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.
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.
I met Pam on new year’s eve, 1994. I went out with some of my best bros to a club called Sanctuary. We all sat in a booth popping E, drinking champagne and being fucking maniacs. In an hour it would be 1995, and we’d probably be too fucked up to even know what day it was. Suddenly, a waitress came over and said, “Tommy, here’s a shot of Goldschläger. It’s for you, from Pamela Anderson.”
“She’s one of the owners of the club.”
“Is she here!?”
“She’s right there.” The waitress pointed to a table in the corner, where Pamela was sitting surrounded by friends. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed her before. She was wearing all white, her hair was the most perfect shade of blond I had ever seen, her teeth practically glowed through her lips when she laughed, and she stood out so radiantly from everyone around her that it seemed like a beam of black light was shining on her from above. I lifted the shot, did something corny like winked or smiled, and slammed it. Then I grabbed the whole bottle of Kristal and guzzled it like a happy pig. I put it down, walked over to her table and blew up the area.
“Hey, Pamela, I’m Tommy,” I said suavely. “But I guess you know that since you sent me a shot,” I continued, not so suavely. “Thanks.”
I needed to recover from such a stupid line. So I pushed my way into the booth, slid over her girlfriends’ laps and forced myself a space right next to her. Then I grabbed her face and just licked the side of it, from chin to temple. Maybe if I had done that when I was sober, I would have seemed like some kind of invasive asshole. But I was on Ecstasy, so it was all good, and anything I did was innocent and full of love and a yearning to bond with all of humanity. She fucking laughed and, without missing a beat, turned away and licked the face of the girl next to her. Everyone started passing licks around the table.
On Ecstasy, Joan Rivers looks like Pamela Anderson, so imagine what Pamela Anderson looked like. She was so beautiful, I couldn’t even bring myself to think of defiling her with thoughts of lust. I just stared at her all night, and she just stared back. We probably talked about something for those hours, but I can’t remember what. I didn’t even realize midnight had passed until ten minutes later.
At one thirty, Pamela said she had to leave. Her friends were tired and wanted to go home. In all my years of experience, I have yet to devise a way of separating a woman I want from her fucking friends who are bored because they aren’t getting any attention. I walked Pamela to her girlfriend Melanie’s car, asked for her digits for the tenth time that night (and finally got them) and laid a huge, fucking sloppy kiss on her. I was cocky on Ecstasy and Kristal. I later found out that when Pamela closed the car door, the first thing Melanie did was look at her and say, “Don’t even think about it.”
“What do you mean?” Pamela tried to ask innocently.
“Listen to me: That guy is a fucking maniac.”
Pamela smiled guiltily. Melanie looked over at her and said, one more time to make sure it sank in, “No!”
The problem with meeting someone you like in Los Angeles is that everybody is always too busy to get together. Their first priority is their career: making a friend or going on a fucking date is like sixth on the list. So when I called Pamela and she couldn’t seem to settle on a day to hang out, I figured this would be another one of those fucking L.A. hookups that never gets off the ground. Instead, they just sort of dwindle away as, with each phone call and promise to try to get together next week, each person grows more distant and the spark fizzles out.
After six weeks of telephonic-fucking cock-teasing, I finally got the message I’d been waiting for. “Tommy. Damn, you’re not there. It’s Pamela. I’ve got twenty-four hours to play, and I want to play with you. Call me at the Hotel Nikko at 5 P.M., and we’ll rendezvous.”
I was so fucking psyched. My experiences with Heather had taught me that clean-cut actress chicks want a bad boy, so instead of buying new clothes and shaving and trying to look all fresh like Pamela, I put on my dirtiest fucking leather pants, slipped into an old T-shirt that stank of B.O. and didn’t shave or shower. I did, however, brush my teeth.
I drove to the Pleasure Chest and picked up $400 worth of sex toys and outfits. I had my overnight duffel in one hand and a shopping bag full of lubricants and vibrating clitoral stimulators and ben-wa balls in the other. I was ready to rock her world. I called her hotel at 4:59 P.M. I couldn’t wait. The receptionist said she hadn’t arrived yet.
I drove around, killed some time and called back five minutes later. She still wasn’t there. I grabbed some food and called back. She still hadn’t shown up. Now it was 6 P.M. I drove to the hotel, and I waited in the lobby for another hour; then I headed back to my house, calling the hotel every five minutes until they began to pity me. “Sorry, she’s still not here,” the receptionist said. “You’ll be OK. I’m sure she’ll be here any minute. If you want to give me your number, maybe I could call you when she shows up.”
I left messages at her pad, at her friends’ houses, everywhere. I was hunting her down like a little fucking stalker, the exact same way I chased after the first girl I ever kissed, with the red berry. Finally, just before 10 P.M., Pamela picked up the phone. She wasn’t even at the hotel; she was at home.
“Hey, what’s up?” she asked, as if she were surprised I was calling.
“Dude, what are you doing right now?” I exploded. I needed to see her.
“I’m walking out the door.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m taking a plane to Cancún tonight. I have to be there for a photo shoot tomorrow.”
“Oh, really. What about me?”
“Oh, no,” she said. “We were supposed to get together tonight, right?”
“I think so.”
“I’m so sorry. Listen. When I get back. I promise.”
“We could get together before then,” I hinted.
“Oh, no,” she said. “Don’t even think about it.”
“What do you mean?” I protested innocently.
“Don’t even think about coming. They’ve got me booked for eighteen-hour days, and there’s no time to play.”
“OK, it’s cool,” I relented. “Have fun. I’ll talk to you when you get back.”
I hung up the phone, called two of my friends and said, “Pack your bags. We are going to Cancún.”
I booked a flight and called her home from the plane the next day. “I’m on an airplane right now having cocktails,” I said to her machine. “And I’m coming to find your ass.” I bet she wished she’d never given me her home number.
Half an hour later, I checked my answering machine and there was a message from her. “You are out of your mind!” she yelled. “Don’t come down here. This is not a vacation. This is a work trip. Do not come down here!”
But it was too late. When I arrived, I called every hotel on the strip, searching for her. The sixth hotel on my list was the Ritz-Carlton, and when they said there was a Pamela Anderson staying there, I practically wet myself with excitement. I left a message, or six, asking if she wanted to meet for a drink.
Evidently, she wasn’t even going to return my call, she was so pissed. But her friends were on my side this time. They saw how hard I was working and begged her: “Go out with him for one drink. It couldn’t hurt.” Well, it did hurt, because four days later we were married.
I showed up in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton in a tank top, ripped jeans and tats hanging out everywhere. They refused to let me anywhere near the bar or the restaurant, so we decided to fuck that piece-of-shit hotel and go elsewhere. As I was letting her into the cab, I paused to look at her. And I never stopped looking.
We found a place called Señor Frog’s, which reeked of beer and margarita vomit. We were both shy and embarrassed, especially after all the buildup to this first date, but as the night progressed, Señor Frog’s turned into the Sanctuary, the magic returned without the Ecstasy, and the outside world melted away. She had that one drink she promised me, and that drink led to another drink, and that other drink led to some other drinks, and all those drinks combined led to her hotel bed. When we finally fell asleep, that was the first time the entire night that we stopped looking into each other’s eyes.
We hung out every night after that. We went to clubs, to restaurants, to bars, to the beach, and all we did was stare at each other and kiss all night. Then we went home and made love. She was in the penthouse suite, and the elevator opened directly into her room, where there was a pool and a waterfall, both of which we took advantage of.
I couldn’t believe that it was possible to feel so happy. For a so-called bad boy, I was turning into a pansy. It felt like our hearts had been hot-glued together. When she was working, I’d just sit in my hotel room like a dead man and wait for her to call so I could come back to life.
When her shoot ended, we decided to stay in Cancún two more days. That night at a disco called La Boom, I took off my pinky ring, put it on her finger and asked her to marry me. She said yes, hugged me and stuck her tongue down my throat. The next morning, we asked the hotel to find someone to perform a marriage ceremony. We gave blood, sniffed out a marriage license and were on the beach getting married before the day was over. Instead of wedding bands, we went for something more permanent: Tattoos of each other’s names around our fingers.
The next morning, we boarded the plane back to Los Angeles. The closer we came, the harder reality began to hit us. This was real. We were married.
“Um,” she asked me, “Do you want to go to your house or mine?”
“I’ve got a place in Malibu, right on the beach . . . “
“OK, we’re going to your house.” The moment we walked off the plane at LAX, the shit storm hit. The airport was swarming with fucking photographers. We fought our way to my car and drove to my place. I glanced up at the hill overlooking the house and dudes with cameras were camped out everywhere. It was like we had gone from the total-freedom paradise of Cancún to this hellish prison of Hollywood Babylon. We hired a twenty-four-hour security guard, but we still couldn’t do shit without this lynch mob following us everywhere.
Things only got worse when Pamela called home to tell her family the news. Her mother fucking flipped out and told her to file for divorce immediately, while her brother asked for my address so he could come over and personally kick my ass.
Nobody thought it would work, but it did – for a while. Pamela and I were so fucking happy – everything in our personalities seemed to mesh. She wanted a child more than anything in the world, which was exactly what I’d been wanting since my marriage to Heather. And Pamela was a lot more easygoing and fun to be with. Together, we came up with all kinds of ideas, from furniture companies we wanted to start to clothing lines to screenplays. Instead of holding back our ambitions, our marriage only kicked them into high gear. Her mother and brother eventually apologized and gave the marriage their support, and it was all good. Except for the photographers, who followed us fucking everywhere.
I didn’t understand the paparazzi, because I had never experienced anything this crazy with Heather. Back then, the shit was more organized. With Pamela, it was a whole other level of stalking. Photographers would pop out of the bushes when we left the house and start high-speed chases with us down the freeway. Everywhere we went, someone would yell “Pamela!” or “Tommy!” and if we turned, a million flashbulbs went off. If we didn’t turn, they’d start booing and cussing us out. It became a sick game, trying to invent elaborate schemes to avoid them: sending her assistant out of the house in a decoy blond wig or switching cars to throw them off our trail. I wanted to crush them all: It wasn’t so much the invasiveness as it was the lack of respect for us as human beings. When Pamela collapsed and lost our first child due to a miscarriage (a Lee family curse, my mother said), the paparazzi were so intent on getting photos, they kept cutting off the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Fuck, dude, I could deal with them trying to crash our parties, but trying to crash our ambulance was another story.
I was depressed for months after Pamela’s miscarriage. To cheer us up and get our minds off it, Pamela threw a fucking $300,000 surprise party when I turned thirty-three. I came home that night, and she said, “I want you to dress like a king!”
She grabbed a big-ass purple robe and a crazy crown she had bought; then a makeup artist covered me with white face powder so that I looked like the Crow or something. Pamela dressed up as a ringleader, in a big ol’ top hat, grabbed me by the hand and led me to our driveway, where a tour bus covered with birthday banners had pulled up. Inside, there were nine midgets singing “Happy Birthday”; champagne was flowing, and a dozen of my friends were dressed in drag.
We rode to a nearby place called the Semler Ranch, and I stepped off the bus into my own personal Fellini movie. Two rows of flames stretched out hundreds of feet in front of me. Midgets were everywhere, saying, in their helium voices, “Welcome to Tommyland, welcome to Tommyland, hee-hee-hee.” Then, two more midgets appeared and unrolled a red carpet between the lines of fire. In the meantime, all kinds of clowns and acrobats materialized, filling the air with confetti. I wasn’t even on drugs yet, but I felt like I was.
Pamela, the ringleader, led me and my friends in a parade down the carpet. Ahead of us, a giant on stilts dressed as the devil walked through the tangle of midgets, parting them like a sea. Past him, there was a big sign that said, Tommyland, with a crazy-looking clown on it. As I approached the sign, I realized that Pamela had basically set up an entire amusement park for me. There were fucking Ferris wheels, roller coasters, contortionists in boxes, caged lions and bubble machines. Underneath an immense tent, a professional concert stage had been loaded up with drums and all kinds of gear for a jam. Also on the stage was my baby grand piano, which Pamela had tricked out with gold-leaf paintings of koi fish and customized wrought-iron legs. Fucking Slash and the Guns n’ Roses dudes were there, as was our friend Bobby of Orgy and his band at the time, the Electric Love Hogs. She brought in dudes from the Cirque du Soleil, which we loved, and cranked our favorite band, Radiohead, on the sound system. There were all kinds of gourmet food dishes, designer drugs, Tahitian dancers, Balinese percussionists and moving lights, plus a crew with 35mm film to document it all. At 3 A.M., she brought me a cake with fucking Mighty Mouse on it, because he always gets the girl, and then we all played midget football on our knees.
It was an amazing fucking party from hell. But at the end of the night, when I was all shitty with drugs and alcohol, a dozen ambulances came screaming in. “What the fuck’s going on?” I panicked, grabbing Pamela.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I hired ambulances to take everyone home, because I knew they’d all get too fucked up to drive.” At 7 A.M., I was brought into my bedroom on a big-ass stretcher.
Ten days after my birthday, Pamela told me that she was four weeks pregnant. I couldn’t have been any happier, dude. We wanted to have a completely natural, drug-free home birth. We didn’t want any of that butt-slapping, stainless-steel-scale-weighing, needle-poking attitude you get in a maternity ward. With soft music, candlelight and a midwife on either side of her, Pamela gave birth to Brandon Thomas Lee at 3:02 A.M. on May 6th, 1996, after seventeen hours of labor for her and 400 cigarettes for me. The tears came flooding out when I saw this person come out of my wife, right in the master bedroom where we conceived him. I even got to help pull him out, dude. That was handsdown the best day of my life, and half an hour later I sat down at the piano and the song “Brandon” just came out of me.
I didn’t realize it at the time because I was so overjoyed, but there was a downside to all this. Pamela and I got busy having kids so quickly that we never gave ourselves a chance to build a solid relationship. I asked her much later, “Why didn’t we work on our relationship more?”
“We couldn’t,” she replied. “I was pregnant the whole time.”
One night, Pamela and I were chowing down on some dinner and flipping through television stations when we heard our names being mentioned on some news show. On the screen, there was a dude at Tower Video stocking the shelves with videotapes. And we knew just what they were.
Months earlier, we had taken a fiveday houseboat trip on Lake Mead as a vacation. As usual, I brought along my video camera. We weren’t trying to make a porno, just to document our vacation. We watched it once when we returned home, then put it in our safe, a 500-pound monstrosity, hidden underneath a carpet in my studio control room in the garage, where we recorded part of Generation Swine.
Months later, Pamela and I spent Christmas in London while some work was being done on the house. Afterward, I finished recording in the basement and then dismantled the studio. When the carpet was torn out, I saw nothing but empty space where the safe had once been. There were no broken locks or windows, so it had to have been an inside job. The only people with the keys were my assistant and the construction crew, which, come to think of it, included an electrician who used to be a porn star and knew that business pretty well. The way I figured it, they must have removed the safe with a crane and had it picked or blown open. They were probably after the guns and jewelry in there, but they also ended up with everything from family heirlooms to photographs.
I was so freaked out that I fired the assistant and sicced my lawyers on the construction company. The next thing I knew, there was a porn peddler from a company called the Internet Entertainment Group phoning me. He said he had bought the tape and was going to broadcast it on the Internet. Our lawyers and managers advised us that the best way to minimize the damages was to sign a contract saying that, since the company had us by the balls, we would reluctantly allow a one-time Webcast so long as they didn’t sell, copy, trade or rebroadcast it.
We thought we had won: Hardly anyone would see the video on the Internet, and we could recover the tape and start over.
So as soon as we saw the shelves being stocked at Tower on the news, we realized the guy had breached his agreement and mass-produced the tape, which, by the way, he never returned to us. I instantly called my lawyer, and we took them to court.
All this was going down at a real hard time for us: Pamela and I were fighting all the time. Trying to raise our children, continue the careers that consumed us, make a new relationship work and deal with the nonstop barrage of bullshit in the press was more of a challenge than we ever could have expected.
Before Brandon was born, we had a huge blowup because, with everything unraveling at once, we both became extrasensitive to each other’s slightest change in mood. If one person said or did something wrong, the other one bristled with hate and resentment.
“You are a selfish little baby who thinks of nobody but himself,” Pamela fumed one night over some little thing we had pumped into a major issue. I can’t even remember what it was anymore.
“I do not want to deal with this,” I snapped back. “It doesn’t fucking matter. I am so sick of wasting our time arguing.”
“You never want to talk about anything,” she said. “I used to think you were so sweet – you tricked me.” And with that, she stormed out of the house and went to spend the night at her condo. Hours later, the phone rang. I picked it up, expecting to hear Pamela on the other end. But, instead, a man started speaking. He identified himself as a doctor and said Pamela had swallowed half a bottle of aspirin at her place and blacked out. She was found unconscious on her bed by a girlfriend who had come over to console her. I rushed to the hospital to see her, though the overdose was probably less a suicide attempt than a plea for attention. But it worked, because I had no idea how much our disagreements were affecting her.
To throw the newshounds off the scent but give them something real to report, we issued a press statement announcing that Pamela had checked into the hospital with what she thought were flu symptoms, only to discover that she was pregnant.
I tried my best to keep my cool after the drama. But it kept getting harder while the news kept getting worse. First, the Internet Entertainment Group started selling a tape of Pamela having sex with Bret Michaels from Poison. Then, the judge in our video case shut Pamela and me down on every privacy issue and allowed the sale of the tape because he ruled that the content was newsworthy.
It pissed me off because I don’t ever want my kids to go to a friend’s house and find a video of their parents fucking. I finally broke down and watched the thing. I couldn’t see the big deal: It’s really just our vacation tape. There’s only a little bit of fucking on there. That hasn’t stopped Ron Jeremy, though, from trying to get me to make a fuck flick for him. I guess if my career ever fails as a musician, I can always be a porn star.
Things just went downhill from there. Ever since Vince had returned to the band, I was unhappy with the direction we were going in, which was backward. When I went onstage, I just didn’t feel it anymore. For the first time, I wasn’t excited about what we were doing. I was trapped by what we were doing, and a drummer who feels like his hands are tied is no fucking good.
I’d just had my second child, and fatherhood doesn’t exactly come with a fucking instruction manual. I read some shit and tried to dive in and learn, but Pamela kept saying everything I did was wrong. I used to be at the top of the charts with Pamela. When Brandon was born, I dropped to Number Two because, at that age, of course, a child needs his mom all the time. So I walked around like the invisible man. I’d say, “Hey, baby, what’s up? I love you.” And she’d just nod, not paying attention. I’d ask her to come down to the garage and listen to some new music I was working on; she’d promise to be there in a minute, then she’d completely forget.
Then, when Dylan was born, I dropped down to Number Three. Now I was full-on nonexistent. And I couldn’t deal with that. I’m a guy who loves to give love and loves to get love back. But at home, all I was doing was giving. I wasn’t getting jack back. So, unable to step back and see the situation from any reasonable perspective, I turned into a whiny, needy little brat. Maybe it was my way of becoming Pamela’s third child, so I’d get the attention I needed, too. Now, all of a sudden, Pamela and I were arguing all the time. Our relationship had slowly degenerated from pure love to love/hate.
On Valentine’s Day, when we should have been all about fucking love, we went to the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas. I asked a florist to fill the room with rose petals, ordered a bottle of Dom Pérignon and set the perfect mood for our first night alone in months. But after a few glasses of champagne, Pamela became so worried about being away from the kids that she couldn’t even enjoy herself. All she could talk about was breast-feeding Dylan, and all I could think about was that it was my turn to be breast-fed. The next day, we went to see the Rolling Stones play downstairs, and it was all bad. She saw a stripper talking to me after the concert, and we got in a huge-ass blowout in the middle of the casino. I grabbed her to take her into the room so the fucking gossip columns wouldn’t be filled with news of us fighting in public, and she went ballistic. Our anger kept escalating until she finally ran out of the hotel, took the car and drove back to Malibu, alone. I had to crawl back to the house on my hands and knees, begging for mercy.
The week afterward, I was in the kitchen cooking dinner for Pamela and the kids. Everything was quiet and cool again, and we were splitting a glass of wine as I pulled a bunch of vegetables to stir-fry out of the refrigerator. I looked through the cabinets for a pan and couldn’t find one because the fucking housekeeper had our cooking shit scattered all over the place. I was so highstrung and tense that as soon as the littlest thing went wrong, I’d start to freak out like it was the end of the world. So when I couldn’t find the pan, I started slamming cabinet doors and throwing shit around, like a little baby crying for attention, hoping Mommy would come and solve all his problems. So Mommy – Pamela – came over, saw that I was in one of those moods and just threw up her hands. “Calm down, it’s just a pan.”
But it wasn’t just a pan. It meant everything to me. My whole fucking peace of mind and sanity depended on me finding that pan. And by not caring whether I found the pan or not, Pamela, in my mind, was disrespecting my feelings. In my fucked-up, selfish way of thinking, it meant that Pamela didn’t understand me – the worst sin someone can commit in a relationship. I grabbed all the pots and mixing bowls I had pulled out, fucking threw them in the big open drawer I had taken them from, and screamed, “This is bullshit!”
And then Pamela said the words that you should never say to anyone who’s losing their temper, the words that only pour gasoline on the blaze: “Calm down. You’re scaring me.”
I should have walked outside and just vented at the stars or gone for a long jog or taken a cold shower. But I didn’t. I was too wrapped up in the moment, in my anger at the missing pan, which was really my anger at the miscommunication between Pamela and me, which all boiled down to nothing but my own insecurity, neediness and fear.
“Fuck you! Fuck off! Leave me the fuck alone!” I yelled at her, kicking the drawer and hurting my fucking foot like an idiot because I had forgotten I was wearing soft slippers.
That was it. We were off and running. She screamed at me, I screamed back at her, and, pretty soon, the kids started screaming. Dylan was crying in his crib, and I could hear Brandon in his bedroom, bawling. “Mommy! Daddy! What’s going on? Whaaaah!”
“I’ve had enough,” Pamela said as she ran to the crib and scooped up Dylan. She brought him into the living room, grabbed the phone and started to dial.
“Who do you think you are calling?”
“I want my mom to come over. You’re scaring me.”
“Don’t call your mom. Put the fucking phone down. We can deal with this ourselves.”
“No, don’t try to stop me. And don’t swear in front of the kids. I’m calling them.”
“Your parents are here all the fucking time. This is so stupid. We can talk about this and be over it in one minute. Look at me: I’m calm now. I’m not mad anymore.”
“I’m calling Mom. And stop swearing.”
She dialed the numbers, and I hung up the phone. Then she turned and fixed me with that dirty look, the one that told me that I was mean and selfish, the one that reduced me to the ugliest, scrawniest worm on the face of the fucking planet. I fucking hated that look, because it meant that the situation was escalating out of my control and no amount of apologies or flowers would ever convince her that I was a good guy who loved her again. Her therapist had given her the stupid advice of ignoring me when I was angry, because, according to him, I received enough attention as a rock star. But what he didn’t know was that I was a rock star because I needed the attention. Silence equals death. So when Pamela started giving me the silent treatment – just like my parents used to – it only drove me further over the brink.
She defiantly grabbed the phone again and dialed her parents. I slammed down the hang-up bar. “I said, ‘Don’t fucking call her!’ Come on. I’m sorry. This is so fucking petty.”
She threw the phone against the handset, clenched her fist and swung at me blindly, connecting half her fist with my lower jaw and the other half with the tender of my neck, which fucking hurt. I had never been hit by a woman before, and as soon as I felt the contact, I saw red. I had been trying so hard to defuse the situation, but when she kept getting madder at every turn, it only incensed me more. The more willing I was to calm down, the madder I became when she wouldn’t let me. So as soon as she slugged me, my emotional meter flew into the red and clouded my eyes. Like an animal, I did the first thing that instinctually came to mind to stop the situation: I grabbed her and held her firmly. “What is fucking wrong with you?” I yelled, not letting her go. And once again, my attempt to calm her only panicked her more. Now she was crying, the kids were freaking out, and the phone was ringing off the hook because her parents were worried because of all the cut-off phone calls. My stir-fry had turned into a nightmare.
As I held her, the silent treatment ended. She yelled every shitty thing she could think of at me, called me every dirty fucking name in the book, stabbed at every one of my weak points. I never could have imagined when we stared at each other all night at Señor Frog’s that it would end up like this, with us crying and screaming at each other like demons. I released her, and she began to run toward Brandon’s bedroom, as if she was the loving mother who needed to protect her brood from their cruel father. As she ran past, I swung my foot after her and helped her on her way with a swift, slippered boot to her ass. “You are a fucking bitch!”
I followed her. I hated fighting in front of the kids. It was hard enough trying to raise them with paparazzi everywhere; the least we could do is set a healthy example as parents. I sulked toward Brandon’s room to talk to him. But she had picked him up and was shielding him as he cried.
“Let go of him,” I said. “I’m going to take him outside. Do you want to go see the frogs, Brandon?”
Our backyard pond had suddenly filled with frogs over the winter, and I thought it would be a good place to breathe deep and chill out. “Get out of here!” she screamed hysterically.
“Listen,” I said. “I’m going to take him out to the frogs so that he can calm down. You stay with Dylan so you two can calm down. Everyone just needs to stop screaming.”
But everyone kept screaming, except Pamela, who wasn’t speaking to me again, which made it impossible to resolve anything.
I took Brandon’s hand, and she pulled him away from me. Suddenly, we were wrestling over him and everyone was getting mental again. No matter what I did, the situation just escalated. As I wrested Brandon from her, I pushed her and she tumbled backward into a little blackboard covered with chalk drawings our kids had made. She tried to catch herself on the blackboard with her hands, but the face of the board swiveled and she broke her nail.
Before she could finish yelling, I had taken Brandon by the hand and walked outside with him. I took him to the frog pond and sat him down. As he sniffled, I told him that Mommy and Daddy love each other very much, and we love him very much. I promised him that we would never get angry and raise our voices again if it scared him. I picked up a mellow little frog and cupped my hands around it. As my hands closed around it, it started struggling. “That’s how Daddy feels sometimes. That’s why it’s good to go outside, breathe the fresh air and clear your head.”
After we both calmed down and dried our tears, we headed back inside. I tried to find Pamela to apologize and suggest ordering some dinner, I searched every room downstairs and couldn’t find her. I brought Brandon to his playroom and, as I sat him down with his toys, I heard voices behind me. I turned around to see two cops standing there.
“Turn around, Mr. Lee,” they barked at me.
“Turn back around.”
I turned around and felt cold metal wrap around my hands, followed by two clicks. “You’re handcuffing me? Are you fucking kidding me? Handcuff her, too. She hit me in the face.”
“We don’t care, Mr. Lee.”
“But . . . “
They led me downstairs, past the living room (where Pamela was now sitting with her parents), out the front door and into the back of the squad car. Then they left me there alone while they went back inside to question Pamela. I relaxed when I realized that they were probably just separating us so they could question us in private. An hour later, the officers stepped out of the house. One of the cops was carrying a Civil War-era pistol that I had on the wall as decoration, and when I saw it, my heart sank. I knew they were going to somehow twist the antique into a firearm-possession charge, which violated a probation sentence I had picked up four years ago after I packed a semiautomatic pistol in my travel bag and stupidly carried it through an airport metal detector.
The cops climbed into the car and backed out of the driveway. “Hey, where are you going?” I asked, panicked.
“You’re going downtown.”
Again, I felt a situation that should have been easy to deal with spiraling out of my control into something that was going to be a real pain in the ass. “Dude, you guys didn’t even talk to me yet. You are only listening to her side of the story. What about my side?”
They didn’t say a word. They just ignored me and kept driving. And I just rammed my head into the wire mesh separating the front of the car from the back seat. I kept bashing it against the wire helplessly, yelling. “Why won’t you fucking listen to me? Fucking talk to me!” I had turned into a child again, because I was being given the silent treatment. And silence equals death.
Tommy Lee was charged with felony spousal abuse, and, after pleading no contest, he was sentenced to six months in jail on May 20th, 1998.
I‘ll never forget that bus ride from the courtroom, chained to the fucking seat, still in the suit I had been wearing in front of the judge fifteen minutes before.
They brought me into a room at the jail and undressed me. I stood there scared shitless and butt naked except for the rings on my nipples, my nose and my eyebrow. An officer ran to get wire cutters. He clipped my nipple rings and my nose ring, but he couldn’t get my earrings off, because they’re surgical steel. Then he handed me my jail gear: blue shirt, black shoes and a bedroll with a towel, plastic comb, toothbrush and toothpaste.
The officers led me back into the corridor. As they led me past the other prisoners, I saw rows of gnarly mother-fuckers, yelling shit like “Welcome, man” and “I’ll teach you how to treat a lady.” Half were excited, the other half wanted to kick my ass for fucking with a chick they probably whacked off to every night. The walk seemed like a mile, and I was so scared my knees buckled and the cops practically had to drag me. They threw me in an isolated cell and shut the heavy door, which sent a loud metallic thud reverberating through the cellblock. It was the loneliest fucking sound I’d ever heard.
This was the room I was supposed to spend the next six months in. It was basically a rock of concrete broken up only by a metal bed with a useless half-inch mattress. I had no one to talk to, nothing to write with and dickshit to do. Whenever guards walked by, I would ask them for a pencil and they would always ignore me. They were trying to let me know that I wouldn’t get any special treatment from them. The spoiled little brat in me was about to be taught a lesson. Because if he didn’t grow into a man in this place, he never would.
After six or seven days of just sitting there going crazy with the knowledge that I had five months and three weeks of this shit left, a half-size pencil came rolling under my door. A day later, a Bible materialized under the door. Then little religious pamphlets called Our Daily Bread started appearing every few days. I’d lie around with the Bible and pencil, reading Our Daily Bread and thanking whoever had given me these priceless gifts, because I needed something to get my mind off the boredom and the torture. I must have replayed every moment of my relationship with Pamela in my head a thousand times.
I couldn’t understand why Pamela had followed through with pressing charges. She was probably scared and thought I was some crazy, violent monster; she probably thought she was doing the right thing for the kids; and she probably wanted an easy way out of a difficult situation. As much as I loved Pamela, she had a problem dealing with things. If something wasn’t right in her life, she’d rather get rid of it than take the time to work on it or fix it. She fired managers like I changed socks; personal assistants and nannies would blow through our house like pages of a calendar. So the way I understood it, what Pamela did to me was, basically, fire me. I was fucking fired.
I needed to stop torturing myself and get some fucking good out of the experience, so I came to the conclusion that my mission was introspection. I needed to search inside myself and find the answers I was looking for. And the best way to do that was to stop finding faults with Pamela and other people and start finding the faults that lay within myself. At first, I just started writing on the walls. Most of what I wrote began with the word why: “Why am I here?” “Why am I unhappy?” “Why would I treat my wife like this?” “Why would I do this to my kids?” “Why don’t I have any spirituality?” “Why, why, why?”
As time passed, I began to have more contact with the outside world. No one was allowed to send books to the jail, because people would mail novels with pages dipped in acid and shit. But through my lawyer, I was able to order three books every ten days on Amazon.com. I picked up books on the three things I most wanted to improve: relationships, parenting and spirituality. I put tai chi diagrams up on my walls, learned about pressure points underneath my eyes that release stress, and became an expert on self-help books and Buddhism. I was determined to give myself a full-blown psychological, physical and musical tuneup.
Though the judge had forbidden me from contacting Pamela, there was nothing I wanted more than to speak to her and work things out. I was pissed at her, but I still felt trapped in a misunderstanding: a fucking missing stir-fry pan had ruined my life. They eventually installed a pay phone in my cell, but it was a nightmare trying to re-establish contact with Pamela, who was still fuming over our fight. We began speaking through three-way conversations with our lawyers or therapists, but every time, the conversation quickly degenerated into a mud-slinging fest and blame game. Eventually, a friend hired an intermediary named Gerald, who was supposed to patch up all my relationships – with Pamela, my children and the band.
Gerald told me that I had thrived on attention ever since I was a kid, doing things like opening up my window so that the neighbors could hear me play guitar. In some sick sense, as much as I loved Pamela, she was also the guitar that I wanted to show all the neighbors I knew how to play. Only it turned out that I couldn’t play it that well.
Every now and then, I would call home and Pamela would answer the phone. We’d start talking, but within minutes the old hostility, oversensitivity and accusations would rise to the surface and then suddenly – bang! – one of us would hang up on the other. End of communication.
I’d sit in my cell and cry for hours afterward. After a while, though, with my therapist on the phone as moderator, we learned to communicate again. I started responding to everything she said not with insecurity and defensiveness but with my own natural love, which was one good habit I had picked up as a child. I also learned that to be able to talk or even live with Pamela, I needed to stop testing her love for me, because when you test someone and don’t tell them, they’re bound to fail.
In jail, I wasn’t shit. I was just a fucking maggot on lockdown. I couldn’t fucking whine to my manager every time I didn’t get my way, and there was no audience to laugh at my goofing off. No one wanted to hear my bullshit. I couldn’t be a whiny little baby anymore; I had to be a man. Or at least a big maggot, because I was being stepped on all the time – both in jail and in the real world. Pamela had started writing me some awesome letters and leaving me sweet voice-mail messages. But just as my hopes began to lift, I found out from fucking Nikki and some other bros that she was dating her old boyfriend, Kelly Slater. I couldn’t fucking believe it. I spent hours on the phone with my therapist, crying. I couldn’t understand how this shit could be happening to me. If I was home, at least I could be with friends or drive over to her place to talk about it. But here I was completly fucking useless. Then I learned my next important lesson: how to let go of things very quickly, I realized there wasn’t shit I could do about it. Suck it up and leave it be. On Saturdays, I was allowed to have visitors. Nikki came down a bunch of times, and Mick stopped by once but said he was never coming back because the guards were mean to him and made him tuck in his shirt and remove his baseball cap. Vince never visited – and I wasn’t surprised. The best visit of all, however, came from my lawyer, when he informed me that, if nothing went wrong, he’d have me out in just under four months instead of six – and that meant I only had a month left.
I began to think about what it would take to make Tommy happy again. I had been spending a lot of time thinking about being a good father, husband and human being, but I hadn’t been taking care of my creative problems. And the musical part of me is, like, fucking eighty to ninety percent. I needed to do something new, and that frustration had spilled over into my personal life. So I made a fucking decision.
When Nikki visited next Saturday, I looked at him through the bulletproof glass and squirmed in my seat. He was my best fucking bro, but I had to tell him: “Bro, I can’t do it anymore.” it was the hardest I thing I ever had to say to anyone.
His eyes widened, his mouth dropped open, and he just said, “Whoa.” He looked like a guy who thought he was in the perfect marriage, suddenly discovering that his wife has been cheating on him. Of course, I had been cheating on him. Earlier, in jail, I had asked a friend to leave a message on my answering machine saying that it accepted all collect calls. That way, whenever I had an idea for a song, I could just record it on my machine, to listen to when I got out. And these weren’t songs for Mötley Crüe. I was ready to do my own shit.
I continued to compile music from my cell on my answering machine until September 5th, the day I was scheduled to leave. I lay in my bunk, waiting for the loudspeaker to crackle, “Lee, roll it up,” which meant roll up your bed, blankets and shit, you’re out of here.
I was told I’d be out at noon. But noon rolled by and nothing happened. Slowly, the clock crept to two o’clock. Every minute was agony. Then it was three, four, five o’clock. Next thing I knew, it was dinnertime. I kept telling everyone, “Dude, I’m supposed to be out.” But no one would listen to me, Midnight struck, and they still hadn’t called me. The old Tommy Lee would have bashed his head against the bars until someone paid attention to him. But the new Tommy Lee knew that there was nothing he could do but suck it up and accept it.
I stretched out in my bunk, pulled the threadbare blanket up to my neck, and went to sleep. At 1:15 in the morning, I was woken up by a voice on the loudspeaker: “Lee, roll it up!”
This story is from the May 10th, 2001 issue of Rolling Stone.