But how to tell such a story, with its obvious sex appeal, in a way that is entertaining but doesn’t add to the exploitation? (Anderson and Lee were not involved in the production.) It was a tricky proposition, especially since the truth is so fanciful that it might enhance the myth.
Based closely on an eye-popping investigative Rolling Stone article from 2014, written by Amanda Chicago Lewis, the show takes off with the narrative equivalent of a Miata’s screeching tires. The man who sets the wheels in motion — and who, in early episodes, appears to be the show’s moral center — is Gauthier, the son of minor Hollywood royalty. (In 1975, his father, Dick Gautier, played Robin Hood in the short-lived Mel Brooks sitcom “When Things Were Rotten.” Rand modified his own last name’s spelling.)
As depicted in “Pam & Tommy,” Gauthier was helping remodel Lee and Anderson’s mansion when he was fired, with money still owed by a capricious and stingy Lee (Sebastian Stan). Already out thousands of dollars, Gauthier returned to recover his tools, when, as Gauthier alleges in the article, Lee stuck a shotgun in his face. (Lee and Anderson declined to comment for the Rolling Stone article.)
Incensed, he plotted an elaborate scheme to recoup his losses by stealing a six-foot-tall safe from Lee’s home, contents unknown. One of the show’s funniest scenes depicts Gauthier trying to fool Lee’s security camera by covering his back with a white pelt and getting down on all fours to look like Lee’s giant dog.
“Because I’m involved in the show, people assume it was made up,” Rogen said, laughing.
Lee had stored the precious video in that safe, alongside his guns and Anderson’s jewelry. The tape was out of sight and out of mind until early 1996, when the couple discovered that footage featuring their X-rated activities on a boat on Lake Mead had begun to surface publicly. Anderson and Lee, now the object of prurient attention, belatedly realized the tape had been stolen and were soon the butt of late-night jokes.