HARVEYWOOD BABYLON, OH PULEEZE!

Harveywood Babylon

My how the schadenfreude flies this time of year, and, true to form, Ross Douthat of the NYT piles on with his own eye-rolling holier-than-thou altar boy casuistry (zzzz). I knew both Harvey and Bob professionally and socially. They were talented and ambitious Kashrut observant Jews from Buffalo, New York who would take their family-owned independent movie theater, Miramax, named for their beloved mother and father, and turn it into a prestigious Oscar winning television and motion picture distribution and production behemoth. 

The Hollywood they arrived and thrived in during the Eighties had come a long way since the days of Darryl Zanuck’s hidden pied-à-terre behind his palatial office suite at 20th Century Fox. (Although David Letterman supposedly had a similar set-up.) It was widely accepted the entire studio would shut down daily at four o’clock to accommodate the studio boss’s penchant for ordering the latest starlet du jour off the set like a Blue Plate special.The same Darryl Zanuck who trawled the Madonna Inn on weekends with his pal Sydney Chaplin (Charley’s older brother) to see how many brides they could bed before or after their nuptial vows. 

While it wasn’t exactly Hollywood Babylon on the level of Errol Flynn class debauchery, or even superstar heartthrob Montgomery Clift, who patronized a gay necrophilic prostitution ring run out of the back of a funeral home, it was still a time of Don Simpson mania, cocaine-fueled casting couches, escort services, and brazen star-fuckery where the mere flash of a DGA card was considered a sure thing on a Saturday night. It was a Hollywood characterized by Joe Barbera of Hanna Barbera, who, when told he would soon lose his entire Ink and Paint Department of young girls to computerized animation quipped, “How will anyone get laid anymore?”

It was a time when Dawn Steele,  the bawdy, ballsy and ribald President of Paramount Pictures proudly displayed a lobby card movie poster in her office signed by Jim Abrams and the Zucker Bros. thanking her for “sleeping with them from the very beginning.” Dawn rose through the ranks of Paramount merchandising after finding fame and fortune printing the Bible on novelty rolls of toilet paper.  Jeffrey Katzenberg said of her, “She was highly opinionated, extremely self-confident, had a fantastic sense of humor and was someone of enormous style and taste.”

Nora Ephron, the writer, who Dawn gave her first directorial job said, ”Dawn certainly wasn’t the first woman to become powerful in Hollywood, but she was the first woman to understand that part of her responsibility was to make sure that eventually there were lots of other powerful women.”

Hollywood is an industry driven by sex and power,  on and off the screen, but to single out Harvey Weinstein as a “pig” and a pariah is as histrionic and specious as Captain Renault’s shock to ‘find gambling going on’ at Rick’s Cafe. The exploitation of women, or anyone, is ugly, despicable and reprehensible. While there is no excuse for it  there is a psychological, historical and even cultural context that should not be swept aside by the hysterical historical revisionists as they rush to tar and feather Harvey as some aberrant monster. For chrissakes, did they even watch one fucking episode of Mad Men? If Harvey’s Icarusian downfall hastens the demise of sexual harassment in Hollywood, great! But,  please, let’s keep it in perspective. 

The Pigs of Liberalism https://nyti.ms/2yPv7nV

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