Earlier this week, Glenn Whipp of the Los Angeles Times published a shocking story in which 38 women accused director James Toback (Bugsy, Two Girls and a Guy, Tyson) of sexual harassment. Hours after it was published, the reporter shared that the number of women that had contacted him to share their own, similar stories of sexual harassment at the hands of Toback had doubled. Less than a week later, the number had skyrocketed to more than 300 women. These women include high-profile actresses like Selma Blair and Rachel McAdams. Toback's sick pattern of alleged sexual harassment spanned many years and is yet another glimpse into the pattern of abuse and shame that so many women are forced into due to sexual harassment in their workplace.
UPDATE: 38 women contacted me for this story. That number has now doubled since it was published. https://t.co/beVGHWGOKM— Glenn Whipp (@GlennWhipp) October 22, 2017
UPDATE: The number of women who have contacted me about their encounters with James Toback now stands at 310. https://t.co/7jjbIwWqih— Glenn Whipp (@GlennWhipp) October 26, 2017
Although many of the incidents described by the women interviewed by Whipp occurred many years ago, the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal has helped many realize the importance of coming forward with their stories. The stories that the women share are shockingly similar. Toback would allegedly approach women either for auditions in one of his movies or totally out of the blue, sometimes on the street or in Central Park, and attempt to impress them with his Hollywood connections. He would then insist on getting to know the women better, but for him, this meant turning the conversation into perverted and personal arenas.
He would often ask women about masturbation or pubic hair. He claimed he needed to masturbate several times a day. In many instances laid out in the original Los Angeles Times story, Toback would force the women into a situation in which he would either dry hump them or masturbate in front of them, ejaculate into his pants, and leave. "If you look into my eyes and pinch my nipples, I’m going to come in my pants right now" was one line he reportedly used often, and multiple women reported either being forced to do this or being asked to do it and then fleeing.
McAdams described her encounter with Toback and said it was disguised as an audition at a hotel he was staying at in Toronto.
"He invited me to sit on the floor, which was a bit awkward," McAdams said. "Pretty quickly the conversation turned quite sexual and he said, 'You know, I just have to tell you. I have masturbated countless times today thinking about you since we met at your audition.'" He then asked to see her pubic hair, but she was able to escape the hotel room. "I was very lucky that I left and he didn’t actually physically assault me in any way," she said.
310. Look beyond the numbers. That's 310 hearts. 310 bodies. And counting.— Arin N. Reeves (@arinnreeves) October 26, 2017
"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,'" Karen Sklaire, a New York drama teacher, actor, and playwright, told the Times. Sklaire also revealed she had a meeting with Toback in 1997 that involved him grinding against her leg. "The numbers are staggering," she said.
"He told me he’d love nothing more than to masturbate while looking into my eyes," said Louise Post, who met Toback in 1987. "Going to his apartment has been the source of shame for the past 30 years, that I allowed myself to be so gullible."
None of the women contacted the police at the time. Many of them report feeling like the sexual harassment was part of the industry they had chosen and a kind of necessary sacrifice in order to launch their careers. Many gave up acting after their encounters with Toback. Blair, who claims Toback sexually harassed her in 1999, says Toback threatened to kill her if she spoke about what happened between them.
Toback has denied the allegations, claiming he had either never met the women in question or had only spent about five minutes with them. He also claims that it has been "biologically impossible" for him to engage in sexual behavior for nearly 22 years, as he has diabetes and a heart condition.
"In a weird sense, I thought, 'This is a test of whether I’m a real artist and serious about acting,'" said Starr Rinaldi, who was an aspiring actress when she met Toback in Central Park 15 years ago. "He always wanted me to read for him in a hotel or come back to his apartment, like, 'How serious are you about your craft?'"
"And the horrible thing is, whichever road you choose, whether you sleep with him or walk away, you’re still broken," she continued. "You have been violated."