This post is part 2 of a 5 part series on sex abuse education and what I try to teach my students. Part 1 is about Mixed Messages. This post (Part 2) is about my personal experience with sex abuse in Hollywood. I have used it in my classroom when teaching about sexual relations. I think it shows a common misunderstanding of the law (details in Part 3: Attractive Nuisance) and a biology teacher’s reason for not being surprised at what happened (Part 4: The Chimpanzee Lecture).
This is not about blaming or excusing anyone. It’s about understanding what needs to be taught to everyone. As I said before: I do have my own experiences and a few suggestions which I offer here. Make of this what you will. I believe that if we don’t share as much information as possible we won’t ask the right questions; and if we don’t ask the right questions we won’t arrive at the right answers. So I offer these experiences (which I also discuss with my students in the class room) as additional information in our mutual quest to teach those around us to treat everyone with dignity and respect.
Not a Hollywood Sex Scandal Yet…
Early in my West Coast musical career I was living with a beautiful, talented singer named Laura. To give you an idea of how beautiful and talented Laura was, think of Jennifer Lopez in the movie Selena. One day I was returning from a rehearsal and I found Laura crying her eyes out on our living room couch. I asked what was wrong and between sobs she told me.
“I was over at Charlene’s apartment. And as I was leaving Charlene’s this guy came up to me and gave me his card and said he was a professional photographer and he wanted to take pictures of me!” more sobbing.
I said, “Did he touch you or get physical?”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“He wanted to take NAKED pictures of me!!!” more sobbing.
“But my dear – you are so beautiful any man would want to take your picture – with or without clothes. I’ve done it a bunch of times. Anyway, how much did he offer to pay you for your pictures?”
“But Baby you’ve got to understand a few things. The way you’re dressed leaves little to the imagination and shows you’d be great as a pin-up girl or centerfold.”
Laura was wearing a flimsy tank top, no bra, jeans that had been washed so many times they looked sprayed on and huaraches – that’s it. I wasn’t trying to suggest that the way a girl dresses is an open invitation to getting molested. I was just trying to determine if this was a legit business offer or just some horny guy making a play. I could not get my point across and we ended that conversation agreeing that I was terrible.
The Real Hollywood Scandal
Terrible Horn Dog that I was, Laura forgave me because I do have some good qualities and we stayed together for several more years. I wound up producing a demo tape with Laura. Four songs: a piece of pop fluff, a tender ballad, and two kick-ass rockers. We used top studio player friends and worked at great studios with a talented engineer. My point is, we produced a first class demo that was radio ready. All we needed was a connection to stir up record label interest. I was Laura’s personal manager but we needed a big league manager, or an agent, or an entertainment lawyer – someone to shop our tape. We found a lawyer who expressed interest. But I smelled a rat. I warned Laura that I didn’t get the vibe that he was as interested in OUR music as he was in HER body. She accused me of over reacting. She said, “Just because you’re depraved doesn’t mean everybody else is.”
This was one of those times when I hated to be right. When the lawyer invited Laura to a party in the Hollywood Hills and he told her to leave me at home, I knew. He wasn’t interested in representing us as a musical package (even though Laura assured me we were a team). I told Laura he was not interested in us as an act or team, but she wouldn’t hear it.
Then I said, “What are you going to say or do when he makes his play for your body?”
She said, “You don’t know that he will.”
I said, “Look here Sweetheart. I’ve been around the block many times, and I can tell which side of the bread has the butter. So please believe me, I’ve got a feeling that he is going to make a play. My advice to you is, if you go to this party: hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”
Once again I was told I was terrible. I tried to clarify why I felt she was in danger of unwanted sexual advances. I said, “The comedian Robert Klein once said, ‘Women alway say they want to know what men are thinking, but if they really knew what men were thinking, they’d never stop slapping our faces!’ and I agree with him.” I continued, “Look, a very wise lady once told me, ‘I don’t want to say all men are dogs, but sooner or later they all start barking!’ and I agree with her too.”
“How can you say that? You’re a guy too.”
“Yes that’s true. But I am like the well trained dog. [See what my Mom taught me in Mixed Messages] I keep my barking to myself and I don’t stick my nose where it isn’t wanted. There are many men who are not well trained, who bark uncontrollably at everything to demonstrate their power, and who have no self control with where they stick their noses or other body parts, and will hump any leg they get near.”
Once again we ended the conversation with me being told I was terrible and with me echoing Lee Child’s advice, ‘Hope for the best. Plan for the worst.’
After the Party – Tears on My Pillow
Dear Reader please don’t try to tell me you don’t know what’s coming. Laura came home crying, “How did you know?” I repeated everything I said above with the added, “Why didn’t you believe me?” This incident soured Laura on the entertainment business and the world lost a beautiful talent. I was soured too but I hung on a little longer before the sleaze finally got to me too. So how do I explain inappropriate conduct like what happened to Laura to my kids? See Parts 3 & 4.
For now, I suggest approaching all situations in life with
Lee Child’s advice,
“Hope for the best. Plan for the worst.”
But also keep in mind
Robert Burns warning,
“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, / Gang aft agley,”.