Dis­graced mogul We­in­stein ‘propo­si­tioned Beck­in­sale, 17, in his bathrobe’

We­in­stein’s dirty se­cret was safe with the me­dia for far too long

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - JACK MALVERN THE TIMES, AFP

Har­vey We­in­stein was fac­ing crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions on both sides of the At­lantic yes­ter­day as Kate Beck­in­sale be­came the lat­est ac­tress to ac­cuse the pro­ducer of un­wanted sex­ual ad­vances when she was 17.

The Bri­tish ac­tress’s al­le­ga­tion arose as the Metropoli­tan Po­lice con­firmed they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing a claim of sex­ual as­sault by the dis­graced film pro­ducer in Lon­don in the 1980s. There is no ev­i­dence that the in­ci­dents are re­lated. In the US, New York po­lice said that they had opened an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into We­in­stein, 65, re­lat­ing to an al­le­ga­tion of sex­ual as­sault from 2004 and would con­duct a re­view to de­ter­mine if there were ad­di­tional com­plaints.

Emma Thomp­son, 58, said that in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual be­hav­iour by film ex­ec­u­tives was “en­demic to the sys­tem” in Hol­ly­wood.

Jane Fonda, 79, told the BBC she heard of the ac­cu­sa­tions against We­in­stein a year ago — ad­mit­ting she “should’ve been braver” in voic­ing the claims.

The two-time Academy Award win­ning ac­tress added she did not pub­licly speak out to pro­tect his ac­cusers’ pri­vacy.

Beck­in­sale, 44, ap­peared in The Avi­a­tor in 2004, for which We­in­stein was an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer. She wrote a lengthy post on her In­sta­gram feed next to an im­age of her­self as a 17-year-old as­pir­ing ac­tress. She said that she felt that her ca­reer had been harmed by her re­fusal to work with the pro­ducer “many times”.

“I was called to meet Har­vey We­in­stein at the Savoy Ho­tel when I was 17,” she wrote.

“I as­sumed it would be in a con­fer­ence room which was very com­mon. When I ar­rived, re­cep­tion told me to go to his room. He opened the door in his bathrobe.

“I was in­cred­i­bly naive and young and it did not cross my mind that this older, unattrac­tive man would ex­pect me to have any sex­ual in­ter­est in him. Af­ter de­clin­ing al­co­hol and an­nounc­ing that I had school in the morn­ing I left, un­easy but un­scathed.”

She wrote that when she met him sev­eral years later he asked her if he had “tried any­thing with me” dur­ing that first meet­ing. “I re­alised he couldn’t re­mem­ber if he had as­saulted me or not. I had what I thought were bound­aries — I said no to him pro­fes­sion­ally many times over the years — some of which ended up with him scream­ing at me call­ing me a c ... and mak­ing threats, some of which made him laugh­ingly tell peo­ple, ‘Oh, Kate lives to say no to me’.”

Beck­in­sale said that she re­ceived no sup­port from within the in­dus­try. “It speaks to the sta­tus quo in this busi­ness that I was aware that stand­ing up for my­self and say­ing no to things, while it did al­low me to feel un­com­pro­mised in my­self, un­doubt­edly harmed my ca­reer and was never some­thing I felt sup­ported by any­one other than my fam­ily.”

She ap­plauded women who had come for­ward, in­clud­ing the ac­tresses Asia Ar­gento, Rosanna Ar­quette, Jes­sica Barth, Ro­mola Garai, Am­bra Bat­ti­lana Gu­tier­rez, Emma de Caunes, Cara Delev­ingne, Lu­cia Evans, Heather Gra­ham, Ju­dith Go­dreche, An­gelina Jolie, Ash­ley Judd, Kather­ine Ken­dall, Gwyneth Pal­trow, Tomi-Ann Roberts, Lea Sey­doux and Mira Sorvino.

There have also been al­lega- tions by Lau­ren Si­van, a TV re­porter, and for­mer em­ploy­ees Lau­ren O’Con­nor, Laura Mad­den and Emily Nestor.

Beck­in­sale said she hoped that the pub­lic sham­ing of We­in­stein, who was sacked from his film com­pany this week, would force change in an in­dus­try where such be­hav­iour was con­sid­ered nor­mal.

“We can from this cre­ate a new paradigm where pro­duc­ers, man­agers, ex­ec­u­tives and as­sis­tants and ev­ery­one who has in the past shrugged and said, ‘Well, that’s just Har­vey/ Mr X/ insert name here’ will re­alise that we in num­bers can ef­fect real change.”

A spokes­woman for Beck­in­sale de­clined to com­ment on whether the ac­tress had made a com­plaint to po­lice. The al­le­ga­tion of sex­ual as­sault in the 1980s was first made to Mersey­side po­lice on Wed­nes­day. Beck­in­sale did not turn 17 un­til 1990.

The Met said: “The Metropoli­tan Po­lice Ser­vice was passed an al­le­ga­tion of sex­ual as­sault by Mersey­side Po­lice on Wed­nes­day, 11 Oc­to­ber. The al­le­ga­tion will be as­sessed by of­fi­cers from the Child Abuse and Sex­ual Of­fences Com­mand.”

Thomp­son, who ap­peared in the We­in­stein film Burnt, said that there were many peo­ple in the film in­dus­try who were guilty of sex­ual ha­rass­ment. “I didn’t know about th­ese things but they don’t sur­prise me at all and they’re en­demic to the sys­tem any­way,” she told the BBC. “What I find ex­tra­or­di­nary is that this man is at the top of a very par­tic­u­lar ice­berg. I don’t think you can de­scribe him as a ‘sex addict’. He’s a preda­tor. That’s dif­fer­ent. But what he’s, as it were, at the top of the lad­der of is a sys­tem of ha­rass­ment and be­lit­tling and bul­ly­ing and in­ter­fer­ence and what my mother would have re­ferred to in the olden days as ‘pes­ter­ing’.”

The New York Times last week broke the story of Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer Har­vey We­in­stein’s long record of sex­ual ha­rass­ment. Ac­tresses in­clud­ing Rose Mc­Gowan and Ash­ley Judd came for­ward to de­tail We­in­stein’s depre­da­tions, and so did for­mer em­ploy­ees of the man who founded one of the most im­por­tant in­de­pen­dent film com­pa­nies of the past 30 years, Mi­ra­max. The de­tails were so jar­ring and the trail of abuse so long that it was im­pos­si­ble to read the story and not come away won­der­ing: how did no one know what he was do­ing?

But, of course, peo­ple knew about We­in­stein. Like The New York Times, for in­stance. Sharon Wax­man, a for­mer re­porter at the Times, writes in The Wrap how she had the story on We­in­stein in 2004 — and then he bul­lied the Times into drop­ping it. Matt Da­mon and Russell Crowe even called her di­rectly to get her to back off the story. And Mi­ra­max was a ma­jor ad­ver­tiser. Her edi­tor at the Times, Jonathan Land­man, asked her why it mat­tered. Af­ter all, he told Wax­man, “he’s not a pub­licly elected of­fi­cial”.

Man­hat­tan’s district at­tor­ney knew, too. In 2015, We­in­stein’s lawyer do­nated $US10,000 to the cam­paign of Man­hat­tan district at­tor­ney Cyrus Vance Jr af­ter he de­clined to file sex­ual as­sault charges against the pro­ducer.

Given the num­ber of sto­ries that have cir­cu­lated for so long, We­in­stein must have spread mil­lions around New York, Los An­ge­les, and Europe to pay off lawyers and buy si­lence, in­clud­ing the si­lence of his vic­tims.

But he had some­thing else go­ing for him, too. He knew his vic­tims would be re­luc­tant to go pub­lic be­cause it might sug­gest that some of their suc­cess, their fame even, was a func­tion of their in­abil­ity to pro­tect them­selves from be­ing hu­mil­i­ated by a man who set the bar for hu­mil­i­at­ing oth­ers at the pre­cise level of his self-loathing.

Hol­ly­wood is full of con­nois­seurs like We­in­stein, men whose erotic imag­i­na­tions are fu­elled pri­mar­ily by hu­mil­i­a­tion, who glut their sen­si­bil­i­ties with the most ex­quis­ite re­fine­ments of shame. A jour­nal­ist once told me about vis­it­ing an­other very fa­mous Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer — you’d know the name — who ex­hib­ited for my friend his col­lec­tion of pho­to­graphs of fa­mous ac­tresses — you’d know their names, too — per­form­ing sex­ual acts for his pri­vate view­ing. As with We­in­stein, this man’s chief thrill was hu­mil­i­a­tion, and the more fa­mous the tar­get the more roundly it was savoured: Even her, a big star — th­ese peo­ple will do any­thing to land a role; they’re so aw­ful, they’ll even do it for me.

One of the re­frains you hear to­day from me­dia ex­perts and jour­nal­ists is that they had known about We­in­stein’s trans­gres­sions for a long time. The prob­lem, they say, was that no one was able to nail down the story.

Non­sense. Ev­ery­one had it, not just Wax­man. Sure, re­porters hadn’t been able to get any stars to go on the record. But that means the story jour­nal­ists were pur­su­ing wasn’t re­ally about We­in­stein’s sex­ual depre­da­tions. It means that what they wanted was a story about ac­tresses, ju­nior ex­ec­u­tives or as­sis­tants who had been hu­mil­i­ated, maybe raped, and chose to re­main quiet in ex­change for money and/or a shot at fame.

Of course, no one was go­ing to get that on the record — very few jour­nal­ists would even want to pub­lish a story like that. But jour­nal­ists al­ways had the ac­tual story of how a Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer hu­mil­i­ated and sex­u­ally as­saulted women. How? Be­cause he vic­timised jour­nal­ists.

Fox News re­porter Lau­ren Si­van told Huff­in­g­ton Post that a decade ago, We­in­stein mas­tur­bated in front of her. She says she didn’t say any­thing at the time, when she was an an­chor on a cable show, be­cause she was “fear­ful of the power that We­in­stein wielded in the me­dia”. She was right and her fear was un­der­stand­able.

Writ­ing in New York magazine, Re­becca Trais­ter re­mem­bers the time when she asked We­in­stein an in­ter­view ques­tion at a book party. He screamed at her, spit in her face, called her a “c..t”, then put her boyfriend in a head­lock and dragged him to the street. Trais­ter said noth­ing at the time be­cause she fig­ured she had lit­tle chance against “that kind of force”.

I don’t blame her or Si­van for not say­ing any­thing, never mind re­port­ing the story. We­in­stein is vi­o­lent, vin­dic­tive and liti­gious, as well as sex­u­ally abu­sive — facts the en­ter­tain­ment and po­lit­i­cal me­dia knew for years. No one wanted to pub­lish that story. But that’s not the same thing as “not be­ing able to nail it down”. “Nail­ing it down” would have amounted to noth­ing more than print­ing a col­lec­tion of facts un­der a byline.

The real is­sue, as Trais­ter notes, was that “there were so many jour­nal­ists on his pay­roll, work­ing as con­sul­tants on movie projects, or as screen­writ­ers, or for his magazine”. Trais­ter is re­fer­ring to Talk, the magazine We­in­stein started at Mi­ra­max with Tina Brown. The catch­word was “syn­ergy”: magazine ar­ti­cles turned into books, turned into movies, a sup­ply chain of en­ter­tain­ment and in­for­ma­tion that was go­ing to put th­ese me­dia ti­tans in the mid­dle of ev­ery­thing and make them all richer.

Trais­ter and I worked at Talk to­gether in the late 1990s. There were lots of tal­ented jour­nal­ists but it was still a mess. Out­side of “syn­ergy”, there was no idea driv­ing the magazine, and Tina’s search for a vi­sion was ex­pen­sive. She spent lav­ishly on writ­ers, art di­rec­tors, pho­tog­ra­phers and par­ties. Har­vey got an­gry. Ev­ery time Tina went down­town to meet him he screamed at her the whole time. He hu­mil­i­ated her.

At least this was the story that went around the of­fice ev­ery time she went down there, a story cir­cu­lat­ing through, and cir­cu­lated by, sev­eral dozen jour­nal­ists.

Or to put it an­other way: more than 20 peo­ple in one magazine of­fice alone all had the story about We­in­stein’s “mis­treat­ment” of women. So why didn’t any­one write it? Not to take any­thing away from Jodi Kan­tor’s ex­cel­lent New York Times piece, but the re­al­ity is that ev­ery­one had the story.

The rea­son no one wrote it is not be­cause the press wanted to get We­in­stein but couldn’t prove the story. No, it’s be­cause the press was pro­tect­ing We­in­stein.

Why wouldn’t they? He made ter­rific movies and he was a big mover in Demo­cratic Party pol­i­tics, rais­ing mil­lions for lo­cal and na­tional cam­paigns, in­clud­ing the Clin­tons. (Hil­lary was on the cover of Talk’s first is­sue.)

John Kennedy Jr tried to blend pol­i­tics and en­ter­tain­ment with the magazine he founded, Ge­orge. His ba­sic in­sight was cor­rect, but he mis­un­der­stood some­thing cru­cial. And John John mis­un­der­stood it be­cause he was, by all ac­counts, a good man.

You know the old joke about Wash­ing­ton: that it’s Hol­ly­wood for ugly peo­ple. Kennedy thought this was un­fair to Wash­ing­ton and that peo­ple in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal had the ca­pac­ity for glam­our, too.

But it turns out that the joke works in the op­po­site di­rec­tion: Hol­ly­wood is for ugly peo­ple, too. That was We­in­stein’s es­sen­tial in­sight, and how he man­aged to com­bine the worlds of pol­i­tics, en­ter­tain­ment and me­dia. They’re all re­pul­sive — and I know they’re dis­gust­ing or else they wouldn’t be court­ing, of all peo­ple, me.

Thus his fortress was quar­ried from the mis­shapen ma­te­rial of hu­man van­ity, am­bi­tion and greed. Writ­ers and jour­nal­ists — the in­tel­lec­tu­als, in his mind — were nearly as con­temptible as ac­tors. They wouldn’t dream of cross­ing a guy who could turn them into cul­ture he­roes with a phone call. Hey, I just op­tioned your novel and I al­ready know who’s go­ing to make the movie. And oh yeah, please con­firm that you don’t, like I think I may have heard, have a re­porter look­ing into a story about me.

A friend re­minds me that there was a pe­riod when Mi­ra­max bought the rights to ev­ery big story pub­lished in mag­a­zines through­out the city. Why mess with We­in­stein when that big new fe­male star you’re try­ing to wran­gle for the June cover is head­lin­ing a Mi­ra­max re­lease? Do you think that glossy magazine edi­tor who threw the swanki­est Os­car party in Hol­ly­wood was try­ing to “nail down” the We­in­stein story? Right, just like the hun­dreds of jour­nal­ists who were fer­ried across the river for the big party at the Statue of Lib­erty to cel­e­brate the pre­miere of Talk — they were all there sip­ping cham­pagne and sniff­ing coke with mod­els to “nail down” the story about how their host was a rapist.

That’s why the story about We­in­stein fi­nally broke now. It’s be­cause the me­dia in­dus­try that once pro­tected him has col­lapsed. The mag­a­zines that used to pub­lish the sto­ries Mi­ra­max op­tioned can’t af­ford to pay for the kind of re­port­ing and sto­ry­telling that trans­lates into screen­plays. They’re broke be­cause Face­book and Google have swal­lowed all the dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing money that was sup­posed to save the press as print ad­ver­tis­ing con­tin­ued to tank.

Look at Van­ity Fair, ba­si­cally the in-house Mi­ra­max or­gan that Tina failed to turn into Talk: Conde Nast de­manded huge staff cuts from Gray­don Carter and he quit. He knows they’re go­ing to turn his as­pi­ra­tional bi­ble into a blog, a fate likely shared by most (if not all) of the Conde Nast books.

Chair­man Si Ne­w­house, magazine pub­lish­ing’s last Medici, died this month, and who knows what will hap­pen to Conde now. There are no more jour­nal­ists; there are just blog­gers scroung­ing for the crumbs Sil­i­con Val­ley leaves them. Who’s go­ing to make a movie out of a Vox col­umn? So what does any­one in to­day’s me­dia ecosys­tem owe We­in­stein? And be­sides, it’s a good story, right? “Down­fall of a me­dia mogul” — maybe there’s even a movie in it.

Trais­ter says the sto­ries are com­ing out now be­cause “our con­scious­ness has been raised”. Between Bill Cosby and Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and Don­ald Trump, ar­gues Trais­ter, peo­ple are now ac­cus­tomed to speak­ing and hear­ing the truth about fa­mous, sex­u­ally abu­sive men.

This is wrong. It has noth­ing to do with “raised con­scious­ness” — or else she wouldn’t have left off that list the one name ob­vi­ously miss­ing. It’s not about raised con­scious­ness or else the Demo­cratic Party’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign would not have been a year­long ther­apy ses­sion treat­ing a re­pressed trauma vic­tim with even its main slo­gan — “I’m with her” — ref­er­enc­ing a muted plea for sym­pa­thy for a wo­man who had been pub­licly shamed by a sex­ual preda­tor.

Which brings us, fi­nally, to the other rea­son the We­in­stein story came out now: be­cause the court over which Bill Clin­ton once presided, a court in which We­in­stein was one part jester, one part ex­che­quer and one part ex­e­cu­tioner, no longer ex­ists.

A thought ex­per­i­ment: would the We­in­stein story have been pub­lished if Hil­lary Clin­ton had won the pres­i­dency? No, and not be­cause he is a big Demo­cratic fundraiser. It’s be­cause if the story were pub­lished dur­ing the course of a Hil­lary Clin­ton pres­i­dency, it wouldn’t have re­ally been about We­in­stein. Har­vey would have been seen as a proxy for the pres­i­dent’s hus­band and it would have em­bar­rassed the pres­i­dent, the first fe­male pres­i­dent.

Bill Clin­ton of­fered get-out-of­jail-free cards to a whole army of sleaze­balls, from Jef­frey Ep­stein to We­in­stein to the for­eign donors to the Clin­ton Global Ini­tia­tive.

The deal was sim­ple: pay up, gen­u­flect, and get on with your ex­is­tence. It was like a pa­pacy sell­ing in­dul­gences, at the same time that ev­ery­one knew that the car­di­nals were up to no good.

The 2016 elec­tion de­mol­ished Clin­ton world once and for all, to be re­placed by the cult of Obama, an aus­tere sect des­ig­nated by their tai­lored hair shirts with Nehru col­lars.

“That is not who we are as Amer­i­cans,” they chant, as Har­vey We­in­stein’s ashes are scat­tered in the wind.


We­in­stein this week


Beck­in­sale in 2015

Har­vey We­in­stein with, clock­wise from left, Rose Mc­Gowan, Hil­lary Clin­ton and Gwyneth Pal­trow; be­low, the first is­sue of his Talk magazine

The story came out now also be­cause the court over which Bill Clin­ton once presided, in which We­in­stein was one part jester, one part ex­che­quer and one part ex­e­cu­tioner, no longer ex­ists

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