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


Are monsters made or born?

That’s 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 lack, that explains what came after?” Mr. Auletta asks in the beginning of his ogre’s odyssey. Or is he only a sociopath?

How did Mr. Weinstein — raised in a housing undertaking within the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, the son of a withdrawn diamond cutter and a domineering mom he christened “Momma Portnoy,” a boy drawn to motion pictures as a result of he wasn’t a part of the cool crowd — flip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 essentially the most highly effective circles in movie, style and Democratic politics, at the same time as he bullied folks, typically violently, and stalked and attacked younger girls, with nondisclosure agreements and payoffs piling up?

Final week, I sat with Mr. Auletta, 80, by the pool of the Hamptons hacienda he and his spouse, the highly effective literary agent Binky City, 75, share, a shingle-and-cedar unfold straight out of a Nancy Meyers rom-com that overlooks the polo grounds. Ms. City, who works at ICM, talked about being taken over by CAA that very morning in a $750 million deal. In the meantime, of their massive, 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. City 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 in the long run, he needed to watch others “crack the case.”

Now, Mr. Auletta has finished 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 with his younger brother.” The author exchanged 50 emails with Mr. Weinstein in jail and coated his trial.

“He’s not just a monster,” Mr. Auletta stated. “He was also an incredibly talented movie executive who made some really good movies. So trying to do that, even though I want to punch this guy, was an interesting challenge.

“I admire the way he understood that a script was central to making a successful movie. If you had a good director and a good cast and you had a bad script, it wouldn’t be a good movie. And sometimes he had charm.”

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

Ms. City stated that her husband “has an infuriating inability to see anything in black and white, only in grays — coupled with rose-colored glasses through which he views most people as being well intentioned.”

Mr. Auletta likes to write 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 stunning, loyal girls, would wish to pressure himself on legions of younger girls who discovered him repellent. (Within the ebook, the victims describe his physique odor — like “poop,” as one stated — 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 think you’re repellent,” Mr. Auletta replied. “He thought he was really God’s gift, Don Juan.”

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

“The joke with me and some of our friends is that he’s doing a book about this sexual monster and Ken doesn’t know anything about sex,” stated Richard Cohen, the previous Washington Put up columnist. “He’s so far from Harvey. There’s nothing in Ken that’s sinister or ugly. He’s so clean and good. He’s so lovely. I’ll stop. This is starting to sound homoerotic.”

Mr. Auletta protested, “I’m not nice when 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 a youngster rising up in Coney Island, “I was not quite a juvenile delinquent but I walked around 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 moves so easily among the titans of media and business that it’s easy for them to forget that he’s a guy from Coney Island,” stated David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, “but you can be sure that he never forgets.”

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

He brandished, like a protect, the embraces of Barack Obama and the Clintons, the encomiums of Hollywood royalty, the friendships with style elites, the assist 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 stated, echoing The New York Instances’s reporting, that a few of these luminaries, or folks of their circle at the least, knew in regards to the Weinstein rumors. “Over the years, when Hillary Clinton’s aides were reportedly warned of Harvey’s abusive ways, particularly with women, these warnings had no obvious impact on the Clintons’ fealty to Harvey,” he writes in his ebook.

He instructed me that many Democrats thought, “Harvey’s a good guy. I mean, he supports our candidates. He gives money. The press likes him.” They most likely most popular to imagine it was, as one girl who labored for Mr. Weinstein put it, “the casting couch on acid.”

“I actually liken it to what’s going on with the Republican Party and Trump,” Mr. Auletta stated. “Republicans know that this man is a lawbreaker and outrageous and threatened democracy. And yet they keep quiet. Why? Why did people keep quiet around Harvey? For the same reasons, they were 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 movies and exhibiting good behavior did not always overlap in Hollywood,” Mr. Auletta writes dryly, “but Harvey broadened the chasm between the two.”

Judi Dench was so grateful for the bravura roles offered 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 had been documented, she had a brief tattoo of his identify emblazoned on her butt by a make-up artist.

Gwyneth Paltrow stated some actresses in Hollywood had been conversant in Mr. Weinstein’s lunging (however not his full depredation) and reacted with an “eye roll.” “He was making all these great movies,” she stated frankly. “And I was about to be in those movies. How do you calibrate that? We all wanted to make excuses for a lot of his behavior over the years because of the movies 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 had been the identical ones who would later expose Mr. Weinstein — to verify 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. However Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district legal professional, determined to not prosecute the case, considering 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 thousands and thousands to David Boies, the superlawyer, whose agency in flip employed Black Dice, an intelligence firm dominated by ex-Mossad brokers, which might dig up data and filth on Mr. Weinstein’s victims and spy on reporters attempting to interrupt the story.

“For many years Harvey had been reassured by the knowledge that males in the media business were long permitted their sexual pleasures, granted or coerced,” Mr. Auletta writes. “But it was a new day.”

Invoice Cosby fell. Roger Ailes fell. Invoice O’Reilly fell. Two Instances reporters, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, had been sizzling 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 fearful that, given the truth that his father was Woody Allen, Mr. Farrow could also be “a zealot.” However after speaking to him, he determined the youthful journalist was “judicious.”

Mr. Auletta generously gave him entry to the tapes and notebooks from his 2002 New Yorker profile. However Mr. Farrow’s NBC investigation was rejected by the scared fits, together with the present head of NBC Information, Noah Oppenheim. NBC executives assured Mr. Weinstein — earlier than they instructed Mr. Farrow — that they weren’t going ahead with the story, although Mr. Farrow, in keeping with Mr. Auletta, had three girls on digicam accusing Mr. Weinstein of sexual abuse and 5 girls giving their tales on digicam, with their names and faces shielded. He additionally had a secret tape that Ms. Gutierrez had product of Mr. Weinstein at a resort 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 Instances’s blockbuster, with all three reporters getting Pulitzers.

Mr. Remnick stated that Mr. Auletta helped Mr. Farrow “without hesitation. That kind of generosity and decency is part of who he is.”

It wasn’t the primary time Mr. Auletta had planted the seeds for one more author to interrupt an enormous story. In 2014, he profiled Elizabeth Holmes in The New Yorker. He didn’t suppose she was a fraud — her board, in spite of everything, included George Shultz, Sam Nunn, James Mattis and Henry Kissinger — however he did write acerbically that the expertise behind her blood check was handled like a state secret, with an absence of medical exams, and that her description of it was “comically vague.”

John Carreyrou, a Wall Road Journal reporter, learn that paragraph within the Auletta story and realized one thing was off. By the next 12 months, he had unraveled the surprising saga of Theranos, happening to write down the New York Instances finest vendor “Bad Blood.”

Mr. Auletta doesn’t dwell on the scoops that acquired away. He stated that “Jodi and Megan and Ronan got women who were very scared to feel comfortable enough to talk to them. And that’s an extraordinary feat.” As for Theranos, Mr. Auletta conceded that “I feel angry at myself that I didn’t get the story, actually.” However he added: “John proved it and did a brilliant job.”

Mr. Weinstein, who was sentenced to 23 years in New York, is now in jail in Los Angeles awaiting trial on new costs in that metropolis. “It’s maybe a stronger case against him than New York was,” Mr. Auletta stated. “They’ve got 11 indictments versus five 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, isn’t effectively. “He’s in a wheelchair,” Mr. Auletta stated. “He’s got a stent in his heart, glaucoma and high cholesterol, and he looks like hell in the Zoom appearances before judges. And I can’t imagine, climbing inside his head, what he feels like.”

I questioned in regards to 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, asserting a undertaking with Téa Leoni.

“No one will do business with a Weinstein,” Mr. Auletta stated. “He’s unemployed. He’s trying to figure out how to get a life.”

For 4 and a half many years 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, Invoice Gates, Sergey Brin, Sheryl Sandberg, John Malone and Rupert Murdoch.

So, I requested him, who was the creepiest particular person 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 close. Harvey’s angelic compared to Cohn. So we go to “21″ Club for lunch, where he had his own table, 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 long fingers would literally snatch fries off my plate. He disclosed all these confidential things about his clients. It was so appalling, truly disgusting.”

Will anyone still want to read those classic 20,000-word profiles you specialize in, I asked him, in an A.D.D. world where journalists tweet hot news and Axios runs stories in bullet points? Will we go from incomplete sentences to emojis, just the name David Zaslav and three fireworks emojis?

“If you’re good, if you tell a good story and you have good information, people are going to read it,” Mr. Auletta said, with his easy smile. “Otherwise, go to bed and quit.”

Maureen Dowd: You want to write about Jeff Bezos’s midlife crisis.

Ken Auletta: I wish to read about Jeff Bezos’s midlife crisis.

Elon Musk will actually acquire Twitter and make it better.

To invite Trump back on is not to make it better. But I believe he will not buy Twitter, he will back out.

Your lifelong obsession is finding the perfect chicken parmigiana and you are part of a group of grown-up men, men of distinction, who actually travel all over the greater metropolitan area doing taste-tests of this dish.

A test of a good Southern Italian restaurant is whether their chicken or veal parmigiana had a good sauce, the breading is crisp and has not been drowned in sauce, and the chicken or veal is not so thin it tastes like cardboard.

The best hitter of all time at the annual Artists vs. Writers softball game in the Hamptons was CNN anchor Brian Stelter.

Brian Stelter’s never played in the game. The funniest hitter was Peter Jennings, who was thrown a melon and he didn’t know how to play. He knew how to play soccer, not baseball, and smashed the fruit all over his face. I remember George Plimpton, who hadn’t come in a couple of years, came and said, “Put me in.” I said, “George, do you want a runner?” He said no, and he hits a rope line drive single. And he ran to first base and got a hit. But he was, like, 76 years old, five months before he died. And it was just one of the great thrills of his life and mine that he got to come back and hit.

You agree with the media mogul John Malone that CNN needs to be less opinionated.

I agree that CNN should be less opinionated. I disagree with John Malone when he also said Fox was a model for what a good newscast that should be.

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

He’s been a successful executive without his party since Covid.

Rupert Murdoch told you in 2014 at the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley that before he died, he would marry into the British royal family.

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

Disney C.E.O. Bob Chapek will be fired by next year and will be replaced by Reed Hastings when Disney merges with Netflix.

Well, Disney wouldn’t merge with Netflix. I can imagine Chapek not surviving. But I don’t think Reed Hastings would be right for Disney. He doesn’t have the Ted Sarandos flair, but he’s a brilliant engineer.

The only mistake you made in your Elizabeth Holmes profile is not talking to Henry Kissinger.

I did talk to Kissinger. He said, “We were all afraid of her.” He said, “When I go to board meetings, I feel like I have to ask permission to go to the bathroom. She was so dominant.”

Your next book will be about Rupert and Jerry’s divorce.

It would be a very short book.

The Upper East Side has the best restaurants in New York.

Wrong. The best restaurants in New York are in Brooklyn, including Williamsburg, and Gargiulo’s in Coney Island. Only Lucali in Carroll Gardens rivals a Totonno’s pizza in Coney Island.

Your daughter says your best dish is a Greek chicken. You learned the recipe on a Peloponnesian island one summer from an old chef who barely spoke English, and you love to talk about the “secret” ingredient.

It’s French’s mustard.


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