We’ve recently been hit with an onslaught of content that demands “justice” for the mistreated female pop icons of the ’90s and ’00s: Paris Hilton’s documentary in which she revealed she was abused at boarding school as a young teen, the FX documentary about Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl incident and the blacklisting that followed, and the coverage of the Free Britney movement, to name a few. Each film reframes the perspective surrounding media coverage of the time—which disparaged these women in their heyday—to understand why it was wrong. Hulu’s limited series titled Pam & Tommy is the latest entry to that genre, albeit a fictionalized account of a real saga that unfolded in the ’90s.
In Pam & Tommy, in which Anderson and Lee are portrayed by an unrecognizable Lily James and a high-energy Sebastian Stan, it is made abundantly clear how embarrassing and humiliating it was for Anderson when a sex tape she and her husband made was stolen from their home and widely distributed across the Internet. The series chronicles the rise of Anderson as Lee’s star power begins to wane, but it also serves as a reminder that during the mid ‘90s, the Internet was in such a fledgling state that this stolen sex tape was truly the first of its kind.
Even I knew about the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee sex tape before I was aware that the former was a star from Baywatch and the latter was the drummer for Mötley Crüe. I’m a child of the ’90s, but as someone who was far too young to comprehend the machinations of celebrity culture when Anderson and Lee were the famous couple du jour, my understanding of who they were came much later. (I can’t remember exactly when, but I think it was either via the news coverage of, and conversations surrounding, Hilton’s sex tape—or from watching episodes of VH1’s I Love the ’90s. Pretty soon, I figured out who Anderson and Lee were—and why the Playboy model was often the subject of some very cheap jokes.)
Decades later, I sat down to watch all eight episodes of Pam & Tommy; the first three will begin to stream on Hulu starting February 2, followed by weekly drops of the remaining five. After finishing the series, suffice to say, I had a lot of questions. You probably will, too, if you weren’t over the age of 18 in 1996, when their sex tape hit the world wide web.
Were the actors actually nude?
When James and Stan were cast as Anderson and Lee, there was plenty of online chatter surrounding whether or not this was a good decision. Most seemed to agree that, sure, Stan looks enough like Lee. Not many were convinced that James looked enough like Anderson. Well, the hair and makeup team was obviously on it in this series because when the first images dropped, in which James and Stan imitated the iconic photo of Anderson biting Lee’s nipple piercing, suddenly everyone could see the vision. While watching the series, James totally transforms—not just visually, but vocally, too—into Anderson. The question remains, though—did she really go topless? Stan, who has done full frontal nudity on screen before, likely used a prosthetic penis (more on that later) for this series, and it’s unclear whether James bared it all, or if she used a prosthetic chest to match Anderson’s breasts.
Speaking of prosthetics, is that a...talking penis?
Yes, Lee’s penis talks in this series. His anthropomorphized genitalia has a voice and moves around, and that voice comes from none other than Jason Mantzoukas.
Was there an intimacy coordinator for the numerous sex scenes in this series?
Yes—rest assured, there was an intimacy coordinator by the name of Katherine O’Keefe on set for Pam & Tommy. At this point, thankfully, the position is regularly filled on sets where nudity and intimate scenes are necessary for the story.
Did Pamela Anderson’s big break really come when she was spotted on the Jumbotron at a football game?
Yes, this is true—in 1989, before joining Baywatch, the young Canadian was in Vancouver, watching a BC Lions Canadian Football League from the stands when the Jumbotron landed on her face. She was wearing a Labatt Blue shirt at the time, and the brewery contacted her later to be a spokesperson for the brand. The rest is history.
Was their sex tape really stolen from a safe in their house?
Yes, this really happened! That’s what all the legal fuss was about—neither Anderson nor Lee consented to their image being distributed in any capacity, let alone uploaded to the web and streamed for millions to see. Contractor and sometimes adult film actor Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen in the series) stole the sex tape that Lee and Anderson filmed on their honeymoon in 1995, from their home in an act of revenge, after the rock star refused to pay him for the work Gauthier had done on his mansion. Watch the series for a closer play-by-play of the lawsuits that followed, but a settlement was eventually reached.
Were people really paying that much for porn in the ’90s?
Midway through the series, there’s a close up of a computer screen revealing that this particular adult film cost $59.95. Now, I am not about to go looking for pornography prices on my work computer to confirm whether that price is accurate, but I can tell you that, once inflation is calculated, that evens out to about $104.84 in today’s prices. It likely depends on the price set by individual creators on sites like OnlyFans, but it’s hard to imagine people would readily drop $100 on a single tape. Oh, and speaking of “work computers,” was there no such thing as a privacy blocker in the late ’90s? Why was everyone so comfortable looking at the site that sold the sex tape at their office jobs?!