Before there were Kim Kardashian and the other Hollywood sexualized starlets that flood the media today, there was Pam Anderson running down the beach with her fake breasts in a tight red swimsuit on Baywatch. And when she and the famous bad-boy musician Tommy Lee got hitched, all eyes were on their life and relationship. So it was no surprise how quickly the Anderson/Lee sex tape circulated, but most people didn’t question how it had gotten out in the first place.
Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson lived in their own world, complete with a fantastical mansion which Lee often referred to as an adult playground. But to get their dream house they went through an abundance of workers. And Anderson and Lee were quick to fire anyone who they felt stepped out of line. A recent Rolling Stone feature explores the origin of the leaked sex tape, and it comes from one of the couple’s disgruntled workers.
Entitled wouldn’t describe the half of it when it came to Lee and Anderson. They had ridiculous demands and would refuse to pay for work if it did not meet their standards. So, according to RS, after a handful of people were fired, it created a whole lot of strife.
Among those bitter workers was electrician Rand Gauthier. At first, Gauthier was so sick of the celebrity couple’s demands that he just wanted to stay clear of them, even if it meant writing off $20,000 they owed. But, when he went back to the mansion with a general contractor to retrieve their tools, Tommy Lee pointed a gun at them and demanded them off his property. That’s when Gauthier really got angry, and decided he needed revenge.
The electrician, who also worked in the porn industry stalked the house for months after the incident, planning a heist of the couple’s safe. He knew where it was located in the garage, and after careful planning (obviously helped by the fact that he was the couple's electrician) he knew exactly how to pull it off. Gauthier knew where the security cameras were located and how to disable them. But first, to get to the cameras he disguised himself as the couple’s dog, placing a white Tibetan yak fur over him as he entered the yard with a U-Haul dolly. Gauthier, who denies having any help in the theft, lifted the hundreds of pounds by himself and took the safe. He scored jewelry and photos from the safe, but also a cassette tape that would change everything. He brought the tape to the porn studio he worked at, and him and the owner watched it together thinking about how rich they would become.
Gauthier paired up with Milton Ingley, a studio owner, and the duo tried to get the tape distributed, but no company would take the tape without written consent from Lee and Anderson. Even Louis Peraino, who was a member of an organized crime family didn’t feel comfortable. So they went to the internet. Rolling Stone states:
“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.”
The men created websites that gave instructions on where to send money order to receive a copy of the tape. Along with this, some guys on the deal also started selling copies of the tapes out of the trunk of their cars. In a couple months, The Daily Mail ran a year-in-review issue in 1996 of Anderson and Lee’s tabloid fame, and within it the writer mentioned the sex tape.
That’s when Anderson and Lee finally knew about their safe being stolen, and the leaked tape being out. That was two months after the heist. And from there, word traveled. While Lee hired private detectives and even motorcycle gangs to find who had started it all, the tape reached more homes, as more people would copy it and distribute. At one point the tape was played on loop for five hours on one of the few websites with the ability to stream at the time, a pornographic site called Club Love. By this point everyone in Hollywood had seen the tape, so Lee and Anderson decided to settle and signed over the copyright to Club Love. Anyone with a subscription to the site had unlimited access to the tape, and eventually it was manufactured to VHS, DVD and CD-ROM copies. It was in stores by February 1998 and in the years following sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
It was the first celebrity sex tape, that gave an intimate look into the real lives of two huge stars, and everyone wanted to see the action. So what happened to Gauthier? Well, he got lost in all the action, all of the copying of copies, and ended up not even making any of the money off of it. The growth of the tape progressed along with the growth of the internet, and the most money was made from Club Love, which was actually ahead of its time. But, above all else, the tape started a desire from the public to see more intimate details from celebrities then they’d ever seen before.