Let me tell you a secret about Hollywood: there are no secrets in Hollywood.
When everyone said that the actions of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Louis C.K. were the worst kept “open secrets” in Hollywood, they meant it. It’s why, when everything went public, all three were pilloried immediately. When the first Kevin Spacey story came out, everyone knew the floodgates were about to open; Netflix cut and run because they knew there’d be no covering things up anymore.
Likewise with Louis and Harvey, and now Matt Lauer.
I lived in Los Angeles for a few years; I worked on TV and movie sets during that time. On day one, I heard the story of Spacey and Bryan Singer fighting over a twink on the set of The Usual Suspects. This was firsthand, from someone who witnessed it.
I heard plenty of stories during my few years there. I’m not going to name names, because that’s not the point of this piece. The point is that there is an inherent hypocrisy in releasing statements involving shock or concern; those statements are ass-covering, not honest.
A medic on a film told me about a married, male, A-list movie star who made aggressive sexual advances toward him. The medic wasn’t into it, so he complained to the movie’s producers. Their response was, “OK, we’ll look into this. Come see us on payday.”
When the medic saw them on payday? They handed him his paycheck, and said, “Open it up and make sure everything is OK.”
He opened the envelope and saw two paychecks; one with the taxes taken out, and one straight up bonus check.
That happened for the rest of the production. No one ever said they were paying him off, and no one told him to leave the set. The producers wanted him happy, not out raising hell with his union or contacting the tabloids. No words were exchanged; no contracts were signed. It was a tacit agreement: you get double paychecks, and you keep your mouth shut. Which he did, happily, for a half-dozen years before allowing him to tell it casually and with a degree of deniability.
Again, this was told to me first-hand. This wasn’t a rumor, or from a friend of a friend who’s cousin heard something from his ex-girlfriend’s roommate. It was told to me by the man who had the experience, and it was nonchalant. We’d been hanging out for several weeks, shooting the shit about everything and nothing, and it came up. There was no sensationalism in his voice, no regret, no fear. He was just talking. Maybe someday that star will be outed, maybe not. Time will tell.
Because of my personal experiences, I get slightly annoyed when every story of misconduct is treated like a ten.
Compare the stories about Louis, Harvey, Matt, and Kevin, to those of Adam Sandler, or Al Franken.
Adam Sandler put his hand on an actress’s knee. Twitter users with no lives went nuts, and the media tried to hit us with headlines about outrage. But Hollywood knew better. Adam wasn’t dropped from any films, and the “story” went away as fast as it arrived. Everyone knew no hidden Adam Sandler stories would come out, because he’s genuinely a good person. But for one day, his name was dragged through the mud, basically without cause. Just because everything has to be a story.
Likewise with Al Franken.
After the hit piece by a Hannity supporter, the women on Al’s staff issued a statement of support. Following that, the women of SNL issued a statement of support: We know Al well. We’ve worked in close contact with him, and he is not a bad person. Yes, he just made a dumb mistake with that stupid, stupid photo, but he’s not a bad person.
Unfortunately, such actions doesn’t stop the media from trying to get clicks. The media searched for Tweets from the 10 dumbest people they could find and used them to manufacture outrage. “Sure, people that know Al Franken say he’s a good person, but these people who have never met him say he’s worse than Hitler!”
I have a female friend who took a picture with Franken. It was at the MN State Fair, while he was campaigning. She says he pulled her in tightly, and grinned like an idiot. She described the moment as odd and uncomfortable, but not inappropriate. Which is the problem with taking every accusatory Tweet at face value: inappropriate is different for different people. To some, “uncomfortable” immediately becomes “inappropriate.”
I know, because I’ve been there.
In the 1990s, my college roommate Roy was getting married. He invited me, and our fellow college friend Barrett, to the wedding. I flew to NYC, hooked up with Barrett, and the two of us drove down to West Virginia for Roy’s wedding.
Because of our schedule, we were told that upon driving into town to go immediately to the haberdashery and get fitted for our tuxedos. Don’t go to the hotel, don’t stop off and say, “Hi, we’re here!” Go get fitted. Which we did.
When we got to the tailor, we were given our tuxedos and steered toward dressing rooms. I went into mine, put on my clothes, and discovered they didn’t fit. If I didn’t continually hold them up, my pants would fall down about an inch and show the band of my underpants. I shuffled back into the showroom, where Barrett was being measured and pinned; his tux needed taken in as well.
The tailor looked up from Barrett and asked, “How do they fit?”
“Too big around the waist,” I said, letting go and exposing the band of my underpants.
That’s all I remember of that moment. Literally, that’s it.
So it was to my surprise that, after getting sent on our way, I walked into Roy’s workplace to announce my arrival and was told, “Well you make a hell of a first impression.”
I was confused; what was he talking about? I’d been in town all of 10 minutes.
Roy stated, “My dad was in the tuxedo shop.”
The statement didn’t mean anything to Barrett or me, other than realizing it was odd Roy’s dad hadn’t introduced himself. “Hey, you guys are in my son’s wedding! Nice to meet you!” or something like that.
It turns out, Roy’s dad had left the tux store and made his way to Roy’s workplace before us. According to him, I had been running around the store with my dick out.
Read that again.
I had walked out of the dressing room and showed that my pants didn’t fit; they dropped an inch at most, and exposed my underpants band. Somehow that translated to me getting near-naked.
I was confused. Barrett was confused. Literally “What in the fuck is he talking about?” confused. Not only by the fact he hadn’t said “Hi” and introduced himself, but we both wondered what kind of person exaggerates like that, and what was the point of lying?
But that’s the thing: in his mind, Roy’s dad wasn’t lying. He saw what he wanted to see, truth be damned. Turns out, he was a fire and brimstone Baptist Minister, and his view of the world was a bit… skewed, to say the least. So, to him, exposing an inch of underpants label was akin to my having my dick out.
Just like, to some, Al Franken putting an arm around a waist and pulling someone in tight, could suddenly be “groping.”
Which is why there are two or three “stories” about Al Franken, and 1,000 tales of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, and Louis C.K.
Most people know the difference between assault and uncomfortable. But it’s the media’s “job” to elevate everything to a fever pitch. To stoke the fires of outrage.
Sadly, it’s a job they do remarkably well.