It is raining. Sort of. Here in Southern California. Where it “never rains” except when all the church-goers pray constantly for it.
Well, here it is perfect for a day to remember those we loved and lost who succumbed to AIDS. It is another National AIDS Awareness day. A day to share a secret with the world. Lots of people are coming clean, voluntarily and even unwillingly, as in the case of Bill Cosby who is being outed by the media and more than a few brave women who find strength in numbers. Of course it is all considered “allegedly” unless the accused finds the strength or courage or whatever it takes to open HIS mouth. And as for Whoopi Goldberg’s remarks on that show for housewives, she is old enough to know they didn’t have rape kits back in the days of high-flying playboys. There weren’t any rape centers or even women who dared to tell anyone what had happened to them until fairly recently. Things have changed because women are waking up to the widespread abuse on every level of a woman’s life.
Why do we avoid reporting abuse when one out of three women will be or has been raped in her lifetime according to current statistics? With more and more awareness more and more women are as mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore. It is pretty common for a beautiful woman to have been “used” sexually at some time during her life. In a man’s world it is not likely a pretty woman is going to be taken seriously if she reports it, or to be believed when speaking up. Who was she going to tell in the “old days” when TV stars like Cosby were at the top, famous, rich and powerful?
Here’s my truth-telling for today regarding sexual offences in “the business” decades ago. Long before anyone had heard of AIDS, when I had a TV show and was invited to many a public event, dinners, galas, parties in mansions and such, it was common knowledge that, at some point, during the party, the host would take the prettiest girl in the room away for a brief interlude in private with bodyguards posted outside the door. I witnessed it for the first time at a sumptuous mansion afternoon party when some “joker” told me our host, a car dealership/TV mogul in San Jose, kept a Bible on his bed stand and sent me to get it. It was shocking when I was ordered back to the party by two “suits” at the door to be followed shortly afterwards by the “pretty young thing” rejoining the party after about twenty minutes with her lipstick all crooked, her hair a big mess, and a look of incredulity on her face. Obviously, she had been in for a bigger shock than I. Wow! Those were, after all (aptly) called the “Swinging Years!”
Looking back now, I see clearly that it was a decade or more of freewheeling abuse and, with awareness and newfound courage, today, long after the start of the Playboy culture, the victims are now speaking up. In times past to be chosen as a plaything by a rich and powerful mogul was thought a privilege and I imagine hundreds of rich and powerful old men with a world of public respect are shaking in their shoes at the Cosby “thing,” and the thought that all the women whose names they never knew years ago will start accusations of their own. Think back on all the famous and even not so famous rock stars and their thousands of nameless groupies now gray and thoughtful might start talking with a change of mind about what they once considered bragging rights. It can’t feel good to realize you were just some creep’s a–wipe.(sorry. No other word for it.) Oh the long-held good reputations that could shatter in a Shakespearian media frenzy!
Back in the day women never thought of lawsuits for sexual harassment. There was no law against such a thing because women had no power to protest, and could suffer job loss if they spoke up. How things have changed with time and hard work to convince the courts that rape is a serious crime. I remember a boss when meeting me in a hallway, pushed me against the wall on my first day in a TV studio with people watching, and how we all laughed when he said, “You and I can make beautiful music together.” I felt strangely recognized. When I was asked to sit at a head table as a TV personality, I never reported it when a city councilman or the mayor put a hand on my leg as we sat at political dinners because I thought it was flattering. Many of us were such stupid young things. In those days I took the insulting remarks as compliments. At a production meeting when I made a suggestion, the producer told me (his exact words) “You keep quiet. Don’t you know women are hated in this business? You are lucky to have your foot in the door.” I’ve repeated this so often I am sure I got it right. That’s how stupid I was when I entered a “man’s world.”
Once I was interviewed by a newspaper woman who asked me who I had to sleep with to get my job. Honestly. I was so naïve I had never considered the question before, and it surprised me. Nobody had ever propositioned me directly, but I did marry the company technical engineer on my last show after many years at the place that turned out in retrospect to be one of my happiest jobs despite the creeps who prowled about pretty young things. It still goes on and now it’s in the news. God bless the people who brought about the laws that recognize the crimes against women, and God bless the gay men who love women and honor them as persons unlike others who use women as objects for their gratification, for the taking without fear of consequences. I also celebrate investigative journalists here as well while I am on the subject, for coming clean themselves after years of not reporting the sexual misbehavior of famous men as if it were not a part of a man’s character.
On this designated day of remembering, I especially want to honor one very special talented genius, and I pray for an end to the plague that still exists and is now affecting women of Hispanic and African-American heritage more every day. When and how will it end?
Enjoy this song. I printed it here twice. Play the two together. This is a special, double blessing from the man who “gave a voice to a mermaid– and a soul to a beast.”
God bless all the good men and forgive those who are not yet good. Wear a red ribbon every day.