With the rollout of Hulu’s much-hyped limited series Pam & Tommy this week, there’s been a flurry of excitement around talking penises, the impressive transformations of Sebastian Stan and Lily James as the Mötley Crüe drummer and former Playboy Playmate, and a chance to revisit the rock ‘n’ roll “it” couple of the 1990s.

It’s also been welcomed as a chance to provide a long overdue reexamination of how a sacred, private moment between two newlyweds was sickeningly exploited in the name of a quick buck, and the massively unfair and detrimental effect it had on Anderson’s career.

The show largely focuses on the couple’s early days, when they were wrapped up in such a whirlwind romance that they got married after just four days of courtship in February 1995. They exchanged their vows on a beach in Cancun, Anderson wearing a white bikini and a shirtless Lee in board shorts. In lieu of physical wedding rings, they tattooed each other’s names around their fingers.

But their newlywed bliss was quickly shattered when bitter and ripped-off electrician Rand Gauthier broke into the couple’s Malibu love nest and stole their safe, discovering their infamous sex tape nestled among guns, stacks of cash, and jewelry. With the help of sleazy porn executive Milton “Uncle Miltie” Ingley, the two decided to sell the home video to leering slimeballs around the world for $55 a pop.

The saga went down as a major moment in pop culture history, with the stolen tape making more than $77 million in one year. While Lee was praised among men, Anderson was slut-shamed, and despite the couple exhausting their legal avenues trying to recover and control the video, they didn’t make a cent and the video is still in circulation.

While the new Hulu series has been credited for finally lending Anderson the sympathy she deserved years ago (in the same way the public has recently been forced to reckon with its appalling treatment of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Janet Jackson), it misses the mark when it comes to capturing the fuller picture of the couple’s dizzying, tumultuous relationship.

Only toward the end of the series does it begin to hint at darker issues brewing beneath the surface, as reports of Lee’s alleged controlling tendencies and heavy drinking began to emerge. Things ultimately spiraled out of control when Anderson reached her breaking point in February 1998, filing for divorce and pressing charges against Lee for hitting her while she was holding their two-month-old son Dylan.

Over the years, the couple did try to patch things up numerous times, not only for the sake of their sons Brandon and Dylan, but because each has gushed to various outlets about how they seemed to be soulmates, describing themselves as star-crossed lovers who can’t help but return to each other.

But by never really addressing the aftermath of the tape and the couple’s rollercoaster relationship, it can be easy to romanticize the glamorized TV version of their romance, especially with the show’s catchy tagline: “The greatest love story ever sold.” After all, Anderson and Lee were the blueprint of a modern rock ‘n’ roll couple. They walked so Travis Barker and Kourtney Kardashian, or Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox, could run.

By never really addressing the aftermath of the tape and the couple’s rollercoaster relationship, it can be easy to romanticize the glamorized TV version of their romance, especially with the show’s catchy tagline: “The greatest love story ever sold.

Today, Anderson and Lee’s relationship seems to be on somewhat steady ground–they were recently spotted together at a launch party for their son Brandon’s new fashion venture. It’s welcome news after nearly two decades of publicly splitting and reconciling, a bitter custody battle after their divorce, and a sad family dispute that ended up unfolding in public in 2018. Lee’s current wife, Vine star and social media influencer Brittany Furlan, recently said the family has resolved their past issues. “Our family is healthy and happy and everyone is doing well,” she wrote on TikTok. “Let people heal.”

But Anderson and Lee don’t appear to see eye to eye about the Hulu series. Lee has said he’s “stoked” about the show, which was itself inspired by an interview he gave to Rolling Stone in 2014, while Anderson has neglected to give it her blessing.

Producers said they had reached out to Anderson, but never received a response back. The same goes for James, who said she tried to contact Anderson personally a handful of times but was given the silent treatment. “I was really hopeful that she would be involved. I wish it had been different,” James recently told Net-a-Porter. “My sole intention was to take care of the story and to play Pamela authentically… I was very hopeful that we would be in touch right up until we started filming.”

A source close to Anderson hinted to ET that the actress was frustrated with Hulu’s decision to greenlight the project, saying, “It is shocking that this series is allowed to happen without her approval.” To this day, Anderson has maintained that she has not seen the tape since it leaked, with an insider saying it has been “very painful” for her to be forced to relive such a traumatic time in her life. “She feels so violated,” they said. “It brings back a very painful time for her.” (An insider from Lee’s camp, meanwhile, told ET that the rocker “still doesn’t understand how this incident impacts Pamela differently from himself.”)

It should also be noted that while the Pam & Tommy filmmakers have claimed to keep Anderson’s best interests at heart and wanted to remind viewers how both Anderson and Lee were exploited by the public, the series inherently falls short. An unfortunate–but perhaps expected–consequence around the hyped-up series will surely lead a fresh surge of people to seek out the very tape that Anderson says she’s hurt by.

It’s plausible that with the fervor over Pam & Tommy, Hulu or another production office could decide to pick up where the series leaves off–after all, the sex tape is only the beginning of the couple’s volatile ride.

Just two years after the tape leaked, and almost exactly three years to the date of their marriage, Anderson successfully filed for divorce from Lee in February 1998. (She first filed for divorce in November 1996–spurred by the stress of the tape and Lee’s reported drinking habits–but ended up withdrawing the filing two weeks later.)

The pair were said to have gotten into an argument at their Malibu love nest, where Anderson was reportedly left with bruises and a torn fingernail when Lee struck her while she was holding their infant son in her arms. Their fight allegedly happened after Lee couldn’t find a pan to cook with, and then escalated when Anderson insisted on having her parents come over.

Lee was arrested and charged with spousal abuse, child abuse, and illegal firearm possession, although the latter two charges were later dropped. He ended up serving four months of a six-month jail sentence, pleading no contest to spousal battery. As part of his probation, he was ordered to counseling and prohibited from drinking and drugs.

“What I see here is a very clear—very disturbing, in my judgment—pattern of conduct in which otherwise resolvable matters are handled by violence,” a California judge said at Lee’s sentencing. “You do it whether it’s a family member or a third party. That’s intolerable in any kind of civilized society.”

In Mötley Crüe’s 2002 memoir, The Dirt, Lee said he never understood why Anderson pressed charges against him, accusing her of taking the easy way out of their relationship. “She was probably scared and thought I was some crazy, violent monster; she probably thought she was doing the right thing for the kids; and she probably wanted an easy way out of a difficult situation,” he wrote. “As much as I loved Pamela, she had a problem dealing with things.”

After Lee was released from jail, the pair tried to give things another shot in 1999. “I picture Tommy and me…old, toothless, on a bench somewhere with our tattoos,” she wistfully said at the time. But by 2000, they had split again, with Anderson reporting to the court that Lee had been violating his parole by drinking again.

Over the next few years, the two were entangled in a messy custody battle over their two sons, while also falling into a turbulent cycle of breaking up and then getting back together. During their off periods, Anderson married and divorced Kid Rock in 2006, with Rock and Lee coming to physical blows over Anderson numerous times. When her third marriage to poker player Rick Salomon was annulled in 2008, she once again returned to Lee. “We’ve only given it a try 800 times—801, here we go,” he told Rolling Stone.

Their romance finally simmered down by 2010, with Anderson reconciling with Salomon once more, then again parting ways with him in 2015. She was briefly married to Hollywood producer Jon Peters in 2020, before then marrying her bodyguard Dan Hayhurst later that year. Last month, it was reported that Anderson filed for divorce from Hayhurst.

For his part, Lee was linked to Prince’s ex-wife Mayte Garcia until they called off their engagement in 2003. He was also engaged for three years to singer Sofia Toufa, before eventually marrying social media influencer Brittany Furlan in 2019.

In March 2018, family tensions spilled into the public arena when Lee posted an image of his swollen top lip, claiming on Twitter that his then 21-year-old son Brandon had struck him and knocked him unconscious before fleeing from the police. The fight was reportedly sparked by Anderson alleging to Piers Morgan that Lee was abusive during their marriage, People reported.

“My heart is broken,” Lee wrote of the altercation with Brandon. “You can give your kids everything they could ever want in their entire lives, and they can still turn against you.”

But Brandon later issued his own statement, claiming he only acted in self-defense from an intoxicated Lee. “I’ve worked tirelessly organizing an intervention and it’s incredibly upsetting that it never came to fruition,” he said. “I wanted my dad’s hopeful sobriety and recovery to be a private family matter but, as a result of his accusations on social media, I feel forced to speak out. I have and will continue to cooperate with law enforcement as needed. I love my father and just want to see him sober, happy and healthy.”

In response, Lee lashed out on Twitter. “I’m happier than I’ve been in my entire life,” he wrote. “I have a few drinks here & there because I’m fuckin retired and enjoying my life. I worked 30+ fuckin years I deserve it. You didn’t arrange any intervention; you barely spoke to me while u were here. Just coverin ur ass!!”

Anderson then ended up publicly beseeching Lee to address his alleged alcoholism in a blog post. “I pray Tommy gets the help he needs,” she wrote. “His actions are desperate and humiliating. He is a disaster spinning out of control and he is not acting like a father.”

“This matter is ideally between just a father and a son and rehab if the stars align,” she added. “I will never talk to Tommy again before he is sober and in his right mind. I stand beside my son who acted out of self-defense and was scared for his life. Nobody understands the lifetime of disappointment this man has brought our family…Tommy feels humiliated and is attempting to destroy his own son. This is the Devil. This is the disease of alcoholism.”

After a few more barbs traded over social media, Lee and Brandon were finally able to reconcile by the end of year, posting an image of themselves hugging.

In October 2020, Lee said he had been sober for nearly a full year, after realizing things were getting out of hand when he would drink up to two gallons of vodka a day. “I didn’t notice it until towards the end of it, when I was like, ‘Oh dude, I’ve got to stop,’” he told Yahoo! Entertainment.

“I was drinking just out of boredom. I would just wake up and be just building, just all vodka and just a little eyedropper of cranberry or lemonade. I was drinking two gallons—not pints, not quarts, but gallons, the big-handles.”

Lee said it was his wife who raised the issue to him, citing concern for his health. In response, he went to rehab for two weeks. “I don’t know if it’s a forever thing,” he added. “But for now, I’m not drinking vodka today.”

Whether or not any of that real-life drama ever makes it to the screen remains to be seen, but acknowledging the rest of Anderson and Lee’s story–beyond what’s shown on Hulu–provides some fascinating context to one of the year’s buzziest, but most contentious, new shows.

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