I knew of Harvey Weinstein, and I'd heard that he possessed the power to make or break careers, that he was bombastic and that he pushed people around. But that pretty much was the extent of it. After all, this is Hollywood, where only a small percent of would-be actors and actresses in the Screen Actors Guild earn enough to make a full-time living in their chosen profession. In this town — and especially in the acting community — anxiety is the norm.
A friend and former studio executive once invited me to a cocktail party he was hosting to celebrate some recent milestone of his entertainment-industry company. It was, at least at first, a quiet wine and cheese kind of affair.
Enter Harvey Weinstein.
My friend introduced me to him. Before I could respond, Weinstein said, "I know who you are. You're the guy who supports the war in Iraq. You know Bush lied us into it!" I decided to just ignore it. What an a—hole, I thought to myself. But Weinstein wasn't about to let it go. He repeated the accusation that Bush "lied" us into the war. Again, I acted as if I didn't hear it, until, that is, he said it again.
OK, it's on.
"A lie means an intent to deceive. OK, Harvey, how did he lie, Harvey?" I said loudly.
"Everyone knows he lied," he said.
"If everybody knows it," I said, "it should be easy for you to come up with a lie. Give me a lie, Harvey. One!"
He muttered something about "bad intel."
"Bad intel and lies are two different things, Harvey. You said 'lie.' Give me the lie!"
At this point, Weinstein turned and walked away. My friend, who had known Weinstein for years, said, "I've never seen anyone speak to Harvey that way." To which I said, "What's he going to do to me? Not put me in his next movie?"
Since that little party, Weinstein has been outed as a serial predator over a period of 30 years, with more than 50 women making accusations. According to The New York Times, "Mr. Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements with women, according to two company officials speaking on the condition of anonymity."
Successful screenwriter Scott Rosenberg, who credits the Weinstein brothers at Miramax for giving him his start, now shamefully admits, "Everybody knew."
In a recent Facebook post, Rosenberg writes: "Let's be perfectly clear about one thing: Everybody (expletive) knew. Not that he was raping. No, that we never heard. But we were aware of a certain pattern of overly-aggressive behavior that was rather dreadful. We knew about the man's hunger; his fervor; his appetite. There was nothing secret about this voracious rapacity; like a gluttonous ogre out of the Brothers Grimm. All couched in vague promises of potential movie roles. ...
"And to me, if Harvey's behavior is the most reprehensible thing one can imagine, a not-so-distant second is the current flood of sanctimonious denial and condemnation that now crashes upon these shores of rectitude in gloppy tides of (expletive) righteousness. Because everybody (expletive) knew. And do you know how I am sure this is true? Because I was there. And I saw you. And I talked about it with you. You, the big producers; you, the big directors; you, the big agents; you, the big financiers. And you, the big rival studio chiefs; you, the big actors; you, the big actresses; you, the big models. You, the big journalists; you, the big screenwriters; you, the big rock stars; you, the big restaurateurs; you, the big politicians."
Incredibly, Weinstein's contract actually acknowledges his abusive behavior, and seemingly expected it to continue. The entertainment news website TMZ writes that Harvey Weinstein's 2015 employment contract with The Weinstein Company calls for him to reimburse the company: "If he gets sued for sexual harassment or any other 'misconduct' that results in a settlement or judgment against TWC, all Weinstein has to do is pay what the company's out, along with a fine, and he's in the clear."
His contract required him to pay fines, writes TMZ, "'of $250,000 for the first such instance, $500,000 for the second such instance, $750,000 for the third such instance, and $1,000,000 for each additional instance.'
"The contract says as long as Weinstein pays, it constitutes a 'cure' for the misconduct and no further action can be taken. Translation — Weinstein could be sued over and over and as long as he wrote a check, he keeps his job."
The Weinstein revelations have sparked a number of accusations against other prominent Hollywood figures — and it might just be the tip of the iceberg.
Oh, and, sure enough, after my testy exchange with Weinstein at the cocktail party, when his next movie came out, I wasn't in it.
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com. Follow Larry on Twitter @larryelder. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.