The mainstream media has collectively lost its mind in the past week over the “shocking” revelation that a movie producer would abuse his power over the careers of aspiring actors in order to sexually harass and assault them, then scare them into silence with the exact same set of implied threats that allowed him to commit the crimes in the first place. Since the vast majority of my readership is female, I’m sure none of you were floored by the revelation, given that this kind of shit goes on literally everywhere all the time and has since the dawn of the age of homo sapiens (and, of course, earlier). While it’s heartening to see the dark and dirty truth blip into the public consciousness, it’s likely that the furor will die down in short order and that everyone will resume the charade. Everything is cool, ladies. We caught the bad guy.
I moved to Hollywood in 1999, just after I turned 21. I had zero interest in being an actor (or having anything to do with the film and television industry); I just moved there because it was an affordable neighborhood (this was 1999) in the closest big city to San Diego, where the people I was hanging out with were such degenerates that I decided I had to jet in order to avoid jail or an overdose. I’d like to say that situation improved after the move, but I just traded in a crew of reprobate upper-middle-class bros for a city full of predatory gutterballs with more money.
One needn’t seek employment in the entertainment industry to attract the attention of unctuous perverts in LA. One of my first jobs on arrival was as a waitress at the semi-infamous Mel’s Drive-In, where James Woods propositioned Amber Tamblyn, 16 at the time, with an impromptu jaunt to Vegas with him and some other senior citizen. He must have made a serious habit of propositioning women a third of his age at Mel’s, because he did the same thing to me (though I had at least reached the age of majority; he was 52 at the time). The remainder of the transaction was as awkward as you would imagine. James Woods was — in my mind — only marginally famous, yet he felt like he was a big enough deal that teenagers ought to jump at the chance to be molested by him. Andrew Dice Clay, the epitome of a has-been at the time, had been 86ed from the establishment for groping waitresses just months earlier.
But it wasn’t just the town’s well-known actors, producers, and talent agents who considered the city of Los Angeles a smorgasbord of potential victims. At that same restaurant, I had two male coworkers who had moved to the city to become famous and were just waiting tables until the entertainment elite recognized their mediocre looks and revolting personalities as star material (the cliché is real, y’all). One was a dude from somewhere in the Northeast named Anthony who insisted on being called “London.” Most interactions I had with him consisted of him pointing at bananas and then at his own dick. (You can find this specimen in the archives of the dating show Fifth Wheel if you’re interested.) The other one, Reagan, managed to behave like a reasonable (though dorky) person at work most of the time, but once put on a Frank Sinatra song and tried to make out with me, despite my obvious lack of interest (that quickly morphed into mortified laughter once he tried to Swingers me).
Then there were the mystery men who sat in my section and, shortly before paying their bill (and just before they decided what kind of tip to leave), would ask me if I was an actress. When I replied that, no, unlike every other young woman in town waiting tables, I had no interest in acting, they would say something like, “Well, you’re gorgeous and you should be. Why don’t you give me your number and I can introduce you to some people.” The conditions attached were unspoken, but were louder than a Miami bass war.
I had to “grow up” sometime, so I left Mel’s and got a job at the corporate office of a national chain of lingerie stores headquartered in Hollywood. The office was mercifully free of men, despite the fact that the company produced clownish lingerie ostensibly designed for men’s entertainment and titillation. (I mean, I couldn’t see the draw of a red bra with underwires but no cups, so men must have been the target market.) Still, I spent at least 2% of my time at work fielding obscene phone calls.
It got so old that, while perusing online job ads at work one day, I decided to apply for a job as a receptionist at Creative Artists Agency, a fairly influential organization in the entertainment world. The interviewer was about 60 and I was still 21. He spent the entirety of the thirty years or so that I was in his office alternating between licking his lips and telling me I would look good up front and lowballing me on the job’s pay. He kept dangling the promise of becoming an assistant to one of their agents, assuring me that one day I would be a big deal Hollywood agent provided that I was up to the task of working there (and would accept poverty wages). The task was in his shorts. I still don’t know what this asshole’s job title was, or why he was selected to interview me, but I have to assume the intent was to weed out the kind of spoilsports who couldn’t handle a little sexual harassment.
All work and no play makes for a boring account of the wide world of Hollywood sexual misconduct. Through some very odd circumstances, I ended up spending a lot of time with a couple of *dudes who had been famous as teen heartthrobs in the early 90s. They were decent people (they had probably endured some sexual abuse themselves, having been child actors) despite the fact that one was a Scientologist (wasn’t everyone in LA in 1999). But their friends were unbelievable. A crew of trust-fund twentysomethings whose only connection to the entertainment industry was their parents, they were brazen and merciless in their tactics of manipulating hopeful young women into having sex with them by pretending to have connections they didn’t have and promising opportunities they had no access to (and no intention of following through on if they did).
They once took me to a club that was nigh impossible to get into at the time, Barfly, where I stood around picking at my clothing while Corey Feldman (he wasn’t there with us) made an ass of himself on the dance floor and an old fat man chased attractive young women around the room with handfuls of hundred dollar bills. Though it was an odd sight, the only reason anyone made sport of his behavior was that he made plain the (usually) unspoken but pervasive assumption that all young women in Los Angeles are for sale. (Hey, loser, get some game and quit being so extra.)
Then there’s the kid we all used to refer to affectionately as “little Will.” We found it amusing to see a 13-year-old trying to breakdance while in a K-hole. You might know him as The Gaslamp Killer, who has raped who knows how many women now that he’s all grown up and famous and has access to roofies and female fans.
Then there was ol’ “shocked and apalled” Ben Affleck, who regularly staggered his way around my neighborhood breakfast cafe, drunkenly sexually harassing the female staff at 7 AM because he could.
Then there was the *globular millionaire son of a director who had no friends whatsoever and would invite young people (male and female) to his house when the bars closed, shove piles of “free” cocaine at them, and then demand that they perform sexual entertainment as payment at the end of the night, later sending them big-screen televisions in the hopes of a repeat engagement. And the *”photographer” who actually made his living selling ecstasy at Garden of Eden and used the proceeds to lure women half his age to his apartment down the street, where he fed them drugs and bullshit until they acquiesced to his sexual demands (free headshots, anyone?).
These vignettes all derive from the outskirts — if not from outside of — the entertainment industry. You can imagine — and have learned in the past few weeks the specifics of — the heights of sexual menace inside the offices of people with actual power in Hollywood. A city brimming with young women (and men) intent on becoming famous makes a great hunting ground for manipulative sexual predators up and down the payscale.
And let me tell you, I’ve got a lot more where this comes from involving men who are about as closely connected to the entertainment industry as I am to Richard Spencer.
Harvey Weinstein isn’t an outlier. He’s an example of the entitlement of nearly all men in positions of power over women’s careers, and all men who know the threat of violence, rape, and public humiliation keep women polite in the face of harassment and quiet about what happens to us after the fact. Men like Weinstein are a dime a dozen. Every woman I know has a list as long as The Brothers Karamazov of stories of sexual harassment and assault at work, on the street, at school, at parties, at the liquor store, on the subway, at Jimmy John’s, at Home Depot, in court, at a funeral, at a wedding, in line for tickets to see Cats, while shopping for diarrhea medication, and so on ad infinitum.
I’ll dip out with a plea to everyone who can safely do so to come out with their lists in every public forum available to them. I may even recount my workplace sexual harassment stories from my teenage years in a sequel-as-prequel to this post.
*I’d include these people’s names, but I’m sure they Google themselves constantly and would instantly guess who wrote this.