Mere weeks after a scathing exposé on Harvey Weinstein exposed the movie mogul as a sexual predator, another Hollywood director is being accused of sexual misconduct. This time the Los Angeles Times broke the story, bringing to light 38 women who claim James Toback sexually harassed or assaulted them — 31 of them have been willing to go named on the record so far, with others preferring to remain anonymous.
According to the Times, these accounts paint a picture of a man who has spent the last several decades using his influence and power to prey upon women.
Sometimes they were women he’d hired. Sometimes they were aspiring actors. Sometimes they were simply women he ran into at the park. But regardless of how they crossed his path, much as in the case of Harvey Weinstein, the women all had eerily similar accounts of what happened next.
Under the guise of an interview, audition or other business matter, Toback — whose body of work includes Bugsy, Black and White and Tyson — would convince them to meet with him. Some women described being invited into hotel rooms and movie trailers, while others’ interactions with Toback occurred in public parks.
Once alone with Toback, he would then proposition the women in a sexually inappropriate way, whether it be asking them how much pubic hair they had to asking them how often they masturbate. Nearly all the encounters would inevitably end with Toback trying to dry hump the women or masturbating near or on them before leaving as though nothing had happened.
In 2008, actor Adrienne LaValley wound up alone with Toback in a hotel room. When he tried to rub his genitals against her and she rebuffed his advance, he stood up and ejaculated in his pants in front of her.
“The way he presented it, it was like, ‘This is how things are done.’ I felt like a prostitute, an utter disappointment to myself, my parents, my friends. And I deserved not to tell anyone,” LaValley told the Times.
Louise Post, a guitarist and vocalist for the band Veruca Salt, shared a similar encounter, saying, “He told me he’d love nothing more than to masturbate while looking into my eyes. Going to his apartment has been the source of shame for the past 30 years, that I allowed myself to be so gullible.”
— Veruca Salt (@verucasalt) October 16, 2017
At the time of her harassment in 1987, Post was attending Bernard College.
“It’s a common thread among many women I know… after someone mentions they were sexually abused by a creepy writer-director, the response is, ‘Oh, no. You got Toback-ed. The numbers are staggering,” said Karen Sklaire, a drama teacher/actor/playwright who was subjected to Toback’s uninvited grinding back in 1997.
According to actor Echo Danon, Toback touched her in his trailer on the set of his 1999 film Black and White. “If you look into my eyes and pinch my nipples, I’m going to come in my pants right now,” Danon alleges he told her as he gripped her thighs. She resisted, and eventually he backed down.
Toback allegedly didn’t even try to hide when he assaulted then-23-year-old Terri Conn, who was starring in the popular soap opera As the World Turns at the time. When Toback asked her to meet him in Central Park to discuss potential film projects, Conn accepted, hoping to land a role in an edgy independent film.
However, once there, he pulled her aside (people were still nearby) and told her that staring into someone’s soul is the best way to get to know them. As for how you stare into someone’s soul, he reportedly said the only way to do so is to look into their eyes as they’re having an orgasm. He then began to hump her leg while ordering her to look into his eyes.
“I was shocked and frozen and didn’t know what to do,” she shared. “I thought if I resisted, it could get worse. He could overpower me.” After Toback ejaculated in his pants, he got up, told her they’d meet later to discuss his process more and then left. She never accepted his calls and subsequently never saw him again.
And the stories go on.
Like Weinstein, Toback has somehow managed to remain one of Hollywood’s dirty little secrets — despite his sexually inappropriate behavior being reported about by Spy Magazine, Gawker and other outlets over the years.
More: Harvey Weinstein’s Alleged Sex Crimes Brought Back Memories of My Own Harassment
Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn took to Facebook early Sunday to say he has been trying to warn people about Toback for years.
“When I lived in New York, in the ‘nineties, this dude was EVERYWHERE,” Gunn starts his post. “I have personally met at least FIFTEEN WOMEN, probably more, who say that he’s accosted them in NYC. He essentially goes up to women and says, ‘Hey, I’m James Toback, and I’m a famous director, and I feel like there’s a connection between us.’ Then he shows them some article on himself or some other artifact to prove he is who he is, and tries to get them to go somewhere else with him.”
Gunn explains that he tried to do as much as he could to bring Toback’s abuse to light over the years, although the story never broke wide open like it has now.
“So I did what I could do in my impotent state — for over twenty years now, I’ve been bringing up James Toback every chance I could in groups of people,” Gunn says. “I couldn’t stop him, but I could warn people about him.”
Since the Times published its exposé on Toback, women are coming forward unofficially on social media to share their own experiences.
— Rachel Gezerseh (@lawcareerlab) October 22, 2017
— sari kamin (@sarikamin) October 17, 2017
— fuelgrannie (@fuelgrannie) October 22, 2017
— Mara McEwin (@maramcewin) October 22, 2017
— ḊÆṆḀ 🌹 (@Beatgrrrl) October 22, 2017
— Becka Thompson (@BkBecka) October 23, 2017
They aren't the only ones….#JamesToback
— Endora Meow (@LolaLola3) October 23, 2017
— Jenn Grace DeLeo (@jennGrace15) October 23, 2017
More on this story as it develops.