"Tommy Lee Goes to College" was supposed to be "Steve Perry Goes to College." And that's not even the strangest thing about how NBC's new reality hit came to be.
First of all, the show was actually the brainchild of electronic music artist BT, best known for producing 'NSYNC's "Pop" (see "BT Earns 'King Of Dirty Pop' Title With 'NSYNC, Britney Tracks"), and the idea came to him while working on a project quite different than the fish-out-of-water series.
"When I was scoring 'Monster,' [Journey frontman] Steve Perry licensed us a Journey track and he came down to see the movie and fell in love with the scoring process. And more important than that, he started hanging out with us all the time at my studio," BT recalled.
Perry was so fascinated because he had never been formally educated in music, which spawned a thought it BT's head one afternoon.
"I stood up on the soundstage and said, 'I have the funniest idea for a reality show,' " BT said. " 'We take a rock star and we put him in college. Picture him like failing the final in music theory class on his own song and doing beer bongs with college chicks.' And everyone was dying laughing and I went on for like a half hour. And, mind you, the film we are working on is blood and guts and people crying every day."
The next day, one of the movie's producers, Brad Wyman, shared BT's idea with the Creative Artists Agency. "They called me and said, 'We can get this made and you can be a producer and do the music,' " BT recalled. "And I said, 'Well, I don't even own a television. I haven't watched TV in like five years. They're like, 'That doesn't matter. Call Steve.' "
BT called the Journey singer, who was flattered but not interested. "He was like, 'Dude, there's no way you're going to humiliate me on TV. I want to learn some of that stuff,' " BT remembered. "So I called CAA and they were like, 'Can you think of anyone else?' I said, 'Let me make a phone call.' I called Tommy and told him the idea. There was an awkward silence and then he goes, 'Dude, can I live in the chicks' dorm?' So I called CAA and said, 'I got the f---ing guy for sure.' "
BT and Lee then wrote out a treatment for the show, which their agents approved before sending them out to pitch it to the networks.
"Two career musicians, going around pitching it, I wanted to videotape that," BT said. "It was as funny as the show."
BT describes their first meeting, with NBC, as legendary. "Tommy, in the middle of the meeting, gets up on the table, drops his pants and goes, 'Look, I got a peacock like the NBC peacock,' " BT said. "He's like, 'We could do ads that instead of NBC say NBLee.' And cut to us leaving and they're like, 'Don't take this to anyone else. We'll write you a check right now.'
"We were literally walking off the NBC lot and some friends called me and they were like, 'Did you hear about this meeting where Tommy pulled his pants down?' " he continued. "I was like, 'How did you hear about that? That was 10 minutes ago.' "
Immediately, Lee began applying to schools and was eventually accepted into six. "I thought Nebraska was the funniest, just because it's so fish-out-of-water," BT said.
The rest, as they say, is history, and now BT and Lee are brainstorming ideas for season two. One thing they've contemplated is sending the Mötley Crüe drummer to police academy (see "Tommy Lee Says He Got College Nookie, Ponders Future In Police Academy").
"It's so fun," BT said. "I like to balance out my serious projects with fun ones."
As for his serious projects, BT recently scored the just-released "Stealth," for which he also produced a song with David Bowie. He's also talked with Justin Timberlake about producing a track for his next record, although BT's focusing his studio time on his own album and a side project, neither of which he wanted to reveal much about.
"I will say it's going to have a very unified direction," he said of his album. "The last albums were more eclectic. I want to make a record that I can go out to all the summer festivals in Europe and play from start to finish. It's going to be emotional in one place."
For the side project, BT hinted that it will involve collaborating with several visual artists.
"The scope of it is so much bigger [than an album]," he said. "It's a ton to organize. And it's completely outside of the realm of anything I've ever done. I don't think people will know it's me."