After 30 years of being on the prowl in the scary Hollywood vicinity, Harvey Weinstein has been trapped and shot down for his multiple attacks. No more Weinstein, at least for a while. The “pig” is gone. What’s left is the reign of alpha predators in a jungle that fosters the “VIP” culture. Weinstein was only one of them, a VIP so very important that he could use and abuse its power to anyone willing to recognize it ; anyone, male or female lured by fame and money, can be targetted, manipulated, and often destroyed by it.
A number of names resurface when you talk about sexual abuse in Hollywood. Polanski of course, who fled to France, Weinstein now, who shares similarities in his family story with the latter, several others in between, from Bill Cosby to X-Men director Bryan Singer… It’s always about : who’s going to be next ? Not a matter of if but when. The industry knows who abuse, but keeps it secret because of its fascination for power. It takes a rebellious outsider like Courtney Love to warn “young girls moving to Hollywood” about Harvey Weinstein, 12 years ago. “If Harvey Weinstein invites you to a party at the Four Seasons, don’t go”, she said to a red carpet reporter.
That’s unheard of. Names at the top of the pyramid, of billionaires and millionaires, are de facto protected in a society that made such a thing as the red carpet concept ; a special place to walk for the rich, the powerful, the famous. The anonymous crowd is supposed to stay away, but the red carpet people only exist if the crowd is there, celebrating its inferiority. People without a name vs people with a name. When some ‘happy few’ enter the second category, it’s pretty common that they’ll use their name for whatever privilege, getting a restaurant table, making a fine disappear or obtaining sexual favors. They’re smart enough to use their influence on lower socioeconomic status persons. And women, conveniently, often have a lower status. But it’s not only them.
In 2009-2010, I was collecting some testimonies, from young boys mostly, but they didn’t want me to publish their story. One told me I should stop investigating if I cared about my life. I did stop, because I felt how little support I had already gotten from my employers in the Polanski’s case. Plus, there is this general feeling that nobody really cares. But then, in 2014, a documentary rightfully called ‘An Open Secret‘ was released, describing the same things I’ve heard.
“I can tell you that the number one problem in Hollywood was and is, and always will be, pedophilia”, says a man that went through this jungle as a younger boy. “There was a circle of older men, they all had either their own power or connections to great power, that surrounded themselves around this group of kids (…) I was surrounded by them, they were everywhere like vultures”.
The documentary, directed by Amy Berg, who also worked on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, focuses on the multimedia company Digital Entertainment Network (DEN). Executives and investors of this dot.com firm found themselves caught in different sex scandals that eventually doomed the company’s existence, but not theirs. A big investor was Hollywood superpowerful mogul David Geffen, now 74 years old, who used to hang out at DEN’s parties. Geffen dates boys in their 20s, if not younger. He split up with former 28 year-old boyfriend in 2012 and later had a restraining order against a 20 year-old, according to the tabloid press ; the “good press” doesn’t seriously dig into the entertainment magnate’s power, as the latest Guardian story about his luxurious holidays on his megayacht along the Mediterranean coast shows.
The main reason not to bother David Geffen is that he’s giving millions of dollars to the most powerful and prestigious institutions of his city, Los Angeles: UCLA, the MOCA museum, the LACMA museum… He even tried to buy the Los Angeles Times several years ago, inviting journalists to his home and befriending them, according to the New York Times.
A rare exception to the silence surrounding him came from BuzzFeed, in an article that decrypted the crazy story between DEN’s founder and chairman, Marc Collins-Rector, now registered sex offender, and Geffen. Amy Berg’s documentary focuses on Collins-Rector, making him the center of a sexual abuse ring in Hollywood. She gives a voice to several men who said they were victims of Collins-Rector and his friends, who threw lavish parties filled with drugs, alcohol and naked pool sessions.
In that circle was Bryan Singer, producer and director of the ongoing series of ‘X-Men’, and former investor of the DEN. In ‘An Open Secret’, we hear Michael Egan’s story, who accused Singer, in 2014, of drugging and raping him when he was an aspiring aspor. The same year, another man – remaining anonymous – filed a lawsuit against Singer and his producer Gardy Goddard, for sexual assault. Both accusations ended up being withdrawn.
The film tackles the whole system by also citing Bob Villard, the agent of young Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire who was charged with transportation of child pornography, the talent manager Marty Weiss and a man involved with the Screen Actors Guild’s young performers committee. We also hear Todd Bridges, who played Willis in the globally known TV series “Diff’rent strokes” and claimed he was abused by his publicist at 11.
“A kid that wants to speak out and say what happened to them, beyond their family, would truly have to give up their carreer”, says a mother of child actors interviewed in the documentary. It’s harder to speak out as a man, because a man is not supposed to be a victim, especially a coming-of-age man.
Whether they’re male or female, abused victims hit the wall of solidarity and complicity of people in power in Hollywood. Because in the first place, a good number of people chose that path in order to be in that position of being able to have sex with pretty people. On a smaller more local scale, this is what revealed a sexual harassment scandal this summer at the Cinefamily, an arty indie theater in West Hollywood frequented by Snoop Dogg, Flying Lotus and the like. The founder apparently said once that he started the arthouse to get laid.
On the other side, there is, more than anywhere, a desperate hunger for celebrity that puts young people in a position of being ready to do anything to succeed. The movie/TV industry is not a place where saying ‘no’ is a great asset, as I was told. Nor is it an industry where saying the truth is valued. It’s really all about acting and pleasing every one.
And in order to please people, you don’t put them in jail. Most of the people accused of sexual assault and rape in the industry are free, and still working. Polanski is comfortably on the run, making movies ; Bill Cosby was lucky enough to have a mistrial declared last June, Bryan Singer made his victims drop their case, Collins-Rector is supposedly living a reclusive life in an apartment in Antwerp, still hoping to get rich, and Weinstein, who resigned from his company, seems to be free as a bird… Not to mention that the story that exposed him was written by the son of Woody Allen, a celebrated director whose adopted daughter accused him of molestation when she was seven years old.