Comedian tom Arnold and his sister Lori Arnold talk about their troubled history – including Lori’s reign as the “drug queen” who helped kick-start the meth epidemic in the Midwest. The siblings’ story is explored in the new Discovery+ docu-series Queen of Meth.
According to Tom Arnold, his sister “created the meth world.”
‘Breaking Bad’: DEA was ‘heavily involved’ in getting meth production right, says scientific adviser
Both Tom and his younger sister grew up in the 1960s in the working-class town of Ottumwa, Iowa. Their parents separated when they were young, and their mother left them with their father, who raised them. But when they were teenagers, their mother, who was a “wild child,” got back into the game, and Lori started down a path that would eventually end in a DEA arrest and a long prison sentence.
“Lori was really kind of a pioneer,” explains retired DEA agent Art Vogel in the series, which premieres May 7.
“Like the people who created the tech world in Silicon Valley, my sister created the meth world,” Tom says of his sister’s role in fueling a drug epidemic that would eventually devastate Iowa and surrounding states.
Down the road, this female Walter White raked in millions, first by importing meth from California, then by manufacturing it herself.
“We ordered P2P that came in 55-gallon drums from Albuquerque,” she recalls. “And that’s what makes the real methamphetamine. That’s the Breaking Bad methamphetamine.”
And Lori had plenty of willing buyers for her product, especially in economically depressed Ottumwa. At one point, she was earning $200,000 or more every week and owned a popular bar, a ranch, a bright red Jaguar and several racehorses.
The “Roseanne” actor and his sister had a difficult childhood
Meet one of America’s most notorious drug queens.
Born Lori Arnold, she made her name in the drug trade nearly 30 years ago, but she’ll always be remembered as the #QueenofMeth. Watch exclusively on #discoveryplus on May 7. pic.twitter.com/f1vhtJCMCw
– discovery+ (@discoveryplus) May 4, 2021
While Lori was building her drug empire, her older brother Tom was building a successful career as a comedian. Stand-up performances led to a meeting with Roseanne Barr, who would soon become a major star on the sitcom Roseanne. Roseanne hired Tom as a writer for her sitcom; he also appeared in several episodes as the character Arnie Thomas. The two married in 1990 and divorced in 1994.
In Queen of Meth, both Tom and Lori, as well as her brother Scott, talk about their difficult childhood and relationship with their mother, who they say thought nothing of sharing drugs and alcohol with her children.
“I was a real alcoholic at a young age,” Tom explains. But that was nothing compared to what his sister experienced.
Lori married – at her mother’s urging – at age 14. Her husband was 23. Today, she acknowledges the relationship was inappropriate and abusive, but says she found it normal at the time.
“Queen of meth” Lori Arnold went to prison in 1991
At some point, authorities got wind of Lori’s drug empire. Federal agents got wise to her, and her arrest made headlines, in part because of her connection to Tom and his then-wife Roseanne.
“I think the feds did it because they wanted a big bust, and I was Tom Arnold’s sister,” she says.
In 1991, she was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
“I have a lot of regrets,” she says. “The title Queen of Meth is nothing to be proud of.”
Queen of Meth will stream on discovery+ beginning May 7.