The Girlfriend' Who Never Was
Lou Pearlman’s most frequent jail visitor reveals details of her relationship with the onetime impresario. Lately, she’s had a change of heart about him.
Breaking up is hard to do. Ask Tammie Hilton, “girlfriend” of former boy band mogul Lou Pearlman.
Hilton, 37, of Orlando, wants to get on with her life, including possibly writing a book about Pearlman, who she often visited while he was being held in the Orange County Jail. Recently, the ex-impresario began serving a 25-year federal prison term in Atlanta for bilking investors and several banks out of at least $300 million. In mid-August, Hilton was working out details to visit Pearlman, 54, in prison for a face-to-face that she says would be their last.
“I’ve been struggling with this for the last month. He can’t be under the misconception that for the next 25 years I’m going to be sitting here waiting for him,” says Hilton, speaking for the first time about her nine-year relationship with the onetime manager of such boy band phenoms as the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC.
They were never an item, she explains, but she was, nonetheless, identified in some news reports as Pearlman’s girlfriend. “We just started hanging out and, next thing you know, he’s telling everybody I’m his girlfriend.”
Pearlman’s former executive assistant, Amanda “Mandy” Newland, vouches that Hilton’s account is accurate. “Tammie is an absolute straight shooter. Tammie and Lou were friends, 100 percent,” says Newland, who worked for Pearlman for 12 years and is a close friend of Hilton.
Hilton, a registered nurse, met Pearlman in 1999 after he had an operation to treat a kidney ailment. After Pearlman’s hospital release, Hilton became his home nurse. She tended to Pearlman over the following four months, working shifts that ranged from 12 hours to round-the-clock at his Windermere mansion.
On the many subsequent occasions she spent time with Pearlman, Hilton says she never observed him make sexual advances on any boy band wannabes. A November 2007 Vanity Fair article strongly suggested that Pearlman preyed on some of the aspiring male singers who came to him hoping to be discovered. But Hilton dismisses the magazine story, saying she felt comfortable with Pearlman being around her young son, now 19.
If Pearlman and Hilton weren’t exactly a couple, they certainly were very good friends. Hilton says she spoke with Pearlman several times a week during the five months he was hiding out overseas from federal
authorities. (He was apprehended in June 2007 in Bali, Indonesia, and returned to Florida to stand trial on myriad fraud charges.) She was his most frequent visitor while he was being held in the Orange County Jail. Hilton also deposited hundreds of dollars into Pearlman’s jail account, funding the hefty inmate’s junk-food habit.
“When they brought him back to the Orange County Jail, he needed a friend,” Hilton says.
Hilton left out one important tidbit of information in her conversations with Pearlman: She’s been engaged the last five years. “Her relationship with him was benign,” says her fiancé, Keith Wilson, 39, owner of a motorcycle custom paint and body shop in Houston.
Wilson is no fan of Pearlman. “He’s a crook and he’s always going to be a crook,” he says.
Hilton has belatedly come to the same conclusion. That’s why the relationship must end. “Some of the things [Pearlman] told me don’t match up with what’s come out,” Hilton says. “Because of the things he did and said, I can’t keep doing it.”