Overheard in a Manhattan cafe: Harvey Weinstein methods and facilitators
— Did Harvey do that with you too?, the French-accented man said.
The phrase would have gone unnoticed, part of the otherwise little background noise surrounding me on a nice October afternoon in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, had it not been for the next one:
— Are you guys talking about Harvey Weinstein?, interrupted the only woman in the three-people conversation.
As a sexual attack survivor and a strong supporter of the #MeToo movement, the name Harvey Weinstein instantly captures my attention. So I started doing what I almost never do: pay attention to somebody else’s conversation.
For some context: last Wednesday, during a trip to Manhattan, I found myself with a few extra minutes before my next meeting. As I was tired from the flight and non-stop meetings, I decided to sit down on a public bench, around the corner from where my meeting was to take place. Right behind me, at The Regency Bar & Grill terrace, three people were carrying on a conversation. I never turned around to look at them, but from their voices, accents and words, I could make that it was an elderly rich Israeli couple (her sounding considerably younger than him) living in Miami, and a middle-aged French businessman who visited NY often.
— Yes, Harvey Weinstein, replied the man with the French accent.
The woman, who until then had been jabbing about “Miami this”, “Tel Aviv that”, “Don’t you know her? She married this surgeon…”, “We prefer the Four Seasons”, while her older husband/partner just nodded, all of a sudden kept quiet and paid attention.
The French-accented man continued:
— We were at a restaurant and he told me he had the tickets I wanted. Then he asked me “but first I want you to give my card to that waitress and ask her to call me”, and he left. He always did that.
— Why? asked the woman.
— That’s what I asked him the first time. I told him “do you want me to get her phone number?” and he said “What? No! I have many friends at the Mossad [Israeli Secret Service], so I can get the phone number of anyone I want. I just want you to give her my business card once I leave, and tell her to call me. You know what to say.”
— And did that work? asked the woman, sounding a little incredulous.
— Well, that’s what I asked him the next time I saw him. And he said: “of course she called, and I got what I wanted; by the way, here are your tickets”.
— That’s Harvey, said the other man in the group, who had been keeping fairly quiet until then.
— Oh, hi! said the woman to a young man carrying a DSLR camera and wearing skinny black jeans and a backward baseball cap, accompanied by a skater, who came over to greet him. Don’t you know him, guys? He does a lot of work for Donna Karan.
And like that, the conversation diverted to other subjects, like how many more tourists Tel Aviv is getting now that the US has moved their embassy.
I was shocked and disgusted at the same time. I felt an impulse, an urge, to confront the group of enabling pigs and demand an explanation. But then, as so often happens when quickly pondering the potential results of my actions, I foresaw a potential outcome that would not be exactly in the best interest of anyone but them: what if by doing so they realized they said too much, and out of fear of being exposed, tried to prevent it calling the police, involving lawyers, or by any other method of intimidation?
So I decided to not say anything, not even turn around and look at their faces. I chose to lift the veil, to write about it for others to know the criminal modus operandi of those with power and privilege. How they use their influence, friends, and power, to get what they want and to get away with it.
The powerless individual, the clueless outsider does not know how that works and does not know how to confront it, let alone challenge it. But as the #MeToo movement has demonstrated, transparency, accountability, and justice can only come if we are brave enough to come forward with what we know, what we experience, what we hear and see, and share it with the rest of the world.
Let’s keep on lifting the veil on sexual predators, shady power brokers, enabler networks, corrupt politicians, money launderers, tax evaders, psychopathic executives, murderous corporations, silent journalists, illegal national security operations, and all those who abuse power and secrecy to prey on us. You. Me. All of us.