My previous post dealt with Morgan Spurlock’s recent confession that he’s been a drunk, a womanizer and a sexual harasser. He now promises to be part of the solution. Well, gee, that’s great. Here’s how he and all men can be “part of the solution”: don’t act like a jackass when you’re around women.  Don’t attempt to have sex with women who aren’t actually attracted to you, and if you’re married, don’t cheat on your wife.  It’s not that difficult to figure out.

If you watched the Golden Globe awards on Sunday (I didn’t), you know the rich and famous women of Hollywood wore black dresses and gave rousing speeches to publicly demonstrate their outrage over all that sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. They were, of course, praised for their courage by a mostly-fawning press.

Sorry, but I’m not impressed. According to what I’ve read, Harvey Weinstein’s status as a sexual predator was the worst-kept secret in Hollywood. Many of the women courageously donning $10,000 designer black dresses on Sunday night had to know, yet did nothing when Weinstein was still sitting atop the industry and could boost or bust careers.

Rose McGowan, the actress who had enough spine to call him out (and whose story was spiked by some of our “speak truth to power” journalists because they were afraid of Weinstein) wasn’t impressed either. As CBS reported:

Rose McGowan is still unimpressed with the black dress protest at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards. The outspoken actress claimed that all of the stars at the Golden Globes wearing black in protest against sexual harassment would not have done so if it weren’t for her.

Yup. Wearing a black dress and giving a rousing speech now, after years of remaining silent, is kind of like running out from the crowd to kick Goliath in the groin after David hurled the fatal stone, then patting yourself on the back for your bravery. I mean seriously, am I supposed to cheer for Meryl Streep and her black dress and her righteous speeches now, when she once stood and cheered for director Roman Polanski after he was convicted of drugging and raping a teenage girl?! Pardon me if I remain seated.

Perhaps you’re wondering how Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and all those other walking penises got away with it for so long. As someone who lived in Hollywood and worked in and around the entertainment industry, I can make an educated guess.

Here’s the brief version: the entertainment industry (including TV news) is a universe in which 1) a disproportionate number of powerful people at the top are amoral sociopaths, and 2) a disproportionate number of the people who aren’t at or near the top are so desperate for success, they’ll do or put up with almost anything.

In other words, it’s a perfect environment for abuse.

You can find various definitions of sociopath on the internet, but I like this list of traits:

  • Having an oversized ego.
  • Lying and exhibiting manipulative behavior.
  • Exhibiting a lack of empathy.
  • Showing a lack of remorse or shame.
  • Behaving irresponsibly or with extreme impulsivity.
  • Having few real friends.
  • Being charming—but only superficially.
  • Living by the “pleasure principle.”
  • Showing disregard for societal norms.

Doesn’t that sound rather a lot like some Hollywood bigshots we could all name?

There are, of course, some very nice people at the top in showbiz. I’ve yet to hear anyone say a bad word about Tom Hanks, for example. But as Chareva and I both noticed during our years in the L.A. area, something about the entertainment industry seems to both attract and reward a particular type of aggressive, amoral, me-first personality.

I’ll give you just one example from my corner of the entertainment industry, standup comedy. I’m actually talking about a couple of famous comedians (whose names I won’t reveal, so don’t ask), but the story is similar in each case, so we’ll just roll them into one guy named Freddy Funny.

When Freddy Funny first appeared in comedy clubs in Los Angeles, he already had a killer act. There’s a good reason for that: while working the comedy-club circuit around the country before moving to L.A., he wrote down the best bits of every comedian he worked with. Then he went to L.A. with an act that could have been titled The Best Of The Club-Circuit Comedians.

His punishment for stealing material that other comedians had meticulously written, worked and reworked was to become a TV star. After all, agents and producers saw him slaying audiences. Eventually, word got around that Freddy routinely stole his material from unknown comedians. Nobody cared. Freddy was a star now with millions of fans. His presence in a show drew the numbers that make producers rich.

I was first warned about Freddy by other comedians. “If you’re about to try that great new bit on stage and you see Freddy in the back of the room, don’t do it. Switch to your old material, finish your time, and get off the stage.”

“Why would I want to do that?” I asked. “Wouldn’t it help my career if Freddy Funny saw me and liked my stuff?”

“No, it will hurt your career. Because you’ll turn on The Tonight Show or The Letterman Show some night, and Freddy will be doing your best bit. Then you’ll have to drop it from your act, because audiences will think you stole it from him instead of the other way around.”

Eventually, a comedian who was outraged at hearing his best bit come out of Freddy’s mouth on TV cornered Freddy in a club, punched him in the face, and shoved him down a flight of stairs. After that, Freddy’s manager routinely paid the victims of Freddy’s thefts for their silence. But of course, the thefts continued … because despite the millions of fans who considered a Freddy a brilliant comedian, the guy never did learn to write a good act.

When Freddy died – one of them, anyway – some comedians posted an inside joke beneath his obituary in a showbiz magazine: When Freddy Funny died, a little bit of all of us died with him.

Keep in mind I never personally met Freddy, so I’m passing on what I was told by quite a few other comedians. But I did have a personal experience with a comedy thief. I was the headliner in a small club many years ago, and the opener was okay but not exactly rocking the house. About a year later, I worked another club where he was opening, and he seemed to have really improved. And yet some of his material seemed familiar … and then one of my best bits came out of his mouth.

I didn’t say anything to him, but went ahead and did the same bit in my act. When the audience responded with quizzical looks and a few nervous chuckles, I said, “Yeah, I know, you just heard that bit about an hour ago, right? Which is weird, because I wrote it.”

At that point, the opener left the club instead of fulfilling his duty to come up on stage after the show to wish the audience a good night and send them on their way. With such an a-hole attitude, I’m surprised he didn’t end up as a TV star.

It’s not just performers who lie, cheat and steal. As you may recall, the first two distributors for Fat Head never paid us. One of them sold the film to TV markets around the world, but reported zero profit because of huge and unexplained expenses – for a film I produced and financed out of my own pocket. (Gravitas, our current distributor, is one of the good guys, by the way. They send regular quarterly checks and document the rare expenses they charge against the film’s sales.)

Bottom line: the glamor of showbiz lures a lot people who have no qualms about lying, cheating, stealing or screwing other people — literally or figuratively. And those at the top, the ones who can make or break careers, have access to plenty of people who will put up with being abused.

That’s where the desperate-to-make-it aspect comes in.

When Chareva and I first moved to Hollywood, her sister – who at the time was a documentary producer and knew quite a few industry people – gave us a friendly warning about relationships among showbiz types. Dating isn’t really dating; it’s a career move. People jump into bed with whoever might open doors for them. Same for friendships; if you’re in a position to boost careers, you’ll have more new “friends” than you can handle – which in turn makes you suspicious of anyone who wants to be your friend.

I saw that from both angles. Some years ago, I was in a sketch-comedy show at a small theater near Burbank. After our opening night, we went out to celebrate at a local pub. One of the actresses had a friend with her, a middle-aged woman. I ended up chatting a bit with the friend and eventually asked what she did for a living.

After just a hint of hesitation, she replied, “I’m a photographer.” She seemed uncomfortable, so I didn’t ask any more questions about her profession.

Later I said something about “your photographer friend” to the actress.

“My what friend?”

“Your photographer friend. She was with you at the cast party after opening night.”

“She’s not a photographer. She’s a director.”

“Why didn’t she just say that?”

“Because if she tells people she’s a director, they start schmoozing with her, hoping she can give them an acting job.”

The year before we moved, I was in an acting workshop I’d been attending for several weeks. One of the actors and I had become chit-chat friendly, and he asked if I’d done any standup shows recently. I told him I’d given up the comedy gigs for the time being and was shooting some footage for an independent film I wrote, a comedy-documentary of sorts.

Boom, next thing I know, a pretty young actress-wannabe who had never spoken to me before was chatting me up and being very friendly – and of course, she handed me a copy of her headshot and resume.

I had no interest in her, but I’m guessing I could have asked her out for a drink right then, despite the wedding ring on my finger.  I was a nobody, but I was shooting a film, so she suddenly found me interesting.  Imagine what a Harvey Weinstein could do.  Well, you don’t have to imagine anymore.

People in the industry just seemed to accept this as normal. I once attended a workshop run by a brutally honest casting director. He’d worked in various aspects of the industry, including a brief stint as a producer.

“I never actually got anything produced, but having Producer on my business card made it easy to pick up girls,” he said, prompting chuckles in the room. Ha-ha. I don’t doubt it.

During Q&A, a good-looking wannabe actress asked him (perhaps speaking from experience) what she should do if a big-name producer decided to put his hand on her thigh during an audition.

“If you’re smart and you want the role, you’ll reach out and pat his hand with yours,” he replied.

Like I said, brutally honest. And that, of course, is why Harvey Weinstein got away with it for so long. Actors desperately want the next role. Agents desperately want their actors to get the next role. Writers desperately want their scripts produced. Directors, designers, composers, whatever, countless people fighting for a spot in the industry are desperate.

That includes many people who, to mere mortals, already appear successful. I found that to be one of the most disturbing aspects of the whole showbiz culture: almost everyone seemed to be suffering from some degree of career frustration. Actors who actually had roles on TV shows were frustrated because they wanted to be acting in films. Actors who were in films were frustrated because they wanted to be in the meaningful films, or wanted top billing. I remember reading an interview with Alec Baldwin in which he said he felt like a failure as an actor because he never got the kind of meaningful roles he wanted. I kid you not.

Same goes for directors, producers, agents, you name it. Below the tippy-top of the industry, it seemed damned near everyone was in a constant career-climbing, claw-my-way-to-the-top mode. Chareva and I used to wonder if that’s why there are so many incredibly rude and angry drivers in L.A. They’re frustrated by the traffic, but more frustrated by their careers … or lack of careers.

The desire to be discovered prompted some truly strange behavior.  Chareva and I were having dinner at a restaurant for one of our anniversaries, and an adolescent boy at another table was annoying the crap out of other diners by singing show tunes — and his parents were encouraging him.  They apparently hoped a producer would be somewhere in the restaurant and sign junior to a three-picture deal.

I once filled in for Chareva and took Alana to a dance class.  While I was sitting in a waiting room with other parents, a young dad was reading to a toddler whose older sibling was in the dance class.  I noticed with growing irritation that the young dad was reading way too loudly and with way too much expression.  Is this guy deaf?  Does he think his toddler is deaf?  And then it hit me: he’s an actor, and he’s acting the character parts — loudly, just in case one of us might be a producer or agent or whatever.

Meanwhile, my Midwest friends working in other fields were nothing like the people I met in L.A. My friend who set out to be an attorney as a young man was one – a partner in a prestigious firm, in fact. My buddy who wanted to work in finance was a manager for an investment firm in Chicago. My pal who wanted to teach yoga owned a yoga studio. No desperate, never-ending career-climbing for them. They had achieved their primary goals and were enjoying life.  If Kevin Spacey had grabbed one of them by the privates, they would have punched him in the nose, not complain to a manager who would tell them to keep quiet because Spacey has serious mojo in Hollywood.

I wasn’t aware of any specific sexual abuse at the time, but I was keenly aware of the toxic combination of desperate wannabes and amoral sociopaths in power positions. I suspected there plenty of people engaging in Harvey Weinstein behavior. I just didn’t know their names yet.

So there I was in 2008, with Fat Head done and in the hands of distributors who would later rip me off. I looked out the window of our townhouse one afternoon and saw my girls “playing outside” on the little strip of grass in front of our building.

That’s when it hit me:

This is going to be their childhood. They’re going to be L.A. kids.  They’re never going to just run around outdoors unsupervised, because parents don’t let kids do that around here.  As they grow up, they’re going to be surrounded by all those desperate, career-climbing, attention-seeking, needy people in the industry. And if, heaven forbid, they get caught up in the culture and want to be actresses, there’s a chance they’ll be meeting the amoral slimeballs who prey on pretty young actresses.

And why am I here? Because I love being a writer and entertainer and want to do it for a living. But what would that mean? It would mean working with a lot of people I don’t like, people whose me-first, aggressive personalities and loony-lefty politics (which they seem compelled to preach about at every opportunity) make me want to vomit — all so I can perhaps someday make enough money as an entertainer to afford a nice house with a big yard in a state run by big-government morons who are spending it into bankruptcy.

Holy crap … I’m an idiot. I know now I could have made Fat Head while living almost anywhere, and yet I’m still in a part of the country dominated by a bat-shit-crazy culture I’ve come to loathe.

So we moved to Tennessee. And the big yard is pretty nice indeed.

108 Responses to “Hollyweird and Harassment”
  1. Sally myles says:

    Oh I hope Freddy Funny wasn’t Bill Hicks. I’d be beyond devastated.

  2. Anand Srivastava says:

    Thanks Tom, for a very enlightening read. And you made the best decision.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Haven’t doubted it since the moment we drove away from the loony bin.

      • KidPsych says:

        This one really resonated with me. My wife, daughter and I left LA in 2007 to begin my career as a psychologist after being a screenwriter for too many years. It’s such a toxic environment to be in day after day. It sounds as if you had a similar experience in that despite recognizing how horrid Hollywood is, it’s not until you leave that you realize the enormity of it. While I think the MeToo movement is healthy, it doesn’t address a broader issue in Hollywood: As you note, people abuse others in many different ways, not just sexually. Weinstein isn’t a pig solely because of his sexual abuse; he’s a pig because of his need to abuse and control others in all aspects of his life. Miramax used to bring writers in to give them a take on a pitch, with no interest in actually hiring you (they had already chosen the writer), but then they would have assistants write down ideas and they would steal them for the project. Disgusting people.

        Anyhoo, as fate would have it, I recently sold a screenplay. I’m trying to balance my busy psych practice with my old work. It’s interesting to me psychologically in that despite being very secure in my current work, merely engaging with Hollywood has rekindled insecurities and self-doubts. I’ve had to be proactive in exercising and meditating to keep these demons at bay. It’s a truly horrid profession.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          Yup, the abuse in Hollywood takes many forms. I once read an interesting essay by a conservative commentator who had worked in the industry as a writer. He pointed out that businessmen are routinely portrayed as evil in Hollywood productions and suggested the reason is simple to understand: the evil-businessman stereotype is pretty close to the truth in Hollywood.

  3. Albie says:

    Lived in NYC for 25 years and dynamic was the same. Add in or substitute Wall Street ethos and you’ve turned up the dial on the slime to 11.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Seems to be a problem in any industry where the potential rewards vastly outweigh the actual work involved.

      • Walter says:

        Work or relative talent. For every movie role their have to be dozens or hundreds of potential aspirants who could do the role well as far as could be judged from applicants without significant reputation. Evidently the directors etcetera could find competent actors who would do what the required without ruining their bottom lines.

        A persons bottom line is the crack of the person’s ass, of course.

        “Well, you don’t have to imagine anymore.” That line had me laughing out loud. I’m a tough character for a comic. I had to have the joke in Haydn’s Opus 33 #2 explained in detail, before I got it, for example.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          That absolutely is part of the reason for the desperation and never-ending career-climbing: take most roles in TV and films, and there are countless actors who could play the part well. So a lot of the decisions are based on personal likes and dislikes. “It’s who you know, not what you know” is probably more true in Hollywood than in any other industry.

          • JillOz says:

            I think it’s actually part of a world where you’re depending on someone else to employ you.
            Harassment and abuse are rife in the hospitality industry for example.

  4. Firebird7478 says:

    Liberals in 2016: A billionaire should not be allowed to run for president.

    Liberals in 2018: Oprah should run for president!

    • Emily says:

      Not this liberal. Nor any of this liberal’s liberal friends.

      Humans have this problem where they see the loudest and most obnoxious of a group as representative of that group. Tbh I have trouble seeing anyone who wants Oprah, she who shilled The Secret, as a liberal in the first place.

      • Tom Naughton says:

        And for clarification, when I say “loony left,” I’m talking about the wacko crowd … the ones who think any conservative opinion is “hate speech” that should stifled, the ones who think any guy who claims to feel like a woman inside should be able to walk into the same bathroom as my adolescent daughters, the ones who fly to environmental conferences in fuel-guzzling private jets and then lecture the rest of us on why we should buy electric cars, etc. I’m not talking about anyone who voted for Obama. My parents voted for Obama, and I certainly didn’t consider them loonies.

    • Chris says:

      Yes, because a self made billionaire succeeding from poverty more or less due to her own efforts is exactly the same as a person born into absolute privilege who managed to end up with less money than he started…

      Tom, an excellent piece

    • Colin MacDonald says:

      A bit like when Bush JR was elected and so the Dems started grooming Mrs Clinton for president. You want nepotism, we got nepotism! For people who consider themselves cleverer than you and I, the libs seem strangely bereft of original ideas.

    • Walter says:

      A “billionaire”[1]who bankrupted a casino, which is a license to print money.

      [1] We don’t know his actual wealth. I speculate that he is appearance of wealth is mainly smoke and mirrors.

  5. Firebird7478 says:

    I wanted to add — I had aspirations of acting, writing, producing. I’ve won a number of awards for screenwriting at a couple of prestigious film festivals and have had my scripts optioned. Unfortunately, those producers were scratchers and crawlers, too — unable to raise the funds or get a pitch meeting with the studios. They had a behavior about them that they were “somebody”.

    A great example of that is a “casting” company in Philadelphia. A friend of mine was a “scout” for them and sent me there with my voice over demos and a couple of my screenplays. It wasn’t the parents or kids waiting to be interviewed that were trying to impress anyone…it was the manager of the agency. One of the kids was unruly. She walked around and loudly stated, “Jonathan Demme would never put up with that behavior on the set.” She spent the entire time dropping names.

    I’m not a name dropper, but a friend of mine works as a film distributor whose credits include The Beatles documentary “Eight Days a Week” and Pearl Jam’s “Let’s Play Two” concert at Wrigley Field. He had the best line. When asked for advice on how to become a film producer, his response was, “Just say you’re one.”

    My career path sent me to ESPN and other cable sports outlets…saw a bit of the sexual harassment that is going on in Hollywood at the broadcasting level.

    I also saw it in my brief time in wrestling. In fact it almost happened to me…I was at a party, and was introduced as a wrestler. A pretty girl who hadn’t given me a thought suddenly perked up when she learned who I was. (I was engaged at the time and did not oblige)

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Yup, some of those “casting” agencies are complete ripoff organizations. Their business model is to get wannabes (and stage-door parents of wannabes) to pay them for headshots and other marketing tools. They don’t actually cast anyone.

  6. Bob Niland says:

    re: all those desperate, career-climbing, attention-seeking, needy people in the industry.

    Back in the 1960s, psychologist Nathaniel Branden identified perhaps the top problem he had to deal with in his clients: what he termed “social metaphysics” — allowing your world view (including of yourself) to be defined by what you think other people think (and in particular, think of you). A tendency to this is to some extent part of our tribal heritage, and it could be argued that if there’s a gender bias on this, females have a stronger susceptibility, due to the simple survival value of having a social support network in the latter stages of child-bearing.

    Just being a performer tends to set one up for disaster on this particular psychological hazard. Performer career success literally hinges on what other people think of the performer. The performer has taken what’s a modest psych risk for most people, and made it their job. The performer is driven to create satisfaction in other minds. Slippery slopes abound, as some of those minds are gatekeepers of opportunities.

    I worked for a time in the film industry, decades ago. I got out, in large part, because it was obvious that technical competence had almost nothing to do with career success. Ended up in computer programming, where at the time, exactly the opposite obtained.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I came to the same conclusion after being around the Hollywood crowd. Much of their behavior is driven almost completely by a desire to be seen as having the correct views. So when the correct view was that all the women accusing Bill Clinton of groping them were liars and trailer trash and Clinton hadn’t actually done anything wrong, that was their position. I guarantee many of black-dress-wearing actresses were 100% behind him in the 1990s, smooching him at parties and contributing to his campaigns, despite many credible accusations of him being serial abuser of women.

      Now the correct position is that all men accused of sexual harassment are scum. So they wear their black dresses and give speeches to demonstrate their oh-so-correct outrage at behavior that didn’t seem to bother them much before.

      I also found that many in the Hollywood crowd adopt oh-so-correct positions on issues they know nothing about. A woman at Disney once repeated the oh-so-correct position that the rich should pay more in taxes. So I asked, “Put a number on that. What percent of their incomes should they pay in taxes?”

      Flummoxed by a request to demonstrate actual knowledge on the subject, she hemmed and hawed a bit, then said, “They should pay at least 25 percent.”

      I explained to her that the top tax rate was already 35 percent, and when you add in self-employment tax and California state tax, many of them were paying 50 percent in taxes.

      She replied, “Well, I just don’t believe that.”

      Of course you don’t believe that. As a member of the oh-so-correct yet loony left, you’re entitled to adopt the mindset of “if I believe it, it’s true; if I don’t believe it, it’s not true.”

      • Bob Niland says:

        re: «Much of their behavior is driven almost completely by…»

        Well heck, as long as we’re piling on…

        In the specific case of actors, it also might be a wee bit pathological to base a career on pretending to be other people.

        Further, when the thespian gets to the point where they are recognized and admired by the public, it’s in large part because the public confuses the performer for the character(s) being portrayed.

        For any performer, the recognition sought is not something easily switched off. Achieving that celebrity status often includes over-zealous fans, paparazzi, if not outright stalkers. Once that point has been reached, the performer is truly trapped. They have to be earning enough, for life, to be able rent a few fleeting moments of privacy from time to time.

        re: «…a desire to be seen as having the correct views.»

        Celebrities weren’t always that stupid. One of the silent era actresses is supposed to have said “When a politician enters the room, I leave.” Regardless of the merits of their supposed stances, going public with politics pretty much alienates one half of the audience or the other. Celebrities today seem to fail to grasp this simple math. Hmm … if 10¢ of every movie dollar is blatantly supporting causes that are antagonistic to my interests, I think I’ll just stop sending money to Hollywood (and did so, years ago).

        Professional sports prima donnas also seem oblivious to this suicidal political polarization (as well as not understanding some separate basic psychology of why public performances of team sports exist in the first place).

        • Tom Naughton says:

          Heck, I say we keep piling on. They deserve it.

          I believe celebrities can express their political preferences without alienating half the audience if they’re polite about it. I didn’t like Jerry Seinfeld any less when an interviewer asked who he was voting for in 2000 and he said Al Gore. That was the answer I expected.

          It’s when the celebrities are preachy and/or hypocritical that they lose viewers. Some of them seem to think being cute gives them special insights into political, environmental and economic issues, and therefore they must lecture the rest of us … and anyone who disagrees is a horrible person and probably a racist. Those are the bozos I never watch again.

        • JillOz says:

          I love watching certain films, but when you write:

          “In the specific case of actors, it also might be a wee bit pathological to base a career on pretending to be other people.”
          isn’t it more pathological to actually pay to see them pretend to be other people and thus enable the damaging behavior?

      • S says:

        I’m not sure about the US, but here in NZ rich people should be paying more tax on their capital, in particular housing (their effective tax rate is often less than 10%). A comprehensive capital tax would go a long way towards achieving vertical equity while simultaneously incentivising better allocation of capital and more affordable housing.

        There’s a pretty good book by Gareth Morgan called The Big Kahuna that details all of it pretty nicely, along with an implementation plan for Unconditional Basic Income, which I think is the most “libertarian” form of welfare possible. The book is NZ-centric but the economics obviously still applies elsewhere.

  7. Nicky says:

    A very good move on your part Tom, leaving Sodom and Gomorrah.
    Some years back I was listening to an interview by Nelly Furtado a Canadian singer talking about her experiences when she moved to L.A. to advance her music career. The sexual exploitation was relentless, she was very young , seventeen at the time.
    Mentioned she will one day write a book about it, I guess we will wait and see.
    Alinis Morisett from Ottawa said the same thing, the very inappropriate sexual harassment was constant.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      And this is in the industry where many of the stars feel qualified to preach to the rest of us. I hope Furtado writes that book.

      • Firebird7478 says:

        I am a tremendous fan of the works of Ken Finkleman. Finkelman is a Canadian producer/writer/director/actor who produced a number of excellent satirical comedies for the CBC like “The Newsroom”, “Good Dog” and “Good God”.

        Years ago he went to Hollywood and wrote the sequel to “Airplane” and Madonna’s “Who’s That Girl?” He could not stand the industry, went back to Toronto. He has included his poor experiences in Hollywood in a number of episodes of his TV series.

        Brilliant guy.

        Here’s an example.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          I suspect lots of talented people whose works we would have enjoyed chose to leave Hollywood and do something else after finding they couldn’t stomach the current Hollywood culture. I also suspect Hollywood will become gradually less relevant as cheaper production technology and new delivery platforms make it easier for people to work outside the Hollywood system.

          • Elenor says:

            The Chinese are buying up Hollywood… They don’t care so much about Hollywood’s big movers-and-shakers — and won’t protect them the way Hollywood always has (since Hollywood began!!) Will they do better? Different? Worse? No one knows!

          • Firebird7478 says:

            I found “The Newsroom” on PBS. A lot of great programming from overseas that aren’t corrupted by Hollywood find their way there, and as you have said, platforms like “Hulu” and “Netflix” and “Crackle”.

          • KidPsych says:

            It’s both ironic and sad that the people least capable of enduring the emotional torture of Hollywood are the ones who will give everything to achieve this success. It’s almost a perfect system for creating unhappy people. I recall a friend asking me how I could possibly leave after putting in all this time (the sunken cost fallacy, no?), and I responded that it was the easiest change I’ve ever made. Even being in extension classes at UCLA prior to grad school felt fulfilling and structured and rewarding in a way that Hollywood almost never is.

            As a side note, in my first class I’d learned about reinforcement schedules – and quickly made the connection between Hollywood and the power of intermittent schedules – if you are reinforced sporadically, it’s very challenging to remove yourself from those stimuli. You probably experienced that as a comedian – months (or years) of drought, then a hugely reinforcing payday. (It’s the same principle that applies to abusive relationships.) Conversely, if you’re reinforced consistently, you move on as soon as that reinforcer is removed (like a weekly paycheck).

    • JillOz says:

      Madonna was raped but I don’t know if it was by someone in showbiz or a non-showbiz person.

  8. Gina says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I agree that we should teach boys to “not be jacka$$es around women” but we should teach girls that just because a boy is nice to you or holds the door open for them (gasp), that doesn’t mean they have ulterior motives. But if a guy gets out of line, learn to throw a punch. It creates a far more memorable moment for the offender and reduces the chance of reoccurrence.

    • Elenor says:

      “But if a guy gets out of line, learn to throw a punch. ”

      {wince} This is just a hugely bad idea — and part and parcel of the destruction of common sense and common knowledge that USED to protect women (and make our civilization a nice one to live in. Ever read de Tocqueville on early America?). Girls, young women, and women should realize that unless you are some sort of biological freak, nearly ALL men will be stronger than we are. Despite Xena and Buffy (and all the movies and TV shows that present lies about women punching men and knocking them down or out) — and the sadly misled Rhonda Rousey — we will NOT be protecting ourselves by “punching a guy.” That requires us to rely — very very heavily! — on the (Euro-derived!) social stricture that “men don’t hit women!” In point of fact, men DO hit women, and have since proto-humans! That is a *culture-specific* stricture — and lots and lots of men who do not share that culture DO hit women — and, most especially, hit women BACK! Because Rousey was pretty great at boxing women, she THOUGHT she could box men in her weight class. OOPS! “Modern” women have been misled into believing ‘they can hold their own’ against a male. No, they can only do that against a male who DOES NOT INTEND TO KNOCK THEM DOWN/OUT! Not teaching girls that puts them in danger. Period. No exceptions. “Relying” on the man not hitting back is no longer a good protection. Wake up! Wake up! It’s NOT the world we knew!

      • Tom Naughton says:

        It would depend on the situation. I agree that TV show and movies are a bit too PC in their depiction of what happens when women fight men. In fact, I rolled my eyes when the stick-thin wife character in “The Americans” beat the crap out of two burly FBI agents in one episode. Sorry, it wouldn’t happen. If a guy is being inappropriate, tries to grope you, insults you, etc., make some noise and leave.

        But if you believe the guy intends to physically harm you, I say kick and hit and scream and eye-poke like a banshee. I once had a cop tell me (for an article I was writing on street safety) that muggers and rapists much prefer people who are too scared to fight back, and showing a willingness to fight is often all it takes to convince them to go find another victim.

        • Gina says:

          I have 5 older brothers who made sure I learned to throw a punch, I’m not talking about a brawl. I also am aware that men have upper body strength that we don’t. My point was to do something to stop the behavior. I have two daughters of my own and have taught them to do what they need to do to get away from a bad situation, even if that means throwing a punch.

          • Tom Naughton says:

            I agree. I wouldn’t recommend a woman punch a guy who put a hand on her thigh, because as Elenor pointed out, he could indeed become violent. The best response in that case is probably to tell him to stop — loudly, if there are other people around — and then leave.

            But I certainly want my wife and daughters to know how to effectively punch, kick, scratch and gouge in case a guy becomes violent despite their efforts to avoid the situation. You never know.

        • Nowhereman says:

          The movies and TV that show a woman somehow magically beating up a guy. Or worse and more unbelievably multiple men without a damn good explanation (i.e. the character has superpowers and her opponents don’t) are only there to pander to the far left notion that gender is a social construct and is not based on anything real.

          Now sometimes a show or movie is just silly fantasy and wish fulfillment, and that’s okay to an extent, but what I see now more often than not is so unrealistic it borders on the dangerous as far as what kind of message it sends that a woman can beat up a man or men because literally she is equal in physical strength despite common sense since they show almost always show a woman who is less than half the size of her opponent(s).

          • Tom Naughton says:

            It wouldn’t be so laughable if Hollywood productions didn’t always feature female cops, spies, soldiers, etc. who just happen to look like pretty, stick-thin models. I don’t care what martial art you learn, you still need muscle and mass to throw a knockout punch.

            By contrast, I’ve seen some BBC and Australian shows in which the female cops are pleasant-looking women, but also bigger and heavier than what we see on American TV. Some of them look like they could hit you and make it hurt. Their producers seem to trust that people will watch shows with female leads who don’t look like they stepped off the cover of Glamour magazine.

    • JillOz says:

      Specifically they can learn to keep their hands to themselves. That goes for men as well as boys.

  9. Mike says:

    ” According to what I’ve read, Harvey Weinstein’s status as a sexual predator was the worst-kept secret in Hollywood.”

    Even if his particular behavior were a well-kept secret, how far would you have to go to find an American who hadn’t heard of the casting couch?

    • Tom Naughton says:


      • Walter says:

        Perhaps a village in northern Alaska where the people live off the land? Perhaps amongst the pre pubescents?

        That’s one reason that people didn’t come out against it. No reason to ruin your career and pass up all that money
        when everybody knows what’s going on and nobody cares.

        • Nowhereman says:

          Which makes what Corey Feldman and Elisa Woods have done in bringing to light the sexual abuse of not only women, but children and even male actors and athlete all the more impressive, especially given how detrimental it has been to their careers. I hope that people will be truly grateful for the sacrifice they have made.

  10. Emily says:

    One near-constant among victims of sexual harassment and assault is that at first they feel frozen. They may have been quite sure they’d protect themselves physically before, but when it happens, it’s so totally out of the norm that the flight or fight response shorts out and so they do nothing for a time. Usually a very short time, but that’s enough for something very bad to happen.

    I’m saying I hope your friends would punch Kevin Spacey in the nose, but don’t be so sure.

    Of course, another near-constant is that sexual predators purposefully attack those they see as weak targets. And they’re good at figuring out who’s going to be a weak target. They tend to put out feelers, like that thigh grab you mention. A woman who slaps their hand away or says something pointed about it is a woman who maybe won’t get the job, but she’s also not likely to be their target for future escalations. And there are other jobs.

    As a writer, I’ve faced people telling me I have to change my writing to something I hate to be published. Well, no, I don’t. (I’ve been told to change my writing both to appease stereotypical current left-wing and right-wing ideas; this is definitely not contained to one “side.”) We have the internet now. I think this is going to affect Hollywood the way it’s affected the publishing industry pretty soon, too.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      That’s why the combination of desperate wannabes and amoral people in powerful positions is so toxic. If you’re desperate for the role, that makes you weak.

      I recall a fellow comedian explaining to me that there’s power in being willing to say “no.” There were so many comedians chasing a relatively small number of gigs, some club owners would offer peanuts, and many comedians would take the peanuts rather than sit home. Say no to those gigs, she told me. Don’t appear desperate to work.

      She was right. Twice after she shared that advice, club owners offered me gigs that didn’t really pay enough considering the distance to drive, etc. I said no. Both times, they called back and offered more money. So they didn’t just want any comedian. They wanted me … perhaps because I’d shown a willingness to turn them down.

      • JillOz says:

        You were lucky Tom, at least they were offering money.

        I knew of a promoter or so who paid comedians – or tried to – in heroin! He moved on to a healthier way of living eventually but ewwwwwwwwwwwww!

  11. Lori Miller says:

    This is why it doesn’t make any sense to demand that people in the entertainment business straighten up because they’re role models. There’s little incentive for them to straighten up, so pick better role models.

    On another note, I had an experience with someone who said he was in the entertainment business. He joined my meetup group and signed up for Christmas dinner at a restaurant. He didn’t come, and since I don’t wait for latecomers, we had dinner without him. He showed up after we left, took a selfie and posted it on the meetup site, saying he was “a little late.” He looked like the creep from the deep. Being a no-show on his first meetup, he was booted. He sent me a PM saying that he thought he’d never have any friends or family, and my removing him showed him he should give up. He couldn’t set his alarm clock, but I’m the bad guy…

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Sounds like the group can live without him.

    • JillOz says:

      What is it with people who pick entertainers & sportspeople for role models? They’re the ones who need help!
      It’s not their business to tell anyone to be their role model nor is it the business of actors to be anyone’s role model!

      • KidPsych says:

        I suspect fame is a proxy for tribal importance – in other words, there is a deep level of genetic drive to recognize and follow people who can provide and protect – it’s just been distorted in modern society. But… that’s just a theory.

  12. tim says:

    Did a little searching and to me it sounds like Funny Freddie is most likely Robin Williams.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I’m not going to comment on any of the names people float. That would just turn into a process of elimination.

      Also, Freddy was two comedians rolled into one. Similar story in each case.

  13. I’m just still scratching my head over how now, “Black is the New Black.”

    It’s wonderful that McGowan was able to flip the light switch on all these roaches, but waiting twenty years after cashing a couple hundred thousand in hush money checks before blowing the whistle (no pun intended) doesn’t exactly put her up there with Braveheart or Audie Murphy. Or even Juanita Broderick.

    I’d say if the ladies of Hollywood really wanted to make a bold statement, they should’ve all gone in frumpy sweatsuits with NO MAKEUP. That would be the ultimate act of bravery in an entire industry of narcissists.


    • Tom Naughton says:

      I agree blowing the whistle sooner would have been better. But I give her credit for taking on Weinstein when so many people — including many of our (ahem) brave journalists — were too afraid of the guy to say diddly, even though they knew what was happening.

    • Credit, ok. But the MSM and snowflake brigades ar ready to award her a Medal of Honor.

      If David had slunk off and put his sling in a locker for twenty years, then got it out after Goliath had gotten old, fat, weaker, and hadn’t produced a hit film for years, it would still be a good thing, but I don’t think the Israelites would’ve been all “#metoo” about it.

      Just sayin.


      • An Older Sister says:

        What The Older Brother said. ^^^^

      • KidPsych says:

        I don’t entirely disagree, but for her it was not merely about getting a payday, it was about avoiding an event that would implode her career. Now, with clear eyed objectivity, one could certainly argue that she should have been willing to move on and do something else, but as someone who toiled at being a screenwriter for years, I can empathize with someone (especially someone that young) feeling a drive to succeed at something. We’re probably not too far off on our feelings here, but I think she deserves some slack.

  14. Dianne says:

    What saddens me most is the way so many people, especially the very young, idolize these entertainers despite their completely messed-up lives, their addictions, and their destroyed families, just because we’ve been conditioned by the media to almost worship celebrities. Can’t help wondering how many kids and young adults think, “Well, if Gina Lollapalooza does it, it must be OK,” and really mess up their own lives in consequence.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      The celebrities appear to have everything — wealth, power, adoring fans, romances with beautiful people, etc. But the ones whose lives are a stream of drug rehabs and divorces can’t be all that happy.

      • Bonnie says:

        And the damage can happen at such a young age. My mother & I got suckered into one of those acting/modeling classes/agent groups with my daughter. She was really cute & could speak well, but couldn’t have acted her way out of a paper bag (still can’t!). A few months into the classes I started noticing the older kids – I didn’t like them. They were way too self-absorbed & superficial. So when the classes we’d already paid for were over, we didn’t continue. She was ticked at me for a while, but I still think I made the right decision.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          You made the right decision. I once auditioned for the role of a dad in a commercial (didn’t get it). The kids auditioning were in the five-to-nine range, and many of them already had that showbiz attitude, trying to one-up each other with how many auditions, callbacks, roles and such they’d had. The ICK! factor got to me.

    • Emily says:

      People of my generation (Gen X) talk a lot about being severely weirded out by it. Yeah, we followed celebrities, but this worship of them as paragons is deeply strange. From what I’ve seen, most don’t seem to be trying to emulate celebrities, but a whole lot look to them as moral guides. Then when the celebrities inevitably say something that is judged incorrect today, a bunch of 20-something adults are utterly heartbroken.

      What especially bothers me is who gets most often and most viciously hated. Bill Cosby? Kevin Spacey? Harvey Weinstein? Woody Allen? Nope. Adam Driver because he was in the army (and isn’t traditionally attractive.) Taylor Swift because she’s white (and has been making a fool of herself, but still we’re not talking about sexual assault here.) Tom Hiddleston when he dated Taylor Swift. Dave Chappelle for… everything and nothing, as far as I can tell. But above all else, normal teenage girls who like anything at all that has been decreed not “woke” enough this second.

  15. Bret says:

    Bravo, Tom. I appreciate your spelling out your epiphany especially. I have a couple of young kiddos as well and I am starting to think about stuff like this as they approach school age. I appreciate the perspective.

    One other root cause for the film industry’s pandemic narcissism is the fact that the industry is heavily concentrated in one geographic area (in this case LA/Hollywood). If there’s only one location, that attracts endless talent competition. Then people will get “creative” in their attempts to compete, and the power holders in turn will get “creative” in how to prioritize applicants.

    Why is the industry concentrated in this way? I can only imagine it’s due to heavy lobbying, tax break cronyism, etc. Any industry with that much money and attention should naturally attract a nationwide market of competition…so when that doesn’t happen, I smell a rat involving government.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      The concentration of the industry in SoCal was mostly about economics. Within a relatively short drive from L.A., you can find hills, pastures, farms, ranches, mountains, deserts, forests, rivers, an ocean, beaches, suburban neighborhoods, gritty urban neighborhoods — name your terrain, it’s there. And it’s rare for a day’s shooting to be canceled because of rain.

  16. Greg M says:

    It’s amazing how many former southern Californians I bump into here in Austin, Texas.

    I was born at Hollywood Presbyterian, and grew up in Orange County. Growing up, one of the cast members of The Waltons lived right down the street from me. I’ve known a few people involved in “the industry” and in the mid-90’s my wife finally helped me see that SoCal was not a healthy environment for us or our kids. Honestly, I wish we’d gotten out sooner.

    My brother-in-law is involved (and has been for many years) in “the industry” and is desperate to get out. He has seen first hand just how corrosive that fame can be.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      You almost have to get away from that environment to look back and realize how wacko it is.

      • Firebird7478 says:

        One of my scripts was optioned by a so called “producer”. He was from the Sacramento area but had a business partner that moved to L.A. I would be cc:’d in some of the e-mail exchanges between the business partner and the agents of a couple of “name” talents interested in our project. The phoniness in those e-mails were laughable. “Babe”, “Kisses and hugs”. All cack. On my own, I approached the agent of a well known actor who lives in Toronto and Canadian born. His agent was also based in Toronto and the e-mail exchanges I had with her were professional, cordial with no pretenses that she nor her client were important people. They politely declined the offer, not because they didn’t like the project but because he was simply too busy with other projects that were taking up all of his time.

    • KidPsych says:

      One of the scariest aspects of Hollywood is the intense ageism. My buddy’s wife, who’s not yet 40, is petrified that she will no longer be able to do her PR job for a studio. She shows up for meetings and is surrounded by 20-somethings who look at her as a dinosaur. As I always say, it’s fine to be an old psychologist, but being as old screenwriter is not so awesome.

      • Tom Naughton says:

        Yup, the Hollywood loony lefties, who love to preach tolerance and equality, are some of the most bigoted people on earth. Just being older than 40 (and thus having some life experience and perhaps some wisdom) is a strike against you. And if you’re a conservative or (horrors!) a Christian, forget it.

  17. Colin MacDonald says:

    The late great Michael Crichton touched on this in his book “Travels”. He recounts an incident at the Hollywood Condo he was living in, having got his big break as a Screen writer. The details elude me, but the police were called. The cops said something like they would rather patrol Watts than Hollywood, the implication was that they would rather deal with straightforward criminality than the crazed neuroticism of La La land.

  18. Lori Miller says:

    But Tom, a hashtag is an extremist destroying device!

  19. Walter says:

    And the light, it’s a desert and plenty of sunshine. It was important early when film was not very sensitive. Remember when the negative size in a child’s camera would be the size of the 4 by 5 print. I remember having a Brownie camera and my father would make us lookinto the Sun and keep your eyes open and smile. The cost of electricity and bulbs was a major factor.

    Glass roofs over the sound stages and you’re good to shoot.

  20. UWatchFree says:

    I agree blowing the whistle sooner would have been better. Thank you so much for writing this.

  21. Ulfric Douglas says:

    “You can find various definitions of sociopath on the internet, but I like this list of traits:

    Having an oversized ego.
    Lying and exhibiting manipulative behavior.
    Exhibiting a lack of empathy.
    Showing a lack of remorse or shame.
    Behaving irresponsibly or with extreme impulsivity.
    Having few real friends.
    Being charming—but only superficially.
    Living by the “pleasure principle.”
    Showing disregard for societal norms.
    Doesn’t that sound rather a lot like …”

    My Ex-Wife!!

    Thanks a bunch Tom 😐

  22. Ulfric Douglas says:

    This has always disturbed me ;
    ” …, the first two distributors for Fat Head never paid us.”
    And here was the solution staring you in the face all along! ;
    ” cornered Freddy in a club, punched him in the face, and shoved him down a flight of stairs. …”

    All your own words.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Believe, I had fantasies of driving to Toronto, finding that distributor’s offices, and beating some people with a large, blunt instrument. Instead, I hired a Canadian attorney to look into the matter. He tried putting a scare into them, but they stonewalled. After the attorney spelled out the costs of suing them in Canada vs. the likely rewards, we agreed it wasn’t worth the effort.

      Experiences like that one made me wish I had a relative in the Mafia who could (ahem) talk some sense into them.

  23. Waldo says:

    Just curious if there’s much of the same in HonkyTonkCentral? I hope not Tom. Good job getting out of Hollyweird!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I work in Nashville, but I’m not involved with people trying to get ahead in the music business, so I can’t really say. I certainly haven’t heard any stories suggesting there’s a music-industry version of the casting couch.

    • Let’s see:
      Finite number of “star” opportunities? Check
      No “middle class” – either obscenely compensated stars or starving wannabe’s? Check
      Thousands of (similarly qualified) aspiring performers per opportunity? Check
      Industry revolving mostly around one geographic location? Check
      Inbred “good old boy” network of main movers and shakers who can decide who the star is going to be? Check

      Hello, Kirt Webster! Y’all.


  24. Nurse Dave says:

    Tip o’ the top hat to you sir, and a Happy 2018 to you & yours. For me, my knee-jerk reaction to the ” did years ago” has been “um, okay…why didn’t you do something about it THEN?!?” Which didn’t sit too well with a fair amout of folk (stll in the People’s Republic of California, BTW). Thanks for having the moxie to point out the logical contradictions among the Hollywood set; just wish it were limited to them. Sadly, it’s not – spend any time interacting with humans anywhere in Southern California and the mindset is present. Just incredbly pervasive.
    As for me – been wanting to leave The Golden State for a number of years, just want to get my RN license here (because it’s incredibly difficult to get a California nursing license, and getting licensure elsewhere is a lot easier if your license is from CA.) Thinking Idaho or Montana – wanted to go someplace with a seacoast, but not too many places that meet my requirements are near an ocean.
    Hope your busted wing is mending well, and that you’re able to sleep well without chemical assistance.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Thank you. I sleep well most nights, but for some reason the bicep started throbbing last night and wasn’t impressed by a dose of ibuprofen. So I reluctantly popped a Percocet. That stuff kills the pain, but man, I end up with the most bizarre dreams.

  25. Nurse Dave says:

    Bother – WordPress doesn’t like certain symbols. Anyway, Happy 2018 to you & yours, and a tip o’ the top hat for having the moxie to point out the logical contradictions in the current media feeding frenzy re:sexual harassment. Tried pointing some of this out to my nursing peeps (female) and got a rather frosty reception. Tried to point out that someone coming forward 20-30 years after the fact has one rather nasty question to answer: “why didn’t you do something about it THEN?!?” Doesn’t help your credibility much to come forward under such circumstances. Got the “all men are homicidal sociopaths” in reply. Didn’t bother to point out the point that (a) the vast majority of men AREN’T, which is what makes a lot of this newsworthy, and (b) you just made a bigoted response to support your argument. Sigh. Really need to learn to keep my mouth shut. Ahem.

    As for your decision to leave the Democratic People’s Republic of California – planning on doing so m’self once I’ve got all my nursing credentials here. Got my LVN, working on my RN, planning on an NP, then I’m outta here…and good riddance! Had enough of the California mindset to last me awhile; just need to find someplace where working as a male nurse won’t get me too stigmatized.

    Hope the busted wing’s on the mend, and that you’re getting ample rest without meds.

    • JillOz says:

      Women often DO do something “then” or want to, but often are dissuaded by well-meaning connections of the offender from complaining officially or told “he’s too powerful” “you’ll never make it stick” or, quite simply cannot afford the fallout or are too inexperienced to deal with the fallout. Even older women don’t always have the ability to complain and have it go well.

      The police too often don’t want to know.

  26. Curtis says:

    Hi Tom,

    Haven’t visited this blog in a while and had to kick myself for missing alot of your common sense posts.:) Glad you are still around, telling the truth and making me laugh at the same time.

  27. JillOz says:

    Very interesting piece, Tom.

    One of the unavoidable aspects of film work is of course the need to network all the time, because you never know. 😉

    What amazes me is that you’ve written and produced Fathead and written so much about the pharma/medical/fake science industry and yet not acknowledge that in terms of amoral suckholes and egotistical liars it seems to run very close to those your write about above!

    The egos and damage I’ve experienced from doctors and dentists and the truly idiotic rationalisations and views they have which only make your health and oral health worse than it should be is vile to behold.
    Oh, and let’s not forget the huge capes of moral rhetoric they wear which protect them from outright condemning malpractice because apparently if you’ve dine the same degree as another doctor or dentist you’re all jolly colleagues together and never mind the sucker customer who’s actually paying for your services.

    No, no, it’s the ‘colleagues” to whom you owe your loyalty. And because they did a degree in the year dot and ‘they work really really hard” we must never question them and never forget they are shining figures we must worship every day.

    Sure, there are some very good practitioners who understand what they’re here for but the others?
    They – literally – make me sick.

    Film stars at least leave (mostly) a legacy of great films whatever the dynamics were in the background. Bad medics and dentists leave damaged bodies and an inability to participate in life – if you’re fortunate enough to live for a time and if you’re not sent broke trying to fix what they destroyed.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Fortunately, I haven’t seen the pharma industry from the inside. But we can certainly agree about amoral suckholes.

  28. JillOz says:

    By the way Tom, Donald Trump is being fed statins by his doctor. Time to worry I think!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Yeah, I saw that. I wish his doctor knew better.

    • Walter says:

      Transient retrograde amnesia would explain much. You revert to an arbitrary earlier part of your life mentally, not recognizing the people who are near and dear to you like wives. Dr. Duane Graveline explains this and other problems short term use caused him.

      Of course, he’s been this way for a long time. Comments on a 28 year old Doonesbury running today “How did Trudeau know 28 years ago that this would still be a relevant topic?,” starring another no Trump.

  29. 3Duranium says:

    I am surprised nobody has mentioned Hollywood Interrupted yet. Good book from 2004 exposing the insanity that goes on, including the sexual harassment which is only now being covered by the media. They also talk about scientology, broken families, and interview Matt Stone and Trey Parker who discuss how nuts Hollywood is.

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