Ac­tivist lawyer Allred speaks her mind

Celebrity lawyer turned ac­tivist bat­tles on against sex mis­con­duct

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Let’s get this out of the way: Lawyer Glo­ria Allred isn’t run­ning for Miss Con­ge­nial­ity.

Over four decades of work­ing for women’s rights, es­pe­cially on be­half of vic­tims of sex­ual mis­con­duct, Allred hasn’t hes­i­tated to say what­ever she’s felt needed to be said—as loudly or as of­ten as she needed to say it. A hero­ine to many women, she’s also been called an op­por­tunist, a me­dia hound, a pub­lic­ity seeker and some un­print­able things, too. And she doesn’t care.

“I al­ways say, it’s like Gone With the Wind — Frankly, I don’t give a damn,” Allred said from the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val last month, where a doc­u­men­tary about her life, See­ing Allred, had screened. “And it’s been very dis­turb­ing to them,” she says of her crit­ics, “that it doesn’t de­ter me at all.”

Allred is now 76, and it’s hardly a stretch to say she’s hav­ing a pretty good mo­ment. After years of ask­ing the courts — and the pub­lic — to be­lieve her clients, the #Me­Too move­ment has launched a cul­ture where that is fi­nally hap­pen­ing. “The waves hit the beach, and then there was a tsunami,” she says.

It was, of course, rev­e­la­tions about Har­vey We­in­stein that sparked the cur­rent reck­on­ing, and Allred is rep­re­sent­ing a num­ber of al­leged We­in­stein vic­tims. Also among her clients: Sum­mer Zer­vos, the for­mer Ap­pren­tice con­tes­tant who says Don­ald Trump kissed and groped her against her will in 2007. Allred is also known for giv­ing a num­ber of Bill Cosby ac­cusers a pub­lic voice when le­gal reme­dies were no longer avail­able.

Direc­tors So­phie Sar­tain and Roberta Gross­man had no idea the flood of sex­ual mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions against Cosby were about to sur­face only months after they started film­ing. They ’d ap­proached her back in 2011 about do­ing a film, but Allred — and this may sur­prise her crit­ics — wasn’t in­ter­ested.

The direc­tors say it took a few years to con­vince her. “They were per­sis­tent, and I like per­sis­tent women,” Allred says.

Says Gross­man: “The doc­u­men­tary gods were smil­ing on us. We were stand­ing there with cam­eras rolling when this enor­mous case broke open. It was perfect … be­cause it’s re­ally em­blem­atic of what she’s done through­out her ca­reer.”

The film tracks Allred as she pur­sues the Cosby al­le­ga­tions, giv­ing more and more women a plat­form to speak, but also takes a look at her life, from her Philadel­phia youth to mar­riage, divorce and sin­gle mother­hood in Los An­ge­les (her daugh­ter is lawyer Lisa Bloom), where she found her call­ing.

One cru­cial episode many viewers likely haven’t heard, un­less they read her book, is a har­row­ing one: In her 20s, Allred was raped at gun­point while on va­ca­tion in Mex­ico by a re­spected doc­tor. She didn’t come for­ward. “I thought I wouldn’t be be­lieved,” she says now. “So when women tell me they fear they won’t be be­lieved, I get it.”

Allred was forced to get a back­alley abor­tion, from which she nearly died. When she re­cov­ered, the hospi­tal nurse said she hoped she’d learned her les­son.

While Allred speaks frankly about the rape, there are some things she won’t speak about.

The film­mak­ers, who take mostly a kid-glove ap­proach, try but fail to get her to dis­cuss her sec­ond mar­riage, which also ended in divorce.

The film also touches only very briefly on the awk­ward sit­u­a­tion that en­sued when Bloom, who also rep­re­sents ha­rass­ment vic­tims, served as a We­in­stein ad­viser in the early days of the scan­dal. Allred didn’t ap­prove, but speaks ad­mir­ingly of her daugh­ter.

The direc­tors, clearly en­am­oured of their sub­ject, try to show her hu­man side, in­clud­ing hu­mor­ous touches like the wholly im­pres­sive num­ber of fit­ted-waist suit jack­ets she owns in bold pink or red (her uni­form is a power suit, chunky jew­elry and a wheeled carry-on). Or the fact peo­ple con­stantly con­fuse her with for­mer Cal­i­for­nia Sen. Bar­bara Boxer.

It’s less amus­ing to see how many com­men­ta­tors have mocked Allred over the years.

“Ev­ery time some high-profile case breaks out, you jump on tele­vi­sion and act like you’re God,” for­mer NBA star Charles Barkley told her on CNN in 2002, when she crit­i­cized Michael Jack­son for dan­gling his baby over a rail­ing.

“Why don’t you go back to your of­fice … and shut the hell up?”

Among those who’ve mocked her is the cur­rent U.S. pres­i­dent.

“I think Glo­ria would be very, very, very im­pressed with me,” Trump said laugh­ingly to his hosts on TMZ Live in 2012, re­fer­ring to his male anatomy. (They were dis­cussing a trans­gen­der beauty pageant con­tes­tant Allred was rep­re­sent­ing.) Jimmy Kim­mel once quipped that Allred was “in league with the devil.”

Allred has her admirers, too, among them Glo­ria Steinem, who cred­its Allred with mak­ing in­roads in chang­ing laws that af­fect women’s lives.

“I hate con­flict,” Steinem re­flects in the film. “I think Glo­ria en­joys con­flict.”


“I thought I wouldn’t be be­lieved,” lawyer Glo­ria Allred, 76, re­calls of her rape ex­pe­ri­ence. “So when women tell me they fear they won’t be be­lieved, I get it.” Allred was raped at gun­point when she was in her 20s and nearly died get­ting a back-al­ley abor­tion.

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