It was the late 1980’s and I was finally pursuing my lifelong dream of being a professional actress.
I was referred to a drama coach and after a couple of months of intense training, my coach set an appointment for me with a very well-known talent manager by the name of David Wilder.
With photos in hand and a well-rehearsed pitch, I arrived at my appointment full of confidence in my ability to “wow” Mr. Wilder. After all, years earlier I had been selected as a game show model (ala Vanna White) for a show that never made it to production. I’d been carefully placed on various television shows as an extra without trying. I wasn’t cocky. In fact, I was and still continue to be incredibly insecure and am my harshest critic. And yet, I knew from my acting coach that I had a great talent for dramatic work.
I was ushered into the inner sanctum of the agency and introduced to the man I hoped would help me realize my dream of becoming an actress.
My handshake was firm (and a little sweaty) as I introduced myself to the agent I was told was “a star maker”.
He took my photo and placed it on a pile of other budding starlets.
“Turn around, slowly,” he said.
I turned and as I made a full circle I saw that he was eyeing every inch of my body.
“Tell me about yourself. Are you married?”
My head bobbed up and down. “Yes, in fact my husband encouraged me to pursue acting”. (By the way, he is an ex-husband who had his own motives for encouraging me to act, but that’s another story…)
Mr. Wilder proceeded to tell me that he would like to represent me if I agreed to a “few things”.
He stated that I would be expected to go to every Hollywood event, party, opening, etc. so that people could meet me and “get to know me” before starring in their projects. I agreed and said I would be delighted. It sounded fun and exciting. He told me he would tell me what to wear, how to do my hair and my makeup. That seemed like a dream come true.
“I represented Dorothy Stratten,” he said, and asked if I knew who she was. I had only known she had been murdered but didn’t know anything about who she was. “Her husband murdered her,” he told me, and added that I would need to be prepared for my husband to be jealous of my going to events almost every night. He didn’t want to see me end up like her. (At this point, my ex-husband had already moved on to other women and was done with me, so pursuing a career of my own seemed logical.)
I was a size 2 but he ordered me to lose 10 pounds before a second meeting the following week. “What about my monologue?” He waved me off and told me to be prepared in a week.
For the next week, I was excited, I starved myself, exercised like a maniac and rehearsed my monologue for hours every day. The day of our next meeting, I had only lost 5 pounds. I felt like a failure, but at least I knew my lines.
I arrived on time and just like before, I was ushered into Mr. Wilder’s office. He was on the phone, so I stood quietly waiting for his attention.
He put his hand over the phone and whispered, “Go ahead honey. Do your lines.”
“Should I wait until you are off the phone?”
He motioned for me to start.
I felt my face flush with anger, but I began my scene. It was like I was invisible. After completing my performance, I waited. Finally, he hung up the phone, only to get on the intercom and order his lunch.
“You didn’t lose 10 pounds, did you?”
I shook my head in shame. He never mentioned my monologue.
“Okay, listen. You have talent and you are a beauty.”
He then asked if I had thought about being willing to do everything he told me to do to achieve stardom. I shook my head yes.
And then he lowered the boom.
Basically, he said he would sign me after proving myself. “What do you mean?” (Boy oh boy was I naïve.)
Bottom line, he told me that I would have to have sex with him and if I proved myself sexually, he would then pass my information to the big players in Hollywood, where of course, I would be expected to do whatever was asked of me.
He repeated his proposal. My response was Eminem worthy. Loud. Direct.
Mr. Wilder stood up and leaned over his desk asking, “What did you say to me?”
I repeated myself, slightly more hysterical while reaching for the door to make my exit.
“You will NEVER work in this town, you b**ch! Do you hear me? No one in this town will ever hire you after I’m done with you!”
Dreams dashed. Reality hit me like a freight train. I was shaking. I was sobbing.
I went on to get another agent after a 3 month sabbatical to lick my wounds. I did a national Japanese commercial. My agent was negotiating a contract with a soap opera when the show was canceled. I was signed to do a large role in a feature film. I never did the film because they changed my “no nudity” clause to “nudity as needed”.
My point is – Hollywood is filled with sleazy people, both men and women in power, who objectify talent sexually. Don’t get me wrong – there are some really good people who are principled and honorable. Sadly – they are few and far between.
I’m grateful for my parents who raised me with morals. In fact it was because of their love for me and my respect for them that I was able to stand strong against the phony promises of fame and fortune.
But I credit God for protecting me ultimately. A horrific car accident ended my career just as it was taking off. There is nothing like near death to make a person re-evaluate life’s direction and personal choices.
If you’ve been abused and threatened in the workplace – be encouraged that you are not alone and you CAN overcome the shame and fear.
And never, ever, EVER allow anyone to blame you for a sexual predator’s behavior. (Hear me Donna Karan)?