Thursday, May 01, 2014

Turn It Off, Like a Light Switch



It would appear that the case of sexual predation of teenage boys leveled against certain powerful figures in Hollywood is getting wider. The lawyer at the heart of this case, controversial Florida-based attorney Jeff Herman, is quoted as saying of the new plaintiffs, “They are ready to come forward” and that the case “cuts across all of Hollywood: studios, agents, directors, producers, and actors.”

"And," I thought to myself, "managers."

It was the early eighties. I was thirteen years old. While shepherding me to one weird child-actor event or another, my mother developed a casual friendship with a manager escorting his young clients to the same activities.  "Mitchell" was funny, witty, well-educated; exactly the sort of person you rarely get in a room full of people who happily describe themselves as "Momagers." My mother stayed in touch with Mitchell, to the point where they became friends. We'd go to his house for barbecues. It wasn't onerous for me; there were always kids for me to hang out with. Actually, there were always boys for me to hang out with. Mitchell only represented boys between the ages of twelve and about sixteen, young-looking, similar in features, hairless. I knew they were hairless not only because I’d see them swimming on those hot afternoons but because Mitchell had big blow-up pictures of them mounted throughout the house, brooding into camera, hair swept just so, shirtless and in cut-offs. The pictures were all taken by "Patrick," who had been Mitchell's client when he was in his early teens but was now a professional photographer. Patrick lived in the house with Mitchell, as did a rotating collection of younger boys, shuttled into Los Angeles for months at a time by their parents, to attend school and audition for Hollywood. In all the time I knew Mitchell, I don't remember a single boy getting a part above a walk-on. After a couple of years, they'd stop living there and be replaced by yet more boys, fresher boys.

There was one boy, though, who stayed past the usual sell-by date. I liked "Bryan". He was a couple of years older than me, gentle and funny, easy company to be around.  When I was about sixteen, my mother told me that Mitchell had discovered Bryan had been using drugs in the house. She said that while Mitchell had tried to help Bryan, Bryan had run away and was living on the streets. Two years later, I heard that Bryan had come back to live with Mitchell. We came over and saw him; he was as gentle and funny as always. He was also dying. Bryan was the first person my age I knew who died of AIDS. 

I never saw Mitchell doing anything to those boys. I'll never be called to testify against him or any of the other managers I heard whispered about -- the ones who always seemed to have parentless boys nearby. But here's the thing: I was thirteen, fourteen, fifteen years old and I knew something was...weird. Why didn't any adult see fit to question why a grown man needed a constant flow of underage boys? I don't blame my mother for missing what might have been some pretty damning clues. Mitchell was her friend and at that time society understood sexual predators to be strangers in vans. My mom was a recent widow with a teenage daughter so it’s safe to assume all her vigilance was pretty much used up on me. But there were other people who knew Mitchell, and other managers like Mitchell, and as far as I know, no one ever stood up to any one of these grown men and said "This must stop." Like everyone else in town, I knew the names of certain people, the people you'd never let alone with your young sons. And like everyone else, I did nothing. I rationalized. I didn't have evidence. This city loves to gossip. If something was going on, someone would have been arrested by now, right?

And the predators used our desire to avoid social discomfort to continue hurting children. 


Do I think all names we're about to hear will be guilty? Maybe not. Do I think opportunists will make financial hay out of whatever is going to come of this lawyer's case? You betcha. Do I think that some young men who are legally underage are capable of making decisions sexually and may consider a relationship with an adult to have been consensual? Oh, absolutely. But I'll tell you this: when each name of a famous or important person come out, someone in the business is going to read it and think "Yeah. I knew that.” I wonder how many will add “...And I should have tried to stop it."

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

quinn,
i love your blog. don't be descouraged by anything. just keep writing! you make my day whenever you post.
love,
rebecca

4:39 PM  
Blogger Ray said...

I just wanted to say I heard "The Goodbye Girl" in the supermarket today and yada yada yada I'm posting a comment on your blog.

5:44 PM  
Blogger jp jude said...

Hi Quinn,
Something was wrong in a club I volunteered at, so at a meeting, scared as hell, I stood up and said something was wrong and as nothing was going to be done, I resigned. And I did. Then three other volunteers also resigned because when something is wrong, everyone sees what's happening. It's scary to do something about it but it makes a difference. Because four of us resigned, something really had to be done, the police were called and the situation was resolved. It was scary. I am no longer involved with the club but I am glad, looking back, I at least tried to do something. It's one thing to suspect something going on, it's a whole other ball game to know and do nothing.
Cheers.

5:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a disturbing opinion you have Ms. Cummings to say you "think some young men who are legally underage are capable of making decisions sexually and may consider a relationship with an adult to have been consensual." Child molesters succeed by making them feel exactly what you said. I can't help but feel if you were writing about girls, this statement would have never crossed your mind. ALL teenagers are victims...period.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Mark Moran said...

Hi Quinn, it's nice to hear your voice again, writing at length, even on this topic. We need more QC Reports of more than 140 characters. MM

11:43 AM  
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4:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read a newspaper article 7 years ago, in my hometown paper (online, years after I had moved away), about the former pastor of the church where I had grown up. The article was about his arrest for molesting a young relative during the time he had been at our church. At the end of the article was a request that anyone who had any further information alert the detectives on the case. I first told my then-husband what I had to do. Then I picked up my phone, called the detectives, and recommended that they contact our hometown police force, this was not a onetime thing. I was able to give them credible information, but I also explained that I did not want to be very involved - I was pregnant, and didn't want the stress.

Years later, after the priest passed away, there was a million-dollar payout to other victims of his. I am glad they can afford the help they need. I hope they all can, and that the damage is reparable.

6:33 AM  
Anonymous SoCal ex-pat said...

Thanks for writing this, Quinn.

In the mid-'70s, I worked for a camera store in SoCal. From each roll of film that came through the store to be developed, we took the first four prints and put them in a photo-album page for the customer -- a marketing ploy suggested by the manufacturer of the photo albums. I saw many photos of boys posing -- shirtless and in cut-offs, now that you mention it -- for whoever was behind the camera at the home of a certain older male movie star. It gave me the creeps, but -- as you say -- nothing was actually incriminating. Especially in those days when everyone believed that molesters were strangers to the child and family. We know far better now.

It's especially sad for me, as I think about this, that while there are now many resources for females who were sexually abused as children, there are very few for males. There is still a stigma for boys and men who were molested. Which ticks me off, since it wasn't their fault any more than it was the fault of girls who were molested.

And, to Anonymous the Second: If Quinn's sentence was changed to say that there are some young men, legally underage, who believe they are capable of making sexual decisions and they believe they freely, knowingly consented to sexual acts they had with adults, could you agree with that? (I'm not meaning to put words in Quinn's mouth; that is my own statement.) There is so much more to the world than we can see when we are at any given age. What we thought when we were ten or twenty years younger may not be the way we see it once we have more information and understand people better -- both others and ourselves.

Thanks again, Quinn. I enjoy your Twitter feed.

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And the predators used our desire to avoid social discomfort to continue hurting children."

Thank goodness there are people and organizations working to break those uncomfortable cycles, like Faith Berkower of Parenting Safe Children. She speaks every year at our elementary/middle school to raise awareness.

https://www.facebook.com/parentingsafechildren/info

I learned about your blog on an AARP mention you received:

http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/television/info-08-2013/famous-child-stars-where-are-they-now-photos.html?cmp=BAC-OUTBRAIN-ENTERTAINMENT-DSO_18716713_Gee-Wally-Where-Are-They-Now#slide11

7:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I miss your posts!

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the other side of the country at about the same time I had a similar experience with this creepy silence. At the prep school I attended the older boys made it clear to never got to XXX's house on campus alone and made subtle jokes about what to expect. To this day it puzzles me how something so pervasive and longstanding in student culture could have been ignored by adults in the community, especially give how many faculty and parents were themselves once students under this man.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous John Mahn said...

It's strange that society has so many systems and funding for business and civil development, but there's virtually nothing for helping people who fall into the huge gaps where responsibility for the resources for living are suddenly up to the individual. There are scant welfare resources along with vast waiting periods and sketchy shelters. I would think a society as advanced as that in the USA would also be focused on providing a minimum, bottom rung, form of assistance to everyone in need. No person should be forced to live on the street or seek the help of those who would do them harm, especially in the most advanced and prosperous society in world history. It is truly mind-boggling how cold-hearted the most successful people can be, especially when they benefit so much from the same system that is fully capable of also preventing predators from having the leverage of poverty and misfortune over their victims, both children and adults.

8:05 PM  

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