Imagine launching a Hollywood career and marrying one of the world’s biggest TV stars while your little sister is a real-life Walter White running a multi-million dollar drugs empire.
It sounds like the script for a movie but it’s the reality for actor Tom Arnold who watched his sibling Lori being jailed for 15 years for being one of the biggest homegrown drug bosses in US history.
Nicknamed “Scarface in a skirt”, at the height of her crime spree in the early 1990s Lori was raking in nearly $1million a week making and distributing methamphetamine – crystal meth.
The FBI branded her operation “ground zero” as she is widely credited for introducing the drug to the US.
“Like the people that created the tech world in Silicon Valley, my sister created the meth world,” explains Tom.
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“She moved into the drug world, then you move up and up and eventually you become the big cheese in that world. She became a big-time drug dealer.”
While Lori’s world was like a real- life episode of hit TV series Breaking Bad – which starred Bryan Cranston as drug-maker Walter White – it was in stark contrast to her brother’s.
Having launched a successful comedy career in LA, Tom’s celebrity status hit the big time in 1983 when he started dating Roseanne Barr, one of the world’s most famous and richest TV stars.
The couple married in 1990 and Tom was soon starring in a string of Hollywood movies including True Lies alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Now, as Lori’s wild story is revealed in Queen of Meth, a new true crime series for Discovery+, 62-year-old Tom lifts the lid on how easy it would have been to follow in his sister’s footsteps.
“When I was younger, it wasn’t the worst thing in the world to have a sister who was a drug dealer,” he confesses.
“Me and my friends partied a lot and Lori was very generous.
“I have not lived a perfect life by any means. I have been part of the problem, whatever happened with her reminds me it could have happened to me.”
Born in Ottumwa, Iowa, in 1961, Lori started taking meth at 23 and within a month was buying it in bulk, driving stashes from California to sell to pals.
Her empire quickly snowballed to a point where she bought a 170-acre ranch to build a superlab hidden in woodlands where she could make huge batches of the addictive drug to transport across five states.
Within years she had amassed more than $10million in assets, owned a fleet of sports cars, 14 homes, a bar and dozens of race horses.
Tom was no stranger to the lure of drugs, having had a cocaine addiction in his 20s that led to several arrests.
But he says it was only his dream of a showbiz career that stopped him from following his sister down a dark path.
“I was never going to be like Lori,” he says. “I used drugs and I drank but knew there was something else out there.
“Lori didn’t have the dream I had, which was to be an entertainer. That was the difference between Lori and I.
“I left town because the job I wanted to do was in Hollywood.”
That’s when Tom met Roseanne and they quickly became a power couple within the industry, writing and starring in the hit sitcom named after his wife.
But while their stars were on the rise, the police were closing in on Lori’s meth empire. It came crashing down in 1991 after agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency had spent months secretly monitoring her operation.
They initially thought her late husband Floyd Stockdall, leader of biker gang the Grim Reapers, was the kingpin.
But quickly realised the mum of one was the brains of the operation and Floyd was just the muscle.Lori’s entire gang were captured in one night of arrests and Tom believes her case caught the public’s attention because of his fame.
“My biggest fear was I was bringing more attention to my sister when she was arrested, that maybe they were going to make a bigger deal and punish her more,” he says.
“I was secure about the way I was living my life at that time not to be concerned about myself.
“I didn’t want her to go to prison for the rest of her life.”
Roseanne did not turn her back on Lori either and following her arrest she turned up at court in a limo with $400,000 in cash for bail money, which was rejected by the judge for fear the drug baroness was a flight risk.
“Roseanne wasn’t a fan of Lori’s empire but she liked my sister because she was very tough, I think Roseanne appreciated that,” adds Tom.
“I’m grateful she didn’t give me more flak – some partners would have been like, ‘I don’t want to do any of this’.
“But I think because I’d got sober and was leading a different life, it helped that I’d got my s**t together.
“I think Roseanne saw there was two sides to this story. There was my side where you can get it together and lead a nice life, or it ends in prison, death or insanity, that was my sister’s side.”
Lori pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 15 years and released after 10, only to fall back into drug dealing and was jailed once again in 2001.
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Since her second release in 2008 Lori has got her life together and now works as a forklift truck driver in a factory.
The three-part Discovery+ series follows her as she returns to the scene of her crimes in Iowa and meets some of her old friends and employees as they dish the dirt on their life of crime.
And Tom admits this won’t be the last time his family’s dirty laundry is aired in public as they are planning a movie of Lori’s rise and fall.
So who would he like to see take on the role of him and his sister?
“It’s too bad I can’t get a job playing myself,” he laughs. “I think if it’s done right then a lot of actors and actresses will be interested in it.
“My sister has a list of who she’d like to play her. I think Margot Robbie would be great to play my sister and then Leonardo DiCaprio to play me.
“It would be a great role. You saw what Charlize Theron did with Monster, a good actor and actress could have really good fun with our story.”