Perhaps the most infamous stolen celebrity item in the history of the world is the Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee sex tape.
The chronicling of Anderson's and Lee's sexual activities while on their honeymoon peaked the public's interest back in the late '90s. It generated millions of dollars and can still be found online today.
Tommy Lee, the Motley Crue drummer that was a rock megastar at the time, and the sexy, blonde Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson wed in early 1995, and soon after their sexual activities could be watched by anyone who owned a working computer or VCR.
The story of the stolen tape
The newlywed couple hired many people to renovate their Malibu mansion, but often complained by how poorly done the work was. Electrician Rand Gauthier was so fed up he was willing to forget about the money they had owed him.
When he and a general contractor came back to pick up their tools at the couple's mansion, Lee pointed a gun and yelled at them to get off their property.
"I was never really that popular with people, " Gauthier recalled. "But I had never been held at gunpoint. It screwed with my head."
That was the last straw for Gauthier, who now would stop at nothing to seek revenge.
"He wanted the drummer to feel vulnerable, to realize that he was just a human being, not an invincible rock god, even if he had sold 20 million records by the age of 32," Rolling Stone reported.
So he stole the giant safe he knew was in their garage, which contained Lee's guns and Anderson's jewelry. But there was something even more precious in that box - a homemade sex tape.
It was a win-win situation because he thought he would get rich by selling it and also accomplish his main goal - damaging Lee's inflated ego.
In the eyes of the public, this wasn't just your regular porno, it was getting a sneak peak into the lives of one of the hottest celebrity couples of the '90s.
So obviously, things got a little crazy when the tape got released.
The release of the sex tape
Internet Entertainment Group pioneered the American internet pornography industry, and was one of the few distributors to accept the sex tape without the famous duo's consent.
The home video, which is approximately an hour long and features only eight minutes of the couple having sex, took two years to go viral.
It's estimated that the tape made $77 million in less than a year! Most people paid to watch the video online. Club Love, an early internet porn site, made the most money by streaming the sex tape for five-straight hours.
During that time, the porn business was booming, and almost every home could afford a VCR, so other people made money by selling copies of the tape out of the trunk of their cars.
When the sex tape was widely circulated enough and everyone in Hollywood had a chance to see it, Anderson and Lee finally noticed that their safe was stolen. They hired a private investigator to look into it and find the perpetrator.
They sued the distribution company and won $1.5 million in damages. However, they were unable to stop the distribution, so they signed over the copyright to Club Love.
"Our servers were rocked. It was insanity. We had thousands of sales a day, every day, for months," said Jonathan Silverstein, who was working as the company's director of sales and marketing at the time.
"It's the greatest tape I have ever seen in my life," Howard Stern, American radio and television personality, said in late 1997. "What's cool about it is that, like, you get to live their lives with them."
Gauthier's plan to tarnish Lee's image did not go accordingly, and he didn’t get rich off it either.
"I made his career, is what happened," Gauthier said.
Pamela Anderson is in her 50s now, but back in the day she was a Playboy model and a major sex symbol. This sex tape didn't really tarnish her public image, but it was embarrassing for her.
"I've never seen it. I made not one dollar. It was stolen property," Anderson told host Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens. "I don't want to talk about my vagina anymore or my public sex — anything."
As for rock star Tommy Lee, people called him an “asshole” more than they did before, but he became even more famous than he originally was.
The famous duo got divorced in 1998 after Anderson accused Lee of abuse towards her and her two sons.
This sex tape caused a huge shift in the way people consumed tabloid celebrity news and how celebrity news sites reported on them. It also changed the porno industry.
It led to the creation of sites like TMZ and RedTube. It also helped people to make a name for themselves, such as Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, whose popularity was boosted after their sexual activities were exposed online.
All in all, there’s so much pornographic content online that we don’t think much about the Pamela and Tommy sex tape now, but its history will never be wiped away from the internet, or the minds of those who heard or watched it in the '90s.