The weekend's magic number was $32.5 million. That, according to the New York Times' team of young sexual harassment investigators, is how much money Bill O'Reilly paid to his lawyer and sometime on-air guest Lis Wiehl in a sexual harassment settlement.
The major point of the Times story was that shortly after O'Reilly's out-of-court settlement -- in which Fox was not involved -- the cable news network still signed O'Reilly to an extension of his contract. How could they not know about all that money changing hands?
But you'll have to forgive me and a few dozen people I know on Twitter whose first thought was something else: "What in heaven's name do you have to do in the first place to be forced to agree to a $32.5 million settlement to make all legal action to go away?"
Wiehl functioned as O'Reilly's lawyer and appeared on his shows, especially radio. Accusations included repeated non-consensual sex.
I'm having enormous difficulty understanding the sort of behavior that is pinioning so many powerful males in the world of entertainment. It's a failure of imagination no doubt, but substituting power for sex seems like a fourth-rate trade if ever there were one.
Forgive my naivete, but sex -- even in its angrier varieties -- seems to involve friendship. Intimacy. At least the attempt at understanding and pleasure to be shared. If it doesn't involve such things, you might as well just watch TV.
Bludgeoning the feelings, bodies and sensibilities of someone else seems like reconstituted infantilism -- playground bullying raised to the highest power. It makes a grotesque kind of deluded sense, if we're talking about overgrown boys who spent their early years being constantly rejected by women and despising them for their "power" to leave them unattached and unloved. So much of what they're doing seems to say "Look at me! I'm big, I'm famous, I'm powerful. I'm not just an unappealing warthog."
The latest Hollywood pig to be caught up in a major newspaper story about past horrific behavior was writer/director James Toback in a Los Angeles Times story. Toback has a new film ready for release called "The Private Life of a Modern Woman," which has played at film festivals.
Though Toback says his health for the past 22 years has rendered such behavior moot, the Times found 38 women who allege rank harassment. The kinds of stories they tell would be pathetic if it weren't for the fact that their abuse of women is revolting.
What they reported as Toback's SOP was to come on to young women, introduce himself with his career -- maybe even with clippings to prove it -- and then wheedle them into some private place where he would force them to have sex. This is the ancient Hollywood "casting couch" in operation i.e. the price of being in the movies is sexual compliance with those Marilyn Monroe referred to in "All About Eve" as "nappy rabbits."
It's ancient Hollywood behavior to be talked about in a new century.
I remember once seeing a western starring James Coburn in which he joked that rape should be defined as "assault with a friendly weapon." I laughed at it and so did the audience, including women ... until the woman I was married to pointed out that there was nothing friendly about rape and only hopeless juveniles would pretend that there is.
The reporters who are currently on dirty slob patrol in the entertainment business have finally caught up publicly with the world of secrecy in which powerful males have used brutality and bullying to reinforce their power in the world.
I remember hearing 20 years ago about a TV executive -- now long dead -- who was known to underlings to masturbate in editing rooms while young female editors did their jobs with their backs to him. I found it hard to believe, given his eminence, until discovering that tale to have a surprisingly vigorous life.
What is happening at the Times on both coasts and at other papers and magazines is that bullyings and horrifically insecure men are being exposed everywhere so that cultures and brutality and abuse can be deconstructed, whether the atrocities exist in Boston's Catholic diocese, New York's cable news media or New York and Hollywood movie-making.
It's a dangerous pursuit, which is why those publicly caught up in it -- especially Harvey Weinstein and Toback -- tend to be those about whom rumors have flown for decades. To forge a new world, you have to be secure about how antiquated the old one is.
The only Toback films I've ever cared about are "Fingers" and his Mike Tyson film. He seems, otherwise, a classic example of a man given to ridiculous hero worship after he should have been old enough to know better.
His new film stars Siena Miller and Alec Baldwin, two people who most assuredly don't deserve to be caught up in such ugly undertow. Even worse is the obloquy that can now be aimed at one of his staunchest fans among critics -- the legendary Pauline Kael who made the reputation of "Fingers' and actually, for a time, quit reviewing after Warren Beatty talked her into working, as a film executive, with Toback's latest film project.
But then back then Kael thought that the quasi-rape at the heart of "Last Tango in Paris" -- which star Maria Schneider insisted was real -- made it one of the great artistic achievements of the last century.
A failure of imagination, no doubt, but I don't begin to get that either.