Television

What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in the Pam & Tommy Episode Where Pam Confronts Jay Leno

Meanwhile, Seth Rogen becomes a mob enforcer.

Lily James as Pam in a low-cut black spaghetti strap dress smiling at the audience as she sits next to Adam Ray as Jay at his desk on the set of The Tonight Show
Lily James as Pamela Anderson and Adam Ray as Jay Leno in Pam & Tommy. Hulu

After an absence of several episodes, Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen) reappears, still broke and now being screwed over by a dominant personality who isn’t Tommy Lee. Meanwhile, Pamela’s big moment—the premiere of Barb Wire, her first starring movie role—is overshadowed by the release of the sex tape. We look at how closely Episode 7 hews to reality.

[Read: What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in Pam & Tommy Episode 6]

Was Rand a Debt Collector for Butchie Peraino?

While his business partner Milton Ingley (Nick Offerman) is living it up in Amsterdam spending the proceeds of the tape on sex and drugs and not returning messages, Rand is as impecunious as ever—only now without his own apartment and crashing on his ex-wife’s sofa. With Milton uncontactable, Rand bears the brunt of their mobster lender Butchie Peraino’s (Andrew Dice Clay) impatience for some return on the $50,000 he invested in the tape’s distribution. Rand, who also hasn’t seen any money from the tape’s impressive sales, can’t make a payment and gets beaten up by the mobster as a result. Butchie makes Rand eat a bowl of cherries soaked in Everclear but, finally convinced by Rand’s drunken but consistent protestations of ignorance, offers Rand the opportunity to work off his debt by collecting money from other deadbeats. Rand sets off with a baseball bat but proves to be fairly hopeless at his new job because he’s insufficiently violent—until he taps into his anger at all the guys who have screwed him over and beats up a gambling addict.

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Rogen as Rand seated and leaning forward conspiratorially
Seth Rogen as Rand Gauthier. Hulu

This is broadly true, but reality differs in significant details. Gauthier was down and out, but instead of couch-surfing at his ex-wife’s, he was staying with a porn director named Fred Piantadosi. Piantadosi’s daughter told Rolling Stone that Gauthier stayed with them for almost an entire year, sleeping in her bunk bed while she, age 5, slept in her father’s room. Louis “Butchie” Peraino was the son of a capo in the Colombo crime family, who were the porn equivalent of Warner Bros., having produced Deep Throat. The episode says it was May 1996 when Peraino enlisted Gauthier’s services as an enforcer, but in reality Ingley hadn’t left for Amsterdam at that time. Also, after he moved, far from refusing to speak to Gauthier, Ingley asked Gauthier to supervise the sale of his studio in the hope of raising some money to pay off Peraino. Nor did Ingley refuse to pay Peraino anything, at least according to Gauthier, who said that Ingley raised the money to pay back the initial loan but the interest was still outstanding.

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Peraino did indeed ply Gauthier with Bing cherries soaked in Everclear, though he preceded it with a dinner of linguine and oysters served with a bottle of merlot. But by his own account, Gauthier was definitely up to the job of debt collector. He recalled to Rolling Stone, “Knees are a little harder to break than most people think, so I came up with my own idea”—that is, approaching the debtor holding what appeared to be a cup of coffee but was actually ammonia, throwing the contents in the target’s face, detaching a metal handle from a mop wringer, and breaking the victim’s collarbone before disappearing.

Did Pam Tell Off Jay Leno on The Tonight Show?

Pam goes on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno to promote Barb Wire, and after some initial genial banter, she is faced with a barrage of sex-tape-related innuendo—as we saw in Episode 1, in the first shot of the whole series. She finally has enough of being a good sport and lets Leno and the audience see the real, hurt person under the sex bomb persona, saying, “It’s horrible, to have something private from your marriage exposed to the world. It’s devastating.”

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Leno did say things like “I never imagined there was something sex-related Pam Anderson doesn’t know,” and Anderson did say how devastating the tape’s exposure had been in a Tonight Show interview. However, while the hair and makeup in the episode’s Tonight Show interview are similar to what Anderson wore for a Tonight Show appearance promoting Barb Wire, Anderson didn’t fire back at Leno until a later appearance, so the episode conflates the two.

For context, Leno had finally got out of the ratings doldrums he’d been languishing in for the three years since he took over The Tonight Show in 1992 by similarly putting Hugh Grant through the wringer, when Grant had to tour talk shows to promote a movie during his own tabloid scandal.

Was Barb Wire Really Such a Bomb?

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Pam and Tommy are thrilled to go to the Hollywood premiere of Barb Wire, where the invited audience gives the film and its star a rapturous reception. Before they go home, Tommy thinks it would be a good idea to see the film in an actual movie theater so she can lap up the public adoration. However, the plan backfires when the few people in the audience make known their disdain for the film and the fact that the leading lady keeps her clothes on.

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Barb Wire was indeed a critical and commercial air-to-ground missile, with an opening weekend box office of only $1.8 million, though most critics felt the fault lay more with the script and direction than the leading lady. Entertainment Weekly compiled a list of the film’s “pneumatic moments,” from “Number of overhead cleavage shots” (4) and “Number of times Lee shows her nipples” (15) to “Number of lines of dialogue Lee speaks that are two words or less” (55)—which gives some idea of how misplaced Anderson’s expectations that this project would launch her as a major actress were.

Was Pam and Tommy’s Lawsuit Thrown Out?

When Tommy learns that the judge has already ruled on their lawsuit against Penthouse, he assumes it is good news. However, it turns out to be the opposite, with the judge throwing out their lawsuit and ruling in favor of Penthouse because, the ruling said, the tape is part of the public conversation, therefore newsworthy and covered by the First Amendment.

This is correct. According to the Los Angeles Times, in March 1997, a judge dismissed Anderson and Lee’s “invasion of privacy” lawsuit, ruling that because Penthouse’s images had previously been published elsewhere, they were no longer private property. The judge also rejected Anderson’s claim that the magazine exploited her image for profit because the photos were published alongside a “newsworthy” article about the couple’s marriage.

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