When it seems too good to be true … On Friday, Page Six related just how well Harvey Weinstein’s rehabilitation effort was proceeding. According to their sources at the Arizona facility where Weinstein sought treatment for “sex addiction” and other maladies, the Hollywood mogul had refused to be housed at the clinic, conducted business on the phone against the rules, and lashed out about the conspiracy that was attacking his good name.
Not so, reported TMZ shortly afterward. In fact, Weinstein had authorized his psychologist to tell TMZ that Weinstein was doing so well that he’d completed his rehab in just one week:
Harvey Weinstein is leaving Arizona Saturday after completing a one-week program treating various psychological issues, and Weinstein’s psychologist tells TMZ the fallen mogul took it seriously.
Weinstein gave his treating psychologist permission to speak with TMZ. The psychologist asked us not to use his name, but he was a key member of the team treating Weinstein.
The psychologist says Weinstin’s program lasted 1 week, and involved “intensive therapy” on an outpatient basis.
The psychologist says he helped Weinstein focus on “dealing with his anger, his attitude toward others, boundary work and the beginnings of work on empathy.” He says Weinstein was “invested in the program.”
Needless to say, this news prompted a lot of skepticism in both news and social media. It appeared to substantiate the initial reaction to Weinstein’s rehab effort — that it was a public-relations stunt to deflect criticism of his actions. Weinstein isn’t accused of sex addiction, which normally would manifest itself in other self-destructive behaviors, but of sexual harassment, assault, and flat-out rape. That’s about a power addiction, not a sex addiction.
In any event, TMZ later added an update:
A Weinstein rep just called to say the plan has now changed. Weinstein will stay in Arizona for another month or so because he doesn’t want excessive distractions and wants to continue working with his doctors. The outpatient program which Weinstein entered still ends Saturday.
In other words, Weinstein’s team — what’s left of it — realized that no one was going to buy that Weinstein received a miracle cure in seven days. They’re still going to push the notion that he’s a changed man, but if they expect anyone to pick up that option, they’re going to be disappointed when that script goes into turnaround.
Meanwhile, another Hollywood figure whose behavior was an “open secret” got outed yesterday by the Los Angeles Times. Dozens of James Toback’s victims have come forward, most on the record, to talk about the horror of being “Tobacked.” And there are some familiar strains in these stories:
Then, in a hotel room, a movie trailer, a public park, meetings framed as interviews or auditions quickly turned sexual, according to 38 women who, in separate interviews told the Los Angeles Times of similar encounters they had with Toback.
During these meetings, many of the women said, Toback boasted of sexual conquests with the famous and then asked humiliating personal questions. How often do you masturbate? How much pubic hair do you have? He’d tell them, they said, that he couldn’t properly function unless he “jerked off” several times a day. And then he’d dry-hump them or masturbate in front of them, ejaculating into his pants or onto their bodies and then walk away. Meeting over. …
“He told me he’d love nothing more than to masturbate while looking into my eyes,” said Louise Post, who met Toback in 1987 while attending Barnard College. Post, now a guitarist and vocalist for the indie rock band Veruca Salt, added: “Going to his apartment has been the source of shame for the past 30 years, that I allowed myself to be so gullible.”
In the wake of Oscar-winning producer Harvey Weinstein being fired after reports revealed decades of sexual misconduct, many women have been coming forward with tales of harassment, abuse and assault. On the Twitter hashtag campaign #MeToo, Toback has his own special universe. The Veruca Salt account tweeted on Monday: “Us too: by bosses, boyfriends, male babysitters, taxi drivers, strangers and movie director/pig #jamestoback #metoo.”
“It’s a common thread among many women I know … after someone mentions they were sexually abused by a creepy writer-director, the response is, ‘Oh, no. You got Toback-ed,’” said Karen Sklaire, a New York drama teacher, actor and playwright who said a 1997 meeting with Toback in an office ended with him grinding against her leg. “The numbers are staggering.”
The allegations about Toback are just as grotesque as those about Weinstein. Masturbation plays a large role in both tracks of abuse, in Toback’s case sometimes as an assault in itself. It’s another demonstration of the desire to project power and humiliation on victims as part of their gratification, not just sexual release.
However, Toback was hardly in the same orbit as Weinstein. As the Times notes, Toback had to recite his resumé first to trap his victims. Furthermore, Toback’s last hit project was Bugsy in 1991. How much influence did Toback actually have in Hollywood over the last two decades? And yet, women were afraid to come forward until now. That raises all sorts of questions about what other “open secrets” are floating around the entertainment industry, and if any of them relate to men (or women) with much more power and influence. Will those victims feel able to start coming forward, too?
Addendum: The title of Toback’s current project sounds creepy in retrospect: The Private Life of a Modern Woman. Perhaps its stars Sienna Miller and Alec Baldwin might have a few tales to tell about Toback from the set … or about others like Toback. Want to bet that the title gets changed before its release?