‘Queen of Meth’: Tom Arnold and His Sister Lori Arnold Confront Their Past In New discovery+ Series
Comedian Tom Arnold and his sister Lori Arnold are opening up about their troubled past — including Lori’s reign as a drug “queenpin” who helped kickstart the meth epidemic in the Midwest. The siblings’ story is explored in the new discovery+ docuseries Queen of Meth.
Tom Arnold says his sister ‘created the meth world’
Tom and his younger sister grew up in the 1960s in the working-class town of Ottumwa, Iowa. Their parents split up when they were kids, with their mother leaving them to be raised by their father. But in their teens, their “wild child” mom reentered the picture, and Lori began heading down a path that would eventually end in a DEA bust and a lengthy prison sentence.
“Lori was really kind of a pioneer,” retired DEA agent Art Vogel explains 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 sibling’s role in fueling a drug epidemic that would eventually devastate Iowa and surrounding states.
Along the way, this female Walter White raked in millions, first by importing meth from California, then by manufacturing it herself.
“We would order P2P, which came in 55-gallon drums from Albuquerque,” she recalls. “And that makes the real methamphetamine. That is the Breaking Bad methamphetamine.”
Lori had plenty of willing buyers for her product, especially in economically depressed Ottumwa. At one point she was making $200,000 or more every week and owned a popular bar, a ranch, bright red Jaguar, and multiple racehorses.
The ‘Roseanne’ actor and his sister had a challenging childhood
While Lori was building her drug empire, her older brother Tom was building a successful career as a comedian. Stand-up gigs led to a meeting with Roseanne Barr, who would soon become a huge star in the sitcom Roseanne. Roseanne hired Tom as a writer on her sitcom; he’d also appear in multiple episodes as the character Arnie Thomas. The two married in 1990 and divorced in 1994.
In Queen of Meth, both Tom and Lori, along with their brother Scott, discuss their difficult childhood and relationship with their mother, who they say thought nothing of sharing drugs and alcohol with her kids.
“I was a full-on alcoholic very young,” Tom explains. But that was nothing compared to what his sister experienced.
Lori married — at her mother’s insistence — at age 14. Her husband was 23. Now, she recognizes the relationship as inappropriate and abusive, but she says at the time she felt it was normal.
‘Queen of Meth’ Lori Arnold went to prison in 1991
Eventually, authorities got wind of Lori’s drug empire. Federal agents closed in, and her arrest made headlines, in part because of her connection to Tom and his then-wife Roseanne.
“I think the feds were doing it because the feds 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 Queen of Meth title, it’s not something to be proud of.”
Queen of Meth is streaming on discovery+ beginning May 7.
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