What contractors can learn from Hulu's "Pam & Tommy"

When Rand Gauthier scored a job renovating the Hollywood mansion of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, he thought he had struck paydirt. After all, Lee had insisted that “money is no object.” 

But after Rand sunk tens of thousands of dollars into the project, Tommy Lee allegedly stiffed him and kicked him off the job. Even worse, Lee reportedly stole his tools, threatening Rand with a shotgun when he showed back up to collect them. 

Rand had a choice: He could simply file a mechanics lien on the property, putting Pam & Tommy’s house at risk of foreclosure if they didn’t pay. Or he could dress up like a dog, break into their house in the middle of the night, and steal a 500-pound safe. 

One of those choices is an incredibly effective way for contractors to get paid. The other ended up sparking a media frenzy, launching several lawsuits, and ruining multiple careers — including his own. (Spoiler alert: Gauthier ended up largely broke and in debt to the mob.)

What was inside the stolen safe? Several thousand dollars worth of cash, jewelry, guns — and a private video tape of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee.

That’s right: The 1995 tabloid eruption that was the release of the now-infamous celebrity tape began with a simple contractor payment dispute.

The backstory, first detailed by Rolling Stone and now dramatized in Hulu’s Pam & Tommy, reveals a volatile relationship between carpenter Rand Gauthier and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee.

Gauthier, portrayed in Pam & Tommy by Seth Rogan, was hired by Lee for a significant amount of renovation work on the musician’s home. According to the show, Lee had initially agreed to pay the contractors up-front, but he continued to brush off repeated requests for payments.

As a result, Gauthier was forced to put expenses on his personal credit card, leaving him nearly broke by the time the situation began to escalate.

Throughout the course of Gauthier’s work on the house, Lee repeatedly changed his mind about project specifications. Costs ballooned, leaving Gauthier frustrated and his wallet empty. 

When Gauthier finally confronted Lee about the lack of payment, Lee snapped, firing him and other contractors who had completed a significant amount of work up to that point. Lee accused the contractors of swindling him, and claimed the work was sub-par and the materials were low quality.

Lee refused to pay for the work done, and when Gauthier later returned to the house to pick up tools he had forgotten, Lee threatened him at gunpoint and told Gauthier he would be keeping his tools as “collateral.”

A dejected and angry Gauthier left the property to formulate a plan for revenge that would unknowingly catapult him into a rollercoaster of infamy, legal trouble, and celebrity scandal.

But what should Gauthier have done when Lee fired him? Contractors actually have plenty of options when a property owner refuses payment — even if that property owner is a literal rockstar. 

California’s mechanics lien laws are among the strongest in the country, giving a contractor the ability to foreclose on a property if they don’t receive payment for their work or materials. 

While revenge may be a satisfying daydream, it is never a smart business decision. Emotional reactions often have legal consequences that are nearly always far worse than lost compensation. 

In a recent viral video, a Colorado contractor took a sledgehammer to bathroom work he had just completed after the property owner refused to pay an outstanding balance. The contractor’s actions highlighted the frustration of all parties involved. 

But instead of getting “even,” the contractor is now facing multiple criminal charges, and is at risk of further punishment by local building departments. On top of that, he still never collected the $4,000 he was owed.

Prior to breaking into Pam and Tommy’s house, Rand allegedly tried to convince a potential accomplice by reassuring him that “all we’re doing is getting our money back in a slightly different form.” 

The truth is, he had a much, much easier path to getting his money back. But while that story would likely have had a happier ending for everyone involved, it wouldn’t have made a very entertaining TV show.  

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