In October 2017, The New York Times and The New Yorker reported that dozens of women had accused Harvey Weinstein, a prominent film producer and executive, of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape over a period of at least 30 years. More than 80 women in the film industry subsequently accused Weinstein. Shortly thereafter, TODAY Show host Matt Lauer succumbed to a tidal wave of similar accusations, and was summarily fired.
These men are only two of the many high-profile cases emerging from an industry-wide scandal, the details of which are often so alarmingly grotesque that they beggar belief.
So, what really is the story in Hollywood? REGINA recently sat down with Marianne Seldon (not her real name), for a look back on her youth spent as a beautiful young woman in Hollywood among the super-wealthy and famous.
Marianne is now a practicing Catholic, a choice she says has saved her life.
(Editor’s Note: Marianne’s story may be disturbing, due to graphic details. Parental discretion is advised.)
REGINA: How did you get to Hollywood?
MARIANNE: I moved there while pursuing my BA in Fine Arts at a Jesuit university and started temping in ‘the industry.’ I worked for several agents at three of the top talent agencies, a couple studios and PLAYBOY. Additionally, I dated and was friends with several studio executives, movie producers, movie and television actors, and Hollywood agents. I lived there for a little over twenty years.
REGINA: In a few words, what is Hollywood culture?
MARIANNE: The words that come to mind are: insatiable, sex, drugs, immoral, illusory, predatory, soulless, lost, and lonely.
REGINA: How so?
MARIANNE: If you look at what Hollywood glorifies in movies, you see a tiny sliver of what really goes on and what it emulates. ‘Sex sells’ has been a motto forever, but sex is really more of a currency in Hollywood. So it should be “sex buys.”
REGINA: Sex buys stuff?
MARIANNE: Yes. Actresses/actors got roles, fame and money. Producers would use prostitutes (usually models, low-level actresses, wanna-bes) to close deals. Of course, not everyone gets something in return for having sex with someone in power.
REGINA: Do some people get nothing?
MARIANNE: Then there were the assistants in Hollywood: agent’s assistants, production assistants, etc. These people, their opinions and gripes were often overlooked and taken for granted, but these people suffered with sexual harassment from their bosses, clients, actors, etc without the windfall of fame and fortune. The assistants just felt they had to deal with this daily grind because to speak up meant that, ”you will never work in this town again.” When you’re barely making enough to survive in hopes that someday you can move up the ranks and become an agent, the last thing you want to do is rock the boat.
REGINA: What was your life like?
MARIANNE: Exciting. Confusing. It was flattering to have successful men want you so overtly.
MARIANNE: It was confusing to have come from a small town where people marry their high school sweethearts. I grew up in a town where dating and sex were special. In Hollywood, sex was expected. I foolishly thought all this attention from men was sincere. It’s a sobering realization when you know you’re smart. I was at the top of my class in college, I was well-respected and I didn’t want to be famous, or part of Hollywood…an actress or whatever. I was working for the paycheck and sure there were lots of young, attractive, driven men who wanted to date me. What young girl wouldn’t be flattered? I didn’t realize it was just a game that was being played and that I was nothing more than the prey of the day.
REGINA: Demoralizing, to say the least.
MARIANNE: There are so many ways in which the Hollywood culture messes with a young girl’s mind and morals. It’s not always a black and white trade off…sex for a job.
It starts the minute you arrive. It’s slow brainwashing that tells you you’re not pretty enough. The men, the ads, and the movies all pick away at your security either through the media or personal exchanges.
“Have you gained weight?” “Take that makeup off.” “You should wear more makeup.” “You need false eyelashes…just in the corners of your eyes.” “Never wear high-waisted jeans.” “There’s always someone younger and prettier.” “Why would he want you when he can have anyone?” “You women, you know what your power is…sex.” “Women control men; they control the sex.” “If you want to control a man, you shouldn’t have sex with them” (usually said right after having sex).
REGINA: Wow. Like a drumbeat.
MARIANNE: And on and on and on until you feel like your only worth, your only power is to attract men…to sleep with men. The irony is that you’ve just fallen into their trap and been used and once you’re used, you will be discarded.
REGINA: Did you experience sexual abuse?
MARIANNE: Yes, but mostly outside of the office. In the office, I experienced the usual sexual jokes, comments and innuendoes, etc. Some of the experiences I remember most clearly:
- 1. The head of one company I worked for asked for my phone number to allegedly keep in touch and hire me after I graduated. When I asked my boss if he thought the company head would offer me a job there, he responded, “only if you sleep with him.”
- 2. One agent I worked for would have me connect him on conference calls during lunch, which meant I had to eat at my desk. I was supposed to listen in on these calls to learn the business, but a lot of it was hearing my boss make crude sexual comments about the girls he passed while cruising Melrose.
- 3. Men would grab at me and demand that I show them my breasts because they wanted to know if they were real, or not.
- 4. When I was 20 years old, my boss asked me to go on a “work” date with a studio executive which included dinner and a live show to ostensibly check out new talent. After the show, the studio executive refused to take me home, telling me that my boss had told him all about me and I had to sleep with him. I was so scared that I jumped out of his car at a red light and ran home.
- 5. A television actor I thought I knew well enough asked me to run to his place with him to pick up some wine for a party we were both attending. Once we got to his place, he tried to rape me.
- 6. An A-list studio executive with whom I was friends would often call me on the phone to talk about something innocuous and then announce to me that he was, “jerking off and did I mind?”
- 7. I had several Hollywood men, in different social situations, pull their penises out of their pants to show me and announce, “look what you do to me,” as if somehow their behavior was my fault.
- 8. A movie producer I was in love with confessed to me that he “kept” several women as “call girls.” He also gave me the names of several other Hollywood executives who did the same, including the company boss who had once offered to hire me after I graduated.
- 9. A movie producer once bragged to me that he had used modeling agencies as his own personal brothels. He had gone through the books and slept with every single model, no matter whether they were 15 years old or 25.
REGINA: Just wow. How did people react when you told them?
MARIANNE: I didn’t really tell anyone when I was still working in the business. Everyone seemed to accept this behavior and being still in college, I was always the youngest where I worked. I guess I just thought at the time, “this is how adults behave,” and then I would laugh it off.
REGINA: And later?
MARIANNE: Honestly, it was easier to deal with when I was in my early twenties. The older I got, the more serious it felt and I started to have my own insecurities about it. That was why I stopped working in the industry. I started getting panic attacks at the idea of going back into that work environment. I blamed myself. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe it the way I dressed, or the way I smiled, or laughed too much. Maybe it was because I wasn’t from a rich, or famous family. Maybe it was because I was too young to be taken seriously. Maybe it was because I dated one agent who I actually had very strong feelings for, but he must have told others, or something. I actually took a break for a while. I worked in another industry, I dated a professional person who had nothing to do with “Hollywood.” The funny thing was, “Hollywood” seeps into every facet of society in Los Angeles.
REGINA: The complete commoditization of sex.
MARIANNE: Basically, the men in Hollywood spoke to you and treated you like a whore, even if you weren’t. I didn’t just sleep with random men. I was dating people, thinking it was something real, and yet I was still treated like a “bimbo,” or a “thing.” After a while that messes with your self-perception. I didn’t think to look around and say to myself, “no, this is wrong. These people are wrong,” at least not until later when I met my best friend. She understood. We were able to share stories, commiserate and try to make some sense out of everything we had been through.
REGINA: What do you think about the plethora of accusations being made today from famous women?
MARIANNE: It’s actually crazy to me that all of a sudden, after decades of this sexual abuse culture prevailing in Hollywood, that people are finally speaking out. I do wonder why actresses have suddenly found their moral indignation.
REGINA: Lots of people are suspicious, it seems.
MARIANNE: The majority of these accusations are coming from actresses who made the trade: sex for fame. I wish it had come from people who work in the agents’ offices, production companies, etc., though no one would have listened. People have tried to speak up about abuse in Hollywood before. The response was always, “that person is jealous, or bitter, or a star-f****er, or trying to use the powerful and/or famous person to get rich.”
REGINA: Do you think Hollywood films reflect the morality of Hollywood today?
MARIANNE: There is no morality in Hollywood, not as Christians define it. The “morality” is anything goes as long as you aren’t hurting anyone. Of course, their definition of hurting someone is different from what most people would think. I suppose Hollywood’s morals or moral motto is closest to Aleister Crowley’s “law of Thelema,” that simply says, “do what thou wilt.” (Editor’s Note: Aleister Crowly was an Oxford-educated pansexual, mystic, occultist, recreational drug experimenter, who was also known as Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast 666.)
I was recently going through some old books and found this paragraph from “Writing the Script: A Practical Guide for Films and Television,” written by Wells Root in 1979 that sums it up nicely I think. “Page 108: Sex and Violence. Only a fool or a hypocrite would ignore the box-office harvest of sex and violence. Certainly a great many producers are looking for stories that legitimately exploit these two elements. How any writer or producer defines “legitimately” of course, is his own discretion.”
REGINA: Do you think Hollywood’s unwritten code of immorality makes it difficult to get moral films made?
MARIANNE: Of course it does, unless they see dollar signs. Sex sells has been the general philosophy from the entertainment business since its birth. The definition of what kind of “sex” is acceptable has changed over the years. Hollywood has successfully chipped away at the moral fiber of America and the world so now they can get away with more.
REGINA: What’s the difference between Old Hollywood and the new crowd?
MARIANNE: I don’t think there’s that much of a difference in their personal behavior. I think that now more things seem to be socially acceptable, or to put it more clearly, it’s no longer politically correct to judge things like using drugs, S&M, group sex, switching genders, etc. This has allowed Hollywood to loosen up the reins on hiding what they do behind closed doors, or out of the public’s sight.
REGINA: We hear rumors of cults that are very active in Hollywood, some of which are Satanic.
MARIANNE: I haven’t actually witnessed a satanic ritual, thank goodness. I do know people in the business who have told me that their families were involved in satanic cults, Wiccan cults and rituals for the purpose of obtaining fame, wealth, or power. I can tell you that the entire time I spent in and around Hollywood, the occult was very prevalent either through the use of Tarot cards, psychic readings, Wicca, palmistry, and now especially so many are into this new idea that the Universe is the giver of all things that was promulgated by the makers of The Secret, Oprah and others.
REGINA: And God?
MARIANNE: God was always frowned upon. As a Catholic in Hollywood I was constantly told I must be a naughty Catholic girl, or that I was wracked with Catholic guilt (usually in response to me refusing to sleep with someone), and I once had a Jewish man in a Beverly Hills restaurant put his steak knife to my throat and threaten to cut my “f***ing Crucifix” off because he hated it.
REGINA: What made you ‘wake up’ from the Hollywood experience?
MARIANNE: I wish I could say that I had some grand epiphany, or woke up all of sudden, but to be honest, many things contributed to my leaving. My actor boyfriend continuing to cheat on me, break up with me, come back to me and then do it all over again. The last straw was when he asked me to marry him and then disappeared. He had apparently forgotten to tell his other girlfriend in another town that he wanted to marry me. In true Hollywood fashion, I never got an apology or straight answer as to why he did what he did.
REGINA: Actually, it’s hard to find the right words to describe such behavior.
MARIANNE: I’m not saying he wouldn’t talk to me either. He continued to try to be in my life for years. All around me I saw aging executives, actors, once beautiful women, models — many of these were addicts — who were still trying to grab hold of something that would finally make them feel fulfilled, happy, or content. It reminded me of trying to hold a handful of sand. No matter how delicate, or how hard your grasp is, the sand will always slip through.
REGINA: Like a real life ‘Hotel California’.
MARIANNE: Also, the lack of boundaries. Everything was acceptable I guess…do what thou wilt. The thing is, I was getting hurt. I had been hurt by disloyal friends who would try to sleep with my boyfriends, hurt by my latest cheating boyfriend (they all cheated), and hurt because life never seemed to progress. Things were just always the same, in a perpetual state of waiting for the next big thing. I wanted a normal life. I wanted a husband and kids, although I was too old at that point to have kids.
The funny thing is that once I moved, I didn’t feel any differently. That took time. I even made a few foolish attempts to move back to Los Angeles. I saw my ex one last time. I watched my friends in LA suffer the consequences of years of abusing their bodies. Some died from AIDs, suicide, drug overdoses, and diseases caused by alcohol and drug abuse. Some are still living with addiction and successfully hiding it from their adoring fans. Some have quite literally lost their minds, while others are successful monetarily, but unhappily spinning their wheels trying to turn back the clock.
REGINA: How do you feel, in retrospect?
MARIANNE: I am happy with my life now. Sure, I knew, dated, and worked with famous people. I have some funny stories, some sad stories and I used to have a lot of regret. If I could go back and do things differently, I would, but then I might not have ended up where I am. Somehow, by the grace of God I survived my life in Hollywood and had the good fortune to encounter a couple of wonderful priests after I left.
REGINA: So it was a priest who saved you?
MARIANNE: I wouldn’t say “saved.” I had been away from “Hollywood” for several years by then. I had always been Catholic, if not following the Commandments and always said my rosary, but not as devoutly as I should. This one priest in particular, opened my eyes and heart to the fullness of faith that, prior to meeting him, had always seemed solely “theoretical.” God’s love literally emanated from this priest and made me realize that when I had been running around Hollywood looking for the approval and love of a man, I had forgotten God. My biggest regret is wasting time that could have been spent in love with God and how different my life might have been.
REGINA: And today?
MARIANNE: I can’t go down that rabbit hole. My experiences have given me a whole other level of compassion and understanding for others who are experiencing similar traumas, so if I can use my experiences to help just one person, it’s all worth it.