Sexual Assault Claims Plague TV Biz

  • by Victoria A. Brownworth
  • Wednesday December 13, 2017
Share this Post:

In a week where the horrific California wildfires seem an all-too-obvious metaphor for what's happening in Washington and yet another signal that we must take climate change as seriously as possible, there was little good to report on the tube.

There was a Pentatonix Christmas special on NBC, which we watched because who doesn't love Pentatonix, and who doesn't love out, flaming queen and superb soprano Mitch Grassi? Jennifer Hudson was a featured performer, and she brought the house down with her rendition of "How Great Thou Art." We wondered anew how it was that she didn't win "American Idol."

There were also a couple of gay moments, just a few because most series have already had their season finales. There was a bedroom scene on "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" between Darryl (Pete Gardner) and White Josh (David Hull, and you have to watch to find out why he's called White Josh) that we'd never thought we'd see on the tube. Darryl asks White Josh, "You don't want to have a baby with me, do you?" And scene. If you're not watching this series, binge it over the holidays, it's really good.

Then on our fave dark drama, "The Exorcist," there was The Gay Kiss, which drove the Christian right out of their minds. We love this show even more in season two than we did in season one. After showrunner Jeremy Slater's take-down of critics calling for a boycott, we love it even more.

Former priest Marcus (Ben Daniels) has been having a dalliance with another man, Peter (Christopher Cousins) on Bainbridge Island, where he's been doing an exorcism with fellow still-frocked priest and exorcism protege Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera). Peter wants a full relationship, to see where things go. Marcus knows his work (he really can't quit the God thing) comes first because Evil always seems to be winning.

The two are sitting in Peter's truck. The sexual tension is intense. The per-usual leather-clad Marcus leans over and takes Peter's face in his hands and kisses him. It was everything: Romantic, sensual, real. And, because these are two middle-aged, yet still very sexy, actors, groundbreaking. This was no "The Fosters" coming-of-age, first-bumbling-kiss scene. This was the real thing. We were so there for it.

Backlash was swift. So was Slater's clapback. "I saw a couple of homophobes on Twitter, and my response is, 'Good, fuck you. I'm glad you didn't like it, I'm glad it ruined the show for you. You shouldn't have good things in your life,' " Slater said in an interview for IndieWire. "If a homophobe can't watch the show anymore because one of the characters is gay, then I'm glad something good has come out of it." Preach! The final episode of season two airs Dec. 15 on Fox.

As the year winds down and the tube is in holiday-hiatus-til-January mode for most series, the biggest TV stories continue to be about sexual assault claims against anchors, stars, directors and producers. It's an ugly end to an ugly year in which the only man accused of multiple counts of sexual harassment and assault who has yet to be fired from his job for such allegations is President Trump.

The Time Person of the Year cover revealed last week included women and men among "The Silence Breakers" it lauded for telling their stories and breaking the long, deep silence that has allowed men in power in every industry from entertainment to journalism to politics to all things blue-collar to get away with hurting women and men with impunity.

The latest shockers were Sen. Al Franken and director/producer Bryan Singer. Franken resigned from the Senate on Dec. 7 after an eighth woman came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against the former "SNL" star. The bombshell against Singer was far more damning. On Dec. 8, The New York Times broke the story that Cesar Sanchez-Guzman had filed suit against the "X Men" director, whose new TV series "The Gifted" has been a surprise hit. Sanchez-Guzman alleges that in 2003, when he was 17, Singer, who is gay, raped him at a party on a yacht.

The news about Singer followed his firing the previous week from the Freddie Mercury biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody." When that action was taken, we asked a friend in the industry in Hollywood, "Is this a prelude to some Me Too tale about the worst-kept secret of Singer and abuse of boys?" The friend said rumors were swirling that "any day" there would be news. "Questions are being asked," he told us. "And they are being answered."

According to a Dec. 8 ABC News report, Singer lured the then-17-year-old into a bedroom on a yacht and demanded sex from him. When he refused, Singer pushed him on the bed and sexually assaulted him, the lawsuit says. Afterward, Sanchez-Guzman said, the director offered to help him get into acting in exchange for his silence, according to the court documents.

"He then told Cesar that no one would believe him if he ever reported the incident, and that he could hire people who are capable of ruining someone's reputation," the lawsuit reads. "The sexual abuse has caused Cesar to experience severe psychological, mental and emotional injuries, shame, humiliation, and loss of enjoyment of life. These injuries are persistent, permanent and debilitating in nature." He is seeking unspecified damages.

A representative for Singer, 52, said in a statement, "Bryan categorically denies these allegations and will vehemently defend this lawsuit to the very end."

Two similar lawsuits were brought against Singer in 2014, but were withdrawn by the accusers. But according to stories in both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, Singer is cited in "An Open Secret," the 2014 documentary film on child sexual abuse in Hollywood, although the film makes no specific allegations against him. Gay writer Bret Easton Ellis alleges that two of his former partners have attended underage sex parties hosted by Singer.

Deadline Hollywood, which first broke the story about Singer being axed from "Bohemian Rhapsody," published a story on Dec. 8 about now-22-year-old Bret Tyler Skopek, detailing his teen love affair with Singer. The story, headlined "Sex, Drugs, Glamour, Emptiness: Bryan Singer's Teen Ex-Lover Bares All About Life in Director's Orbit," was substantiated by texts, photographs and emails, as well as corroborative interviews with seven other witnesses. The story was also published in Newsweek on Dec. 9.

Skopek told Deadline that he had been "pulled into the director's orbit of on-set visits, expensive private dinners, ready access to drugs and alcohol, and sexual encounters with an ever-revolving cast of multiple participants."

According to Skopek, he was offered roles in Singer's films and TV shows only to have those never materialize. Singer would take him to the sets of his TV shows and movies, but mostly to show off the then-teenaged Skopek. According to the expose, "Disillusioned and exhausted by Singer's sexual demands over the course of their year-long relationship, the young man eventually moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to live with his father. 'I just wasn't happy with myself,' said Skopek. 'I couldn't go on anymore.' "

Singer's representative reframed Skopek's story as one of a young grifter trying to gain notoriety. "If Mr. Skopek had a problem with Bryan, he never mentioned it before today," a spokesperson for the director told Deadline on Dec. 8. "He is someone who has repeatedly asked Bryan for money over the years, and did so as recently as last month. He also is the one who asked Bryan for a role in 'Apocalypse,' which Bryan declined to offer to him. The timing of Mr. Skopek coming forward now with these allegations is questionable."

Is it questionable or more verification? Among gay directors and producers, there are few who have had similar allegations brought against them. Ryan Murphy will be honored next month with the Producer's Guild of America's prestigious Norman Lear Award for his impact on the industry. He's the same age as Singer, has been in Hollywood for the same length of time, yet not a single allegation of sexual misconduct has been levied against him.

No allegations about Murphy, who is married to David Miller, with whom he has two children, have ever even been rumored. So the implication by Singer through his rep that this is something that happens to all gay male directors and producers by unscrupulous teenagers seems self-serving and false.

According to Deadline, London-based director Duncan Roy, who said he has known Singer for more than 20 years, described the director's "boy obsessions and sex tourism," his use of prescription drugs, and his drinking in a blog post. Some 20somethings viewed a trip to Singer's hot tub as a short-cut to the red carpet, he said.

"In Hollywood, the question you get asked a million times is, 'What wouldn't you do to succeed?' And your hunger is part of the deal with the devil," said Roy in an interview with Deadline. "The horrible thing is that there's an unwritten rule, an unspoken agreement, between anybody who arrives. Every single high school king and queen that arrives in L.A. knows what to expect. You do anything to get on because the riches, when they're delivered to you, are profound."

Skopek's details of sexual exploitation and assault in Hollywood are graphic, unpleasant and disturbing. We've all seen pretty boys, especially those like Skopek who travel West to attempt an entertainment career, get used by older men with power. This is the side of the Me Too movement that has gotten little attention and deserves to.

The latest rape allegation against Singer may be the one that ends the pattern. On Oct. 30, after the Kevin Spacey allegations began with "Star Trek" star Anthony Rapp alleging the actor had sexually assaulted him when he was a teenager, Mashable headlined a story, "So, uh why was Bryan Singer's name trending after the Kevin Spacey allegations?"

Singer deleted his Twitter account after rumors about him began to swirl anew. On Nov. 7, USC students launched a petition to remove Singer's name from the school. The allegations against Singer go back decades. The first news story appears in Entertainment Weekly in 1997. In that story three minor boys allege Singer sexually assaulted them on the set of one of his shows.

Singer's friend Kevin Spacey, who won his first Oscar for Singer's film "The Usual Suspects," has been removed from "House of Cards." Spacey, about whom allegations continue to accrue, most recently on Dec. 8 when the son-in-law of the King of Norway asserted the actor had groped him, has been "seeking evaluation and treatment." Ari Behn told BBC Spacey groped him in 2007 when the actor hosted an event. Recalling the alleged incident, Behn said, "We had a great talk, he sat right beside me. After five minutes he said, 'Hey, let's go out and have a cigarette.' Then he puts his hand under the table and grabs me by the balls."

Behn said he put Spacey off by telling him: "Er, maybe later." He added, "My hair was dark at the time, I was 10 years younger and right up his alley."

Meanwhile, the Netflix series "House of Cards," for which Spacey won several awards, will go for a final season. The series will excise Spacey from episodes already filmed, and co-star Robin Wright will be the focal point. Wright plays Spacey's character's wife Claire, and has been a multiple Emmy nominee for her role. The final season will be released in 2018.

In other men-who-have-been-fired news, no replacement has been named thus far for NBC host Matt Lauer. Insiders say the "Today" show is considering several men to replace Lauer, which seems a huge error in judgment in the current climate. We suggest bringing back either Ann Curry, who had complained about Lauer years ago and was removed from her co-anchor capacity, or Katie Couric, who spent 15 years co-hosting the "Today" show with Lauer. Couric left in May 2006 to anchor the CBS Evening News. She broke her silence on the sexual misconduct allegations against him on Dec. 8, in a response to an Instagram poster who called her out for "crickets" on Lauer. Couric said the allegations were "terribly upsetting," and that she would comment when she was ready.

PBS has gone the smart route and replaced Charlie Rose with veteran CNN war correspondent Christiane Amanpour. As we noted on Twitter last week, "Replace all mediocre white guys who sexually harass and assault women with smart, talented women." Of the relentless flood of allegations, feminist writer Jill Filipovic said on Dec. 8, "We shouldn't just be taking the bad ones down. We need to start demanding that their replacements are female."

We'd like to start with Hillary Clinton replacing Donald Trump. It's not like she didn't get the votes. Trump's Pensacola rally on Dec. 8 was broadcast live on CNN. We watched from a hospital bed aghast at both content and tone, and wondered not for the first time what Leni Riefenstahl would think. A spontaneous chant of "Lock Her Up" broke out, and Trump, who with Fox News has been calling for yet another investigation of the Former Secretary of State as if she were in fact the president, did nothing to stop it. Trump was there across the border from Alabama to tell people to vote for virulent homophobe and racist Roy Moore.

Former President Barack Obama, in a speech telecast on CNN Dec. 8, made comparisons between Nazi Germany and America right now. "You have to tend to this garden of democracy, otherwise things can fall apart fairly quickly. And we've seen societies where that happens. Now presume there was a ballroom here in Vienna in the late 1920s or 30s that looked and seemed as if it, filled with the music, art and literature that was emerging, would continue into perpetuity. And then 60 million people died. An entire world was plunged into chaos. So you got to pay attention, and vote."

So for the good, the bad and the truly ugly, you know you really have to stay tuned. And have a Happy Hanukkah!

Related Topics: