I knew Harvey. His crimes were not a shock. His naked disdain for women was apparent to anyone who really allowed themselves to see.
The first time I ever sat next to Harvey Weinstein at a fashion show I thought there were three style tips he might benefit from:
1. A clothes steamer – preferably to be used hourly
2. An introduction to the wonders of shoe polish
3. The need to bathe daily in Mitchum Advanced Control Formula Deodorant.
The first time I dined at the same table with him (at Barry Diller & Diane von Furstenberg’s pre-Oscar “picnic”), I thought ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if Tom Ford, as a thank you for the Weinstein Company distributing Ford’s fine debut film, A Single Man – designed a cool, washable bib that Harvey could wear so that he could get up from the table without his shirt bearing evidence of everything he had furiously eaten.
In 2007, at Valentino’s mind-blowing 45th weekend long Anniversary extravaganza in Rome, I wound up—for reasons too distracting to explain here – spending excessive time in his company as he endlessly huckstered one project after another to Anne Hathaway’s then-boyfriend, Raffaelo Follieri, a supposedly boffo Italian investment banker who was subsequently sentenced to four years incarceration in an Italian jail for fraud. Naturally, Harvey got nowhere, but his routine was relentless.
At any fashion show where they were seated together, and especially at his wife’s fashion show’s, the perpetually-leering producer would sit so close to Vogue editor Anna Wintour he could have passed for her oversized shoulder bag. The pair watched the last presidential election returns together at Harvey’s townhouse.
Of course, none of this boorish behavior comes close to the recent revelations about Weinstein’s decades-long practice of preying upon women. But it’s worth noting that this is not a man who crafted a suave exterior to cover his horn-dog pursuits. Harvey didn’t move with the grace of Pierce Brosnan or display the dark brilliance of Barry Diller or play at being the big funny man like Kevin James. He looks and behaves exactly as who he Is, someone you never want to roll over in the morning and see lying beside you on the other side of the mattress.
What Weinstein did have going for him, however —and it was damned impressive —was his extraordinary gift for choosing and marketing movies. And this undefinable skill afforded him immense power; power that he used as brilliantly at the box office as he abused almost everywhere else.
Once again, I cite these incidents because I think there is something a bit disingenuous about the current hand-wringing over Harvey. This is not a defense of Weinstein. In fact, his shockingly rapid crash-and-burn would be something to revel in, if he hadn’t hurt, intimidated and threatened so many women in the process.
But the truth is, I don’t know a single journalist in either the fashion or entertainment business who didn’t have some idea of the full extent of his bad behavior. In 2013, as Seth McFarlane announced the nominations for that year’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar, he snarkily quipped that the five nominated women no longer had to pretend they were attracted to Harvey Weinstein. The audience of journalists laughed loudly.
If you ever attended a Miramax or Weinstein Company party during award season you could watch Harvey in action. He was as smooth as the off-road terrain used to challenge Jeeps in TV commercials. I’ve watched virginal college freshmen work a girl with more finesse. In contrast to the silver-screen lotharios who populated his movies, Harvey’s seductions did not involve Pretty Woman style private jets or pricey jewels or stolen weekends at the Beverly Wilshire. Instead, the babes he body-blocked were treated to erections in steam showers, jerkoffs into potted palms and the sight of Weinstein’s ample body sagging nakedly out of an open terry-cloth bathrobe.
That’s why there is something amiss in the now-daily denunciations of Weinstein by some of the best-plugged in people in Hollywood. Meryl Streep swears she didn’t know a thing about Harvey’s extra-curricular activities. Could that really be true? Of course, one wants to afford special dispensation to our premiere acting goddess, and yet, for all the time she spent on multiple movie sets with him, it’s a rough excuse to swallow. I will give Judi Dench the benefit of the doubt, but subsequent protestations of naiveté really jump the shark. When Harvey made moves on Gwyneth Paltrow, the 22-year-old actress ran to her then-boyfriend to complain. Brad gamely threatened to kick Harvey’s ass, but otherwise, life went on as usual. A few years later, Gwyneth won an Oscar for her work in Shakespeare in Love, a Weinstein-produced Miramax film. She was 26 at the time. Paltrow made at least nine movies for Weinstein after their first awkward encounter.
Paltrow is not alone in maintaining a long-term relationship with her harasser. How many other Weinstein employees and associates, most of them women, did Weinstein use as decoys, set-ups, and warm-up acts? Harvey surrounded himself with smart people. Many of his family members, fellow executives, assistants, publicists, and crew-members were surely aware that he was following in the footsteps of Louis B. Mayer, Harry Cohn, Howard Hughes, and Dino de Laurentiis among others. Their lechery was inexcusable, but it was the product of another era and one wants to believe civilization moves forward, even though we have installed the Emperor of Regression into the White House
Is it mere coincidence that The Weinstein Company has been hobbled for the last two years with flops and bad investments, that the big Hollywood wallets now belong to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Showtime, HBO, and Megan Ellison’s Annapurna films, and so suddenly the pile on is daily and his guillotine has been erected?
Recently actresses have become more vocal about ageism, pay parity, behind the scenes employment and clout. The success of female-driven entertainments like The Handmaid’s Tale, Big Little Lies, Bad Moms, Girls Trip, Pitch Perfect, Wonder Woman and Hidden Figures bode well to a point
But Hidden Figures is also an eye-widening example of the way that women’s skills, intelligence, and accomplishments is so often overlooked in so many endeavors. (I was a space race geek, watched every Gemini and Apollo launch, knew every astronaut by name, regard The Right Stuff as one of my 10 favorite books and yet I knew nothing of these great women at the time ). John McEnroe’s condescending swipe at Serena Williams this past summer, the cloud of male arrogance that hovers over Silicon Valley, and the grim results of our last election, testify to the pervasiveness of our cultural duplicity.
Harvey’s practice of intimidating women while pathetically begging for sex, however, is something beyond the pale. How is it that every single affair, peccadillo, and tryst in politics gets posted and publicized before anyone has a chance to leave the bathroom stall, while in the entertainment community and on college campuses, we’ve created and tolerated an atmosphere of fear and secrecy and shame?
Women are amazing creatures. I am fascinated and in awe of them, even if I don’t want to sleep with them. And yet as a society, we seem to keep ignoring and minimizing their assertions of independence, their repeated admonitions that “no” really does mean “no.
The best advice to people who witness or hear of these situations is the trite-sounding exhortation found in the New York subway system— “If you see something, say something”. Anyone who covers the entertainment industry can readily name a half-dozen directors and producers whose behavior towards women is less than sterling. None are nearly as sick and sad as Weinstein, but all are equally entitled.
Harvey is toast now. But he leaves behind him a trail of ugliness that could have been avoided if someone had spoken up sooner. Every man and woman who knew of his vulgar conquests and chose to remain silent is complicit. For the sake of your daughters, your moms, your best girlfriends, and your own self-worth, you have no right to be quiet or look the other way.
True, we are now waist deep in an administration that is doing its best to devalue women and anyone else who doesn’t sport a MAGA hat. We bitch and complain and laugh with glee as Colbert, Noah, Myers, Bee, Oliver, and now even Kimmel, do their slick pummeling of the fools on The Hill. But sexual harassment and sexual violence cannot be legislated away. This is not a political problem, it’s personal one. This is about the respect we need to show each other every day. Harvey’s acts of molestation are not the price of fame, they’re the price of silence. And silence is not acceptable anymore.