Put Sexual Predators on the Run


After last year, the business of modern entertainment will never be the same. One of the biggest news stories of the year – as underscored by Time magazine’s 2017 person of the year cover – was the disturbing spate of sexual harassment scandals and the #MeToo movement that emerged from it. It also rocked politics, and even took down someone who was both a fine politician and entertainer – Al Franken, who had built an admirable career as a keen policy wiz and wise, independent and still quite funny voice in the Senate.

As I read post after post on Facebook from many (many) women I know who told their #MeToo stories, I felt profoundly sad and distressed. Even though I was already well aware of how some – wait ... far too many – of my gender regard women in a sexually degrading way, to put it mildly, I was shocked by how pervasive the sexual abuse and rape of women is throughout everyday life. And that was even after spending all of my adult life in and around the music business, where it was obvious that women were poorly regarded and ill-treated.

The key scandal that broke open the floodgates in entertainment was in the movie business. where the notion of the “casting couch” is a longtime cliche. Harvey Weinstein was already widely known as an uncouth bully. But his influence on modern cinema as a producer has been profound. Yet my feeling was – beyond my compassion for the women he abused – a tinge of satisfaction that someone who treated too many people, both women and men, with callous disregard finally received some just comeuppance.

But it was not so with others. The reports of Dustin Hoffman’s prurient antics will now forever taint my feelings about someone who is not only one of the most gifted actors of our time but of all time. And that feels such a shame. I can no longer quite as much enjoy the talents of what was just about my favorite contemporary comic, actor and creator, Louis C.K. The creepy image of him (to put it in the least loaded terms I can) exposing and stroking his member will likely intrude when I next try to enjoy his work. The only word to describe it all is “ick.”

This matter largely began with Bill Cosby. Though his comedy albums are an indelible part of my youth, frankly, I never found him that funny. Now I find him loathsome, and not just because my longterm friend and coworker back in the early ’80s at a New York music PR firm, Joan Tarshis, is one of his many victims.

She’s not the only victim of a prominent entertainment business figure I happen to have known, which leaves me rather discomfited. In my New York City years, I knew Jenny Lumet, daughter of film director Sidney Lumet, not well, but socially; our paths crossed frequently. She was a smart, hip and very likable young woman. To read of her accusing hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons of raping her hit me hard – not just because it hurt to imagine yet another person I know being raped (and I know a number of others), but also, again, how it debased my admiration for the accused.

Simmons and I have never met. But we traveled and worked in the same Manhattan music scene circles and were often both at the same shows, clubs and parties in the early years of both our careers. We share a number of friends and business connections; an ex-lover and very dear friend of mine was his publicist. He was pivotal in forging commercial mainstream success and artistic respect for hip-hop music via his management of his brother’s group, Run-DMC and his Def Jam Recordings label. As much as I admire his entrepreneurial and pop culture savvy, at this point I am disgusted by the man.

One can only hope that out of these horrific circumstances, the times they are a-changin’ for the better between men and women.

Populist Picks:

TV Dramatic Mini Series: “National Treasure” – This superb 2016 British TV drama starring the masterful Robbie Coltrane as a prominent comic actor accused of raping an underaged girl seems almost prescient in retrospect. It details the public and personal repercussions and tangled web of the case with deft skill.

TV Documentary Series: “Too Young to Die” This Netflix show avoids morbidity and exploitation as it examines a wide range of entertainers whose demise came too early, from the well-known like Judy Garland, Kurt Cobain, Heath Ledger and Sharon Tate to lesser lights like Russian musician Vladimir Vysotsky and the rocker Falco.

Rob Patterson is a music and entertainment writer in Austin, Texas. Email orca@prismnet.com.

From The Progressive Populist, Febuary 2, 2018


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