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Ken Auletta Finally Wrote the Harvey Weinstein Story He Wanted to Tell


Are monsters made or born?

That is the existential query Ken Auletta takes on in his new ebook, “Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence.”

“What is Harvey Weinstein’s Rosebud — a loss, a scarcity, that explains what got here after?” Mr. Auletta asks initially of his ogre’s odyssey. Or is he only a sociopath?

How did Mr. Weinstein — raised in a housing challenge within the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, the son of a withdrawn diamond cutter and a domineering mom he christened “Momma Portnoy,” a boy drawn to films as a result of he wasn’t a part of the cool crowd — flip right into a monster? Who enabled him as he climbed as much as probably the most highly effective circles in movie, trend and Democratic politics, at the same time as he bullied individuals, typically violently, and stalked and attacked younger girls, with nondisclosure agreements and payoffs piling up?

Last week, I sat with Mr. Auletta, 80, by the pool of the Hamptons hacienda he and his spouse, the highly effective literary agent Binky Urban, 75, share, a shingle-and-cedar unfold straight out of a Nancy Meyers rom-com that overlooks the polo grounds. Ms. Urban, who works at ICM, talked about being taken over by CAA that very morning in a $750 million deal. Meanwhile, of their huge, open kitchen, Mr. Auletta whipped up a connoisseur lunch. He thinks about meals from the time he will get up till the time he goes to mattress, Ms. Urban joked.

The longtime New Yorker media reporter talked about his Ahab-like pursuit of Mr. Weinstein, which started greater than 20 years in the past. He reported on each element of this white whale’s life — together with a juvenile rip-off with Boy Scout cookies — and tried to pin down the sexual assault rumors for 20 years, however ultimately, he needed to watch others “crack the case.”

Now, Mr. Auletta has achieved a full-scale biography, out July 12. The author’s reporting suggests, amongst different issues, that Mr. Weinstein didn’t abuse girls till he had energy, as a Buffalo rock promoter, when he started getting obsessive about making them submit. Mr. Auletta did 30 new interviews with Bob Weinstein, and examines Harvey’s “unhinged, Shakespeare-worthy relationship together with his youthful brother.” The author exchanged 50 emails with Mr. Weinstein in jail and coated his trial.

“He’s not only a monster,” Mr. Auletta mentioned. “He was additionally an extremely proficient film govt who made some actually good films. So making an attempt to do this, although I need to punch this man, was an fascinating problem.

“I love the best way he understood {that a} script was central to creating a profitable film. If you had a superb director and a superb forged and also you had a foul script, it wouldn’t be a superb film. And typically he had allure.”

(Mr. Weinstein’s enterprise judgment wasn’t excellent; he handed on buying Marvel.)

Ms. Urban mentioned that her husband “has an infuriating incapability to see something in black and white, solely in grays — coupled with rose-colored glasses by means of which he views most individuals as being effectively intentioned.”

Mr. Auletta likes to jot down whereas listening to Puccini arias, which is becoming, since Mr. Weinstein resembles Scarpia in “Tosca.” I requested Mr. Auletta why this man, married successively to 2 lovely, loyal girls, would need to pressure himself on legions of younger girls who discovered him repellent. (In the ebook, the victims describe his physique odor — like “poop,” as one mentioned — the blackheads on his again, the scar on his abdomen, the dearth of testicles, the injections he needed to give himself within the penis to get an erection.)

“Because you don’t assume you’re repellent,” Mr. Auletta replied. “He thought he was actually God’s present, Don Juan.”

Mr. Auletta’s associates say it’s placing that The New Yorker author, recognized to them as one of many nicest individuals on the planet, longtime captain of the writers’ workforce on the annual Writers and Artists charity softball recreation within the Hamptons, needed to do a deep dive on one of many nastiest individuals on the planet.

“The joke with me and a few of our associates is that he’s doing a ebook about this sexual monster and Ken doesn’t know something about intercourse,” mentioned Richard Cohen, the previous Washington Post columnist. “He’s so removed from Harvey. There’s nothing in Ken that’s sinister or ugly. He’s so clear and good. He’s so beautiful. I’ll cease. This is beginning to sound homoerotic.”

Mr. Auletta protested, “I’m not good once I’m writing,” including that journalists must be “ruthless.” (He didn’t look that ruthless in his beige Bermuda shorts and flip-flops.) He famous that as an adolescent rising up in Coney Island, “I used to be not fairly a juvenile delinquent however I walked round with my sleeves rolled up.” And he had a flip as a political operative and labored for Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 marketing campaign, however turned to journalism after Kennedy was assassinated.

“Ken strikes so simply among the many titans of media and enterprise that it’s simple for them to overlook that he’s a man from Coney Island,” mentioned David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, “however you’ll be able to ensure that he by no means forgets.”

Harvey the Ripper created a tradition of worry at Miramax — named after his dad and mom, Miriam and Max — and constructed what Mr. Auletta calls “an structure of collusion.”

He brandished, like a defend, the embraces of Barack Obama and the Clintons, the encomiums of Hollywood royalty, the friendships with trend elites, the help of the Mickey Mouse home and the complicity of some within the media, who succumbed to Harvey’s “favor system” buying and selling entry, and dangling ebook contracts and movie offers, for silence. (He employed the daughters of Mr. Obama, Anna Wintour and Sharon Waxman of The Wrap as summer time interns.)

Mr. Auletta mentioned, echoing The New York Times’s reporting, that a few of these luminaries, or individuals of their circle at the least, knew concerning the Weinstein rumors. “Over the years, when Hillary Clinton’s aides have been reportedly warned of Harvey’s abusive methods, notably with girls, these warnings had no apparent impression on the Clintons’ fealty to Harvey,” he writes in his ebook.

He informed me that many Democrats thought, “Harvey’s a superb man. I imply, he helps our candidates. He provides cash. The press likes him.” They most likely most popular to consider it was, as one lady who labored for Mr. Weinstein put it, “the casting sofa on acid.”

“I truly liken it to what’s occurring with the Republican Party and Trump,” Mr. Auletta mentioned. “Republicans know that this man is a lawbreaker and outrageous and threatened democracy. And but they maintain quiet. Why? Why did individuals maintain quiet round Harvey? For the identical causes, they have been afraid or they lack character.”

Mr. Weinstein was an apotheosis of refinement when it got here to movies, obscuring the truth that he was an apotheosis of defilement behind the scenes.

“Championing good films and exhibiting good conduct didn’t all the time overlap in Hollywood,” Mr. Auletta writes dryly, “however Harvey broadened the chasm between the 2.”

Judi Dench was so grateful for the bravura roles supplied by Mr. Weinstein — together with an eight-minute flip as Queen Elizabeth in “Shakespeare in Love” that gained her an Oscar — that, earlier than his assaults have been documented, she had a short lived tattoo of his identify emblazoned on her butt by a make-up artist.

Gwyneth Paltrow mentioned some actresses in Hollywood have been acquainted with Mr. Weinstein’s lunging (however not his full depredation) and reacted with an “eye roll.” “He was making all these nice films,” she mentioned frankly. “And I used to be about to be in these films. How do you calibrate that? We all needed to make excuses for lots of his conduct through the years due to the films he was making.”

The ebook mines materials Mr. Auletta collected in 2002, when he did a 20,000-word profile of Mr. Weinstein for The New Yorker that uncovered the producer’s rage and risky mood. He tried to uncover the reality about Mr. Weinstein’s sexual assaults again then, however couldn’t persuade sources — a few of whom have been the identical ones who would later expose Mr. Weinstein — to substantiate the story.

In 2015, when there have been screaming tabloid headlines about Mr. Weinstein grabbing the breasts of Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, a 22-year-old Italian mannequin, like a canine in warmth, as she put it, Mr. Auletta tried to report out the story once more. But Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district lawyer, determined to not prosecute the case, pondering he couldn’t win, after which Ms. Gutierrez took $1 million from Mr. Weinstein to signal an affidavit backing up his declare that “he behaved appropriately.”

The dam of silence started to break down in 2017. Mr. Weinstein was paying hundreds of thousands to David Boies, the superlawyer, whose agency in flip employed Black Cube, an intelligence firm dominated by ex-Mossad brokers, which might dig up info and grime on Mr. Weinstein’s victims and spy on reporters making an attempt to interrupt the story.

“For a few years Harvey had been reassured by the information that males within the media enterprise have been lengthy permitted their sexual pleasures, granted or coerced,” Mr. Auletta writes. “But it was a brand new day.”

Bill Cosby fell. Roger Ailes fell. Bill O’Reilly fell. Two Times reporters, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, have been scorching on Mr. Weinstein’s path, and so was Ronan Farrow, then an NBC reporter.

Mr. Farrow known as Mr. Auletta in search of details about Mr. Weinstein. At first, Mr. Auletta was anxious that, given the truth that his father was Woody Allen, Mr. Farrow could also be “a zealot.” But after speaking to him, he determined the youthful journalist was “even handed.”

Mr. Auletta generously gave him entry to the tapes and notebooks from his 2002 New Yorker profile. But Mr. Farrow’s NBC investigation was rejected by the scared fits, together with the present head of NBC News, Noah Oppenheim. NBC executives assured Mr. Weinstein — earlier than they informed Mr. Farrow — that they weren’t going ahead with the story, although Mr. Farrow, in keeping with Mr. Auletta, had three girls on digital camera accusing Mr. Weinstein of sexual abuse and 5 girls giving their tales on digital camera, with their names and faces shielded. He additionally had a secret tape that Ms. Gutierrez had fabricated from Mr. Weinstein at a lodge in TriBeCa.

Mr. Auletta known as Mr. Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, and urged him to run the story. Mr. Farrow’s blockbuster got here out per week after The Times’s blockbuster, with all three reporters getting Pulitzers.

Mr. Remnick mentioned that Mr. Auletta helped Mr. Farrow “with out hesitation. That form of generosity and decency is a part of who he’s.”

It wasn’t the primary time Mr. Auletta had planted the seeds for one more author to win a Pulitzer. In 2014, he profiled Elizabeth Holmes in The New Yorker. He didn’t assume she was a fraud — her board, in any case, included George Shultz, Sam Nunn, James Mattis and Henry Kissinger — however he did write acerbically that the expertise behind her blood take a look at was handled like a state secret, with an absence of scientific assessments, and that her description of it was “comically obscure.”

John Carreyrou, a Wall Street Journal reporter, learn that paragraph within the Auletta story and realized one thing was off. By the next yr, he had unraveled the stunning saga of Theranos, occurring to jot down the New York Times greatest vendor “Bad Blood.”

Mr. Auletta doesn’t dwell on the scoops that acquired away. He mentioned that “Jodi and Megan and Ronan acquired girls who have been very scared to really feel comfy sufficient to speak to them. And that’s a rare feat.” As for Theranos, Mr. Auletta conceded that “I really feel offended at myself that I didn’t get the story, truly.” But he added: “John proved it and did a superb job.”

Mr. Weinstein, who was sentenced to 23 years in New York, is now in jail in Los Angeles awaiting trial on new prices in that metropolis. “It’s possibly a stronger case in opposition to him than New York was,” Mr. Auletta mentioned. “They’ve acquired 11 indictments versus 5 in New York.”

Mr. Weinstein, who by no means drank however was a heavy smoker and gargantuan eater, always shoveling peanut M&Ms into his mouth regardless of having extreme diabetes, is just not effectively. “He’s in a wheelchair,” Mr. Auletta mentioned. “He’s acquired a stent in his coronary heart, glaucoma and excessive ldl cholesterol, and he appears like hell within the Zoom appearances earlier than judges. And I can’t think about, climbing inside his head, what he looks like.”

I questioned concerning the destiny of his brother, who was seen in Hollywood as Mr. Wolf from “Pulp Fiction,” the man who cleaned up the mess and made the cash for the corporate. He overcame alcoholism again in 2004 and tried a comeback in 2019, saying a challenge with Téa Leoni.

“No one will do enterprise with a Weinstein,” Mr. Auletta mentioned. “He’s unemployed. He’s making an attempt to determine the best way to get a life.”

For 4 and a half a long time Mr. Auletta, who writes the Annals of Communications column in The New Yorker, has coated media, Hollywood and the digerati, doing buzzy profiles of Ted Turner, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Sheryl Sandberg, John Malone and Rupert Murdoch.

So, I requested him, who was the creepiest individual you ever interviewed?

“Roy Cohn,” shot again Mr. Auletta, who did the landmark profile of the Trump mentor in Esquire in 1978. “He was the worst human being I’ve ever met. No one even shut. Harvey’s angelic in comparison with Cohn. So we go to “21″ Club for lunch, the place he had his personal desk, and he’s sitting there and he doesn’t order. He had these lizard-like fingers. And I had French fries and a hamburger, and the lengthy fingers would actually snatch fries off my plate. He disclosed all these confidential issues about his purchasers. It was so appalling, actually disgusting.”

Will anybody nonetheless need to learn these basic 20,000-word profiles you focus on, I requested him, in an A.D.D. world the place journalists tweet scorching information and Axios runs tales in bullet factors? Will we go from incomplete sentences to emojis, simply the identify David Zaslav and three fireworks emojis?

“If you’re good, in case you inform a superb story and you’ve got good info, persons are going to learn it,” Mr. Auletta mentioned, together with his simple smile. “Otherwise, go to mattress and stop.”

Maureen Dowd: You need to write about Jeff Bezos’s midlife disaster.

Ken Auletta: I need to learn about Jeff Bezos’s midlife disaster.

Elon Musk will truly purchase Twitter and make it higher.

To invite Trump again on is to not make it higher. But I consider he won’t purchase Twitter, he’ll again out.

Your lifelong obsession is discovering the proper rooster parmigiana and you might be a part of a gaggle of grown-up males, males of distinction, who truly journey all around the higher metropolitan space doing taste-tests of this dish.

A take a look at of a superb Southern Italian restaurant is whether or not their rooster or veal parmigiana had a superb sauce, the breading is crisp and has not been drowned in sauce, and the rooster or veal is just not so skinny it tastes like cardboard.

The greatest hitter of all time on the annual Artists vs. Writers softball recreation within the Hamptons was CNN anchor Brian Stelter.

Brian Stelter’s by no means performed within the recreation. The funniest hitter was Peter Jennings, who was thrown a melon and he didn’t know the best way to play. He knew the best way to play soccer, not baseball, and smashed the fruit throughout his face. I bear in mind George Plimpton, who hadn’t are available in a few years, got here and mentioned, “Put me in.” I mentioned, “George, would you like a runner?” He mentioned no, and he hits a rope line drive single. And he ran to first base and acquired a success. But he was, like, 76 years previous, 5 months earlier than he died. And it was simply one of many nice thrills of his life and mine that he acquired to come back again and hit.

You agree with the media mogul John Malone that CNN must be much less opinionated.

I agree that CNN must be much less opinionated. I disagree with John Malone when he additionally mentioned Fox was a mannequin for what a superb newscast that must be.

Warner Brothers C.E.O. David Zaslav’s Gatsbyesque annual end-of-summer East Hampton party, with $360 tequila bottles, explains 98 p.c of his success.

He’s been a profitable govt with out his party since Covid.

Rupert Murdoch informed you in 2014 on the Allen & Co. convention in Sun Valley that earlier than he died, he would marry into the British royal household.

Murdoch hasn’t talked to me since 1995, once I profiled him.

Disney C.E.O. Bob Chapek will probably be fired by subsequent yr and will probably be changed by Reed Hastings when Disney merges with Netflix.

Well, Disney wouldn’t merge with Netflix. I can think about Chapek not surviving. But I don’t assume Reed Hastings could be proper for Disney. He doesn’t have the Ted Sarandos flare, however he’s a superb engineer.

The solely mistake you made in your Elizabeth Holmes profile is just not speaking to Henry Kissinger.

I did speak to Kissinger. He mentioned, “We have been all afraid of her.” He mentioned, “When I am going to board conferences, I really feel like I’ve to ask permission to go to the lavatory. She was so dominant.”

Your subsequent ebook will probably be about Rupert and Jerry’s divorce.

It could be a really brief ebook.

The Upper East Side has the perfect eating places in New York.

Wrong. The greatest eating places in New York are in Brooklyn, together with Williamsburg, and Gargiulo’s in Coney Island. Only Lucali in Carroll Gardens rivals a Totonno’s pizza in Coney Island.

Your daughter says your greatest dish is a Greek rooster. You realized the recipe on a Peloponnesian island one summer time from an previous chef who barely spoke English, and you like to speak concerning the “secret” ingredient.

It’s French’s mustard.

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