Sadly, the casting the couch has been around for years but I am very gratified that women (including myself) and some men, are finally standing up and saying, “No More!” Fear is a great weapon and powerful people have used it for years to abuse and use women. (And men too, there are a lot of men coming forward to give their own horror stories. I think that is very powerful too because it is less known.)
I have heard that it has been around for years, going back to the Actor/Mangers in the 19th Century but there is no written accounts of that I could find. The earliest I could find was from; The Boys From Syracuse: The Shuberts’ Theatrical Empire by Foster Hirsch. In the 1900’s Lee Shubert kept “an elegantly furnished boudoir, reserved for leading ladies and promising ingénues, and a shabby, spartanly furnished room with a single couch where he met chorus girls and soubrettes.” “If you didn’t sleep with them you didn’t get the part,” dancer Agnes de Mille later recalled about the Shubert brothers. “The Shuberts ran a brothel: Let them sue me.”
In the 1910’s the Studio Bosses made it into an art form. They had secret rooms just for liaisons with their actress. Tales told about women of the old Hollywood System and how they were used and abused are legendary. Some of the stars that were abused are, Marilyn Monroe, Shelly Winters, Evelyn Keyes, a very young Joan Collins, Even Shirley Temple was a victim! And the powerful men were; Harry Cohn, Darryl F. Zanuck, Jack L. Warner, Buddy Adler, Spyros Skouras,Arthur Freed and Howard Hughes!
And a line that is sometimes used as a punchline today, but was and is a real threat, “You’ll never work in this town again.” Harvey Weinstein was even said to use it a few times in the horror stories recently told about his abuses of young women.
It happened to me when I was young but I was lucky, my Dad was right on the other side of the door and I told the casting director that I would scream and my Dad would come in to rescue me. The reason my Dad would never allow me to go to any audition alone was because he knew of the casting couch and was always worried for me, even when I had an appointment with a woman, he said, “You never know.” Later, I found out that he was right. Abuse can come from anyone in power. It’s been years and I blanked out the casting director’s name, I don’t even remember the name of the horror movie I was trying for, I just remember leaving the room crying with verbal abuse ringing in my ears and pulling Dad out of the office. I didn’t tell him till we were in the car and then I begged him not to go back, I was afraid of what my Dad would do to the man, not for my career. Dad was fiercely protective, he was a pacifist, but he when we were threatened,all his Brooklyn came out.
As any women can tell you I have had sexual harassment and attempted abuse all my life, that I never actually was assaulted was pure luck, I think. I have had men touch me inappropriately at work that were old enough to be my Grandfather. I have had several really, really close calls that I either, talked my way out of, cried my way out of, screamed or ran. I am sorry to say, I have never been elegant and regal when faced with an attempted assault against me, all I wanted to do was get away. Lucky for me I did. Not everyone is lucky. That is why this “Me Too” movement is so very important. Whether you have been abused or you love someone who has. Speak up.