If you’re tempted to turn away from the torrent of squalid news that continues to flow out of Hollywood, resist the temptation. The more of these revolting exposes you read, the more clearly you will see the underlying monstrosity in Hollywood, as clearly as the hero of John Carpenter’s They Live sees aliens disguised as everyday people when he puts on the sunglasses.
Former CBS chief Les Moonves’s career had already ended in disgrace for repeated instances of alleged sexual harassment and assault uncovered last summer by The New Yorker. Yet until this week the board that fired him for preying on women was planning to beg His Majesty’s forgiveness for decoupling him from his kingdom, pressing into his hands a $120 million payoff.
Maybe not anymore.
The New York Times, with the cooperation of a washed-up talent manager who, at 75, decided to open his mouth about Moonves, reported on how the triangular sex trade works in Hollywood. Innocent young sweet pea from some place like South Carolina hits town, desperate for a break. Managers and agents and suchlike human succubi latch on to her with an eye toward turning her out. Knowing very well what will happen, they send her in to “take a meeting,” alone, behind closed doors, with some old lech in a designer suit. After two minutes of pleasantries, the expensive pants are suddenly down around the ankles. The young thing has just about two seconds to grow up. She has to decide on the spot whether to react with the expected sangfroid, and advance to the next step in the game of Hollywood, or, do what Bobbie Phillips did and react adversely. She contemplated picking up a baseball bat and going all Al Capone on her attacker, but instead merely “ankled,” as the trades would put it.
Phillips says Les Moonves, then the head of Warner Bros. television just as its shows Friends and ER were becoming blockbusters, grabbed her and forced her to perform oral sex when she met with him to seek an appointment with a casting director. She fled the office. Then she had to decide whether to say something, which would brand her a “troublemaker.” If so, nothing good would happen. She’d be ushered out to pursue the career opportunities at Denny’s, and another young honey would take her place.
Phillips’s life was pretty much ruined. Going to audition meetings made her queasy. Once she vomited in an alley at the prospect of running into Moonves. No one cared. She was another expendable female body. Twenty-three years later, Moonves was suddenly interested in casting her again. Texts between Moonves and Phillips’s manager, as reported by the Times, are frankly transactional: The manager needed to get back in the game, Moonves needed the manager to keep schtum with the Times reporters who kept calling him, Phillips would be expected to remain silent in exchange for a lousy $1,500 one-day gig. “A central teaching in my life is forgiveness,” Phillips told the Times. But this was insulting. And she was upset that Moonves was still denying, even in private, what she says he did. Moonves says “I strongly believe” the encounter was consensual. Which is a bit different from saying, “It was consensual.”