The second year after grad school, I took a job with the great director, Arthur Penn. It was an assistant job, but basically it was a place holder, in his office, a tax dodge. He visited once a month. He liked to spend his life in Stockbridge, Mass on his lawn tractor.
Once in a long while there was activity. An offer intrigued him, and then we’d have meetings, lots of actors and writers pouring through the door, me fetching and carrying and smiling.
But when Warren Beatty arrived, all hell broke loose. Warren excited Arthur, it was a case of two refusniks courting each other. Neither wanted to work unless the project was Oscar bait and a commercial success, so they teased each other unendurably.
A few weeks in, I was directed to hand carry a script to Warren at the Ritz around the corner. No I couldn’t leave it with the front desk, I had to hand deliver it. So off I went, up into the corridors, knocked on the door, and there he was, still splendid, if a little rough around the edges, dressed in a very short bathrobe, a storm tossed bed behind him, it dressed in white sheets from Pratesi, no doubt.
“C’mon in”, said he.
“Can’t!” I chirped, thrust the script into his hands, and suffused with dread, tore, top speed, down the corridor.
Three weeks later, Arthur, who had been a perfect gentleman, asked me to his flat on West 67th, cannot remember why, but we were sitting on the banquette in his office when he put on music from Bonnie and Clyde and inched closer to me. OH! I said, I forgot something, must leave! And fled once again, this time heart sick.
Weinstein, Beatty and Penn were merely following the habit of all powerful Hollywood men. Beatty had been doing this to assistants for decades and no doubt many complied. I have a friend who had sex with him and another who wanted to, but by the time I met him, he wasn’t pretty, and therefore had to be coercive of those of lesser status. Who wanted to work in film, needed the job badly, and was belly-crawling her way in. I was using Penn’s weird requirements to teach myself to write, so losing the job would have hurt, but my need was not fundamental. There would be no penalty for refusing.
Boomer men had a sweet ride for a long time, but the more powerful they became, the more they devalued and brutalized women. The reason Weinstein’s accusers went back to him, sent notes, is two-fold. First coerced and shamed victims of sexual assault by a respected superior need to integrate the act, to somehow prove to themselves that the rape hadn’t happened. It is a child’s wish, but sexual assault is so primal, you are reduced to child status. The other reason is survival. Those men used the survival needs of those women to get what they wanted. If you refused them, they retaliated, as Weinstein did to Mira Soriano and Ashley Judd. A dominant photographer at Time-Life tried to get me fired for five years because I refused him on a story.
I hope they all die in shame, outed and humiliated, hopefully in prison. This. Must. Change.
I have started a newsletter about biohacking my physiology. I am obsessed. I cured myself of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome twice, which is vanishingly rare, and I am so afraid of getting it again, I am on the hunt, daily, for ways to live to 107, feeling great the whole time.
I come from a family of women, Irish bog dwellers back to 30,000 BC which is when I think they migrated from Africa to Ireland. We carry 7 longevity genes, we live typically into our late 90s, early 100’s. We can do it sick or healthy. Those who don’t focus on their health live forever, not well, depressed, exhausted miserable. Those that do – and many of us are health freaks, biohackers before the term was invented – live well and prosper. I’m in a beta testing phase but eventually I will step up and send weekly newsletters. You can subscribe at: https://elizabethnickson.substack.com