October 17, 2017 at 5:49 pm PST | by Michael Kearns
Hollywood’s Harassment of the Soul

Michael Kearns (Photo courtesy Michael Kearns)

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein travesty, many in the media want to know what the comparable gay story is. What homomogul has been unconscionably accosting male stars on the ascent, promising them an Oscar nomination in exchange for a “massage?”

There isn’t one.

I arrived in Hollywood in 1971, during that period when Weinstein “came of age.” Nearly five decades, and god-only-knows how many of those plus-size white bathrobes later, the King of Hollywood is without a throne.

“That was the culture then,” the disgraced Hollywood powerhouse explained to justify a list of immoralities and illegalities, like jerking off in front of his prey in random public places. Silly me, I thought the 70s culture was defined by Nixon in China and Bette at the baths; it never occurred to me that I could be wanking in line at the grocery store.

Performing in Tom Eyen’s The Dirtiest Show in Town (’72) was of “the culture then,” attracting a slew of entertainment heavyweights who came to oogle a bevy of mostly twentysomethings, strutting the stage au naturel, performing topical sketch material and elegantly choreographed orgies.

Allan Carr, the flaming manager-producer, attended opening night, outshining the likes of Merv Griffin (with a Gabor as an appendage), Cass Eliot, Christine Jorgenson, and Christopher Isherwood with Don Bachardy. Fully-clothed cast members segued their skilled seduction with audience members at a post-show party, setting our sights on which celebs might further our nascent careers. I chose Alan.

When I heard about the 2014 incident involving gay director Bryan Singer, accused of predatory behavior with boys in their late teens (aka minors) at house parties, I conjured the bygone days of Allan Carr’s notorious parties in which he deliberately mixed dozens of gay boys with the likes of Ann-Margret, Rod Stewart and Salvador Dali. While Carr and Singer hosted parties with an array of ambitious young men, the comparisons end there.

Or do they?

I was one of those boys, hungry to triumph in an overwhelmingly competitive and homophobic business. After three years at a prestigious acting school, I did not see myself as a boy-toy, in spite of the inevitable typecasting that resulted from how I looked.

After the Singer allegations (subsequently unsubstantiated and dropped), Time Magazine posited that “…the scandal has also thrown a spotlight on the places where the line between Hollywood networking and the casting couch is sometimes blurry, if not obscured altogether.”

And when the players are gay men on the casting couch, the blurriness gets blurrier. Let’s say that a closeted actor with heat and viable credits is threatened by homomogul in a robe (slate gray or barley beige). Because this scenario is played out in “the closet,” the victim wouldn’t say a peep, determinedly maintaining his straight persona.

Not identifying sexual predators because an actor can’t pry himself out of the closet is cowardly. Let the throngs of cowardly straight and gay Hollywood predators—from above-the-title stars to producers and directors with clout—squirm in silence while they await the ineluctable sound of sirens.

For hundreds of years, women in Hollywood have been bullied, derided, belittled, objectified, intimidated, brow-beaten, oppressed, persecuted and harassed; they are mad as hell and they aren’t going to take this anymore. These sheroes include the brave women who have taken on Cosby as well as everyday women everywhere—from all businesses and walks of life—who refuse to have their souls obliterated by narcissistic pigs.

Carr threw a lavish all-male party for his pal, Elton John, and invited the purportedly most gorgeous young men (not teenagers) in Hollywood who stood in an endless snaky line in order to meet and make an instantaneous impression on The Rockstar.

I had never felt so humiliated, knowing I would not be Elton’s trick for the night; not muscular enough, not blond enough, I was too tall, too soft, my voice was wrong, my face imperfect. I finally admitted the truth about myself: I was “a piece of shit.” Forget the acting credentials; forget my cherished friendships, forget my career accomplishments. I was of no value.

To suggest that perceiving oneself with such severe self-hatred leads to a rash of

debilitating behaviors doesn’t begin to describe what I, and too many of those other soulful party boys, would endure when the party ended.

Janice Min, former Editor of the Hollywood Reporter, told Time Magazine that the “predatory nature of Hollywood is young attractive people—largely female—putting themselves in front of men to be judged and appraised and chosen.”

Gay men also put “themselves in front of men to be judged and appraised and chosen.” Have you been to the Abbey?

I didn’t perceive that the Hunk Auction for Sir Elton could be deemed as sexual harassment. Yet I learned that a moment of extreme humiliation takes years—no, decades—to overcome.

Today, there are no excuses, in Hollywood or anywhere else for anyone—female, male, gay, straight, black, white—to have their soul harassed.

—  Michael Kearns is a longtime theatre artist/activist, author and teacher. He is performing at Akbar in Silverlake on Oct. 22.

 

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