Amateur Hour
New York magazine|July 5-18, 2021
A quarter-century after Pam and Tommy’s sex tape, there have been countless copycats—and nothing like it.
By Lux Alptraum

In October 1995, a 500-pound safe was stolen from the garage of a Malibu mansion. Inside, the thief (or thieves) found guns, jewelry, and a piece of treasure far more valuable than they could have imagined: a private video made by the newlyweds Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee.

Most of the nearly hour-long Hi8 cassette was mundane. Anderson, then the star of Baywatch, gets a tattoo; Lee, the drummer for Mötley Crüe, gets his nails done. There’s blurry, almost inaudible footage of their wedding. They play with their dogs and talk about the tomatoes growing in their driveway. But there’s also six minutes of fucking. While Lee is driving, Anderson gives him a blow job, and on a yacht, they screw each other rather frantically, declaring their love for one another in an orgasmic frenzy.

Anderson and Lee weren’t just any celebrities. A Playboy centerfold, Anderson represented the zenith of a certain kind of surgically enhanced bombshell. Lee was a rock star with one of the greatest stage personae in heavy metal and, as the tape made clear, a fairly large penis. In 1996, the video went viral before the term existed— first as a bootleg VHS in California, then on the fledgling internet, and finally in adult stores across America as the Vivid Entertainment title Pam & Tommy Lee: Stolen Honeymoon. Twenty-five years later, the phenomenon is ripe for reappraisal: It’s the subject of the second season of Tabloid, a podcast from Luminary and New York Magazine that I host, and a Hulu show starring Lily James and Sebastian Stan set to come out later this year. More than any other piece of content, the tape revealed our insatiable appetite for appropriating what famous people used to keep to themselves.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM NEW YORK MAGAZINEView All

Hanya's Boys

The novelist tends to torture her gay male characters—but only so she can swoop in to save them.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
January 17 - 30, 2022

Joan Didion's Greatest Two-Word Sentence

The power of an ice-cold, unflinching gaze.

5 mins read
New York magazine
January 3-16, 2022

72 minutes with… Connor Pardoe

Pickleball, once a game for the 50-plus crowd, exploded during the pandemic. This sports commissioner wants to turn it into a national pastime.

6 mins read
New York magazine
January 17 - 30, 2022

13,000 Pounds at 118 Miles Per Hour

The wreck of a limo near Albany was the deadliest U.S. Transportation disaster in a decade. And the man behind it was one of the most notorious confidential informants in FBI history.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
January 17 - 30, 2022

The Undoing of Joss Whedon

The Buffy creator, once an icon of Hollywood feminism, is now an outcast accused of misogyny. How did he get here?

10+ mins read
New York magazine
January 17 - 30, 2022

Last Sane Man on Wall Street

Nathan Anderson made his name exposing—and betting against—corporate fraud. But short selling in a frothy pandemic economy can be ruinous.

10+ mins read
New York magazine
January 17 - 30, 2022

Locals Only

A cabaret star asks: Can you find yourself without leaving home?

4 mins read
New York magazine
January 17 - 30, 2022

Mitski in Nine Acts

If the musician has to reveal herself at all, she’d rather do it one short burst at a time.

9 mins read
New York magazine
January 17 - 30, 2022

SEE SPOT PAINT

Agnieszka Pilat has become the Silicon Valley elite’s favorite artist. Even The Matrix’s Neo owns her work.

10 mins read
New York magazine
January 17 - 30, 2022

The City Politic: Errol Louis

The Eric Adams Show: A beginning stocked with masterstrokes, gaffes, and eyebrow-raising appointments.

6 mins read
New York magazine
January 17 - 30, 2022