As one of Hollywood’s most on-again, off-again couples, fans have always wondered: Why did Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee divorce? The reason has to do with more than their infamous sex tape.
Anderson, an actress on the TV show Baywatch, and Lee, the drummer for Mötley Crüe, met on New Year’s Eve 1994 at the club Sanctuary in Hollywood. He came up, grabbed me and licked my face,” she told Movieline in 1995. “I thought he was a cool, friendly, nice guy. I gave him my number.”
Six weeks later, Lee accompanied Anderson for a photoshoot in Cancun, Mexico. The two eloped four days into their trip and tattooed each other’s names on their ring fingers. When they returned from Mexico, Anderson moved into Lee’s home in Malibu, which was under renovations. During that time, Lee also fired several employees working on his home, claiming that their renovations were shoddily done and refusing to pay them. Among the employees fired was electrician Rand Gauthier, who was so sick of Anderson and Lee that he was ready to write off the $20,000 Lee owed him. When he returned to the couple’s mansion to retrieve his tools, he claimed that Lee pointed a shotgun at him and told him, “Get the fuck off my property.”“I was never really that popular with people, ” Gauthier told Rolling Stone in 2014. “But I had never been held at gunpoint. It screwed with my head.”
As revenge, Gauthier stole Lee and Anderson’s safe in their garage, which contained Lee’s gun and Anderson’s jewelry, as well as a homemade sex tape that the couple made on their honeymoon, which Gauthier had no idea existed. Gauthier told Rolling Stone that it took him and hour to cut into the back of the safe with a demolition saw outfitted with a composite diamond carbide blade. Inside the safe were 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 that could be inserted into a handheld camcorder. Gauthier brought the tape back to the North Hollywood porn studio where he also 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 said. “But we’re going, this is the kind of thing people will get killed over.”
Gauthier took the tape to porn studio owner Milton “Uncle Miltie” Ingley, who made a copies of the tape and destroyed the original cassette. Ingley took the tape to Louis “Butchie” Peraino, who ran the production company Arrow Productions and gave Ingley $50,000 for manufacturing and distribution of the tape, with the expectation he would receive interest on the loans and a cut of the sales. Ingley used the money to make thousands of copies of the tape and hire someone to put the video on a few websites—pamsex.com, pamlee.com and pamsextape.com—which gave instructions on how to buy VHS copies of the tape for $59.95.
In January 1996, Lee and Anderson filed a police report and hired private investigator Anthony Pellicano to find out what happened to their safe. On March 29, 1996, Lee and Anderson, who learned that the magazine Penthouse had acquired a copy of the tape, filed a $10 million civil lawsuit against everyone they suspected to have a copy, including Ingley and Gauthier. On November 25, 1997—after physical copies of the tape had already been distributed—Anderson and Lee decided to settle with Seth Arshavsky, a 25-year-old who had a copy of the tape and had developed early versions of pay-per-click ads, streaming video and online credit card processing.
Lee and Anderson settled with Warshavsky under the impression he could show the tape over the internet but no sell it in stores, which they later realized was a grave mistake after Warshavsky sold hundreds of thousands of copies of the tape online. Lee and Anderson sued Warshavsky again—this time in federal court. In 2002, a judge ordered Warshavsky to pay Anderson and Lee $740,000 each. According to Rolling Stone, the couple never saw that money.
Amid their sex tape scandal, Anderson and Lee also dealt with a lot in their personal life. The couple welcomed their first child, a son named Brandon Thomas, in 1996. Their second son named Dylan Jagger was born in 1997. A year later, Anderson filed for divorce from Lee. So why did Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee divorce? The reason for their breakup went beyond their viral sex tape.
Why did Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee divorce?
Why did Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee divorce? After three years of marriage, Anderson filed for divorce from Lee on February 28, 1995, days after he was charged with spousal and child abuse. Anderson cited irreconcilable differences in her divorce documents, which were filed in Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles, and sought full custody of her and Lee’s sons: Brandon, who was 20 months at the time, and Dylan Jagger, who was 2 months. Anderson, who changed her last name to “Lee” after she and Lee married in 1995, also asked the court to restore her legal name: Pamela Denise Anderson.
Lee was arrested on February 24, 1995, after Anderson called the police and reported that her husband had kicked her in the back and buttocks three times as she cradled her son Dylan, who was 7 weeks old at the time. The incident occurred the same day as his arrest. According to the police report, Anderson had a broken finger and red marks on her back. Lee faced three felony charges of spousal abuse, child abuse and unlawful possession of a firearm. Three days after his arrest, Lee posted $500,000 bail and was freed. He was ordered not to contact Anderson or his children and to stay at least 100 yards from their house.
Two months after the arrest, Lee pled no contest in Malibu Municipal Court on April 8, 1998, to the felony spousal abuse charge and was sentenced to a minimum of six months in County Jail and a maximum of one year. His child abuse and unlawful possession of a gun charges were dropped in exchange for his plea of no contest to spousal abuse, which has the same effect as a guilty plea, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Judge Lawrence J. Mira also imposed a three-year probation, where Lee was allowed weekly supervised visits with his son, as well as ordered him to attend anger management counseling, refrain from contacting Anderson, complete 200 hours of community service, donate money to anti-domestic violence resources, and undergo random tests for drugs and alcohol, which he was prohibited from using. “I’m anxious for [Tommy Lee] to see his kids, as I’m sure his kids are anxious to see him,” Anderson told reporters after the sentencing. She continued, “I’m very proud of Tommy,″ Ms. Anderson said outside the courtroom. I’m happy that he took responsibility for this. I think it’s the first step towards healing.″
After he was release from jail, Lee and Anderson reunited before their second split in 2001. They reunited again in 2008 after Anderson, Dylan and Jagger moved in with Lee at his home. “We’ve only given it a try 800 times — 801, here we go,” Lee told Rolling Stone at the time. “Pamela and the kids have moved in with me. It’s awesome. It’s definitely working.” A source also told People at the time that Anderson and Lee were “two people who have been through a lot and know each other really well.” The couple split for the final time in 2010.
In 2018, Lee accused his and Anderson’ son, Brandon, who was 20 years old at the time, of assaulting him. “My heart is broken,” Lee captioned as since-deleted photo of him with a swollen, bloodied mouth. “You can give your kids everything they could ever want in their entire lives and they can still turn against you. Good job Brandon! Great son!” TMZ reported at the time that Brandon acted in self-defense, which Lee denied. “Hey @Tmz maybe get your facts straight before you go reporting bullshit,” he tweeted. “My fiancé and I were in bed when my son busted into the room and assaulted me. I asked him to the leave house and he knocked me unconscious. He ran away from the police. THAT’s the truth.”
A source told Us Weekly at the time that the fight between Brandon and Lee started over comments Anderson made about Lee’s 1998 arrest in an interview with Piers Moran at the time. The insider claimed that Lee was “livid” over the interview and got into a physical altercation with Brandon after he defended his mother. “Tommy was livid about comments Pam made to Piers about their relationship,” the source said. “As any devoted son would do, Brandon defended Pam and that is when all hell broke loose.” The insider continued, “The entire episode is representative of much bigger problems with the family. It’s a very sad situation because Brandon truly loves his dad.”
After the fight, Anderson wrote a post on the Pamela Anderson Foundation‘s website, titled “Alcoholism is the Devil,” in which she called Lee the “definition of narcissist/sociopath.” “I will never talk to Tommy again before he is sober and in his right mind. Though he’s made attempts to contact me,” Anderson wrote. “I have blocked him. It is impossible to reason with crazy. I’m sure the world can see the truth. I stand beside my son who acted out of self defense and was scared for his life.”
She continued, “Nobody understands the lifetime of disappointment this man has brought our family. Consistently the centre of sadness, drama and confusion. Jealous of his sons talent and beauty from the day they were born. He is sick. The definition of narcissist/sociopath.”
Where are Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee now?
Where are Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee now? Anderson and Lee confirmed they were on good terms in November 2021 when they attended the launch party for Swingers Club, Brandon’s fashion collaboration with Local Authority, in Los Angeles. In an interview with People in 2015, Anderson called Lee the “love” of her “life.” “There was Tommy and then there was nobody else. He was the love of my life. We had a wild and crazy beginnings that was too much for both of us,” she said. “It really was love at first sight. I only knew him four days before I married him.” She continued, “I had beautiful children with him. My kids are grateful to be born out of true love. Everything else I was trying to piece together.” She also told the magazine at the time that she and Lee were friends. “We’re good friends, we’re getting better at co-parenting our kids,” she said. “He’s such a supporter of mine and I’m really happy we’re on such great terms.”
After her divorce from Lee, Anderson has been married four times. Her second marriage was to Kid Rock from 2006 to 2007. She then married movie producer Rick Salomon in October 2007 in Las Vegas. They annulled their marriage in February 2008. Anderson and Salomon got back together and married in 2014 before their divorce in 2015. Anderson’s fourth husband was movie producer Jon Peters whom she married in January 2020. Anderson, who claimed that she and Peters had never been legally married, split from him a month later in February 2020. Anderson’s fourth marriage was to her bodyguard Dan Hayhurst, whom she married on December 2020. They split a year later in January 2022.
Lee, for his part, married Vine star Brittany Furlan in 2019. He was also married twice before his relationship with Anderson. His first wife was model Elaine Starchuk from 1984 to 1985. His second marriage was to actress Heather Locklear from 1986 to 1993. Both of Anderson and Lee’s children work in the fashion and entertainment industry. Lee and Anderson’s eldest son, Brandon, who launched his first fashion collection in 2021, had starred in movies like Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, Cosmic Sin and Zero Road, and was a cast member on MTV’s reality TV series, The Hills: New Beginnings. Dylan, Anderson and Lee’s youngest son, is. a model who’s worked with brands like Acne Studios, Armani Exchange, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Hugo Boss, and True Religion. Brandon is also a member of the duo Motel 7 with musician Anton Khabbaz. The band’s 2021 single, “Are We There Yet,” was directed by Paris Brosnan, the son of actor Pierce Brosnan.
In 2022, Anderson and Lee’s life and sex tape scandal was made into a series Pam & Tommy, in which Lily James played Anderson and Sebastian Stan played Lee. A source told Us Weekly in January 2023 that Anderson released her Netflix documentary, Pamela, A Love Story, because of how the biopic “sensationalized” her life. “The Hulu series played a huge role in Pam deciding to share her story,” the insider said. “She hated how sensationalized the story was and wanted to be able to tell hers from the beginning.”
In an interview with Variety in January 2023, Anderson revealed that she “refused” to watch the series. “It was just shocking,” she said. “Tommy probably thought it was funny. I remember Tommy writing me a note saying, ‘Don’t let this hurt you like it did the first time,’ because he had heard through the kids that I was kind of struggling with the idea of bringing this all up again. I don’t think he was portrayed kindly. I just know that I refuse to watch it.”
She also called the creators of the series “assholes.” “Salt on the wound. … You still owe me a public apology.” she said. “It just looked like a Halloween costume to me.” Still, she told Variety that she didn’t have anything negative against James and even invited her to the premiere of her documentary in January 2023. “I said to Netflix, ‘I’d love to invite Lily to the premiere of the movie,’” Anderson said. “I think it’s hard to play somebody when you don’t know the whole picture. I’ve got nothing against Lily James. I think that she’s a beautiful girl and she was just doing the job. But the idea of the whole thing happening was just really crushing for me.”
She also explained to Variety why she didn’t consider herself a “victim” by what happened to her by Pam & Tommy or anything else in her life. “I’m not a victim, and I’m not the damsel in distress,” Anderson said. “I’ve made my choices in my life. Some obviously were made for me, but I’ve always been able to find myself again. And it’s created a strong person and a strong parent.”
For more about Pamela Anderson, read her 2023 book, Love, Pamela. The memoir takes readers through Anderson’s life and career, from her childhood as a deeply shy daughter of unprepared parents in Vancouver Island to how she became the blonde bombshell she’s known as today and found herself on the cover of magazines, sets of movies, arms of rockstars and the halls of the Playboy Mansion. The book, which is described as “honest, layered and unforgettable,” also explores how, as Anderson’s star rose, she lost control of her own narrative and became the subject of the tabloids and paparazzi who crafted a public perception of her she no longer recognized. In Love, Pamela, Anderson “breaks the mold of the celebrity memoir while taking back the tale that has been crafted about her.”
Pam & Tommy is available to stream on Hulu. Here’s how to watch it for free.
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