After 30 years on the prowl in the scary Hollywood vicinity, Harvey Weinstein has been trapped and shot down for his multiple attacks. One of the bad ones is gone. What’s left is much bigger : it is the frame of our society, the reign of alpha predators, a whole pack that’s been acting cruelly but on the promise of a better life, in a jungle that fosters the “VIP” culture no matter how many principles you have to give up on the way.
This mixed culture of freedom and extreme conformism somehow reflects Aldous Husley’s dystopian novel Brave New World, written in 1931, where citizens are numbed by sex and consumption, especially of a happyness drug. Their behavioural conditioning is efficient because it’s almost painless. Here and now, between Sunset Boulevard and the Hollywood Hills, the promise of celebrity and money is the most powerful weapon to spread silence and obedience.
You pronounce the words “let’s talk of a Netflix show”, or “I can get you a meeting with Mr. Blabla at Paramount”, and you get most people on their knees. They will do anything. And sometimes it’s understandable : most of the young people who are in Hollywood to make it (sometimes refered to as “wannabes”) are alone and they left everything behind. To still feel free or “cool”, marijuana has been fully legalized, and a good amount of them are just getting high, waiting for their turn…
In this landscape, Weinstein was not a “wannabe”. He was one of the “somebodies”, a member of the VIP caste, an “Alpha-Plus” in Husley’s fictional world. But he didn’t have Brad Pitt’s appearance. Appearance is everything, thus the plastic surgery industry that goes hand in hand with entertainment. Weinstein was also probably enjoying making others feel inferior. So he would use his power, which means abuse the person with less power, to have sex. In Hollywood, this can happen to anyone, male or female, lured by fame. Boys and girls are targetted, manipulated, and often destroyed by it. There are enough known cases (Weinstein, Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby, etc.) to know that there are other cases, unsolved or simply hidden.
Once, I spoke to a young and pretty blond boy. He told me he was raped when he was 14 by a music producer. And then, he said : “Don’t write anything, I’ve tried already to say it but no one cares, and you’ll be in trouble, they will have you killed”.
I would have laughed if I didn’t know this is still the Wild West and people have loaded guns.
But you don’t really have to go that far. Even when people know, they ignore it, or they tend to forget, or simply shrug their shoulders. In 2014, a documentary rightfully called ‘An Open Secret‘ was released, showing the 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 world 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 is known to date boys in their 20’s, if not younger. He split up with his 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’, Michael Egan tells his story : he accuses Singer of drugging and raping him when he was an aspiring actor. Another man – remaining anonymous – filed a lawsuit in 2014 against Singer and his producer Gardy Goddard, for sexual assault. Both accusations ended up being withdrawn.
The film tackles the whole system by also focusing on 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. And it’s probably harder to speak out as a man, because a man is not supposed to be a victim, especially at coming of age.
Whether they’re male or female, the victims hit the wall of solidarity and complicity between people in power in Hollywood. In the first place, a good number of them chose that path in order to be in the position of being able to have sex with beautiful people. This is literally what the founder of a local art cinema on Fairfax Avenue, in Los Angeles, said, before founding himself in a sexual harassment scandal that led to the closing down of Cinefamily, in the summer of 2017.
Maybe that’s a sign of some immanent justice. But justice through the justice system is really rare in these cases. Most of the individuals accused of sexual assault and rape in the industry are free and still working. Of course, the problem of getting evidence is more difficult. But even in the case of a guilty plea, people can escape. Polanski is rather 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, is still walking free…
(Update July 2019: Weinstein will face a trial on criminal charges starting September 9, 2019)