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Internet Pornography Magnate Seth Warshavsky Was the Ultimate Villain in Pam & Tommy

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In the final episode of Hulu’s Pam & Tommy, which details both the tumultuous marriage of actress/model Pamela Anderson and Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee and the rapid spread of their stolen private sex tape, Anderson (played by Lily James) tells Lee (Sebastian Stan) that “It’s over.” Those two words cut deep in the moment—it’s not really over; what’s over was the spreading of the sex tape (stolen by a disgruntled contractor named Rand Gauthier (Seth Rogen in the series) without any guardrails; people would now have to pay a company called Internet Entertainment Group to see it. Anderson never consented to this video being out in the world until she had literally no other choice. And by the time she made the decision to sign the paperwork allowing the tape to be legally sold online, thus cutting off its spread somewhere, the damage had already been done. Her film debut, Barb Wire, flopped, she was unable to land roles in L.A. Confidential or Austin Powers, and the strain and stress of the sex tape’s spread had zapped the magic that she’d thought she’d found in her supernova-esque relationship with Lee.

As Pam & Tommy depicts, the tape, which was at first stolen by Gauthier, had then been illegally copied and sold in bootleg form. But the shit really hit the fan when it was uploaded online and streamed for free—something that there was nothing Anderson and Lee could do about. So, Seth Warshavsky, founder of IEG, where the video was streaming, came to the couple with an offer. They can let the video stream for free for everyone to see, or they can sign the rights over to him and his company, allowing him to profit off it—and no one else. Not exactly the greatest of choices. But Anderson, as the show depicts, recognized that some guardrails were better than none, and the real damage had already been done. She wanted the bleeding to stop, and she eventually convinced Lee to also sign the video’s rights away.

In what ultimately turned out to be a story of greed and bad choices, Warshavsky turned out to be Pam & Tommy’s ultimate capitalist villain. In figuring out the pickle he could put Anderson and Lee in by uploading the video and streaming it for free, he put the nail in the coffin to the idea that either would ever be able to escape the salacious video.

seth warshavsky

Hulu

And Warshavsky got rich and famous—infamous, really—off the tape, which eventually led to quite the notable profile built in his online enterprise. Here’s what we know about the real-life Seth Warshavsky.

Who is Seth Warshavsky?

Warshavsky is best known as the founder of Internet Entertainment Group, a company that led the online pornography explosion of the ’90s and brought him significant media attention as the leader of one of the only portions of the burgeoning internet economy that was making any money.

A Salon.com story called Warshavsky, who was only 24 at IEG’s peak in 1997, the “public face of online porn.”

In a Wired profile—where he claimed that his site would make $20 million in the year 1997—he also outlined his content strategy in pretty basic terms. “Sex sells,” he said. “If widgets sold as good as sex, I’d be selling widgets – but, unfortunately, they don’t.”

He continued later in the piece. “You really never lose,” he said. “It’s cheaper to produce than mainstream content, and it’s easier to sell.”

As detailed in the Wired story, Warshavsky essentially set up IEG’s flagship website, Clublove, in a large converted warehouse in Seattle. Four distinct sets were built, and 14 women worked in the warehouse, and they were broadcast online in what is compared to a grainy, online peep show.

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One particular part of Pam & Tommy that rings true is when Warshavsky learns that he’s being sued by Lee and Anderson—and is notably excited. From the Hulu series depiction, we’re clearly meant to read that this guy loved attention, and seemed to hold the “any publicity is good publicity” line of thinking. In addition to Anderson and Lee’s tape, the real Warshavsky was also involved in a number of scandals, including unaired videos of actor Kelsey Grammer, along with another of Anderson with Poison rocker Bret Michaels. Nude photos of Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Tori Spelling, and Keith Richards were among those that made their way onto IEG’s sites.

Warshavsky made his name in the infamy; In 1997, he also made the front page of the Wall Street Journal in an article titled “As Other Internet Ventures Fail, Sex Sites Are Raking in Millions,” and in 1999 he made Time‘s 50 Most Important People in Technology (at #40) alongside some guys named Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.

Fred Hechinger Plays Seth Warshavsky in Pam & Tommy.

seth warshavsky

HBO

If Warshavsky in Pam & Tommy looked familiar, it’s because Fred Hechinger, the 22-year-old actor who plays him, has been on a particularly hot streak the last few years. Hechinger’s first major role was in Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade in 2018, but he really blew up in 2021 in a variety of major roles.

Some may recognize him from the bad but widely-seen movie adaptation of The Woman in the Window that debuted on Netflix, while others may have seen him in the streamer’s Fear Street trilogy. Our personal favorite, though, was his role in HBO’s satire/dark comedy/murder mystery The White Lotus, where he played Quinn, the son of Steve Zahn and Connie Britton and the brother of Sydney Sweeney.

Where is Seth Warshavsky now?

In 2002, Anderson and Lee were victorious in a $90-million suit against Warshavsky and IEG, claiming they deserved a share of the money that he was making from selling hard copies of the film (through a deal with a company called Vivid Entertainment) licensing fees from places the video already was uploaded, and the video itself.

A judge ordered that Lee and Anderson be paid $740,000 each, but, according to Rolling Stone, they never saw the money; Warshavsky’s business had already gone under, and he fled to Bangkok, Thailand. He’s believed to still reside there today.

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