THE PAST IS NEVER TRULY BURIED
Harvey Weinstein obviously thought it would never apply to him. Too powerful. Too important. Too rich and untouchable.
Your past will follow you. Whether you believe it or not. Whether you want it to or not. Whether you believe you deserve it or not.
Especially if arrogance and power were your standards. Your personal reputation. Your brand.
Let’s begin by noting I am a proud member of the Screen Actors Guild. Have been for many years, earning my card in commercials and feature films. The people I have worked with, from the Directors on down to the person carrying cable, are some of the most dedicated and hard-working professionals anywhere who live and breathe their craft. I have been honored to interact with them and learn from them.
Having said that, the crimes of people such as Harvey Weinstein have long been known in Hollywood and beyond. He is not alone in this “old school thinking”, where as he sought to excuse it away as being part of a certain generation has been the norm under the glittering surface.
And it goes on to this day. I will wager every ounce of life left in me that as you read this, somewhere a producer, a casting individual, someone with the ability to make or break careers, is using their influence in a monetary or sexual manner to get what they want.
It’s as old as prostitutes and pimps from Roman times.
HARVEY WEINSTEIN AND “THE FEAR FACTOR”
The reason why it took so long to come to the public surface is fear. The fear instilled in those who want to “make it big”, be “a star”, or just become part of a honorable community by the people wielding unchecked power. The ones who spread lies about people to ruin careers. The ones who seek personal favors for the chance of opening a door. The scurrilous vermin that would see exposing themselves to someone else or forcing themselves sexually on someone else as “part of the game”.
Long ago, I dated an actress who years later told me what she had to go through to get a very small part in what at the time was a “starmaking” television show. She laughed it off and said, “it’s the choice I made to be a star”.
She acted in one movie after that, a really bad one, and was never heard or seen onscreen again. It took me even more years to discover from someone else that she refused the advances of a casting agent, and she was never considered again.
Let’s stop for a moment and understand another part of this story. The majority of those who work on that side of the camera are honorable professionals who would never consider any such thing. I’ve worked with them and respect them. But even they will tell you in private moments that, like other walks of life, all it takes is one cretin to besmirch the reputation of others.
Weinstein was long known as someone who took advantage when and where he could. But at the height of his power, no one would dare utter a word for fear of being blackballed. Many were when they were threatened, most of them paid for their silence, knowing if they didn’t take the money, they, their friends, and their families would be systematically humiliated and harassed for years.
THIS IS NOT ENDEMIC TO ONLY “HOLLYWOOD”
If we’re going to be brutally honest, let’s admit to ourselves that Hollywood is no difference from any other profession. Sexual crimes, beratement, threats and fear are used in every profession from doctors to lawyers, from members of the military to the White House, from behind the counter at the fast food joint to behind the desk at 5 star hotels around the world.
If this be the clarion call to shut it down everywhere, without fear of retribution, let it gather enough steam to roll over the despicable people who use their power to crush the lives of others.
We don’t know for certain if every allegation is 100% true, but I can tell you from experience and knowing enough intimate details about the business, the bulk can and hopefully will be proven.
This is indeed about reputation. Brand. Image. Leadership.
The failure of those who should be leading by example to lead instead by greed. Those who revel in their phony image and purposely destroy the brand of those who refuse to buckle. The reputation that often follows them in the shadows and needs to be exposed in the light of day.
THE DIFFICULT AND SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE LESSON TO LEARN
Protect your image. Protect your reputation. Do everything you can to call out those who seek little more than revenge.
Come to the conclusion that it’s never worth compromising who you are simply for a paycheck.
I did once, and have regretted it every day since. But when I was told to lie, to present myself as someone I wasn’t, and when I was threatened by management, I stood my ground and would not bend. It cost me the job, but it didn’t cost me my reputation. It put me in a difficult situation, but at the end of the day my reputation and image remained intact to this day.
We are never too old to learn valuable lessons and become better individuals. Use this as one of those teaching moments to understand the vile nature of some and how to avoid them.
This is not how people at any level of personal or professional life should act, nor desire to be known for. Then again, your brand is what you wish to make it.
And how you wish to be known forever.