By Philip Berk
In the climate of the #MeToo movement, you have to ask yourself, as John Procter does in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, “Is the accuser always holy?”
When the story that I had sexually molested Brendan Fraser broke in February of 2018, I assumed the accusation was so outrageous that no one would believe it. And the few I did discuss it with agreed it was preposterous.
But now, three years later the story is still being revisited and given top ranking by Google without offering any explanation on my part.
So maybe it’s now time to tell the whole truth.
The initial accusation claimed that in the summer of 2003, at the Beverly Hills Hotel, at a luncheon held by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, in the midst of a crowded room, I had pinched Fraser’s ass and then my left hand reached around, grabbed his ass cheek, and one of my fingers touched him in the “taint” and I start moving it around.
“Eventually I was able to remove my hand. I felt ill,” Fraser told GQ magazine, “I felt like a little kid. I felt like there was a ball in my throat. I thought I was going to cry.” He rushed out of the room, outside, past a police officer he couldn’t quite bring himself to confess to, and then home, where he told his then wife, Afton, what had happened. “I felt like someone had thrown invisible paint on me.”
Of course the accusation is absurd. Not only would the alleged assault have to have taken place in a crowded room, but I would have to be a Marvel superhero to accomplish such a feat.
But the media didn’t think so. Even though in the GQ article I called Fraser’s version “a total fabrication,” the story was given credibility in hundreds of publications around the globe and still haunts me today.
Why, I still ponder, didn’t anyone in the media not question the absurdity of the accusation? Not one publication, not the New York Times nor the Los Angeles Times, ever did. Didn’t they ask themselves, if there was even a shadow of suspicion that I had molested Fraser, why had I documented the incident in my autobiography, With Signs and Wonders, published four years earlier?
Unfortunately in this Me Too era the accused is always presumed guilty?
Brendan Fraser may have been groped 18 years ago but not by me. Something similar might have happened to him on the set of a film, but it didn’t involve me.
Did anyone ever wonder, how come in the GQ article Fraser recalls all the movies he made, including the ones he’d like to forget, but makes no mention of his best movie Gods and Monsters. I recently watched the original cut of the movie having found a VHS version of it given to HFPA members “For Your Consideration.” It is arguably the most homoerotic movie ever turned out by a major studio, and the penultimate sequence where Ian McKellan attempts to seduce a near-naked Brandon, fondling him and kissing him on the neck, etc. is mildly shocking. Was this maybe the time when Fraser experienced what he accuses me of doing?
Last year at a junket for their new film, I personally handed both McKellan and the director, Bill Condon, letters in which I posed that very question: Did anything “untoward” happened on the set?
Neither ever responded.
Fraser cooked up the accusation only after the HFPA refused to grant him a press conference for Trust, his comeback role, a rejection he assumed was my doing, which it wasn’t. He was still livid when he earlier had seen me fleetingly on the Golden Globe Show and he wanted revenge.
After the accusation was published in GQ magazine, the Hollywood Foreign Press commissioned an independent investigation into the matter to ensure impartiality. They shared the results of that investigation with Mr. Fraser, affirming that “the exchange was a joke and not an intended sexual advance.”
Fraser of course rejected the finding insisting he be shown the full report which detailed the testimony of all those interviewed. To protect their privacy no one has been allowed to read the report except the HFPA CEO and president.
I myself was shown only the summary sheet prepared by the Investigator, the one which Fraser rejected.
For Fraser’s benefit then, here is what I told the Investigator.
“The venue was the Beverly Hills Hotel Ballroom. The occasion, the annual Installation Luncheon attended by hundreds of stars, publicists and HFPA members.
The pinch of has buttocks happened immediately following the luncheon.
Publicists and stars were still in the room.
There was no way I could have slipped my hand under his pants and touched his “taint,” a term I was totally unfamiliar with which I had to google to find out what it was.
There were two witnesses, both fellow HFPA members. Yani Begakis, since deceased, and Jean Cummings. When I asked her about the accusation, she told me it was “preposterous,” her exact word.
As to the incident, when asking him whether he had actually pinched Dagmar, I innocently pinched his buttocks, to illustrate what he had done to HFPA president Dagmar Dunlevy while she was giving her Golden Globe speech on TV. A video of that speech on YouTube clearly shows Fraser being restrained by Dagmar’s left hand during her speech.
The apology letter which I was asked to write was at the insistence of his publicist whom I thought should have been at the Installation representing Brendan but because she wasn’t there, I goaded Brendan. “You’re paying her to be there, why wasn’t she there?” I asked him.
I recently I found out that that she had wanted me expelled from the HFPA. Was it because I had asked Brendan that question?
Fraser himself was also annoyed with me because I had told him that James Edward Olmos, who was also a presenter at that banquet, had agreed to do the public service announcement for undocumented aliens, which I had asked Brendan to do but which he chose not to.
He was not pleased.
The apology letter, which I was pressured to write was intended only to dispose of the issue. The apology was only for pinching his buttocks.
Here is my rationale of why he added the “extra” information just as the GQ article was about to go to press.
He had just been told by the HFPA that they didn’t have time to include him in our New York junket of Trust. His costars were to be interviewed but not him, but only because of time constraints. His representatives were insistent, but the TV committee explained: we couldn’t even accommodate Danny Boyle, the award winning director of Trust.
Fraser must have been livid when he heard this, and assumed it was my doing; so he called the GQ writer and added the accusation. As for Kelly Bush, his publicist at the time of the incident, after the story broke, I contacted her, and she confirmed that there was no sexual implication, but that at the time Brendan was “very upset.” In truth, she was the one upset because of my question to Brendan, “Tom Cruise’s publicist was there. Why wasn’t she?” When I asked if I could get a copy of my apology letter, which I couldn’t find on my computer, she told me that by now it would have been trashed. It was later given to Fraser’s lawyer.
As regards Dagmar, you have to wonder what exactly Brendan was doing when she was trying to give her speech in front of 100 million TV viewers. If he didn’t pinch her, he must have fondled her backside as is evident in the the video.
In the #MeToo climate, the HFPA understandably was reluctant to immediately exonerate me. They labeled my pinch “a transgression” and “inappropriate. ” I guess touching anyone in this climate is.
But finally three months later they released this statement.
“The HFPA continues to stand firmly against sexual harassment. As such, we have always taken Brendan Fraser’s allegations very seriously—both when he originally spoke out in 2003 and now again 15 years later. After the initial inquiry, we provided Mr. Fraser with the exact redress he sought—an acknowledgement of the transgression and an apology. Mr. Fraser continued to attend HFPA events including the Golden Globes. When Mr. Fraser raised the allegations again this year in the March issue of GQ, adding several previously unknown details, we conducted an internal review and then took it upon ourselves to commission an independent investigation into the matter to ensure impartiality. We’ve shared the results of that investigation with Mr. Fraser, and again apologized, but also conveyed our need to abide by the investigation’s finding that the exchange was a joke and not an intended sexual advance. We want to reiterate that the HFPA understands today—as it did 15 years ago—that what Mr. Fraser experienced was inappropriate.”
Fraser’s response that he didn’t get the joke was picked up by the media with no acknowledgement that an independent investigator had dismissed the sexual molestation accusation.
As it stands now I am still a sexual predator, linked with others, some serving time in jail, and vilified on the internet.
Google me and check out thousands of stories with not one coming to my defense.
What do I have to do to clear my good nam