Even eclipsing some of Trump’s faux pas in the media these days have been the revelations about the exploits of ex-movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, whom throngs of women have come forward to claim he hit on, groped, and intimidated them—and masturbated in front of them—sometimes threatening retaliation if they didn’t put out. (In response to this deafening chorus, Weinstein claims he believes all the sex was consensual and he never sought revenge against those who rejected him. He’s a real class act, I guess.)
As with Bill Cosby’s saga, this story was a long-time brewing, partly because victims of sexual misconduct are often afraid to go public about what happened (and when they do, their anguished yelps often fall on deaf ears). Especially when dealing with powerful figures like this, they fear retribution, not to mention smearing by lawyers and the media—and Donna Karan—who cozy up to those figures for reasons involving money and clout. Let’s not forget that when a model claimed abuse from Weinstein in 2015, some press outlets set to work trying to demonize her as a slutty extortionist. It’s almost as if Weinstein himself had phoned in the “reporting."
This might all help explain why the gay versions of Weinstein—who surely exist—haven’t been exposed yet, their pleather casting couches out of view from the public or the law. In a non-showbiz arena, there have been scandals involving abusive priests (which the Church tried to cover up for many years by merely relocating the clergymen and enabling them to continue their diddling elsewhere). And in sports, assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky wasn’t arrested until 2011, when he was charged with 52 counts of sexually abusing boys from 1994-2009. (And claims surfaced about incidents starting way before that, in the 1970s).
Part of the delay might have been the aforementioned fear of vengeance, not to mention an unwillingness to be labeled a “victim” for the rest of their lives. (And when it’s a gay incident, society stigmatizes it even more). But guys did come forward anyway, and Penn State was accused of trying to cover up the crimes, much like the church brushed away ungodly behavior to “save face.” I should add that the incarcerated Sandusky—who’s married to a woman—isn’t necessarily gay or bi; most pedophiles, even those who go after same-sex victims, identify as straight. But whatever the man’s sexuality, his misdeeds finally caught up with him, and in cases like this, accusers’ courage finds strength in unity, as one whistleblower leads to another.
But in showbiz? There were murmurs about Edgardo Diaz, who founded the boy band Menudo and was accused of abuse by former band members in 1991. Diaz denied it, and that was pretty much that—though another ex-Menudo member came forward three years ago to underscore the allegations without saying anything specific about what he may have experienced or known. It’s interesting that Diaz created Menudo partly because he was inspired by the Jackson 5, fronted by little Michael Jackson; the adult Jackson became another target of abuse accusations in the ‘90s, when gossipy lips were aflame with speculation about the superstar’s antics. That resulted in denials and payoffs/settlements (not intended as an admission of wrongdoing, mind you, just to make the cases go away), plus a 2005 judicial victory, though the result remains as cloudy as a morning cup of Jesus juice. Was Michael a misunderstood icon who simply liked to cuddle with young boys or was he a serial molester who used his resources and status to get off (literally)?
And speaking of boy bands, Lou Pearlman was a clever but conniving businessman who managed the massively successful Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync, but it wasn’t all glory and applause. Pearlman became the subject of a 2007 Vanity Fair article exploring charges that he had molested some of his clients. (I’ve asked a few famous boy banders about Lou’s exploits, but they’ve generally been evasive on the subject.) Pearlman was sent to jail in ‘07, but it was for financial fraud, not for pedophilia. Before he died in federal custody, Pearlman gave an interview trying to counter the sex abuse accusations, but the icky taste of his legacy simply won’t go “bye bye bye.”
In Hollywood, there have been similar charges, Corey Feldman revealing that he and late co-star/friend Corey Haim were preyed on by various men in powerful positions when they were very young. Feldman says he suffered some molestation, but he made sure to specify that Haim was flat-out raped at 11. Horrifying. Unspeakable. So why not name names? Feldman has said that, while he’d love to do so, the California statute of limitations would work against him and he’d end up getting sued.
And that’s another reason why the gay predators in the biz keep being able to do what they do. But the best thing about the Weinstein shit hitting is that this will surely give pause to other monsters out there, and it will also embolden victims to come forward faster and louder. The road to these revelations has been way too slow and squeamish, but at least it’s led to an explosion of disclosures it’ll be hard to turn away or turn back from. I won’t rejoice when a gay Harvey Weinstein is revealed—it will signify the fact that many more people have suffered horrible traumas—but the march to justice will still be something to cheer about.
But let’s talk about the impressive movement to protect young people. A thrilling evening was A Place at the Table, a Cipriani Wall Street-held benefit for the Ali Forney Center, which provides shelter and support for homeless LGBT youth. Lady Gaga’s mother, Cynthia Germanotta—who’s the President and Co-Founder of the Born This Way Foundation—received an honor and spoke eloquently, saying, “Thank you for helping my daughter build her vision of a braver and kinder world. No young person should ever feel unloved or feel they have no value.” Cynthia also read a text from Gaga saying, “I feel a passionate responsibility to provide a venue for those who feel unheard.” Fortunately, the world seems to be listening.
And then, Congresswoman Maxine Waters was truly heard. Accepting the Bea Arthur Award, Waters blew up the place with her rousing tirade against Trump’s bigotries. She said she had been appreciating the evening, and “With this kind of inspiration, I will go and take Trump out tonight.” She led chants of “Lock him up” and “Impeach Trump” and then she brought up Jussie Smollett (the out actor from Empire) and explained, “He’s an activist. He stands with me in Washington D.C.” There were lots of “reclaiming my time” jokes made throughout the night—which was hosted by Tituss Burgess—and I feel Maxine can reclaim her time any time.
Most movingly of all, Ali Forney’s Executive Director Carl Siciliano remembered Ali Forney, a colorful, gender nonconforming character who passionately protected other LGBT homeless youth and was tragically killed in 1997. At the podium, Siciliano spoke to the late Forney by noting the way we’ve kept her name alive by helping so many others and not letting people forget. Amen.
Wheel of Misfortune
Children and amusement parks figure in several movies this year. Seen at the New York Film Festival was The Florida Project by Sean Baker (who did the kinetic and stimulating Tangerine). This one at times comes off like Tangerine with kids, but not quite as good. In exploring a child living week to week with ma in a Florida motel and her exploits with playmates, it at first comes off extraordinarily fresh and novel, until a sense of relentlessness sets in. Too many lines—clearly intended to be so cutely clever—land in the air, but Baker’s definitely got a gift for manic energy.
That one is set near Disneyland, while Wonder Wheel by Woody Allen (who denies sex abuse claims) takes place in the heart of another escapist resort, Coney Island, in the 1950s. The film has a former actress (Kate Winslet) and her thuggish husband (Jim Belushi) living on the site of a former freak show, their banal lives rocked by lifeguard Justin Timberlake’s advances on Kate, whose mounting jealousy turns this from a sort of Runyonesque character piece to a Greek tragedy. The art direction is ripe, Winslet is terrific, and the various symbolisms—Timberlake’s romantic character is a lifesaver and he also happens to be a dramatist, whose talk of classic dramas becomes prescient—are rewarding. And yes, there’s a kid—Winslet’s son, who acts out against mom’s reckless behavior by setting almost everything he comes near on fire. Well worth a ride.
Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck is also fascinating, serving two period stories of deaf children that end up intertwining for a glorious conclusion that brings them—and all the film’s themes—together. In this film, the American Museum of Natural History and the Queens Museum are basically the theme parks that enlighten the kids. As for the absurd coincidences along the way? Well, feel free to pick up a bucket of suspension of disbelief as you walk into the theater.
Deux of a Kind
Drag Race’s wondrous Kasha Davis is one of my fabulous musical partners for “Musto Duets Deux,” a benefit for Gays Against Guns, at Club Cumming on November 11th at 9 PM. We’re going to do a duet from Gypsy. No, not the stripper number—that’s a trio! Find ticket info here.