Director James Toback accused of harassing 38 women over the course of decades

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Since I live in a gossip-bubble, it was hard for me to properly judge the average person’s awareness of Harvey Weinstein before everything exploded several weeks ago. Like, I think most people who would consider themselves “film buffs” or “Tarantino fans” or Oscar-watchers would have definitely known the name Harvey Weinstein, and those are the people who probably heard something, somewhere, about his creepy behavior. Honestly, though, I’ve never even heard of this guy before: James Toback is a writer-director of films like The Pick-Up Artist, Two Girls and a Guy and Black and White. He’s also a pervert, a sexual harasser and a sexual assailant who used the pick-up line of “I can make you a star” to harass and degrade young women for decades. From the LA Times:

He prowled the streets of Manhattan looking for attractive young women, usually in their early 20s, sometimes college students, on occasion a high schooler. He approached them in Central Park, standing in line at a bank or drug store or at a copy center while they worked on their resumes. 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’?”

Probably not. So he’d start to drop names. He had an Oscar nomination for writing the Warren Beatty movie “Bugsy.” He directed Robert Downey Jr., in three movies. The actor, Toback claimed, was a close friend; he had “invented him.” If you didn’t believe him, he would pull out a business card or an article that had been written about him to prove he had some juice in Hollywood. That he could make you a star. But first, he’d need to get to know you. Intimately. Trust him, he’d say. It’s all part of his process.

Then, in a hotel room, a movie trailer, a public park, meetings framed as interviews or auditions quickly turned sexual, according to 38 women who, in separate interviews told the Los Angeles Times of similar encounters they had with Toback. During these meetings, many of the women said, Toback boasted of sexual conquests with the famous and then asked humiliating personal questions. How often do you masturbate? How much pubic hair do you have? He’d tell them, they said, that he couldn’t properly function unless he “jerked off” several times a day. And then he’d dry-hump them or masturbate in front of them, ejaculating into his pants or onto their bodies and then walk away. Meeting over.

The women’s accounts portray James Toback as a man who, for decades, sexually harassed women he hired, women looking for work and women he just saw on the street. The vast majority of these women — 31 of the 38 interviewed — spoke on the record. The Times also interviewed people that the women informed of the incidents when they occurred.

As is often the case, none of them contacted the police at the time. When contacted by The Times, Toback denied the allegations, saying that he had never met any of these women or, if he did, it “was for five minutes and have no recollection.” He also repeatedly claimed that for the last 22 years, it had been “biologically impossible” for him to engage in the behavior described by the women in this story, saying he had diabetes and a heart condition that required medication. Toback declined to offer further details.

[From The LA Times]

The LAT documents several women’s stories in the piece, and it feels like all of this was a long time coming. I used to read Gawker all the time (RIP Gawker) but I have zero memory of their stories on Toback – go here and here for some of their vintage reporting on his “pick up” attempts. The stories remind me of Lauren Sivan’s story about Harvey Weinstein – I would think that even if he doesn’t touch you, but merely manipulates you into a space and masturbates in front of you without your consent, that’s still considered sexual assault. It’s all so gross and creepy.

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52 Responses to “Director James Toback accused of harassing 38 women over the course of decades”

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  1. Sixer says:

    Well, the Weinstein story certainly seems to have cracked open the edifice. Good.

    I read about a prominent chef and restaurant chain in the US, too?

    Here in the UK, a very well-respected theatre director has also been outed. This article about it is one of the best (by a man) that I’ve read – it really exposes the power relations involved, especially from creative men who, by dint of their profession, know EXACTLY what they are doing.

    • SK says:

      Yes! Keep them coming! Bring all of these utter bastards down! I hope this is THE moment! I just hope the public doesn’t get “fatigue” about these stories, become desensitised and stop caring because these men all need to be brought down.

    • I was SHOCKED to hear about John Besh (the chef). But now, I refused to be surprised by any of this.

      • jugil1 says:

        @ paranormalgirl, I too was shocked about John Besh. I always like his TV persona & his culinary skills were impeccable. Yes I too will no longer be shocked by allegations against anyone.

    • Sixer says:

      I do hope that the thumb is now out of the dam, I really do.

    • Cat'sMeow says:

      Bring it on! Flush the pipes.

  2. Sara says:

    Apparently his line of defense is that he is impotent.


  3. Tulsi 2020 says:

    And the floodgates have opened.

  4. Nicole says:

    I was aware of this dude too. Less known than Weinstein but no any less predatorial
    Hollywood is beyond cancelled for me

    • Tulsi 2020 says:

      World Cinema is better anyway. Enjoy.

    • jwoolman says:

      Stick with amateurs on YouTube.

      Cat CATastrophes is fun. Bizarre vignettes often including adoptable cats from local shelters as extras, along with the regulars. The cats seem to have fun watching the humans.

    • Nicole says:

      I’m aware this is beyond Hollywood. I just don’t have to support these idiots anymore. I don’t need to pour money into the Hollywood machine going further. I’ll be selective as to what movie I go to if any. I mean I’m pretty good with boycotts. Once it’s out it’s done for me. Heck I boycotted football this year and it was a lot easier than I expected.

  5. LizLemonGotMarried says:

    I will say that my husband lives in whatever the opposite of a gossip bubble is-that is, he knows what’s going on with ESPN, politics, and what I tell him about gossip- and he knew the name Weinstein.

  6. Talie says:

    He was able to fly under the radar because he never achieved big success, but a lot of major actors would work with him.

    • Josie says:

      I was also aware of him: I’ve seen Two Girls and a Guy, and Black and White, and thought they were good indie films (RDJ was in both + one in the late 80’s). His last few films look awful; the most recent starred Sienna Miller.
      Looks like he used his RDJ connection as a pick-up line.

  7. littlemissnaughty says:

    I suddenly very much regret not getting that chocolate pastry for dessert.

    On the one hand it all feels very cleansing but on the other … I may go for that pastry after work. What a horrifying sh*tshow. I’ve had my fair share of gross and inappropriate encounters during my bartending days but I can honestly say that at my current job, all is well. It’s not perfect but 99% of the time, men act perfectly professional. And the 1% are jokes that are unnecessary but not gross and they can deal with us telling them to shut it. I feel very fortunate.

    I wonder who’s next.

  8. Caity says:

    Director James gunn says he’s known about this guy for years, and has warned people privately and publicly. He wrote a Facebook post addressing this

  9. frisbee says:

    Fugly and disgustingly gross, so his predilection for preying on women is’nt the only thing he has in common with Weinstein. It’s a huge iceberg and I believe these two are the tiny tip of a whole rotten edifice, let’s hope it is all slowly crashing down now.

    • bluhare says:

      I agree, and people are crazy if they don’t think this goes on everywhere. It does. Perhaps not this predatory, but it does.

  10. neelyo says:

    This guy has always been scuzzy. I can’t remember details or anything but when I saw this headline over the weekend my reaction was, ‘oh him! wasn’t there some sleaziness around him in the past?’

  11. Mia4s says:

    Well I’m going to vomit.

    Interesting trivia: this is also the clown who talked about how RDJ was so much less interesting and had lost his artistry since getting sober. Oh and his agent has already stated he no longer represents him. I don’t think anyone is shocked this guy is one of the gross ones. Bye sweetie, burn in hell!

  12. smcollins says:

    Weinstein was undoubtedly the tip of the iceberg. These accounts are not going to end any time soon, and more & more of these predators are going to be exposed. As far as this particular guy, his film The Pick-Up Artist was one of the last films Molly Ringwald did before she “fled” to Paris. I think there’s a story there.

  13. Birdie says:

    I hope the Weinstein story leads the take down of a lot of predators. Waiting for Terry Richardson and Louis CK. Hopefully that is already in the works.
    I have read an article ages ago about a model „working“ with Terry. It was disgusting what he did to her. Don‘t want to get into too much detail, but it involved her eyes. He‘s an animal.

  14. Betsy says:

    I’m glad the iceberg is being melted, though I have no idea who this guy is. (You hear that, dirtbag? You’re a nobody.)

  15. Here's Wilson says:

    I was raped when I was 13 and the anniversery of that day is this week.

    I was at a party and new to my city. I was innocent, niave, and trusting. My aunt drove me there with a new friend. I remember being noticed and liking the attention, having fun. I was ok with kissing but then he wouldn’t stop. I remember saying NO ! I remeber going to my ‘friend ‘ and telling her i want to leave while she pretended to be a sleep, and i remeber being felt forced to stay there.

    I remeber years of letting men treat me like garbage, becoming promiscuous because it didn’t matter anymore. I remeber substance abuse issues, trust issues, self esteem issues. Poor relationships with everyone around me, failing school, unable to commit to anything or anyone.

    I also remeber trying to confide in someone, anyone. My friends, my family. My confession was met with a shrug or an uncomfortable look away. No charges were ever pressed and I never sought any help.

    I remeber being SO angry at my aunt for driving me there, even though until the day she died I never told her. I had these angry feelings about her for years. She tried so I hard to be close to me, but i couldn’t let her.

    It took years of self reflection to figure out why. Why I was so mad at her, why I failed at everything, quit everything.

    All because some asshole stole five minutes of my time, but years of my self respect and ability to care for myself.

    As tremendously as these stories effect me, I’m so happy there is dialogue. Rape lasts minutes, but the aftermath lasts years. I only hope these women seek help and justice before making all the mistakes I did.

    • Luca76 says:

      I am so sorry that happened to you.Please remember that you didn’t do anything wrong. You were a child. You should have been protected. You should have been innocent, naive and trusting it is perfectly natural for a 13 year old to be those things. The shame is all on that man for his heinous behavior. I am so thankful to you for sharing your story.

    • LizLemonGotMarried says:

      Your story grabbed my heart this morning. I think we all have coping mechanisms, and sometimes they are destructive. It’s taken me a long time to heal and get to a good place, and even now sometimes things can bring it all back. I hope you’ve not only found your self-respect and your self-care, but your forgiveness for yourself for the way you coped. We all do the best we can with the tools we have, and as we find better tools, we find better ways.

      Rape and assault steal so many things-healthy relationships, trust, self-respect-it’s not “five minutes of action” Mr. Turner-it’s a lifetime of coping and never, really, feeling healed.

    • smcollins says:

      I’m so sorry that happened to you and also the years of struggling to heal that came with it. I hope you’re in a better place within yourself and in your life. Thank you for sharing your story. Sending you hugs.

    • jugil1 says:

      @ Here’s Wilson, I’m so so sorry that this happened to you. Your story broke my heart. I hope you are healing & in a better place. Thanks for sharing your truth. *Hugs*

    • magnoliarose says:

      I am sorry for your experience and all that you suffered as a result. The reason we have to continue to expose these men and stop them from robbing more girls and women of their futures and happiness.Thank you for sharing your experience. Hugs

  16. Luca76 says:

    I am so glad people are getting found out and shamed. But I want more, I want the powerful predators that haven’t fallen out of favor like Weinstein revealed and shamed out of the business and places of power. I want there to be a way for the survivors of these abuses to report and be believed immediately. Law Enforcement and people within the industry including agents, assistants, entertainment reporters who were complicit need to go too. We need a moment of reckoning over this.

    • ORIGINAL T.C. says:

      The moment of reckoning won’t occur until the entire Hollywood system of the past 100 years is tossed out. Let’s face it, women in Hollywood have always been used as walking wet dreams for teen and adult men watching the big screen. Actresses are described based on their beauty and actors based on their talent. The stories were about men and women where there as decorations. No matter what a man’s number 1 motivation in going to Hollywood (act, direct, produce, write, cook) not too far behind is being able to have sex with beautiful actresses or groupies. The industry is set up to attract sexual predators and perverts.

      You would have to get rid of the notion of beauty as a requirement to be an actress and will have to replace at least 50% of studioheads, writers, producers, grips with diverse women.

  17. Electric Tuba says:

    This guy looks like he harassed a few all you can eat buffets too. Damn manbearpig monster

  18. Harryg says:

    Revolting creep!

  19. lucy2 says:

    I’ve never heard of this guy before this story came out, but I’m so glad that victims are feeling empowered enough to speak up. I hope it lasts, and permanently changes the culture.

  20. Ally says:

    So that’s now three of these high-profile creeps that use this masturbation assault style. I guess word got out among the Hollywood pervs that this is how you could get away with sexual assault – because you didn’t touch them? This should also put a lie to the idea that it’s about sex – these guys could have done this to porn. But no, they wanted to trick, shock, humiliate and frighten someone to get off.

  21. Wickster says:

    Toback did this to a friend of mine in 1986–yes, he has been at it that long– when we were aspiring actresses. He approached her on a NYC street about a potential movie role, invited her to his room at the Plaza to talk about it, and she did not give me details, but there was sexual contact–she would not be specific but reading the stories it sounds like it was similar. He wouldn’t let her leave for a few days, until she was eventually able to cajole him into letting her go. I wondered when if ever he would be called out. Everyone knew about this scumbag. Very few spoke up. By the way, ALL my male director and actor friends on Facebook have been suspiciously silent (other than one saying Weinstein “admitted” he did “bad things”, so therefore he was somehow better than Trump). They all knew this stuff. dismissed it as unimportant, and carried on with their careers, being complicit in their silence, even if they were not perpetrators themselves.

    • Lady D says:

      “They all knew this stuff. dismissed it as unimportant, and carried on with their careers, being complicit in their silence, even if they were not perpetrators themselves.”
      Just like George Clooney and Matt Damon.

      • Wickster says:

        Indeed. And by the way some of the men I know who are quite influential are men I otherwise respect. They simply don’t take sexual harassment or assault seriously. As with racism, I understand it is hard to “get” how corrosive it is if you are not subject to it constantly, throughout your life (and yes I know men who have experienced sexual harassment too, but I do not want to see the co-opting of what is a distinctly female experience in terms of the dismissiveness, ridicule and harrassment we experience with a consistency and repetitiveness throughout our lives from an early age, based solely on our genitalia). I simply don’t think men can ever understand what it is like to be viewed as prey on a daily basis. That doesn’t absolve them however.

  22. amiloo says:

    What about Victor Salva? He served time for molesting one of the 12-year-old stars of his movie Clownhouse (and videotaping one of the encounters!), and he STILL makes movies (Jeepers Creepers, Powder…). And there’s a new Jeepers Creepers sequel out now. BOYCOTT THIS POS!

  23. Boxy Lady says:

    I actually know this guy. Years ago, he used to come to my job a lot because we were near an Off Track Betting location and he has had a gambling problem for decades. The movie The Gambler was based on a book he wrote about his life. Anyway, he wasn’t gross to me. We mostly talked about writing. That said, I have heard stories about him for years.

  24. anon says:

    Poor Nastassja Kinski, she worked with Polanski and this guy (on a 1983 film called “Exposed” (which also starred Rudolf Nureyev–he and Kinski looked so much alike IMO). I remember that a lot of the press and PR articles back then focused on Toback and his “muse” Kinski. It struck me as creepy back then. Still does.

  25. monette says:

    Today I was blocked by a former colleague. He liles to write and he wrote a horrible article about a different perspective about sexual assault: men are animals so it is actually women who pray on them by wearing short skirts and cleavage. You see, they can’t help themselves. I responded witn several arguments againts it. First he called me aggressive and condescending, than he ignored me, than he deleted the article. After that he posted a message on his wall with a quote about stupidity and stupid people.
    It was definitively about me. The a**hole called me stupid.
    Than I shared his quote with a message saying I was the stupid he refered to and described what had happened. He procedeed to block me.
    I am beyond speechless. He is a mature, intelligent, very educated man. I cannot believe how low he has sunked.
    I really really pissed him off. If men like him act this way what can I say?
    I feel like we are all doomed!

  26. Talia says:

    Talk about another case of a predator using his alleged health issues as an excuse…