The dam finally burst on the Harvey Weinstein story. Now everyone is writing that it’s amazing it took this long. For years there were the whispers, but not the evidence. Harvey spent most of the hours of his working day ensuring that all the bad stories went away, killed, evaporated, spun into something diametrically its opposite. It was a common sight outside a Harvey opening party to see one of his publicists trapped in a car on the phone, spinning — spinning the dross of some new outrage into gold.
When I founded Talk magazine in 1998 with Miramax, the movie company Harvey founded with his brother Bob, I also took over the running of their fledgling book company with Jonathan Burnham as editor in chief. Strange contracts pre-dating us would suddenly surface, book deals with no deadline attached authored by attractive or nearly famous women, one I recall was by the stewardess on a private plane. It was startling — and professionally mortifying — to discover how many hacks writing gossip columns or entertainment coverage were on the Miramax payroll with a “consultancy” or a “development deal” (one even at The New York Times).
Harvey engaged sexual harassment’s legal bulldog, Lisa Bloom, she who brought down Bill O’Reilly and recently appeared on the stage of Women in the World’s Canada Summit as thrilling feminist avenger. Then, it emerged The Weinstein Company bought Bloom’s book on Trayvon Martin for a movie — classic Harvey M.O. Even Bloom’s mother, Gloria Allred was appalled (and perhaps the critical voice in making her daughter quit).
An occupational hazard of editing Talk was aborting the pieces Harvey assigned on his nightly trolling from reporters who had tried to get a bad rumor confirmed. Another of his co-opting tactics was to offer a juicy negative nugget about one of the movie stars in his films or people in his media circle (fairly often, me) in a trade to quash a dangerous piece about himself.
What I learned about Harvey in the two years of proximity with him at Talk was that nothing about his outward persona, the beguiling Falstaffian charmer who persuaded — or bamboozled — me into leaving The New Yorker and joining him, was the truth. He is very Trumpian in that regard.
He comes off as a big, blustery, rough diamond kind of a guy, the kind of old-time studio chief who lives large, writes big checks and exudes bonhomie. Wrong. The real Harvey is fearful, paranoid, and hates being touched (at any rate, when fully dressed).
Winning, for him, was a blood sport. Deals never close. They are renegotiated down to the bone after the press release. A business meeting listening to him discuss Miramax deals in progress reminded me of the wire tap transcripts of John Gotti and his inner circle at the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Queens. “So just close it fast, then fuck him later with the subsidiary rights.”
Like all bullies, he folds when he’s faced down and becomes wheedling and sycophantic. His volcanic rage erupts from raw insecurity. I often used to wonder if the physical dissonance between his personal grossness and his artistic sensibility — which was genuine — made him crazy. It’s no accident that Harvey’s preferred routine for sexual entrapment was to strip down and open the door of his hotel suite in an open bathrobe, or nothing at all. A rich, powerful movie mogul could now do what he couldn’t all those years in high school and tell a beautiful, cowering girl: This is who I am. Now that everyone knows the truth, deep down it may be, for him, a relief.
It takes one brave whistleblower and then two to get the ball rolling and give the shattered sharers of the same story permission to speak out to The New York Times. Kudos to Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, and now all the many new voices captured by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker. Harvey is an intimidating and ferocious man. Crossing him, even now, is scary. But it’s a different era now. Cosby. Ailes. O‘Reilly, Weinstein. It’s over, except for one — the serial sexual harasser in the White House.