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I May Be Somewhat Responsible for the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee Sex Tape

I May Be Somewhat Responsible for the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee Sex Tape:

Not too long ago I saw a picture of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee greeting one another at a PETA gala. Unlike everyone else I didn’t have flashbacks to the Baywatch red bathing suit or the Motley Crüe hair. I envisioned their wedding, which I accidentally attended more than 20 years ago in Cancun. If you can’t remember their beach wedding, just Google the photos. You can thank me for taking them and possibly for their sex tape, too.

In February 1995 I was a junior at the University of Michigan and organized our spring break trip to Cancun. About 100 of us were supposed to stay at the notorious Grand Oasis Hotel, but because of complications at the property we were all upgraded to a four-star hotel. Like true college kids, we were worried our binge-drinking, hookups and general shenanigans would be ruined by staying at the upscale hotel. That all changed on the afternoon of our first day in Cancun.

We hit the beach even though most of us were hung over from a night at a club called La Boom. So by late afternoon I was ready for a disco nap. A friend begged me to share her clove cigarette before going upstairs to our rooms. We sat on a wall chatting about the night’s outfit possibilities when I saw her: Pam Anderson in a white bikini and teal sheer sarong walking past me with a rocker dude in tow. I ran after them to make sure the clove wasn’t some kind of Mexican PCP making me see Playmates.

In 1995 Pamela Anderson was like the second coming of Marilyn Monroe. She had the body everybody dreamed of having. Seeing her in the flesh was exciting, but more than anything it piqued my curiosity to see a celebrity in the wild.

Thanks to me, word quickly spread through the ranks of students lazily hanging out on the beach. Like a herd of Walking Dead zombies we slowly got closer to their chaise lounge chairs, moving like hung over magnets. One of our bolder friends asked for a picture, but a guy sitting with them said, “Not now, man. They’re getting married.”

It seemed like a lame yet awfully specific excuse, but before we could trash talk it, there was a justice of the peace standing in front of them. They were getting married.

I pulled out my camera, which only had about ten pictures left on my roll of 36 (photography was hard in the 1990s). The roll of film ran out before the actual ceremony, but I got lots of pre-ceremony shots that I could hold onto for posterity.

After the ceremony Tommy and Pam made out, and then Tommy threw Pam in the water. She emerged with her skimpy top everywhere but where it was supposed to be.

When Pam joined Tommy on shore, we took a group picture with the happy couple before Tommy Lee took off for the bar. I ran up to my room to get a new roll of film to be prepared just in case there were any more photo ops. As I walked through the lobby, Tommy Lee said, “Hey, you were at my wedding. Let me buy you a drink.” He bought me a Pina Colada, which was two-for-one during happy hour. As he drank the other one, I tried to chat him up, but it was hard. He of the Mayhem tattoo across the stomach and me, the fashionista psychology major from Connecticut, had little in common other than Cancun. I excused myself and returned to the beach.

Pam was still sitting on the chaise lounge so I asked her for a photo. Her mouth said, “Yes,” while her eyes said, “No.” I gave zero fucks and smiled while my friend Rachel took a picture.

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I figured it was only a matter of time before paparazzi descended on the hotel and we’d all get to be tangentially famous. The next morning was as calm as the day before, except Pam and Tommy had checked out for the privacy of a yacht. They’d told the front desk that we spring breakers weren’t exactly honeymoon aphrodisiacs.

After two days a British guy named Graham Dublin arrived. He worked for a tabloid called The Globe. He heard I had pictures and offered to buy my roll of film. I explained that there were only about 10 shots of the couple, and the other 26 were of a very drunk me at a winter formal. Dublin promised to mail my formal photos to me as soon as the film was developed. He was anxious to make the sale and offered $200. I countered at $300. He quickly offered $275. Since I had no idea if the photos were any good (film cameras don’t have a preview window like digital ones), I figured I’d just struck negotiation gold. I got him up $75!

The morning after I sold my photos all hell broke loose. There were reporters offering thousands of dollars for a good shot. Pam and Tommy had only been dating for a short time before they got married so their marriage was shocking news. I was pissed I’d sold my pictures so cheaply. But no one, except for maybe one other girl, sold their photos, and it wasn’t for thousands. Time would tell when we saw the next week’s tabloids (20 years ago that was considered fast).

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When we returned to Michigan a bunch of us drove like maniacs to the closest grocery store. There they were: my pictures in The Globe. And The National Enquirer, The Star, and News Of The World. Every tabloid. Graham Dublin made a killing selling my photos (like the six-figure kind). As a consolation prize, “Graham Dublin” (I later learned it was an alias) quoted me in an article in The Globe: “Tommy threw Pam into the water, which made the top of her bikini fly up and we all got an eye full of everything!”

I never did get those pictures from my formal back.

I later learned the wedding wasn’t the only event caught on film that weekend. When Pam and Tommy checked out of our hotel, they went to a yacht where they filmed their infamous sex tape. This was a home movie that was eventually stolen from a safe and sold to the public in 1997. It has low-production value, but because of their fame, it was one of the largest selling porn videos of all time.

If I hadn’t been the spring break rep who negotiated a four-star hotel for a bunch of college kids, then they might not have checked out and gone to a yacht. And maybe they wouldn’t have made that infamous sex tape. Who knows?

You’re welcome, America.

Now that I live in Los Angeles I see famous people all the time. They’re just people living their lives. If the wedding happened today I don’t know that I’d sell the photos. It was a private moment between Pam and Tommy, regardless of their fame. I never felt good about selling out…especially for $275. But I can’t deny that it was fun being part of celebrity zeitgeist and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


Kerry Quinn is a writer in Los Angeles. Twitter: @kerrylquinn

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