I’ve known Harvey Weinstein is a piece of shit for years. Anyone paying attention would. But pieces of shit like Harvey Weinstein get away with despicable behavior because power equals protection. The argument could be made that the only reason why Weinstein’s decades of abuse have finally resulted in consequences is because his power has waned enough to render it less career suicide-inducing to call him out on them. But I digress.
Let me tell you a story.
In 2015, I attended the Just for Laughs festival as a journalist writing on behalf of Gawker, a profoundly flawed organization I miss desperately. The organizers of the festival did not know the purpose of my presence was a desire to get to the bottom of Louis CK’s numerous accusations of sexual impropriety. Had they known, I surely would not have been invited to attend. Because Louie, you see, is a “friend” of the JFL organization.
I made my move on the red carpet of the awards show. One by one, I would ask a conveyor belt of comedians, all men, “How do you feel about the Cosby allegations?” They would all, invariably, claim to be disgusted by the man’s misdeeds. I would then follow up with “How do you feel about the Louis CK allegations?” They would all, invariably, claim ignorance.
I had just finished interviewing Kevin Hart when a woman holding a clipboard called me off the carpet. She told me “we’ve been receiving complaints” about the Louie question; no one I had asked thus far, however, seemed outwardly upset by the inquiry.
A tall man in a suit approached, relieving her of the duty of admonishing me. He was, in a word, livid. In two words, fucking livid. Red faced, he informed me that JFL is a “family,” that Louie is a member of said “family,” and that I could ask my question on “my turf,” but that this was “our turf.” This wasn’t “that kind” of red carpet, he informed me, it was a “friendly one,” and Louie was a “friend of the festival.” Were I to ask the offending question again, he said, I would be ejected from the carpet. But if I asked “nice” questions, I would be allowed to stay. His demeanor aggressively implied he had no desire to let me do so. Tears stinging my eyes, I apologized to the man who loomed over me, the man I later learned was the COO of JFL, for my indiscretion and said I’d straighten up and fly right.
After getting back to the carpet, I briefly considered staying and making a point to ask the most innocuous questions possible (i.e. “What do YOU love about laughter?”) but felt horrifically awkward and embarrassed—I knew I was being watched like a hawk, and the whole exercise seemed pointless. I was shaking. I was terrified. It was then I heard Andy Kindler yell “Hey, Koester!” over my shoulder. I hobbled over to him (I was using a cane at the time, which made me feel even more pathetic and powerless) and, in hushed tones, explained the situation. I then asked if I could walk out with him. He concurred that it was probably a good idea.
Instead of sticking around and officially getting kicked out, I left. I then proceeded to literally cry on Kindler’s shoulder because whenever I’m yelled at I immediately become a five-year-old girl. It was, by design, not a pleasant experience. It was an attempt to intimidate me into silence, and it was successful. I never wrote the piece.
When I told people the purpose for my being at JFL, their eyes bulged with excitement. They had all heard the accusations. They wanted answers too. They were willing to help my cause as much as they could, so long as they weren’t personally dragged into the mire.
Because that’s the thing when you try to follow stories like this. Everyone wants to be your Deep Throat, but only under the cloak of anonymity. No one wants to be publicly affiliated with you, lest their careers suffer like yours for daring to ask the goddamned question that’s on everyone’s goddamned mind. People I knew, I respected, I loved; they supported me, but silently, in a very “there but for the grace of God goes someone who is not I” kind of way. One stood with me for a moment while I waited for CK to exit a venue on the last night of the festival. She told me she loved me, that she supported me, but that she had to leave, lest he see her with me. Because she wanted to work with him again. And so there I stood alone, in the rain, holding a cane, waiting for a man who never emerged. The scene was hamfistedly cinematic.
“I think what you’re doing is so brave,” a friend told me at the time. “I’m so scared,” I replied. I still am.