Last October the Harvey Weinstein scandal blew up Hollywood and set fire to any notions of “Tinseltown perfection” that may have been left among the American public. Perhaps what was most shocking is how many Hollywood personalities were suddenly coming out and admitting that Weinstein’s behavior (and that of other influential men) had basically been an open secret as long as anyone could remember. At the same time, the producer for a fledgling documentary called An Open Secret (directed by the incredibly talented Amy Berg and released all the way back in 2015) used the Weinstein scandal to remind people about his documentary that explored another, darker open secret in the industry – pedophilia.
I had recently been digging into allegations about super-producer Dan Schneider. Schneider is a former actor (you may remember him as Dennis from Head of the Class) turned producer who has been responsible for most of Nickelodeon’s biggest hit shows over the last 20 years, including Victorious, iCarly and The Amanda Bynes Show. He has also been the subject of relentless rumors about his penchant for young girls, a foot fetish that may have led him to pay some children to tickle their feet, and even a rumor that he may have been the father of young Jamie Lynn Spears’ baby.
After watching the documentary and piecing together rumors and reports from all over the internet, I wrote up a story on the Nickelodeon scandal that became one of the most viral of my career. Similarly, overnight An Open Secret went from 115 views on Vimeo to hundreds of thousands. Americans were taking notice. The willful blindness of Hollywood to the perversions of their major players was much more serious than any of us thought.
I appeared on Wade Heath’s “The Millennial Report” this week to discuss the story and how I started digging into it in the first place.
— Wade Heath (@wadewire) May 2, 2018
Wade is right to be astounded at how the press has largely ignored this huge scandal. Once Ronan Farrow’s Weinstein coverage broke the dam, Hollywood reporters were providing non-stop coverage of the issue and the #MeToo movement was spawned. Celebrities wore their ribbons and held hands in solidarity on the red carpet. Charities were started and Tinseltown pervs like Weinstein and Kevin Spacey began dropping like flies. And yet, very few outlets were delving into the next level of sickness in the business – pedophilia.
Why? In some cases, these are more than just rumors. Amy Berg’s documentary definitively shows that some top-level managers and producers in children’s entertainment were accused of pedophilia, convicted, served time…and then went back to work. What’s more, she somehow manages to get one of the industry’s most prolific child actor-managers – Michael Harrah – to not only sit down to an interview, but basically admit his sexual penchant for underage boys – boys that lived in his home as he was managing their careers while their parents resided in other states. Everything is sourced and the personal testimonies of victims are compelling at the least, if not criminally damaging.
And still, silence from most of the media particularly in the entertainment sector.
I suspect the reasoning for that is the Hollywood press has been just as complicit in all this as the actors and actresses who have said the Weinstein scandal was “an open secret”. There’s a reason Berg’s documentary carries the title it does. It’s one thing to report on a scandal that implicates some fat, rich big-wig. It’s quite another to report on a story that implicates yourself.
Corey Feldman has infamously suggested that there is an actual pedophilia ring in Hollywood. While the term “pedophilia ring” may sound salacious and conspiratorial, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Perhaps the term “ring” is too dramatic, but Berg’s documentary and other sources have made it quite clear that there is a definite series of connections between many of those accused of abusing children in the entertainment industry.
Perhaps another reason for the glam-brigade’s willful ignorance of this issue is that few things are harder to comprehend and discuss than the sexual abuse of a child. Like human trafficking, it is so vile, so despicable, so offensive that even to contemplate too deeply brings overwhelming rage and personal emotions to the surface. It isn’t just Hollywood that ignores it. Many adults have stories about sexual abuse in their youth that were ignored by the adults in their lives. Such evil is almost beyond comprehension. There’s a sort of short-circuit in the brain that happens when one (particularly if you’re a parent) is forced to ponder it for too long. The problem that needs the most exposure is also the one that is hardest to discuss.
Whatever the case may be, it is an unjust slight to the victims of sex abuse and a blight on the #MeToo movement. This issue should go hand-in-hand with sexual harassment in Hollywood, and yet it was willfully ignored and swept under the rug at precisely the moment that would have been ideal to expose it and eradicate it in the entertainment industry once and for all.
Every victim of this vile, reprehensible crime deserves that much.
Once again, here I am on “The Millennial Report” discussing Schneider’s quiet exit from Nickelodeon earlier this year, and why I think it deserves way more attention than it’s getting.
— Wade Heath (@wadewire) May 3, 2018
*Correction: The author named “Marty Weiss” as the manager Amy Berg interviewed. The subject in question was Michael Harrah. This article has been updated for the correction.