Tommy Lee Embracing Cornhusker Life

You'd think he'd be good at the drums. But there was rocker Tommy Lee, struggling to keep up with 22-year-old University of Nebraska marching band veteran Ben Coleman.

You'd think he'd be good at the drums. But there was rocker Tommy Lee, struggling to keep up with 22-year-old University of Nebraska marching band veteran Ben Coleman. No, Lee hasn't left the stage to go back to school -- but he's turned the Nebraska campus on its head by filming an upcoming reality show here.

The six-episode, half-hour show, set to air on NBC next year, will focus on the former Motley Crue drummer's experiences while trying out for the band, taking classes on plant identification and chemistry, hanging out in his off-campus apartment -- and, no doubt, partying.

"Everyone wants to party with him," said 21-year-old student Burt Kilgore, who's part of Lee's horticulture class. So far Lee has turned down invitations to hit the downtown bars, Kilgore said.

Showing the much-tattooed, nose-pierced, high school dropout tearing it up with college students isn't the goal of the show, said executive producer Eddie October. "That's Tommy's former or original rock star life," October said. "The concept of the show is very much that Tommy is a fish out of water and Tommy is making the effort to fit into this collegiate experience."

Lee will have to watch himself while on campus. He agreed to abide by the student code of conduct, which bans such things as smoking in campus buildings, intentionally disrupting the peace and uninvited sexually explicit behavior. And campus Chancellor Harvey Perlman says before NBC got the green light, he was assured the show would be about the redemptive nature of higher education -- not the seamy side.

But Perlman knows there are risks when a personality like Lee is involved. After compiling a standard sex, drugs and rock'n'roll resume, he became infamous after a honeymoon sex tape surfaced in 1998 of him with then-wife Pamela Anderson. Lee also served four months behind bars after pleading no contest to kicking Anderson while she held their son. Local domestic violence and family groups have gone on record with concerns about Lee's show coming to the campus, and the university's Women's Caucus urged members to sign a petition decrying the program.

Perlman acknowledged that Lee had a checkered past, but said some were taking the filming of the show too seriously. Lee is not enrolled at the school and he will not receive actual credit for any classes.

"I think you can be a serious institution and do serious work without taking yourself too seriously," Perlman said.

But judging by accounts of students who have interacted with Lee, he is taking it seriously. He was up for marching band practice for a full week, from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., braving chilly temperatures that one day had him wearing black gloves and a white knit hat emblazoned with the red Nebraska "N."

Lee was allowed to march with the band during halftime of the Nebraska/Baylor football game last Saturday before 77,881 football fans. Lee performed admirably, drawing applause each time he was shown on the big screen bedecked in the school's band uniform.

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