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If you are obsessed with television and film, as many of us are, you probably already know who Harvey Weinstein is. However, most people had never heard his name before his infamous rape trial and subsequent guilty verdict. Although most people are well familiar with the projects produced by Weinstein's entertainment company, Miramax, it is also a fact that most folks simply do not care about film producers in general.
However, after Weinstein's trial and conviction in the midst of the #MeToo era, interest in his story has increased. Here's your chance to learn all about the powerful Hollywood mogul and blatant predator who got away with rape for decades.
He was born on March 19, 1952, in Queens, New York. His father was a diamond cutter and his mother was a housewife, and the family was Jewish of Polish descent. Harvey and his brother, Robert (Bob), were raised in Electchester, which is a famed public housing development.
Harvey & Corky Productions
As youngsters, Harvey and his younger brother Bob were always smart and entrepreneurially minded. Their first business venture was the independent production of rock concerts, which they started with a friend, Corky Burger, and the borrowed assets of $2500. They started this business while Harvey attended the University of Buffalo.
Their production house was called Harvey & Corky Productions and it was successful throughout the 1970s, where they brought huge acts to the Buffalo area, including The Rolling Stones and Frank Sinatra.
Stage One Nightclub
Eventually, the trio branched into the nightclub business when Harvey purchased a bar in Clarence, New York, and renamed it Stage One. Stage One was also a success, and it hosted such famous acts as U2, The Police, and Aerosmith.
Early Signs of Depravity
One of Harvey Weinstein's early acquaintances was a video producer named Patrick Nehin. Long before Weinstein's accusations of rape surfaced, Nehin once told the story of how he found his girlfriend alone with Weinstein.
Nehin said that he asked his girlfriend why she was alone with him, and she told him a curious, but now familiar, story. She told Nehin that Weinstein tricked her into going to his apartment, ostensibly to watch Casablanca. Nehin stated he punched Weinstein in the nose and that was the end of the incident.
The Hollywood Mogul
From an early age, both Bob and Harvey Weinstein were said to be film addicts whose main goal was to eventually enter the film business. In 1979, the brothers headed to Los Angeles with seed money from their concert promotion business and they used it to start an independent film distribution company called Miramax. They created their company's name as a portmanteau of their parents' names, Miriam and Max Weinstein.
In the beginning, Miramax operated as a method for distributing independent films deemed commercially unfeasible by the major studios. Initially, they stayed close to what they knew well, concerts. Miramax's first major success was an American version of a British benefit show for Amnesty International. The film was called The Secret Policeman's Other Ball, and it debuted in 1982.
Shortly after, Miramax became a titan of the industry, proving itself exceptional at releasing Oscar-worthy and blockbuster material, such as Pulp Fiction, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, The Crying Game, Heavenly Creatures, and Shakespeare in Love.
On June 30, 1993, Miramax was purchased for $60 million by The Walt Disney Company. Bob and Harvey Weinstein continued to helm Miramax until they departed on September 30, 2005.
The Weinstein Company
Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob left Miramax in the capable hands of Disney so they could start another independent film studio, The Weinstein Company, or TWC as often abbreviated.
TWC did not make as much of an impact as did Miramax, but they released successful films such as Transamerica (2005), Hoodwinked! (2005), and the joint Lifetime/Bravo series, Project Runway. In 2009, the failing company went through a financial restructuring and they had a critically acclaimed hit in the BBC dramatic comedy series, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. However, this was not enough to bring TWC to the top. Eventually, the Weinstein brothers attempted to buy Miramax back from Disney, but their attempt failed.
The releases of The Reader (2008), Inglorious Bastards (2009), The King's Speech (2010), Django Unchained (2012), Silver Linings Playbook (2012), and The Butler (2013) helped to pull the company through and it operated decently until 2017 when the first public allegations of Harvey Weinstein's sexual allegations began to surface.
Accusations of Harvey Weinstein's sexual abuse are said to be a long-held open secret in Hollywood, and public accusations actually began in 2015, but prosecutors initially refused to act.
Sexual Assault Allegations
On October 5, 2017, The New York Times reported that dozens of women, including more than 80 women in the film industry, had accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and/or rape. The The New York Times found previously undisclosed, documented allegations against Weinstein, nearing over three decades.
On October 9, 2017, The Weinstein Company forced Harvey out and cut all ties with him. The following events also occurred in October of 2017:
- Actress Meryl Streep praised all of the women who accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse, including actress Ashley Judd, who made a claim nearly two decades prior. Streep also stated she knew nothing of the allegations, nor of Weinstein's sexual depravities, and she clarified her previous infamous comment of calling him "God" at the 2012 Golden Globe Award Ceremonies.
- Actress Gwyneth Paltrow came forward with her story of attempted sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein. Her story is backed by then-boyfriend Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, and Matt Damon.
- Soon after, other actors began to tell their stories, including Angelina Jolie, Mira Sorvino, Rosanna Arquette, Heather Graham, Cara Delevingne, Annabella Sciorra, and many others.
- Harvey Weinstein's wife, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman, took their children and she left him after offering her condolences to the accusers.
- Actress Rose McGowan came forward with her encounter of rape by Harvey Weinstein.
- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors, which includes Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Whoopi Goldberg, revoked Weinstein's lifetime membership.
- Two of Weinstein's former assistants, Michelle Franklin and Sandeep Rehal, came forward with stories of how they were forced to obtain penile injections for erectile dysfunction and deliver them to hotels before meetings with his famous victims.
- Multiple victims have alleged that both Miramax, The Weinstein Company, and Amazon Studios knew about Weinstein's behavior, but they chose to do nothing about it.
- In 2018, actress Ashley Judd sued Weinstein for sexual harassment, defamation, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, and unfair competition. She claims Weinstein barred her from a role in The Lord of The Rings franchise because she was one of the first people to accuse him, and director Peter Jackson confirms he was fed false information about Judd, which caused him to pass her over.
- In May of 2018, Harvey Weinstein was formally charged with rape and sexual abuse in New York after turning himself in to local police. Subsequently, in June of 2018, he pled not guilty.
In the end, more than 60 women surfaced with accusations of sexual abuse and misconduct by Harvey Weinstein. On February 24, 2020, Harvey Weinstein was convicted of two counts of sexual assault. He wore a shocked look as he was taken away in shackles.
How Did He Get Away With It for So Long?
Some may wonder how Harvey Weinstein was able to get away with rape for so many years. However, most people with a depth of intellect were well aware of the simple fact that he got away with it, for the simple reason that he could.
No one questions the authority of those in power, and when someone does, they are often quickly dismissed. The Harvey Weinsteins, Bill Cosbys and Matt Lauers of this world are, in a sense, just as Meryl Streep surmised Harvey to be, industry "gods." No one tests their might, lest they be punished as was Ashley Judd.
Furthermore, just as with the police officer who rapes the prostitute, "who's going to believe a whore" over an officer of the law? It is this sort of thought process that gives predators like Weinstein the power to keep going, and many people in society are guilty of thinking this way.
Unfortunately, this issue is not just a "Hollywood" issue, it happens everywhere and every day, today just happened to be a small victory for the giant monster that was Harvey Weinstein.
But, let us never forget, Weinstein escaped the most serious charges, the ones that would ensure he would spend the rest of his life in prison. Consider the fact that most of the Harvey Weinsteins of this world will never see justice on Earth.
The Prison Sentence
On March 11, 2020, Harvey Weinstein was sentenced in a New York courtroom to 23 years in prison. Against the wishes of his lawyers, and in front of the women he abused and raped, the ailing Hollywood producer had this to say:
"I really feel remorse for this situation," the former Hollywood producer said, his voice barely audible, as he addressed the court. "I feel it deeply in my heart. I will spend my time really caring and really trying to be a better person."
"I'm not going to say these aren't great people, I had wonderful times with these people, you know," Weinstein said of his accusers. "It is just I'm totally confused and I think men are confused about all of these issues."
"The thing for me is I have not seen my three older children since the newspaper, since the New Yorker article came out," he said, referring to the October 2017 story about his history of alleged sexual abuse. "I have not seen them. I just have no idea what they are doing, and I'm in no communication with them. That for me is hell on Earth."
His defense attorneys had asked for a sentence of five years, and they were outraged at the 23 years he was given. Defense Donna Rotunno lambasted the 23-year punishment as "obscene," "obnoxious" and "cowardly," and she argued that Weinstein did not get a fair trial, because she believes his sentence was based on pressure from the #metoo movement, its supporters and the media in general...
© 2020 Rachelle Williams
Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on March 02, 2020:
Well said. I wish there were more men who think as you and I do, the world would be a much better place...
Takako Komori from Yokohama, Japan on March 01, 2020:
Very informative; I also hadn`t heard of him until the infamous rape trials. As you correctly point out, Weinstein isn`t the only one who took advantage of his power and did what he wanted to do with his assistants and actresses.
It saddens me that women are abused by powerful men and aren`t seen as equals in whatever business they are together in. With more women in the workforce all over the world, men who are in power should treat women as human beings and not someone who are targets of unforgiveable behavior such as sexual abuse and rape.
Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on February 26, 2020:
Raymond, I agree, 100%, and there's no "probably" about it, I'm sure it's happening to someone right now.
Raymond Oickle from windsor on February 26, 2020:
Harvey is just another sleeze in a long line of sleezes who in power took advantage of his position. This sort of thing was common place, who has never heard of "the casting couch"? It isn't right, but it certainly happened, and probably still does at times.
Rachelle Williams (author) from Tempe, AZ on February 26, 2020:
True on all points.
Thank you so much for your undying support.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 26, 2020:
Thanks for these details which I wouldn't know if I didn't read you. This man is a serious danger. As for Meryl Streep, I hope she's convinced now that only God could be God.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 24, 2020:
Exhaustive and detailed article. Well presented.