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sex tape New podcast analyses story of Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson’s infamous home movie

The movie became a major news story and a landmark of sorts in the areas of privacy law.


Whirlwind marriage: Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee in 1995

Whirlwind marriage: Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee in 1995

Whirlwind marriage: Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee in 1995

Way back in 1995 when Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee married after a four-day courtship, only the most optimistic of romantics would have imagined that such a whirlwind fling could endure. The relationship has had a long afterlife, though, courtesy of a notorious sex tape that found its way into the great wide world.

As Tabloid: The Pam and Tommy Sex Tape (luminarypodcasts.com, subscription only) tells us, the Anderson/Lee VHS was never meant to be released. It was supposed to stay in a large safe in the garage of a Malibu mansion.

It was a private home movie that, apart from about five minutes of conventional sex, contained the usual humdrum minutiae of domestic life: Anderson getting a tattoo, Lee having a manicure, playing with dogs, talking about growing tomatoes. It’s the kind of stuff that would be of interest only to those who filmed it.

The stolen tape, however, was multi-duplicated, bootlegged and uploaded on to the fledgling internet. Quickly, it was repackaged, titled Pam and Tommy: Stolen Honeymoon, and despite the couple taking legal action to challenge its release and distribution, ended up in adult video stores across the US.

The movie became a major news story and a landmark of sorts in the areas of privacy law. Some would argue that it not only signalled the rise of celebrity culture as we now know it, but also introduced the dubious appeal of reality television.

Tabloid is based on a 2014 Rolling Stone feature article by Amanda Lewis. Host Lux Alptraum, a sex educator, outlines the chronology, finds archive Anderson and Lee interviews and talks to various people who were connected to the pair around the time of the tape’s release.

These include friends, managers, colleagues and a person whose job title was, believe it or not, “celebrity sex tape broker”.

She also re-evaluates the public reaction and puts it in the context of the many, many celebrity sex tapes that would follow. Initially, posits Alptraum, there was talk that the couple deliberately leaked it as a PR stunt, but she rejects this, claiming the tape’s release was “an actual violation”.

The podcast details how the couple met on New Year’s Eve 1994, in a VIP club in Los Angeles, where (says Anderson in an archive television interview) Tommy Lee “licked my face and I licked his”.

A short time after, Lee took a flight to Cancún, Mexico, where Anderson was working. Four days later, they arrived back in LA as man and wife to experience, suggests Alptaum, a nonstop pyjama party.

Notwithstanding the prurient nature of the topic, as the episodes develop, we learn there is no room for sleazy tittle-tattle as Alptraum delivers a shrewdly angled view of the matter.

“We wanted to take a sharp, analytical approach to the scandalised tone of celebrity gossip mags,” she says, “and reframe them with real-world economics and real people’s issues.”

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