“Pam and Tommy”: Did They Win The Penthouse Lawsuit?

The Lees sue Penthouse in episode 5 of the Hulu comedy “Pam & Tommy”, and here’s who wins in real life. The series is based on the true tale of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s sex tape being stolen and sold on the internet by their estranged former electrician Rand Gauthier. It stars Lily James and Sebastian Stan as Anderson and Lee, respectively, and Seth Rogen as Gauthier in a series that strives to be more sympathetic to its subjects, who were often tabloid fodder at the time. Following Pamela Anderson’s outspoken opposition to the retelling of what she perceives to be one of her life’s most traumatic events, “Pam & Tommy” has been a source of controversy. The series does, however, attempt to demonstrate how much the media and the law failed to protect Anderson.

Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee and Baywatch star Pamela Anderson realize that the tape has been stolen from their home and undertake efforts to recover it in the weeks leading up to the Penthouse lawsuit in the series. They discover that the tape is being sold on the internet, but Lee is adamant that they will be able to track down and recover every copy. When Lee and his team of lawyers discover that Bob Guccione, the creator of Penthouse, has a copy of the tape, they determine that the best line of action is to sue. Anderson, on the other hand, is concerned that a lawsuit will not only bring the recording to the notice of the media but will also inspire Guccione, who is a strong supporter of free speech, to retaliate by printing photos anyhow.

Pamela Anderson was correct in her assessment that Penthouse’s Bob Guccione would not back down. The Lees sued not only Penthouse but anybody they suspected of being involved in the tape’s distribution, including Rand Gauthier and pornographer Milton Ingley, played by Nick Offerman in the series, who assisted Gauthier in distributing the footage. The tape had gone unnoticed by the mainstream media until the Penthouse lawsuit. The case brought unwanted exposure to the couple, and the recording became one of the most talked-about issues in both celebrity and mainstream media. Ultimately, both the Penthouse lawsuit and the restraining order were denied.

According to Rolling Stone, the Lees’ initial complaint sought a restraining order and $10 million in damages from Penthouse. They also sued Rand Gauthier and Milton Ingley, who play Pam and Tommy, to stop them from selling copies of the cassette. However, the couple’s claim against Penthouse was dismissed. Because Anderson had previously been naked for Playboy and the Lees were open about their sex lives, the magazine’s lawyers contended that they had waived their right to privacy. In their June 1996 issue, Penthouse published photographs from the tape. The images, including the image of Anderson on the cover, were ruled to be newsworthy and hence within Penthouse’s rights to print by Judge Stephen W. Wilson, who presided over the case. However, Ingley and Gauthier were told to stop disseminating the recording.

It was too late to keep the cassette out of the public awareness by the time they ceased selling it. Bootleg copies were already being peddled, and the tale had already reached the media. Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee were viewed as wild, controversial individuals at the time, and there was little sympathy for them. By 2022, 46 states in the United States will have passed legislation prohibiting the distribution of nonconsensual pornography, also known as “revenge porn.” However, there were no such rules in 1996, and the Lees were mainly chastised for producing a sex tape in the first place.

“Pam & Tommy” takes a few liberties with the truth of the incident. Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, on the other hand, are shown in the series as victims of a vengeance crime rather than perpetrators of the tape’s distribution. While they received little retribution for the stolen footage being released against their will, the series provides a sympathetic portrayal of what it’s like to be abused for profit.