How did Seth get ahold of this?
How did Seth get ahold of this? Hulu

If you've been watching the Hulu show Pam & Tommy, which dramatizes the real-life events of the 1990s that surrounded the nonconsensual release of a sex tape of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, you'll have noticed that the show has a whole bunch of ties to Seattle.

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First, there's a recurring element where Lee, Mötley Crüe's drummer, worries about the rise of Nirvana, a teeny little Seattle grunge band, and how they're eclipsing his success. And, of course, the show can't help but feature characters gabbing about what they think of this new coffee from Starbucks. But what ends up being most important to the story is the presence of Seth Warshavsky, founder of Internet Entertainment Group (IEG) and eventual face of the online porn industry that he started right here in Seattle. According to Esquire, Warshavsky built his empire in a single office close to Pike Place Market and used a warehouse at the other end of First Avenue. He was supposedly able to hit profits of almost $75 million a year—though, as people would later claim, those numbers might've been exaggerated.

In the miniseries' final episode, simply titled "Seattle," we see the origins of Warshavsky making a name for himself by capitalizing on the saga of the sordid sex tape spectacle. While most people had watched and shared the tape via a whole network of VHS bootlegs, it hadn't found its way onto an internet that was in its early days. Warshavsky changes that by letting viewers watch the video for free on the now-defunct site Clublove.com. All the attention and viewership it had gotten when thousands of people had seen it on VHS seems quaint by comparison as its presence online becomes a magnet for millions of more viewers to see it for the first time.

But this is just the beginning. Warshavsky's character, played by a greasy Fred Hechinger from the recent series White Lotus, is quickly sued by the couple but celebrates the publicity the lawsuit will get him. After the law initially sides with him, he decides that isn't enough. Warshavsky approaches Anderson and Lee with an offer to buy the rights to the tape so he can sell it on his site. As Warshavsky tells it, the upside will be that he can stop it from spreading elsewhere because it's now his property and his alone. It becomes a final central conflict for the couple, who, after initially being divided, eventually agree to sell.

The show then informs us, via a brief series of titles at the end of the episode, that Warshavsky sold the DVD rights of the tape to VIVID Entertainment for $15 million. In total, we're told "the tape is estimated to have generated $77 million." But that's only the start of what the real-life Warshavsky would do following the events dramatized in the show.

As reported by The Stranger's Alexandra Holly-Gottlieb in 1999, Warshavsky's IEG was the subject of a complaint to the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). Specifically, workers said that conditions were unsanitary, with complaints ranging from employees having to use a shared dildo to clogged showers at the facility. They also said that Clublove was not giving them the full state-mandated break time. The concerns continued: employees said there was "no safety committee, sometimes paychecks bounce, and no one gets a copy of their own contract." As said by a source at the time, Warshavsky was running "a pussy sweatshop." The founder declined to comment at the time after L&I did a surprise inspection that then led to an investigation.

A month later, in November of 1999, The Stranger reported that L&I was still working on the investigation, though it did take several actions against IEG. The department sent a letter to Mara Mehren, the Talent Director at the porn company's Capitol Hill studios, reminding them of their obligation to give paid breaks. It also reminded them they needed to pay dancers for a mandatory meeting.

In January 2000, four months after it began, the L&I investigation came to a close, with no fines issued against IEG. (The news blurb published by The Stranger read: "State Screws Sex Workers.") Inspectors did inform Warshavsky that the company had committed three violations of state code in regards to there being no safety committee, employee safety orientation, or directions to first aid supplies. He was given a month to address these problems and told that he couldn't make employees use the shared dildo until it had met safety standards. As one worker said at the time, "I can't believe they didn't get fined." It didn't seem that Warshavsky learned his lesson about treating his workers right as, several months later in September of 2000, several employees said that their checks had bounced.

This all marked the beginning of the end for Warshavsky. As staff writer Charles Mudede wrote in December of that same year, IEG went from being "one of the biggest players in Internet porn" that "had studios on Capitol Hill" and "was making tons of money" to seeing it all fall apart. As the checks bounced and local studios closed, "Warshavsky, who once graced the cover of Seattle Weekly and represented the very image of the new economy, fled to Thailand."

This flight was around when Anderson and Lee ended up successfully winning a lawsuit on appeal over copyright infringement. Reporting from the time claims the couple was not fully paid, as Warshavsky's company had already gone under and he'd fled the country as his debts grew. Where Warshavsky is now is not fully known. Many believe he's still in Thailand.

You can watch the series finale of Pam and Tommy, featuring a fictionalized Seth Warshavsky, starting Wednesday.