I quit Hollywood over sleazy behaviour
Elaine Livesey-Fassel left Preston as a teenager for a new life in Los Angeles and entered the Hollywood lifestyle. Here she reveals the Harvey Weinstein scandal has been a long time coming
In the movie industry, where the financial rewards and social status can be so profitable, there is so much competition for work and, therefore, those who are the strongest in every sense – creatively, manipulative personal behaviour, bullying, ability to take advantage of any perceived weak trait of another in the field - will predominate.
Harvey Weinstein possessed these traits in spades. People, especially female ‘talent’, were the most vulnerable and therefore easily dominated and manipulated .
Many fell prey to these abusive behaviours and were afraid that should they publicly complain, they would surely lose any chance of having a job and working again.
And many did, and had to, or choose to leave the industry rather than put up with the ubiquitous harassment behaviour.
Everyone knew, but fear reigned and silence was kept until this point when the volume of complaints was overwhelming and the women (and a few men) felt empowered by a strengthening social woman’s movement to do something.
Women talked among themselves, friends and family, and such behaviour were just perceived as being a natural, regular part of life, especially in this business. One should, ‘put up or shut up’. This was the way in which males behaved, well some, and certainly not all. With all the naivete of a convent educated schoolgirl, I entered the social morass of the world of Hollywood in the 19 in the 1960s and soon learned that the reality of that planet was less than magical.
Not every male I encountered was predatory but most were and one grows up quickly as to the ill-advised demands made on one if one is to be considered eligible for a film job.
I learned quickly how to handle these unwanted assaults on my body by using humour to evade and elude these propositions.
But I know that the fact that I was supported in every manner by a loving family and holding to the character building ethics and morals taught me in my early schooling at both Woodlands School and Notre Dame Convent School in Preston held me in great stead. I was once invited to become a contestant in the Miss World Beauty Pageant and saw immediately that the requirement for favours was demanded of many of my fellow
Not submitting was easier for me with the emotional and financial support I was pleased to have from family, but I know those others who were not as fortunate.
After several years in the film and television business, and I do not wish to name names, I had had quite enough.
Because I had pursued a university degree in fine arts, I left with character intact and went to work for much less financial reward, but much more peace of mind at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and later having attained more degrees opened my own fine arts portrait studio.
The Weinstein affair is late in arriving to the public media, but better late than never .
One can only hope that meaningful behaviour change will be evident from all involved in an aesthetic arena which should extol the best and not the worst in human characteristics.
Our radio media is now awash with conversations on this most unfortunate but important topic and I am so pleased that the whole thing is finally out of the proverbial closet.
The fact Harvey Weinstein has been summarily kicked out of the Academy is evidence that this is now being taken with the seriousness that harassment deserves from those at the top of the industry.
It was ubiquitous in Hollywood and certainly is also evident in other professions on perhaps a less oppressive scale.
The sense of entitlement and the ‘power equation’ is that which drove such behaviour and now that is being called into question in a most public fashion.
Only time will tell if such behaviour will continue or cease, at least in volume of occurrence.
The Weinstein company was not operating while I was active in Hollywood so I did not meet the fellow.
I did meet Hugh Hefner and that was certainly a way of doing business with his company, but I always made sure I left his gatherings as the evening drew to a close so that I would not be put in a compromising position. And one could always leave!
The position of compromise was always implied not demanded. Exploitation of every conceivable fashion is part and parcel of life and this is but one of those sinister modes.
Teach your children well to recognise it and address it with a morally ethical stance.
We who value all things artistic must evidence our talents to encourage grace and we pledge that we will.
As I say, only time will tell if the Weinstein expose will truly change behaviour or not.
But I think perhaps it will as this extreme exploitation has reached the proverbial tipping point and once such men are so publicly shamed, it will linger in the public consciousness for some time.
As Glenn Whipp, journalist at LA Times said, “It might eventually be seen as the first step toward removing the cancerous misogyny residing inside the entertainment industry and yes, society.
“Because Weinstein’s behaviour isn’t an aberration. It exists everywhere. And, it’s time to start opening our eyes and speaking out when we see men abusing their power - and applaud those brave enough to refuse to be intimidated.
“It’s time to put a full stop to this ugliness.”
* Elaine Livesey-Fassel, 75, was born in Preston and moved to Los Angeles in 1957 as a teenager. She appeared in films and televisions shows rubbing shoulders with the likes of Elvis Presley, Rock Hudson, Jimmy Stewart and Roman Polansky.