse and an American skin mag called Screw. Anderson was upset, initially, but as she fatefully told Movieline later that year, “When I saw the first Polaroid, I was like, ‘Whoa, baby, we should frame this’ . . .In the end, who cares?”
Over the course of their multi-year renovations, the couple cycled through several rounds of contractors and workers they deemed untrustworthy, spending what was, by all accounts, an obscene amount of money building out a hedonist’s paradise with heart-shaped glass and iron doors; a pillow room; a koi pond; a 20-foot mural of heaven and hell in the elevator shaft; and a 30-foot swing in the living room, hanging above the white baby grand piano.
“Basically, we made it into a huge adult playground,” Lee wrote in his 2004 memoir, Tommyland.
“They were getting three-inch slabs of marble from France and Italy delivered,” says Guerin Swing, an interior designer who partied frequently with the Lees that year and worked on some of the house’s more artistic touches. (Swing also makes a cameo in the tape, running down a hotel hallway in a bucket hat.) “They spent money like they hated it.”
Meanwhile, Gauthier was lying in wait. In early October, Anderson threw Lee a circus-themed party to celebrate his 33rd birthday at a ranch down the road, featuring carnival rides, tigers, sword-swallowers, a death-metal band from Sweden and $5,000 worth of drugs.
About five days before Halloween, Gauthier decided to make his move. The details of what exactly happened on the night of the burglary are sketchy at best, as Gauthier seems intent on painting himself as a strongman daredevil and obfuscating details that could point to potential accomplices. He acknowledges that one other person knew about his plan beforehand but insists he carried out the deed himself.
According to Gauthier, it was 3 a.m., and the Lees were at home, upstairs, asleep. He came in over the fence with the yak fur on his back and a U-Haul dolly trailing behind him. After disabling the security cameras, Gauthier claims to have gone upstairs and walked into the Lees’ bedroom.
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.
To get the safe up onto the back of his truck once he got out to the road, he claims he “leaned the whole dolly and safe against the gate and I get in the dirt and I wedge my legs underneath it and I bench up 500 pounds with my legs. It was hard.”
Friends of Gauthier’s, however, say he told a different story back in 1995 and 1996. Lee himself wrote in his memoir that whoever robbed them “must have removed the safe with a crane.” One source alleges Troy Tompkins, the general contractor who was held at gunpoint with Gauthier, helped plan the heist from the start and was waiting in a pick-up truck. Tompkins’ wife at the time, a French woman named Dominique Sardell, had been doing work on Anderson’s condo, and was fired along with Gauthier and her husband. Months later, when the Lees finally discovered the safe was missing, Tompkins and Sardell were the first people they suspected, as Tompkins had gushed over Lee’s guns, and Sardell had advised Anderson to keep her jewelry in the safe, to protect it. (Neither Tompkins nor Sardell could be reached for comment.)
What happened once the safe left the home, however, is less ambiguous. Gauthier took it to a secure location and spent an hour cutting into the back with a borrowed demolition saw outfitted with a composite diamond carbide blade. Although he denies finding the AK-47, FNC assault rifle, .45-70 caliber rifle and Mossberg stainless steel shotgun mentioned in a later police report, he does acknowledge discovering everything else Pam and Tommy listed as missing, including family photographs, a Rolex, a gold-and-diamond Cartier watch, gold-and-emerald cufflinks, a ruby-and-diamond cross, the white bikini that Anderson wore to their beach wedding, and a Hi8 tape, the kind of cassette that could be inserted into a handheld camcorder.
Gauthier brought the tape back to the North Hollywood porn studio where he worked, and watched it with the studio owner.
“We put it in and see what it is, and of course, cha-ching. The dollar signs fly before our eyes,” he says. “But we’re going, this is the kind of thing people will get killed over.”
In the mid-Nineties, the porn business was booming. Almost every home in America could afford a VCR, and decency laws in Los Angeles had relaxed enough to support a $5 billion dollar industry that churned out hundreds of features a year.
Gauthier first fell in with the San Fernando Valley crowd in the late 1980s, when he was set up on a blind date with porn star Erica Boyer (née Amanda Gantt), a southern girl who made great fried okra and whose father was at one point the Assistant Attorney General of Alabama. The two moved in together after only six weeks, and she convinced a few directors that her new boyfriend had done adult films before so Gauthier, who had stripped in college but had no experience doing porn, could join her on camera.
“Learning to climax on cue was not easy,” he says. “They say, ‘OK, let’s get this over with. Everyone wants to go to lunch,’ and of course then the pressure’s on.”
Over the course of the next decade, under the name Austin Moore, Gauthier performed in at least 75 porn videos, including Big Boob Bikini Bash (1995), Miracle on 69th Street (1992) and Willie Wankers and the Fun Factory (1994).
“I just wish my equipment had been a little larger for the industry,” Gauthier says. “A lot of girls wanted me to do anal with them because it wasn’t so large.”
After a short marriage to Boyer, he dated actresses like Wendy Whoppers, whose massive 34H breasts he says he helped pay for, and Stacey Valentine, with whom he says he once had sex in the parking lot of a Jerry’s Famous Deli, as dozens of friends cheered them on.
“I’ve had a real wild life,” he says. “I believe in reincarnation, and this is kind of my vacation life. I have to come back and be really serious next time.”
Gauthier grew up in Toluca Lake, across the street from Dick Van Dyke, with divorced parents and no access to pornography. When he was a boy, his mother became a Jehovah’s Witness, forcing Gauthier to go door-to-door with her and inspiring his lifelong obsession with religions, secret societies and cults.
He is the kind of person who insists that early rabbis sodomized 12-year-old boys and believes in a mystical connection between the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, bones in the human skull and years in the solar magnetic cycle (all are 22). On the back of one hand, he has a tattoo of a Freemason symbol; he claims the group once wanted to give him a machine gun and train him as a soldier.
Even though Gauthier now calls Jehovah’s Witnesses “mentally deficient,” he was happier living with his mother than being around his father, Dick Gautier. Gauthier says the actor was quick to lose his temper and only brought him and his two sisters over to show them off. Once, as kid, Gauthier forgot his dress shoes at his mother’s house, and his father made him wear slippers to a fancy dinner.
“I remember he got one of those ’10 Best-Dressed Men’ awards back in the 1970s, so it was a little uncomfortable, because he looked dapper, and I looked like a schlemiel,” he says. As an adult, he changed the spelling of his last name, presumably to get out from his father’s shadow. “I don’t think my dad really believed in me.”
Working in porn gave him the confidence he’d always struggled to achieve growing up. Still, he had to smoke weed to “take my head out of the fact that there were a bunch of dudes watching me, which was kind of grode,” and he preferred working off-camera whenever possible.
Porn was a small world back then, and early on Gauthier met Milton “Uncle Miltie” Ingley, an overweight, pipe-smoking cheapskate studio owner who was partial to country music and Chambord.
After Gauthier fixed a few pieces of recording equipment around Ingley’s studio, the two became fast friends. The prolific fetish filmmaker Ernest Greene (né Ira Levine), who shot at the studio a handful of times, calls Gauthier “Milton’s pet idiot,” explaining that Ingley would blame messes he created on Gauthier because, as Greene says, “the guy basically had a lizard brain.”
So when Gauthier came to Ingley with the Pam and Tommy tape, Ingley, who died in 2006, took over. First, after making a few copies, they destroyed the original Hi8 cassette, melting the casing and cutting the tape itself into hundreds of little pieces, which they dispersed in a desolate area near Six Flags Magic Mountain. Once they’d disposed of the evidence, the next step was to find a distributor.
“Milton was the king of wheeling and dealing,” Gauthier recalls. “He knew how to make a nickel into two dollars. Always schmoozing.”
One of the first people Ingley approached was actor and director Ron Jeremy, a friend since the late Seventies, when Ingley used to perform under the name Michael Morrison. Jeremy had recently put out a reality-style porno featuring John Wayne Bobbitt, whose penis was famously surgically reattached after his wife cut it off.
“I got a reality star you’re gonna really shit your pants over,” Ingley told him.
But Jeremy and his producing partner quickly figured out the tape had been stolen, and that Lee and Anderson hadn’t signed a release.
“We passed,” Jeremy recalls. “Porn was so strict and scary back in those days. If you’re fucking, you better believe you gotta have a release.”
Ingley approached a handful of other companies, but no one wanted to take on the risk. According to Gauthier, a wealthy foreigner offered them a million dollars for the tape, but Ingley felt it was worth many times that amount.
Finally he approached Louis “Butchie” Peraino, the son of a capo in one of New York’s organized crime families, the Colombos. Back when pornography was illegal nearly everywhere in the United States, the Perainos were the Medicis of the adult world, having financed and distributed the classic 1972 film Deep Throat. By 1995, the younger Peraino ran an adult video business called Arrow Productions and was close friends with many of the biggest players in porn. But even Peraino didn’t feel comfortable putting out the Pam and Tommy tape in any official capacity.
Instead, he lent Ingley roughly $50,000 to cover manufacturing and distribution of the tape over the Internet, with the expectation that he would receive interest on the loan and a cut of the sales.
At this point, only 25 million Americans and 40 million people globally had Internet access. Most websites were eyesores, and there was no such thing as streaming video. But the web, with its seemingly anonymous transactions, seemed like the perfect black market to get the tape to consumers.
Now, finally, Ingley and Gauthier thought, they would be rich.
“I was looking at castles in Spain,” Gauthier says.
Ingley used about a quarter of the money Peraino had given him to run off thousands of copies and to hire someone to put up a few websites: pamsex.com, pamlee.com and pamsextape.com. The sites didn’t have the video itself; they merely gave instructions to send a money order to the New York outpost of a Canadian T-shirt company, which then funneled the money to a bank account in Amsterdam. With VHS copies of Pamela‘s Hardcore Sex Video going for $59.95, Ingley expected to soon be flush. So with Gauthier managing shipments from Los Angeles, driving around in a white Dodge van knee-deep in video cassettes, Ingley headed to New York to enjoy the rest of Peraino’s loan: $500 bottles of champagne, hookers every night, a room at the Plaza and lots of cocaine.
Another Ingley Studios lackey, Steve Fasanella (whose last name has been changed at his request) hadn’t been working there very long when this all started; when he saw he wasn’t going to be cut in on the action, he ran off his own copies. Soon he was selling them for $175 a pop out of the trunk of his car. (He says he sold nearly 500 copies this way, making about $75,000.) Fasanella advised Gauthier to do the same, to make some cash in case Ingley screwed him over, but Gauthier remained loyal.
By the end of December 1995, when the Sunday edition of London’s Daily Mail did a year-in-review issue that covered Anderson and Lee’s tabloid antics, the writer mentioned that a video of the two having sex on a yacht was supposedly on sale in Los Angeles.
Two months had passed since the heist. At this point, Anderson and Lee hadn’t even noticed yet that the safe was missing.
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