Reading the beautiful, young Catherine Revland’s creepy experience with the repulsive Gene P. was another reminder of those good/bad old days of ‘dirty old men’ and show biz ‘casting couches’ of which my generation had always been aware. Such conditions were taken for granted as hazards of the trade (you should pardon the expression) and had probably been dealt with at some point in their careers. They certainly never imagined that a day of reckoning would come for the Gene P.s of this world. Bravo for the courageous #MeToo trailblazers!
The article also reminded me of another hazard of that era that nobody should ever forget.
When I arrived in NYC in November 1954, I was thrilled to land a job in the Television/Film Commercial Department of McCann Erickson during their MAD MEN days (and yes, the first year of the television series really got it right). Working for the directors in that department, we girls were called ‘production assistants’ (rather than secretaries)! We actually went ‘on-location’ to shoot 60-second commercials for instant coffee and the like! After work, we hung out at model agency parties and in the bars of Rockefeller Center (McCann’s headquarters in those days). Pretty heady stuff for this new immigrant!
My chum at the next desk was a feisty Irish-American redhead from Queens (I’ll call her Daisy, since eventually she followed my lead downtown to become a lifelong Villager), who caught the eye of a rather dashing art director. They became an item, and it all seemed very sophisticated and glamorous—until he knocked her up, and it wasn’t. The good news for Daisy was that her seducer could afford to pay for an expensive Park Avenue abortion.
For the rest of us, however, it was a rude awakening to the facts of life back then—before The Pill, before Planned Parenthood, before Roe v. Wade, when abortions were still illegal, and when for a single girl to get pregnant was a disaster, often a tragedy. Which is why, at this moment in time, when women are stepping forward to protest past abuses, I felt the need to remind us all, in this very tricky backward trending era, to take nothing for granted and to protect the progress already fought for and won.
* Note: Even since writing that last sentence, a story broke in the New York Times, on December 23rd, of an attempt to prevent a young immigrant from having a perfectly legal abortion.