Friday, November 10, 2017

No Holds Barred: The Harvey Effect

by Blair Sabol

Well, it’s been 30 days, I wonder if Harvey Weinstein is still in my town (Scottsdale) detoxing from his sex addiction at our local rehab.  Locally nobody seems to care — we’ve seen them come; we’ve seen them go (actresses, politicians, athletes, actors, corporate heads) and nothing much changes.  Within 2 months they are usually back in the news having fallen off the wagon of wine, sex, or opioids.

As a woman — I am compassionate to feelings of most of the women who recently came forward, but it has become a virtual tsunami of horrible stories all blending together, and unfortunately the public becomes weary and immune to hearing of events that happened 10, or 30 years ago.  I even feel slightyl embarrassed that in all my 71 years no one ever exposed themselves, or grabbed me inappropriately.  And believe me, I have found myself in situations that could have gone that way. Like the time I met Ike Turner in his office for a story ... alone, and he locked the door.  Or a similar situation late one night when I was interviewing the head of the NYC Hells Angels Sandy Alexander and his gang at his private hole of a Lower East Side office. No one did anything to me. And both incidents were back in the “Mad Men” days when behavior like that was seen as acceptable.

The good, the bad, and the ugly ...
But life moves on for many of us with or without TMZ, and Gloria Allred and her daughter Lisa Bloom.  When that Mother/Daughter team appears, I know the “sexual circus” has come to town.  After all, sexual abuse has become Big Business.  I even felt confused for Woody Allen (of all people) who was asked to comment on Weinstein and ended up calling him “a sad, sick man.”  He warned the media to “avoid getting into a witch-hunt atmosphere.”  Ironically, his prediction has more than come true.  For better or worse.

And then there was designer Donna Karan who had to do a 180-degree reversal on her first reaction of admiration towards the Weinsteins.  Originally, she blamed many young women today for their suggestive attire.  “You know how women are dressing and what they are asking by just presenting themselves the way they do.  What are they asking for?  Trouble!  We are asking for it by presenting all this sensuality and sexuality.” I am curious as to what would have happened had Karan gone further — instead she immediately apologized since her DKNY line was instantly threatened with a major boycott.

Meanwhile, a week ago, the NY Times did a whole feature on the popularity of “Hooker Couture” and “Porn Chic” on the streets.  That all started years ago when celebutante Paris Hilton (remember her?) did her wildly acclaimed sex tape in 2004.  Then came the Kardashians and we were off and running off the rails of taste and class.  Nowadays, what young woman doesn’t post a revealing Instagram pic or text a nude bathroom pose? 

It’s the selfie generation and you need to get naked or you don’t exist.  When asked about dressing like strippers, a few of the young girls said it “empowers” them to “at last let it all hang out and be who we really are.”  They see it as a “political statement” to dress like an “erotic dominatrix.”  It’s a new world.

Nowadays, no wonder so many men are confused — will they be called “dirt bags” if they merely compliment a woman on her looks?  And on the opposite side, its been reported that many young women are becoming “bi-curious” in response to overwhelming hetero sleaze factor.  But wait for a lesbian to be named in the next sex scandal — let’s see how that “balance of power” shifts.
Meanwhile, back to men behaving badly.  In 1970 I was leading the clichéd life living in Malibu Beach with a successful Hollywood film director. Believe me, I was a witness to all of these shenanigans since the “casting couch” was (and still is) a part of Hollywood’s DNA.  Nobody “reported” demeaning stories because everyone was (as Woody Allen says) “too interested in making their own films.” It seemed the norm.

In those days, most of the women I knew (actresses, waiters, editors, assistants) WANTED to have a one night stand with Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger or any one of the Beatles.  None of them were interested in “job opportunities” — we just all wanted to “have some fun” and a few cheap tricks as memories. Some of these gals became “groupies” and they made glamorous careers out of hooking up with these movers and shakers. 
No doubt abuses happened, but they never met the light of day. They were glossed over with rides on a private jet, jewelry, maybe a car, maybe a limo ride to nowhere.  In those days, no one got a settlement for a major mansion for themselves, no one got boob jobs (not yet ...) and no one got to call Gloria Allred.  It seemed as if everyone had a good time. And so far, Jack, Warren and Mick have maintained their classy gentlemanly reputation ... that we know of!  Coincidentally, most of Bill Cosby’s sexual accusers came out of that time period I lived through — 1970 to 1978.  But here is what I remember ...

Roman Polanski was always a creep; Dustin Hoffman always had a dirty mouth; Hugh Hefner was “icky” and no woman I knew ever wanted to go to his mansion or swim in his dirty “grotto” (unless it was a career goal, you could always try to pose nude and MAYBE (a big if) become an actual Playboy Bunny ... not easy).

I remember going to a famous celebrity/charity tennis tournament featuring Cosby and Johnny Carson (another respected but rumored abuser of women). I went with a very young attractive PR pal of mine. We sat in the front row and she was suddenly “cherry picked” by a Cosby henchman to visit “The Cos” in his trailer.  They didn’t give her a reason, but we thought she should go “as a hoot and to check it out.” 

She returned 25 minutes later and relayed the stupid story of how he offered her wine (maybe that was a pill next to the glass) and some “career advice” — which she immediately said she didn’t need and didn’t understand this summons ... and left!  We both laughed about how predictably he lived up to his “womanizing” reputation. We scoffed at his thuggery and continued to watch the match. I always thought that once you went into a heavy hitter’s hotel room, trailer, or his living room, you were considered a “player.”

I think I remember Mike Tyson reporting that Muhammad Ali warned him early in his career that the biggest threat in his career had to do with women. “Watch the ladies” Ali warned. And look what happened to Tyson in a hotel room.
A lot of successful women have never played that game.  It has something to do with self-respect.  Look at Weinstein himself — who seemed to think that the uglier, fatter, and grosser a man could look, the higher his middle finger was raised to the world. As for the women, there are still many who told me they would rather scrub toilets for nothing than scrub Harvey’s back and private parts. 

My Dad warned me about being too isolated with a powerful man and not being afraid to “kick him in the balls and run with your dignity.” But in our “trickier times” it isn’t so much the money as the reality show instant fame so many people crave. 

There are numerous accounts of Russian girls who found Harvey Weinstein charming and “sexy,” giving them all the attention, telling them their script ideas were brilliant. He would deliver an Apple computer to their apartment the next day with an advance of $30,000 with a very open understanding of the sexual favors expected in return. 

Perhaps from the perspective of their background, Harvey Weinstein looked a lot more like Cary Grant, and seemed the hot ticket to fame and fortune.
I feel that there will always be these men. Until women are able to completely own themselves, these situations will continue to occur. There are men who will continue to act badly as long as they think they have a shot and can get away with it. When caught, they will go to rehab, apologize, and continue to continue.

Weinstein’s original demise, I am told, was not a sex scandal at all, but a business story. The Weinstein Company was headed for bankruptcy amidst lack of monies and all their sexual slush fund payouts.  In fact, much of Hollywood had been hitting the skids for over a year.  Yes, Netflix and Amazon are coming up strong with their original programming, but who knows how long that may go on with a few of their heads tumbling over abuse charges.  We may be in for an epidemic.

Now we are drowning in a sea of constant accusations. People say we are in a new kind of cultural “Fall of the Roman Empire.” Perhaps!
In the meantime, I feel for everyone and hope for the best – but I think I’ll sit this sludge fest out — and leave it to my comic idol Joan Rivers to have the last word after her triumphant appearance on Broadway:

“I’m thrilled to be on Broadway. The only thing that would make me happier is if ‘d slept with someone to get there.”