The Untold Truth Of Tommy Lee

The following article references domestic abuse and addiction.

Born Tommy Lee Bass in Athens, Greece, Tommy Lee has been a celebrity since the 1980s, known primarily for his role as drummer for Mötley Crüe. Since the band first emerged from the Los Angeles hair metal scene of the 1980s, the lanky Lee has kept the beat while indulging in legendary rock-star excess, also managing to maintain his own singular spot in the limelight over the course of a music career that's spanned decades. 

In early 2022, Lee re-entered the pop-culture consciousness — even though he never really left — thanks to the release of Hulu's limited series "Pam & Tommy," dramatizing the bizarre sequence of events that led to a videotape of his most intimate moments with then-wife Pamela Anderson making its way to the internet.

Despite Lee's fame/notoriety over the years, there are many details about him that may have fallen through the cracks due to the shifting sands of time. For a refresher course on this talented, charismatic, and complicated musician, read on to discover the untold truth of Tommy Lee.

Tommy Lee says he's 'lucky' to be alive

Tommy Lee certainly wasn't the only rocker in the 1980s metal scene to use drugs, but the Mötley Crüe drummer developed a reputation for it — a standout among a band widely regarded as one of the most debauched in rock history. Looking back at those days, Lee admitted in a 2020 interview with GQ that he had "no f***ing idea" how he survived. "Honestly, I pinch myself on a daily basis. I'm like, how am I still alive?" he marveled. "Like, do I have some lucky horseshoe stuck in my a**, or is somebody watching over me that I'm unaware of? How is it even possible?"

During that interview, Lee revealed his doctor had recently done a full physical examination and said he looked good to go. "And I was like, 'Seriously? Are you sure that there's not another Tommy Lee here that my papers got mixed up with, because that's incredible,'" the drummer recalled.

During an appearance on Barstool Sports' "KFC Radio" podcast, Lee said he didn't have an explanation for how he and the other members of Mötley Crüe made it through that era. "The four of us are still alive, I don't even understand how that works," he said. "I think we're all extremely, I believe, lucky."

A certain body part of his has become a character

Tommy Lee is not only a musician, he's also a published author. Back in 2004, he spoke with Rolling Stone about his recently released memoir "Tommyland," explaining why portions of the story are narrated by Lee's penis. "At the beginning, I'm having this argument with my penis because he thinks the book is all about him, right?" Lee explained. "So randomly throughout the book there are these pop-ups and big, bold quotes where he's throwing in his two cents."

Not only did Lee's member attain literary glory, it also gained a whole new level of fame by appearing in the Hulu series "Pam & Tommy." In the show, Lee's appendage is depicted as being anthropomorphic, with the ability to speak. 

One scene in particular finds Lee (portrayed by actor Sebastian Stan) having a heart-to-heart with his penis, voiced by actor Jason Mantzoukas. Speaking with Variety, executive producer D.V. DeVincentis credited Stan for playing along with a concept that saw him "standing there naked as an actor with this prosthetic ... that unseen to the camera has wires running out of it — under you, behind you. And there's a guy on the floor with toggles and he's remotely controlling like a drone apparatus."

Tommy Lee went back to school for reality TV

Tommy Lee never graduated from high school, but has a solid reason. "I was 17 when the Crue got a record deal, and I was in my senior year of high school with, like, two months to go," Lee told Rolling Stone. "And it was like, 'OK, go rock the entire planet and rip it, or stay in school for three months and get a diploma?'"

While Lee admitted his mom and dad "were so bummed" he never graduated, years later he flipped the script by attending college ... sort of. As Entertainment Weekly reported in 2004, Lee's experiences as a 42-year-old college freshman were being filmed for a TV reality show. The resulting show debuted the following year, "Tommy Lee Goes to College," which plopped the tattooed rock star amongst students at the University of Nebraska. 

While Variety's review pointed to the "inherent limits in deriving humor from such heavily staged shenanigans," Lee insisted to Rolling Stone the show was "so bananas." As an example, he pointed to a segment in which he tried out for the university track team, competing against kids significantly younger and faster than he was. As a result, he "just decided to go with the rock-star thing: do the speed walk with a cigarette and a martini." While the show only lasted a single season, Lee told MTV News the entire experience was "f***ing killer."

He is a major fan of the circus

In his book "Tommyland," Tommy Lee describes his lifelong obsession with circuses. "I love the circus," he wrote. "I always have." When Rolling Stone asked him about his circus thing in 2004, Lee replied, "I have this crazy fascination with little people. Like, if I see one, I'll run up to him and be like, How's it going? To be really honest with you, I want to take them all home with me. And I know I can't do that, but for some reason I always try. They just remind me of fun and the circus." Oof.

In fact, he recalled the time that his then-wife Pamela Anderson threw him a circus-themed party. According to Lee, Anderson "created this whole bizarre world: Cirque du Soleil performed, and we played 'little people football,' and there were contortionists and swings, fire, pianos, drums."

Lee's circus-inspired love of spectacle likely played into one of Lee's most audacious stage extravaganzas: his drum roller coaster. As Lee told Lehigh Valley Live, the notion of placing his drum riser within an onstage roller coaster was "totally insane." It also led to a true "Spinal Tap" moment during a 2015 Mötley Crüe show when the coaster malfunctioned, leaving Lee suspended upside down while a member of the crew tried to fix it.

The rockers who left Tommy Lee starstruck

Tommy Lee has been a member of one of the hottest rock bands of its era, and been a world-famous celebrity since his teens. As a result, Lee isn't easily impressed by meeting famous folks — save for a couple, that is. "I met Mick Jagger, in his hotel room in Las Vegas, in, like, '95. And I couldn't talk!" Lee revealed in an interview with Louder. "I've met tons of people that I look up to, like the guys from Queen, but nothing was like that. I didn't know what the f*** to say. I was just like, 'Whoa, that's f***ing Mick Jagger, dude.'" 

Lee had a similar reaction when he crossed paths with David Bowie. "It took everything in my power not to freak out as a fanboy," he told Stereogum. "I didn't say much because I know what that's like, and I didn't want to bug him. I just thanked him and told him it was an honor and pleasure to meet him."

As a famous rock star himself, Lee has had plenty of experiences on the flip side of that. As he said in Louder, he recalled being accosted by a particularly annoying fan while walking his dog in New York City one morning. According to Lee, "all of a sudden I see this dude running down the street with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of me. I'm like, 'Are you f***ing kidding me, dude?' There's traffic, the street's loaded with people ... It was just embarrassing, really!"

Tommy Lee has some phobias and pet peeves

While Tommy Lee may be a rich and famous rock star, that hasn't necessarily protected him, you know, experiencing fear. As he divulged to Louder, he was asked whether he had any "weird phobias" he could recall. "Bad music!" he quipped, but then offered a more serious reply. "And I'm not a fan of spiders and snakes. Those things freak me out," he explained. "I mean the bigger snakes and the tarantulas. People have them crawling on their bodies, and I'm just ... I'm pretty crazy and down with anything, but for some reason I just can't do that."

He also detailed one of his biggest pet peeves, and it should be a familiar one for anyone who, like Lee, lives in Los Angeles. "F***ing traffic," he declared, admitting he becomes "even angrier because it feels like the universe has lied to me," thanks to the futuristic predictions of his childhood that never really panned out. "It's now 2015 and where the f*** is my little one-man spacecraft?" Lee asked. "They said in the year 2000 it'd be 'Jetsons.' And we're not even f***ing close, man!"

Another thing he deeply dislikes? When fans approach him in public and expect a photo. "What I have a problem with is... Taking pictures! I hate it! Irritates the f*** out of me when people owe it to your fans, they put you where you are, etc etc!" he wrote on Facebook in 2012 (via The Hollywood Reporter). "I certainly dont owe anybody anything!"

The real reason behind his fistfight with Kid Rock

The 2007 edition of the MTV Video Music Awards is best remembered for Britney Spears' show-opening performance, immediately followed by comedian Sarah Silverman joking that Spears' sons were "the most adorable mistakes you will ever see."

The 2007 VMAs was also notable for a physical altercation between Tommy Lee and Kid Rock, both of whom are ex-husbands of Pamela Anderson. According to Access Hollywood, Lee went to greet Diddy, who was seated near Kid Rock. At that point, claimed a source, "all hell broke loose" as the two got into it. Lee shared his version of events on his website (via CheatSheet), alleging he was "minding my own biz" when he received "a tap on the shoulder from Kid Pebble. I stand up and embrace him with a semi-hug and say 'Hey dude... What up??' He punches me in the face."

However, Kid Rock told a slightly different tale, claiming the animosity between the two of them had been going on for years before that, exacerbated by some "horrendous" and "disrespectful" emails Lee had sent him from Anderson's phone. "I did what any man would do, any man across the country, across the world would do," he said during a 2007 radio interview, as reported by People. He added more detail in court testimony, claiming that when Lee sat down next to him, he had no choice but to "smack his hat off" and hit him.

Tommy Lee has been portrayed onscreen more than once

Tommy Lee can often come across as a larger-than-life figure, and that's been true in the way he's been depicted in fictionalized accounts of his life. The first of these was in the 2019 Netflix movie "The Dirt," based on the book about Mötley Crüe's rise to the top of the music scene in the 1980s. In that project, Lee was played by a fellow musician, rapper Machine Gun Kelly, whose real name is Colson Baker. As MGK told Entertainment Weekly, he auditioned multiple times before being cast as Lee. "I'm already tall, lanky, and I have a f*** ton of energy, so it just fit," said the rapper, who, as the outlet noted, even has a tattoo of Lee. In fact, he was even able to gain Lee's insight to aid in his portrayal. "I'd go throw the script down on his desk and get his opinion and ask how he would say certain things, but really he wasn't critiquing me, more encouraging me," he added.

Then, 2022 brought about the premiere of Hulu's "Pam & Tommy," which dramatized the events behind the infamous online sex tape featuring Lee and then-wife Pamela Anderson. In "Pam & Tommy," Sebastian Stan portrayed Lee; once again, the drummer was pleased with the choice of actor chosen to portray him. "I know Sebastian, he's playing me," Lee told ET. "From what he's told me, really beautiful story."

Tommy Lee was on an American Idol-style reality show

Pretending to attend university in "Tommy Lee Goes to College" has not been the rocker's only experience with reality television. Back in 2006, Tommy Lee was involved with "Rock Star: Supernova," an "American Idol"-style singing competition but with a harder edge. While the winner of "Idol" walked away with a recording contract (which, as the show's first winner Kelly Clarkson implied on "The Howard Stern Show," was more prison than prize), the victorious singer in "Rock Star: Supernova" would go on to front a new super group called Supernova, comprised of Lee on drums, former Guns 'N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke, and ex-Metallica bass player Jason Newstead. 

The winner was singer Lukas Rossi, but there was a hitch. As it turned out, there was another band named Supernova whose moniker predated the series. According to MTV News, the first Supernova successfully sued to prevent Lee and the other musicians from using that name in a professional capacity. Renamed Rock Star Supernova, the new band did not make much of an impression on the music scene. As the East Bay Times' review of the group's Oakland show pointed out, their first (and only) tour proved to be a "super flop," while their debut album peaked at 101 on the Billboard 200.

Winning the competition didn't elevate Rossi to stardom; as The Hollywood Reporter pointed out, the singer took another shot (unsuccessfully this time) by competing on "The Voice" in 2011.

He was once knocked unconscious by his own son

During their turbulent marriage, Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson became parents of sons Brandon Thomas Lee and Dylan Jagger Lee. Following the couple's divorce, the boys were at the center of a heated custody dispute between the exes. 

Brandon's relationship with his father has reportedly been fraught, as evidenced by a shocking 2018 incident in which, as TMZ reported at the time, Brandon punched his dad in the mouth. Brandon subsequently told TMZ that his dad "was drunk and lunged at him" so he threw the hit out of "self-defense." At the time, Lee pressed charges against his son. Brandon subsequently posted video of the melee on social media (via Daily Beast), featuring his father splayed out on the floor to confirm rumors that he'd knocked Lee unconscious.

Lee offered a different account of what took place when he tweeted that he was in bed "when my son busted into the room and assaulted me. I asked him to leave the house and he knocked me unconscious. He ran away from the police. THAT'S the truth." Anderson weighed in with a post on her website titled "Alcoholism is the Devil," declaring her ex to be "a disaster spinning out of control ... he is not acting like a father." Later that year, Lee shared a photo on Instagram in which he and Brandon were hugging, indicating they'd moved on. 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

He was arrested for nearly starting a riot

There have been several occasions over the years when Tommy Lee fought the law, and the law won. As reported by the AP, in 1998, he was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading no contest to charges of spousal abuse involving then-wife Pamela Anderson. 

The following year, Lee turned himself in due to an outstanding warrant stemming from a 1997 Mötley Crüe concert in South Carolina when guitarist Nikki Sixx directed a racial epithet at a Black security guard, while Lee allegedly poured a drink on the guard's head. As CBS News reported, the charges included "felony rioting and three misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct, assault and inciting a riot."

In addition to the criminal charges, Lee and his bandmates were also hit with a civil lawsuit by the guard, who was seeking $75,000 over his claims that Sixx "incited the crowd" to attack him, according to the Greensboro News & Record. Shortly before the case was scheduled to go to trial, the suit was settled for an undisclosed amount. According to The Smoking Gun, Lee eventually pleaded guilty to the assault charge and received 18 months of probation. 

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

He was once married to Heather Locklear

Tommy Lee's marriage to Pamela Anderson may have grabbed the headlines, but it wasn't the only time that he'd walked down the aisle. In fact, Lee was married twice before his whirlwind wedding to the "Baywatch" star. As Cosmopolitan recalled, Lee was first married to Elaine Starchuk for a short time, and then went on to tie the knot with a celebrity whose fame at the time eclipsed his: TV star Heather Locklear, who was then starring in soapy television hit "Dynasty." 

According to People, the couple wed in 1986, in a "lavish ceremony" at the Biltmore Santa Monica. At the time, Locklear expressed a hopeful outlook for their future. "I've only thought of getting married once," said Locklear. "I plan for this one to last." 

As Entertainment Weekly pointed out, the pairing seemed like a "strange match" from the start. When they ultimately divorced in 1992, the primary reason for the split was rumored to be Lee's "ill-concealed on-the-road philandering" while on tour with Mötley Crüe. "I'm not devastated or destroyed," said Locklear of the failed marriage. "It's mostly just sad." Years later, Lee pretty much confirmed the rumors when he told Blabbermouth that "[fornicating] with porno stars ruined my marriage. That was in '93, right before I got divorced from Heather."

Tommy Lee met his fourth wife via social media

After his 1998 divorce from third wife Pamela Anderson, Tommy Lee uncharacteristically decided not to rush back to the altar. Instead, he remained single for two decades before tying the knot for the fourth time, with Internet personality Brittany Furlan. Furlan became a celebrity thanks to her short comedy videos on the now-defunct Vine social media platform, which is how Lee first came to find her. "I've been following her for years on Vine and I was like, 'She is so [expletive] funny and stupid and cute and beautiful,'" said Lee, via USA Today.

"We met online, but we knew about each other for years," Furlan revealed in an interview with Fox News. "He used to watch my Vine videos — he was one of my followers and obviously, I loved his music ... I always thought he was super attractive. We just hit each other up and ended up going on a couple of dates and it was awesome — now here we are."

The two were first spotted in public together on a sushi date in 2017, and continued seeing each other until becoming engaged the following year. They wed in 2019, with Lee sharing the news on Instagram with a typically bombastic announcement. "Holy s***balls!!!! We did it!!!! Mr. & Mrs. Lee," he wrote in the caption to the photo he shared, of two dogs costumed as a bride and groom.

Tommy Lee was drinking two gallons of vodka a day

One key difference in Tommy Lee's marriage to Brittany Furlan, when compared to his previous spouses, is that during his fourth marriage he addressed his drinking. As Lee explained during an interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, he fell into a period of unexpected idleness after the end of the Mötley Crüe tour that ended in 2016. He filled those empty hours by consuming alcohol, and it crept up on him over time; as he explained, he hadn't realized how serious the situation had gotten until it was impossible to ignore. "Like, I was drinking just out of boredom. I would just wake up and be just building [a glass with] 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 — a day. That's f***ing crazy," he said. 

Furlan had also become concerned. "She was like, 'Baby, I don't think I've ever even seen anybody drink that much. Like, you're kind of scaring me,'" Lee recalled. When she asked if she should start worrying that one day he just wouldn't wake up, that proved to be the impetus he needed. 

He decided to seek professional help, and entered rehab. As he told ET in October 2020, he was then celebrating a year of sobriety. "Who knows, maybe I won't ever drink again," he said.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).