I am at dinner with a friend. The conversation inevitably turns to the burgeoning number of performers currently accused of harassment. Why “turns inevitably”? I don’t know, it’s a hot topic in the news. And because baseball is over.
Thoughts readily come to mind concerning this issue. Not in order of importance, but I wonder, for example… do you remember the blacklisting during the “Red-baiting” McCarthy Era? One of the reasons show people were specifically targeted was because their prosecution drew more attention that if they had blacklisted (PLACE PRACTITIONERS OF UNGLAMOROUS FIELD OF ENDEAVOR HERE). You have heard of “The Hollywood Ten.” But probably not of the “The Iowa Twelve”, a group of suspected Communist soybean farmers. Because they got considerably less media attention. (And because they did not actually exist.)
So there’s that. Spotlighting “show folk” because – with prior apologies – who cares about soybean farmers?
Show business also involves another – at least seeming – uniqueness. Although I am sure people in desperate straights feel exactly the same way, there appears to be a distinguishing urgency to
“I really need this job.”
as sung by the auditioning dancers in A Chorus Line.
Or the even more emotionally revelatory
“What I Did For Love”
referring not a romantic counterpart, but to their Broadway musical careers.
You can chalk some of this fevered” hyperbole up to “Showbiz Narcissism.” But some of it is, arguably, correct. Unlike jobs you accidentally fall into or take to responsibly provide for your family, show business dramatically involves “Following your Dream.”
As a result of this self-styled personal crusade, “Make or break” moments, where “opportunity” meets judgment, evoke scenarios of agonizing temptation.
The Person in the Room can “make it happen” for you.
What do you do if he asks for “a favor”?
It’s not just in show biz, of course. Power imbalances are everywhere. And, though conditions have gradually evolved, men predominantly retain the “Upper hand” positions. Which leads to their challenge:
How do you resist, when you want to, and you can?
How ‘bout this for an answer:
You ask yourself, “What kind of a person do I want to be?”
And then subsequently act accordingly.
There is more I could write about this. Concerning the increasing proximity of men and women in the workplace. About changing sexual mores since the sixties, where what was once taboo is now “What’s the big deal?” And et cetera. But those issues are for social scientists to sort out.
I will also refrain from lazy gender stereotyping, hoping dearly that the right people get vindication and justly punished, respectively, and that the wrongly accused or improperly charged receive justice, returning to their lives, free from residual taint.
For the most part, however, this is all just “Dinner Talk.” Important. Provocative. But, in the final analysis,
Until, last night at dinner – and for the first time in forty-five years –
I remembered something.
I remembered working on a radio project in Canada, where, after vigorous competition, which I eventually won, I was hired to perform self-written comedy sketches that would be syndicated on local radio stations across the country.
We had a regular routine. Every second Saturday, I would arrive at the old CBC radio building on Jarvis Street, go into a studio, and I would record these prepared sketches for eventual broadcast.
The work went successfully, I got paid, and everything was dandy.
And then, maybe mid-way through my eventual two-year employment, the show’s producer began behaving in a less than professional manner that I originally found weird but I eventually found uncomfortable.
He’d call me “Sweetheart”, and other displaced personal endearments. The air was thick with sexual innuendo. He’d stand “a little too close”, his “Producer’s Notes” drenched in purring intonations, unsuited to co-workers on a Saturday afternoon in a government-owned building.
It felt real creepy to me.
How did I handle it? I don’t remember. I am normally a great rememberer. But this time, my reliable “Recall System” defaulted to
The harassing behavior continued sporadically for some time. And then, detecting no hoped-for reciprocity, it eventually died out.
The current news suddenly revitalized those memories.
Having now been vividly recovered,
The issue is suddenly not theoretical any more.