38 Women accuse Hollywood director James Toback of sexual harassment
Following the recent weeks of naming and shaming movie producer Harvey Weinstein, another powerful Hollywood figure has been ousted as a serial sexual predator following a scathing expose from the LA Times. The offender in question is 72-year-old James Toback, described on IMDb as "highly respected as a screenwriter and the director of nine films". And now, at least 38 women have come forward with individual accounts of sexual harassment from the man.
The Times article, published today, describes how Toback would prowl the streets of New York, and lurk in Central Park before approaching young, attractive women. The Times wrote: "His opening line had a few variations. One went: 'My name’s James Toback. I’m a movie director. Have you ever seen Black and White or Two Girls and a Guy?'"
While most of the films he directed and wrote screenplays for were in the 70's and 80's, Toback was still an influential figure in Hollywood. If they didn't know of the few films he did direct or write, Toback still convinced the young women he could turn them into stars by namedropping big stars he'd worked with, before inviting them back to secluded areas or a hotel room for "meetings framed as interviews or auditions" that "quickly turned sexual", according to the Times.
Most of the women were in their 20s, and the 38 women all told of similar experiences they'd had with Toback. They spoke about how he would "dry-hump them or masturbate in front of them, ejaculating into his pants or onto their bodies and then walk away".
Toback was described as a man who sexually harassed women for decades, no matter if he'd hired them, if they were looking for work, or if they were just women he'd seen on the street. As in the Weinstein case (and as is unfortunately usually the case), none of the victims reported Toback to authorities at the time.
When contacted by The Times about the allegations, Toback denied everything. He said that he had no recollection of ever having met any of the women, and added that it had been “biologically impossible” for him to engage in the behavior described by the women in this story for the past 22 years, due to a heart condition and diabetes that required medication.
Aspiring actress Starr Rinaldi told the Times that Toback approached her 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?'" she said. "And the horrible thing is, whichever road you choose, whether you sleep with him or walk away, you're still broken. You have been violated."
Another actress, Adrienne LaValley said he told her "This is how things are done," during a 2008 hotel room encounter that ended with Toback attempting to rub his crotch against her leg. She said that she quickly jumped back, but he then just stood up and ejaculated in his pants. “I felt like a prostitute, an utter disappointment to myself, my parents, my friends. And I deserved not to tell anyone.”
Other women who have come forward to accuse Toback of sexual assault include actress Echo Dano, Veruca Salt musician Louise Post, and actress Teri Conn.
But, it seems his sleazy reputation has not quite been so under the radar over the past few decades. His 1987 film The Pickup Artist was his most popular, which Toback wrote and directed. The story is based around a womanizer, played by Robert Downey Jr.
A magazine that was popular in the 80's called Spy wrote an article about Toback, titled The Pickup Artist's Guide to Picking Up Women. Spy was a magazine that specialised in satirical investigations about people known to society who were wealthy and corrupt. The 1989 article about Toback highlighted his reputation as a ladies man, detailing some of his "conquests".
Again in 2000, The Times wrote: "He has been known to stop women in the street and offer them parts in his films, flashing his Directors Guild of America card to prove he is in a position to do so."
But it seems that now, with the scandal that has been the Weinstein case, it seems a good time as any to cast the spotlight on Toback once more, and this time make sure that his behaviour is noted and acted upon.