“I don’t think he’s a sex addict. He’s a power addict” – in her first TV interview, Harvey Weinstein’s former assistant, Zelda Perkins, speaks out on her former boss #newsnight pic.twitter.com/im9NTexeb2
— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) December 19, 2017
After over 20 years of being gagged by a non-disclosure agreement, Zelda Perkins, former assistant to Harvey Weinstein at Miramax Films in the 1990s, has decided to break that agreement to open up about her former boss, whom she calls a “repulsive monster.” In doing so, she sheds a light on the machinations and motivations of a power-hungry man, who thrived on humiliating others.
In an interview with BBC Newsnight, Perkins talks about the things she saw while under Weinstein’s employ, as well as how he emotionally and psychologically abused her, and what she tried to do to help/warn other women … and why it wasn’t enough.
The reason why she signed an NDA in the first place was because she quit after confronting Weinstein about a colleague who told her that he’d tried to rape her. As reported by Time:
Perkins said she pulled Weinstein out of an important business meeting after her colleague came forward to tell Perkins about how Weinstein tried to rape her. “She was shaking, very distressed, clearly in shock,” Perkins said.
Perkins said Weinstein denied the incident at the time. Perkins quit and left the industry. She said her lawyers said she “didn’t have very many options” in terms of legal action, so she ended up agreeing to a settlement.
That $168,000 settlement prevented her from telling anybody about the alleged sexual assault. “The last 20 years have been distressing, where I’ve not been allowed to speak, where I’ve not been allowed to be myself,” Perkins says. “Although the process that I went through was legal, it was immoral.”
This was after years of working for a man she says was alternately a “brilliant and stimulating person to be around” and a “master manipulator” with mood swings. When she first took the assistant job, another woman warned her about Weinstein, suggesting that she never sit on couches with him, but choose a single-seat armchair instead.
As Perkins got to know him, she says that she tried to warn others, too, but that since he never threatened her physically (“emotionally and psychologically? Constantly. But never physically.”), the advice she gave others ended up being off-the-mark.
“When I interviewed people,” she explains. “I said, ‘I’m afraid he’s a pain. He will behave inappropriately. You just tell him where to go. You’re tough with him, nothing will happen.’ But I was … wrong.”
Perkins talks about the culture of the entertainment industry, and that Weinstein was all about domination over everyone, not only women. “Everything he did. Everything that drove him was about dominance, with men and women,” Perkins says. “He put an enormous amount of energy into humiliating men, and an enormous amount of energy into getting women to submit. And getting men to submit. That was what drove him, you know. His overarching need for power.”
She also explains that even though it’s natural for people to wonder why anyone would go to someone’s hotel room for a meeting, that it’s not as weird as it sounds. “Everybody went to his hotel,” she says. “This was where he did business. It wasn’t in his bedroom, it was in his suite. You know, he had top agents, top movie stars, male and female, coming in hourly for meetings. This was his place of business. So, it wasn’t this spurious thing, that you had to go up to his room.”
She then says that, as his assistant, she was aware that he had a lot of frequent female guests. “Girlfriends” that would come to see him. As his assistant, she had to mind her own business, and she (wrongly) assumed that all of these relationships were consensual. However, she does say that there were several women who were reluctant to meet with Weinstein.
“When you’d ring up to try and make a meeting,” she explains. “They’d always come up with excuses, and Harvey would get very angry and threatening, and would threaten, you know, you personally, that you had to make sure this meeting happened.”
And then, Perkins sums up the entire problem with Weinstein and his ilk. “With Harvey,” Perkins says, “There was no such word as ‘no,’ and I think that’s really the crux of the matter.”
Indeed. Not accepting the word no, and always feeling entitled to “yes,” is very much the entire problem. Meanwhile, it is now unclear what legal repercussions Perkins faces for breaking her agreement. My gut says that Weinstein’s lawyers understand that coming after her for this now would not be a good look for them, or their client. Regardless, Perkins now has so many more people on her side.
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