It takes a freak.
To make one feel intense sympathy for Woody Allen.
Briefly, American Apparel for a week supplemented its advertising menu of oversexed, barely-clad youths with New York and Los Angeles billboards featuring a still of Allen, dressed as an Hasidic rabbi, from his 1977 film "Annie Hall." Allen, who never gave his permission for his image to be used in the ads, took umbrage and sued for $10 million.
American Apparel -- caught dead to rights in what would seem a pretty straightforward copyright transgression -- has opted upon a scorched-earth defense, centering on the premise that Allen's image isn't worth much because the old perv ruined it himself.
HERE'S THE STORY from The Associated Press:
Now the company plans to make Allen’s relationships to actress Mia Farrow and her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn the focus of a trial scheduled to begin in federal court in Manhattan on May 18, according to the company’s lawyer, Stuart Slotnick.
“Woody Allen expects $10 million for use of his image on billboards that were up and down in less than one week. I think Woody Allen overestimates the value of his image,” Slotnick said.
“Certainly, our belief is that after the various sex scandals that Woody Allen has been associated with, corporate America’s desire to have Woody Allen endorse their product is not what he may believe it is.”
Slotnick said it was not a cheap shot to bring up Allen’s sex life in a lawsuit over the billboard and Internet ads.
“It’s certainly relevant in assessing the value of an endorsement,” he said, noting that Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps lost endorsement power after a photograph surfaced of him using marijuana.
OY VEH. One is tempted to think the eccentric-yet-genius director has it coming . . . until you realize that even dirty old men have the right not to have giant garment companies profit off their image gratis.
And when you go to the trouble to learn a little about American Apparel and its horndog founder, Dov Charney, you are suddenly and strangely compelled to make a hysterical YouTube video demanding everybody "LEAVE WOODY ALONE!"
Let's put it this way: If it's sexual ethics we're worried about, Woody Allen may be Miles Monroe with youngish tastes, but Dov Charney is Pee-wee Herman with a hunger for his female employees. Among other things.
You need to be eased into the weird, wild world of the World's Biggest Hypocrite, so let us start here:
Mary Nelson is one of three women who filed sexual harassment lawsuits against Charney last year. Keith Fink is often on the other side of this debate, hired by companies trying to ward off harassment litigation.I THINK, in reference to American Apparel's defense against Woody Allen's lawsuit, that is commonly referred to as "the pot calling the kettle black." But this -- again, from Dateline NBC -- is where the concept breaks new ground:
Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline correspondent: You do workshops for employers telling them how to avoid sexual harassment cases.
Keith Fink, attorney for Mary Nelson: Quite often. I’m a pretty entertaining guy.
Mankiewicz: And you give out a bunch of guidelines for people to sort of live by if they wanna stay out of a courtroom.
Mankiewicz: How many of those guidelines were broken at American Apparel?
Fink: Every single one of them.
Mankiewicz: Mr. Charny’s been pretty open about the fact that he’s been involved personally with a number of his employees.
Fink: Open. Brazen. Yes.
Charney has talked to reporters from the New York Times, Business Week and Jane magazine about his intimate relationships with women who work for him. “I’m not saying I want to screw all the girls at work,” he was quoted as saying in Jane, “But if I fall in love at work it’s going to be beautiful and sexual.”
By all accounts, the women who have sued Dov Charney for sexual harassment—including Fink’s client Mary Nelson—were not intimately involved with him. But Nelson and the two others claimed the boss shocked and disgusted them with dirty talk and gestures, creating what some lawyers call a phrase you’ve heard before, “a hostile work environment.”
Mary Nelson started working as a wholesale salesperson at American Apparel in 2003 when she was 31. Over the next year and a half, she claims in her complaint, her boss made her work life miserable with unwelcome sexual comments and suggestive signals. And she says she was dismissed after she complained.
In the videotaped deposition, over several days, her lawyer grilled Charney about all of it.
Fink (deposition): Did you ever, at work, refer to women as “sluts”?
Charney: In private conversations, where such language was generally welcome.
Fink: Do you view "slut" to be a derogatory term?
Charney: You know, there are some of us that love sluts. You know, it’s not necessarily—it could be also be an endearing term.
Fink: An endearing term. Is that something you call your mother?
Charney: No. But it’s maybe something that you call your lover.
Fink (Dateline interview): I’m very difficult to floor me. That floored me when I heard his explanation that “slut” is an endearing term.
Charney freely admits using a number of explicit terms for female body parts—including the “C” word.
Charney: During the period when she worked, did I use the word c***?
Fink: In the workplace?
Charney: Absolutely, as she did.
Fink: I didn’t ask you if she did.
Charney: I’m telling you a little more. I’m volunteering a little more ha ha [sticks out tongue].
The company argues in the freewheeling creative environment of American Apparel, it’s not inappropriate to use foul language.
And in fact, a recent court decision might back that up: this spring the California Supreme Court ruled that an assistant scriptwriter on the NBC sitcom "Friends" could not proceed with a sexual harassment lawsuit. The court ruled that lewd language was permissible in a creative workplace generating scripts with sexual themes.
Charney hangs explicit vintage magazines on the walls of his retail stores. He even posed for one ad himself in the magazine “Sweet Action.” To Charney, it’s all part of an unconventional vibe he says is the very essence of his hip young company.
Charney: I believe that we work hard to create an environment of freedom.
And in the world of Dov Charney, freedom can sometimes mean dressing down at the office.
Fink: At the workplace in the years 2003 and 2004 how often in the work week would you be in your underwear?
Charney: There were months I was in my underwear all the time. It became very common.
If you think it’s outlandish that a boss would make that comment, even in jest, consider this: when Claudine Ko, a reporter for Jane magazine was spending time with Charney in 2004 to research a profile, she says the CEO pleasured himself in front of her.BELIEVE ME, the NBC report was a sanitized version of the Weird, Wild World of Dov Charney. Here are some excerpts from the actual article in Jane, courtesy of the Jewilicious blog:
Claudine Ko, reporter for Jane magazine: On one hand, I was shocked. But, on the other hand—no, I—I was shocked.
Ko says it happened several times, always at Charney’s apartment after a few drinks. She makes no apologies for her decision not to excuse herself when her interview subject pulled down his pants. She says she was just trying to show readers the real Dov Charney, and she says she was a willing observer.
Ko: I did not feel sexually harassed. You know I knew -- I felt comfortable knowing that if I asked ‘em to stop it, he would.
And that’s not the only thing she reported seeing Charney do outside the office.
Fink: Do you remember [bleep] giving you oral sex in front of the reporter?
Charney’s lawyer: Objection; privacy. Direct the witness not to answer.
Ko: He and his—one of his assistants engaged in sexual relations. You know, at no point did I ever think I’m gonna walk out of this room or I am uncomfortable. I just thought, “This is gonna be a fantastic story.”
American Apparel describes what happened between the reporter and Charney as “consensual sexual exchanges” and says that Charney and his assistant with whom he was involved at the time thought their activities would be kept private. The company calls it “a social situation which...unfortunately was exploited in order to sell magazines.”
The reporter says that’s wrong, saying Charney was well aware the whole thing could end up in print.
Ko: You can do what you want but just remember, I’m a reporter and I’m going to be writing a story at the end of all of this.
In her story, Ko reported that the sexual encounter she witnessed between Charney and his assistant appeared to be entirely consensual. She also says she interviewed many American Apparel employees, who all seemed happy with their jobs and didn’t consider their boss a pervert.
Ko: If you go to the headquarters, it’s not like you go and you see people having sex on the production floors. It’s not just, like, you know, all out debauchery.
But of all the strange things that may or may not have happened between Dov Charney and his subordinates, perhaps the strangest involves what he wore for part of a business meeting at his L.A. home which plaintiff Mary Nelson says she attended.
Fink: He recalled you wearing a sock on your penis while Ms. Nelson was in your home is that correct?
Charney: The product is called a [bleep] sock.
For the record, Charney says he doesn’t recall whether Mary Nelson was present at the infamous sock meeting, but he says there wouldn’t be anything wrong with wearing the item in front of her. He says he was simply modeling a potential new product.
Fink: Does it cover the entire buttocks?
Charney: No. But neither does a thong.
I asked him how he relaxed. Oral sex he says, settling into a chair behind a cloud of smoke. “I love it . . . I am a bit of a dirty guy, but people like that right now.”Ko goes to Charney’s pad late one evening for an interview session:
Explaining exactly how the rest of the night unraveled is somewhat difficult. Let’s just say, the female employee helped him “put on a show” for me. I watched, trying to be objective, detached -- sorta like a . . . war reporter?Soon enough he loosens his Pierre Cardin belt.Ko claims that in the month she spent with Charney, she watched him pleasure himself eight or so times. She ends the article by describing how she leaves Charney in New York, interview completed, and hails a cab. “Then as I step into the depths of the backseat, I realize I don’t want this trip to end just yet.”
“Are you going to do it again?” I ask.
“Can I?” he says adjusting himself in his chair.
And thus begins another compulsive episode of what Dov likes to call “self-pleasure,” during which we casually carry on our interview, discussing things like business models, hiring practices and the stupidity of focus groups.
“Masturbation in front of women is underrated,” Dov explains to me later over the phone. “It’s much easier on the woman. She gets to watch, it’s a sensual experience that doesn’t involve a man violating a woman, yet once the man has his release, it’s over and you can talk to the guy.”
AMERICAN APPAREL'S lawyers have a lot of damn nerve. Just like Dov Charney has a lot of damn problems -- the first of which is being a pervert.
Suddenly, poor old Woody Allen is starting to look a lot more normal. And like a much more sympathetic character.
Leave Woody ALONE!!!