Me Too: Louis C.K. Joins Hollywood’s List of Outed Sexual Predators

Yesterday afternoon, hours after the cancellation of his film, I Love You, Daddy, Louis C.K. publicly admitted that yep, he’s been a creepy wanker. I’d tell you what the shelved movie is about, but I can’t bring myself to type the words. So I invite you to read New Yorker writer Alexandra Schwartz’s account of needing a “barf bag” to endure the disgust. And oh by the way, C.K. – which is apparently an acronym for “cock” – also uses the “N” word in the movie. We really missed out, America. There’s just not enough self-involved, middle aged, white male stories of privilege being told (see: Election 2016).

C.K.’s fans have always found him edgy and – in a cruel irony – honest. The man traded on this reputation to create sometimes artistic, often funny content that also, from any angle, included plenty to make one wince. It was part of the brand. But hey, he was all in on Hillary Clinton, even if he felt the need to use the word “bitch” to describe her toughness. He has two young daughters. American audiences validated him. Unconventional feminist for sure, but we’ll take allies anywhere we can find them. Cool, I guess.

Except no. Louis C.K. and the guerilla-style perversions with which he attacked up and coming female comics were no secret to the industry. The power players – who are overwhelmingly male – enabled and uplifted a sick man who made them rich and famous by association. Let the shame hang on you now, Hollywood industrial media complex. You’ve also given us Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Mark Halperin, Brett Ratner, Charlie Sheen, Woody Allen, Billy Cosby, Roman Polanski, R. Kelly and Casey Affleck. None of these men committed their wide range of predatory acts in the shadows. Some of them, like Charlie Sheen, made TV millions after allegedly assaulting a young Corey Haim, and knowingly exposing female partners to HIV. That’s #Winning in the anything goes patriarchy.

And of course, Louis C.K., a writer on The Dana Carvey Show in 1996, has been running around with his dick in hand for over 20 years. His own work made no attempt to camouflage it, and still he kept rising (pun acknowledged, if not intended). In March 2012, now-defunct website Gawker, published a blind item entitled, Which Beloved Comedian Likes to Force Female Comics to Watch Him Jerk Off?

I’ll give you three guesses, but you only need one.

Five and a half years ago, the author wrote, “this shameless funnyman whips it out at the most inopportune moments, often at times when his female companions have expressed no interest in watching him go at it.” Yes, this checks out with what we now know. But appallingly, no one but the victims – two of whom who were intimidated by C.K.’s manager Dave Becky after one particular Aspen incident – would publicly say the emperor of American comedy was wearing no pants.

Well there were a few folks who decried the star’s penchant for pud pulling, but they’re women, lesbians or both. Why listen to them? Funny lady Tig Nataro, the deadpanned creator and star of Amazon’s One Mississippi, publicly distanced herself from her former collaborator long before the story broke this week. Jen Kirkman, Roseanne Barr and others have talked about Louie C.K.’s reputation as a glorified subway creep in an expensive trench coat. Nataro wisely advised the comedian to “handle that.”

As we know, after the quick flight of C.K.’s many entertainment partners this week, his weird, traumatizing business has been handled for him. No longer will the wildly successful comedian have access to talented, ambitious women he degrades by pleasuring himself. Louis C.K. belongs in intensive therapy, not on our screens. The victims deserve to be heard, if they wish. They must be believed regardless. And if the timing were not so totally cynical, while still lacking in honesty, the comedian’s Friday afternoon admission of guilt might have offered a chance to begin healing. The too little, too late, empathy is almost touching, nearly enlightened:

“I want to address the stories told to The New York Times by five women named Abby, Rebecca, Dana, Julia who felt able to name themselves and one who did not…. what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your dick isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.”

We know there are more than five brave women who’ve endured the full Louis. C.K. experience. And we know that there are more predators hiding in Hollywood’s sunshine-filled plain sight. And that should make us all angry, mad enough to finally start calling these pigs back to the trough (I’m looking especially hard at you, male allies). There’s no excuse for Louis C.K.’s behavior. But the celebration and inner-circle secrecy that allows powerful men to illiberally victimize women and young boys is what’s truly inexcusable.

Handle that.


Learning to Listen

America has a hard time listening. We can watch the news and see what’s going on, but there’s a difference between looking and listening, especially when there’s so much noise to filter. Learning to listen requires us to go beyond the words, to hear and appreciate what’s also being communicated in moments of silence.

Over the past week, we’ve seen our listening problems rise to the surface, unfolding via the growing reports of harassment and misconduct by Harvey Weinstein. News coverage prompted numerous celebrities and victims to emerge from the shadows years, or even decades later. What caused the delays? A familiar set of problems – hostile work environments, fear of retaliation, a power imbalance and good old fashioned fear.

Actress Rose McGowan’s Twitter account was suspended after sharing her own abusive experience with Harvey Weinstein. Her initial accusation was shushed out of court for $100,000. The deluge of accusers that have supported McGowan’s account reflects another dark chapter for male accountability in Hollywood. It’s clear that Weinstein’s actions were well-known, and textbook bystander silence was the rule until the accusers generated enough media coverage to make it safe for other powerful men to come out against Weinstein.

Consider this situation in the context of the recent repeal of campus sexual investigation standards promoted by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The repeal means that the burden of proof shifts even further toward victims, while protecting rapists like Brock Turner.  The result? Offenders are receiving the communication that they can abuse with minimal (if any) repercussions.

In the short and long term, victims are facing ever steeper battles to be heard while waiting for (historically) ineffective campus police/security to take action, under rules which mandate that rape kits and tests be performed within 72 hours of an attack. Additional roadblocks placed in front of people who deserve support.

Remember that the man-child in the Oval Office stands in the company of Weinstein and Turner for his own aggressive and unwelcome behavior towards women. There was outrage a year ago when the infamous Access Hollywood footage came to light, but not enough to derail his campaign. Is that predictive of Weinstein’s fate? Some time in the pop cultural penalty box  before business resumes as usual?

We cannot afford silence any longer. There isn’t space to devalue the traumatizing experiences others. A nation recovering from several natural disasters (with a notable lack of action and coverage in Puerto Rico), a President speaking to hate groups while cancelling necessary healthcare subsidies for lower-income citizens….we need a multitude of loud voices against these atrocities, but we must also learn to listen. The cynically powerful and repressive are muffling voices that should be heard. 

Charlie Sheen Checks Into Rehab – What Year is This? (January 29, 2011)

I feel like this same drama plays out every five years or so since around 1986, when Mr. Sheen caught my young eye playing the “Bad Boy in the Police Station” flirting with an otherwise unfriendly Jeanie Bueller in the great comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Little did I realize that Sheen was either the world’s greatest method actor or he probably looked coked out sexy because he arrived onset that way.

Charlie Sheen, born Carlos Irwin Estevez, is the father of five children: a 26 year-old daughter named Cassandra from a previous relationship with Paula Profit, two adorable little girls, Sam and Lola, produced during his tumultuous marriage with actress Denise Richards, and twin boys named Bob and Max, hardly more than babies. In between spreading his seed, Bad Boy Charlie made a tabloid name for himself by shooting then-girlfriend Kelly Preston in the arm in 1990. Puzzlingly, she ended the relationship shortly afterward. His name was heavily tossed around during the titillating events of the Heidi Fleiss scandal in 1995. That’s when we learned the man likes hookers – a lot.

In 1998, Charlie overdosed on an injection of cocaine, leading his beleaguered actor father, Martin Sheen, to issue a public plea for support before turning his own son in for a parole violation. I am sure it was a gut wrenching decision, but Mr. Sheen Sr. is obviously a caring father. He should have been rewarded with a post-rehab, together child.

But of course we know that’s not what happened. Back in the professional hot seat and richer than ever due to his starring turn in the long-running CBS comedy Two and a Half Men, Charlie picked up right where the party left off. Denise Richards has had the class (something I never figured her for) to stay quiet, but rumors abound that she dissolved her marriage to the actor for the same old reasons: drug and prostitutes.

A later marriage to the gorgeous Brooke Mueller seemed like Charlie might be settling down for good. Mueller was not involved in the Hollywood world and they stated their intentions to start a family as soon as possible. But then we learned, oops! Brookie likey the nose candy too, culminating in the Christmas 2009 arrest of her husband for domestic violence and second degree assault. The grapevine had it that both halves of the couple were in an alcohol and cocaine-fueled rage when Charlie held a knife to her throat.

Of course he received little more than a slap on the wrist from law enforcement, and voluntarily entered rehab in February 2010. Much good that obviously did.

During the early morning of October 26, 2010, Sheen was removed from his hotel room at the Plaza Hotel after causing damage to the room and admitting to having been drinking and taking cocaine. There was also a woman (you guessed it! a hooker!) locked in the bathroom. Did I mention that ex-wife Denise and his five and six year-old daughters were in another room across the hall?

Finally, just this week, Charlie was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Hospital “for severe stomach pains” stemming from a reported three-day coke binge and the usual harem of adult movie actresses. After the scandal, Sheen has once again entered a rehab facility. Is there any reason to believe it was work out this time?

His bosses at the network continue to pay him $2 million a week, not daring to take the chance of losing their #1 show. The court system has been unusually kind, rendering Sheen some sort of Teflon multi-felon. When there are no real consequences for one’s long running bad behavior, how can one routine trip to the emergency room finally bring the clarity needed?

Fat chance. I admire Mr. Sheen’s body of work, particularly from before 1995, but so what? He is a loser at life in everyway that matters: as a son, a husband, a father and a human being.

Adult Onset Anorexia (June 8, 2010)

Tori Spelling

While contemplating issues such as the immolation of the Gulf of New Mexico and the anemic American economy, the prolonged churning of my insides often leads to hunger. And when it does, I immediately become distracted with the question of what to eat. In 2010, the decision is more complicated than it might sound.

Time was when I would have cracked open that old blue box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, before I was aware of the evils of processed carbohydrates, and have been done with it. Kraft has moved with the times and developed a whole grain variety of the good stuff, yet there is no discernible protein, or fruit and vegetable boost, so I still experience considerable guilt and anxiety when indulging. When exactly did eating become so complicated?

The topic of food led me down a stream of conscious path that somehow ended with Tori Spelling. To my mind, she represents a visual of the problem as I see it. In the 1990s, when Spelling played the role of Donna Martin on the old Beverly Hills, 90210, she had what I considered, then and now, to be a pretty banging body. Though she may not have possessed the pulchritude of a Shannen Doherty or Jennie Garth, Tori was able to work it on location at the Beverly Hills Beach Club like nobody’s business.

The image on the right, of Spelling, now in her late 30s and a mother of two, represents the actress as she appears today. Does anyone envy her physique now? Sadly, the answer appears to be yes. Because I can compile an endless list of actresses (and a few actors) who looked simply swell a decade or two ago, but who have since virtually disappeared into their collar bones: Courtney Love, Kristen Johnston, Jennifer Aniston. To go a bit younger, and though she swears otherwise, I believe there is world of difference between Keira Knightley’s healthy, youthful glow in Bend it Like Beckham and the bag of bones she became by the time she filmed Atonement.

I am calling the condition “Adult Onset Anorexia,” and the reason I believe we need a new label is to draw some attention to a very real problem. Consider the following conventional wisdom of the medical establishment:

“The average age of [anorexia’s] onset is 17. Older woman can have it as well, although it is usually diagnosed in the teens or twenties.”

I wonder when was the last time, if ever, that a research body took a look at modern women: mothers, career people, gym enthusiasts. Because though I can’t be certain, the examples provided above, and countless others, seem to suggest that the tendency to develop a distorted body image knows no age. It is no longer the paradigm to assume that if you emerge from your teens and early 20s unscathed, you’ll be just fine.

It is not only members of the Hollywood glitterati who are prone to this developing trend. Last week, I published a post-Memorial Day weekend FaceBook status update, regretting the sheer amount of gluttony I had indulged in while away on vacation. This concerned verbal smackdown was the response I received from my sister Jen:

“Please stop acting like you can’t afford to eat real food. Ridiculous. Like when you didn’t eat lunch becuase you were going to order a tall soy frappachino. Gimme a break. You’are a size 2. Stop the madness! People who work out like you do NEED extra calories. There, I’ll step off my soapbox now…”

Brusque? Certainly. More than a hint of truth? Most definitely.

Because as I identify Tori Spelling’s transition from healthy looking teen hottie, I am also aware that I weighed 5 pounds more in high school than I do today, wore a bigger clothing size, but at the time, saw nothing wrong with myself. Oh sure I wished for a flatter stomach, – who doesn’t? But I sure wasn’t going to skip dessert worrying about it. I read the fashion magazines all the time, but never once held myself to the standards of the models I viewed on the pages. When and why did that change? More importantly, why did I let it?

The origin of my neuroses, and that of the other women I reference may lie in the need for control. As any good therapist will tell you, individuals grappling with self-image in this manner are almost, without fail, trying to grab onto something they can manage – a circumstance where the perceived failure or success stems from their own agency, rather than external forces. In a bleary-eyed world full of constant chaos, pulling the strings on your image might be the one action with no surprises. If you overeat and sit on the couch, you’ll gain weight. If you run like crazy and limit your calorie intake, you will lose. However, this generation of women seems to know exactly how far to push it without ending up like Karen Carpenter. It’s like we are getting better at torturing ourselves.

Logically, I abhor this, and yet somewhere deep in the recesses of my culturally brainwashed soul, when I see a tiny, toned woman walking down the street, I am aware that I envy her discipline and size-0 figure. What is it about intelligent women of this generation, ladies that have achieved so much and are so successful, trapped in a hell of their own making?

Jen was right. Stop the madness.

Corey Haim Continues a Bad Run for People Born in the 70s (March 11, 2010)


I would like to share a couple hypotheses that have been rolling around in my brain for the last year or so, in the wake of a number of celebrity deaths, as well as real world afflications for my age and peer group:

1. The 30s are the new 20s – In the real sense that adolescence now seems to run on ad nauseum, no matter what one’s ostensible responsibilities are: parenthood, career, et al. I feel, with certain exceptions, that my generation has taken “Peter Pan” syndrome to the next level – creating feelings of entitlement and invincibility. When drugs enter into that picture, as they did for Heath Ledger, Brittany Murphy, and Corey Haim – all people old enough to know better than to mix medications – the results are carelessly deadly. Instead of a 23 year-old River Phoenix collapsing in front of the Viper Room after a coke binge, in the 21st century, we see delayed Hollywood hedonists going to sleep in their own beds and never waking up.

2. Simultaneously, and somewhat paradoxically, the 30s and are also the new 40s. – Though Peter Pan may never want to grow up, there does come a time when self-awareness creeps in, no matter how long one has fought against it. If one if 38 years old, living with his mother, as Haim was, and a Hollywood hasbeen with a pill problem, he must occasionally experience twin realizations: what has been lost as well as what will never be again. I would argue that nothing is more soul deadening than the combination of youth and failure, a sense that you have years in front of you, only to remember what you’ve already missed. No wonder so many of these sad individuals turn to the easy coping strategy of self-medication. For them, the cliche midlife crisis comes a decade early.

Lindsay Lohan would seem to be a candidate for succumbing to the combination of an ever unencumbered adulthood, and the knowledge that she has already seen her professional peak. At only 23, she is ramping up the new Hollywood breakdown cycle.

However, I think my hypotheses are applicable to 30-somethings outside of Hollywood as well. On a much smaller scale, I am not immune to waffling between the idea that I am not fully formed, yet should have accomplished something bigger by now. But what I have, that I fear Heath, Brittany and Corey did not, is a proper support network, people who genuinely care about me. For my sister, husband, family and friends, there would be no fear or enabling if I went off track. They would try to pull me back, because their own fortunes are not tied to my professional solvency (I am talking to you Simon Monjack!). Money and selflessness are two words rarely viewed in the same sentence.

I started this post with the intention of waxing nostalgic about Corey Haim’s memorable performances – Lucas, The Lost Boys, License to Drive and other staples of the 1980s. However, there are plenty of web and TV tributes of that sort already.

I like to think this spate of young celebrity overdoses presents a learning opportunity. A platform for discussing how we, as a society, can help reverse the trend of avoidable prescription drug deaths amongst young people, both famous and not. Deaths that I postulate are brought about in part by a combination of being told as a child that you will own the world (I think generations before were taught to think a bit smaller), then realizing well into your adulthood that you might just be a regular person. Why is that so tough to accept in the media age? There is no pill you can pop which cures normalcy.