“Ok,” Bryce – the witness Keaton found who’d also been harassed by the woman who accused me of harassing her – began, “so I landed a job at the network in the programming department shortly after I graduated from film school. It wasn’t my dream job, but it was in the business, and, when they hired me, they told me there was room for growth. Yeah, I was 23 and I thought I was a little too good for TV, but it was the only offer I had and I took it.
“I worked for about six months with nothing happening to me beyond having to read a lot of scripts and summarize them before passing them on to someone higher up who decided what to do with them. I did my job pretty well, such as it was. Then there was a big reorganization of the programming department, my boss was out on his ass for reasons I never understood, and they transferred you can guess who from another department to be the assistant head of programming…the job she’s still got today, as far as I know. Anyway, nothing happened for about a month. I mean, I was introduced to her, but I hardly ever saw her, and certainly not alone…until one day I got a call that she wanted to see me in her office.
“Of course, I figured I was in trouble. Being in trouble would probably have been better than what happened. She ostensibly called me in to discuss a script I’d summarized, and we talked about it, although I was getting a little uncomfortable at the way she was looking at me. Look, I’m no stranger to women checking me out, but there was something a little creepy in the way she was doing it to me. Finally there was nothing left to say, so I turned around to leave.
“’I like the way your ass looks in those pants. I’d like to see how it looks out of them.’”
I was about to jump up and say that that was exactly what she’d said to me, but I didn’t want to disturb Bryce’s train of thought.
“I turned around and looked at her, and she said: ‘turning your bedroom eyes on me, are you?’
“I didn’t know what to say, so I just stood there. I finally got out something about having a girlfriend.
“’Did I ask if you had a girlfriend?,’ she asked me. So I mumbled ‘no’ and just stood there and looked at her. I think she wanted me to be uncomfortable. I got the feeling she’d done something like this before. She wasn’t smooth like a dude who’s good at it can be, and it was kind of off-putting…but you gotta give her credit for being direct.
“And then she said it in no uncertain terms. I still remember it verbatim: ‘with that ass and those eyes, you’re wasted working in programming. Or even behind the camera — yes, I checked out your resume, I know you went to film school – you should be in front of it.’
“’I don’t know the first thing about acting,’ I said, which was true. I mean, I’d been in a play in college, but I knew I didn’t know what I was doing.
“’There are classes and coaches,’ she said. ‘And I know quite a few of them. I know quite a few casting directors, too. If you catch my drift.’
“It was hard not to catch her drift.
“Think about it,’ she said. ‘And wear those pants again when you come see me tomorrow. I like looking at that ass of yours.’
“So I went home and didn’t know what to do. I don’t know…maybe women are more attuned to it and can recognized sexual harassment when they see it, but I didn’t even think of it in those terms. And, okay, I’ll admit it, she got me thinking. I had people approach me in the past and offer to get me acting jobs…but I didn’t take them seriously…this time, though…I mean, she had an important job at a network…and, well… Look, I’m just human, and I was still in my early 20s when it happened, and you do some really stupid shit at that age.”
“So you decided to say yes?,” I asked. We were all listening very closely to Bryce’s story, but it seemed like he was pausing for a question.
“I’m not proud of it, but, yeah, I went to her office the next day.” Keaton started to say something, but Bryce saw it coming. “Yeah, wearing the pants she liked. When she saw them, I guess she knew what my answer was going to be. Then she said: ‘you made the right choice. I didn’t mention it yesterday, but I was going to get that hot ass of yours fired if you said no.’”
“Fuck,” said Matt, not very lawyerly, but it’s what we were all thinking. It wasn’t going to be just my word against hers: it was going to be Bryce’s word as well as mine.
His story went on, all about what she did for him. She signed him up and paid for acting classes, got him an agent and sent him out on auditions. At least she was making good on her word. And, yeah, he had to sleep with her. A lot. His girlfriend found out, since he was almost never free to see her, and that was the end of that.
“We weren’t very serious about each other,” Bryce said, “but she was still my girlfriend, and a lot closer to my age. Not some old chick who was harassing me sexually at work. The worst was when she sent me out to see a casting director and the dude was super, super gay. I can’t stand it when gay guys come onto me” Keaton shot me a smirk “and that’s what this guy did. He finally said ‘suck my dick and I’ll give you a part.’ In as many words.”
“What did she say to that?,” I asked.
“She said go for it.”
Keaton shuddered visibly. That’s how the rest of us felt, I could tell.
“Did you?,” Travis asked.
“By that time, I’d quit my job at the network and had everything riding on having a career as an actor. I’d heard all kinds of stories of people having to do shit like that to get roles in Hollywood, so, the next time I saw him and he asked ‘well…?’ I got up and went over to his side of the desk.” I could tell this was traumatic for him to remember. “And I tried, I really did try, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, even once he opened his pants. So he settled for a hand job with me looking the other way, and said ‘for that, maybe you get a part.’
“That’s fuckin disgusting,” said Keaton. “I’d have busted him in the face instead.”
“Yeah, well…I’ll be the first to admit that I was in over my head by this point. But he did get me my first part. It wasn’t much, but it went on my resume and there was on IMDB, an employed actor. It was in a TV show, and I played someone who’d been hired to be a boy toy. I think I had three lines.
“Anyway, then the network put Seattle Six into pre-production, and she made sure that there’d be a part for me. My character was supposed to be more experienced, but they rewrote it more innocent because I was such a bland actor, even with all the classes I went to. So it was kind of a done deal that I’d be cast, even if I had to go through the audition process. I’m sure people knew that I was sleeping with one of the executives, although I was past feeling shame or humiliation at that point. She got me all worked up over getting a TV series and how it would start the ball rolling on my career that I went along with whatever she said.
“And, like you guys know, I got cast and the show ran for two seasons. And the money sucked me in even deeper. Meanwhile, she was clearly enjoying controlling me…until she got bored.”
“Is that why it ended?,” I asked.
“Yeah,” Bryce said, winding up his story. “She felt that getting me the series made good on her promise, and, well, there’s always someone younger coming up behind you. So she pretty much dumped me. Or I reckon cut me loose. Then the series got cancelled, I couldn’t find another acting job, and I went into a pretty severe depression. I felt…well…ashamed of what I’d done. And that’s when I realized I really didn’t want to be an actor. After all that.”
“Did you get all that down?,” Matt asked Keaton, who’d covered several pages of printer paper with little squiggles.
“If I fuckin say I can do something, I pretty fuckin well can do it,” said Keaton. “The only problem is that I take a Dutch shorthand, and probably nobody can read it here. Do you want me to type it up? That was quite a story, man,” he said, turning to Bryce. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but it makes me feel like I want to take a shower.”
“Now you can imagine how I felt going through it,” Bryce said.
“I don’t know if we have time to type the statement up,” said Matt. “Let me call Michelle and tell her what’s happened. She’ll know what to do.”
“Talk in the bedroom,” said Keaton. “It’ll be quieter in there.” He went to turn on the light and close the door for Matt.
“Wow, man,” I said to Bryce, wishing I could have a second beer, but, if nothing else, I was driving, so Keaton wouldn’t let me have one anyway. “You have no idea how grateful I am.”
“Hey, I’ve been waiting for two years to see justice done to that evil bitch.”
Matt wasn’t long in the bedroom. It was past midnight, remember, and I’m sure Michelle wanted to get to bed. We all had a big day ahead of us.
“She says we should have a written statement after all,” Matt announced. “We’ll messenger it over to the network in the morning so it doesn’t look like we’re springing a surprise witness at the last minute like in some TV show.” He turned to Bryce. “Michelle asked if you had any evidence, besides your obvious HR records and the fact that you got cast in the show.”
“You mean like letters and shit?,” he asked.
“Or anything,” said Matt.
Bryce was running down things in his mind, to judge from the look on his face.
“Oh, wait…duh. The watch.”
“She gave me a watch. And had it inscribed on the back. It only has our initials, but it also says ‘mad about the boy’ – it’s a reference to a movie you guys are too young to have seen.”
“I’ve seen Sunset Boulevard,” said Keaton “although that makes it a creepy thing to put on a watch… You saw it in your film class too, didn’t you hoss?
Travis nodded. I was lost, but it didn’t matter.
“Can you bring the watch tomorrow?,” Matt asked, after sending a text, presumably to Michelle.
“Yeah, sure,” said Bryce.
“We can go pick it up in the morning,” Keaton said. “The hearing’s not until 2 in the afternoon, right?”
“Yessir,” said Matt.
“I only live over in Eagle Rock, but I’m spending the night here…because Keaton’s afraid I’ll change my mind about appearing at the hearing.”
“Just making sure, man,” Keaton said. “We worked hard finding you; I don’t want to lose you at the last minute.”
“You found him?,” Matt asked. He didn’t get to Keaton’s until after we had that part of the conversation.
“Me and a PI buddy,” Keaton answered. “Hoss here helped out too.”
“We put our investigations department on it, but they came up empty.”
“Probably because they didn’t know what they were looking for,” said Keaton. “And they didn’t have a personal stake in it. Nobody fucks with one of my friends and gets away with it.”
Keaton said that like he meant it, and Matt seemed convinced. Y’all don’t need convincing about Keaton not allowing people to fuck with his friends. Think back to what he did to the jerkoff who hit Travis’ car in El Monte and then ran, or the times he’s stood up for Carter, even when he was being a pretty big dumbass at the Volcano. It’s a reason I’m proud as heck to have him for a best friend. I got all caught up in Bryce’s story and didn’t thank Keaton, let alone thank him properly. Only thing is Keaton doesn’t like being thanked, so he gave his usual grunt and said “this is what I get for choosing a pretty boy for a best buddy.”
While Keaton was typing up the statement faster than I’d ever seen anyone type, we sat around and talked about details, like how they’d introduce Bryce at the hearing, and if he should tell his story before or after mine. (We decided after.) Then I realized how late it was, even if all the sweet tea Keaton kept serving us woke me up. It was past 1 before I got in the shitbox and drove back home to try and sleep. That was no use, since my head was spinning, so I got into boardshorts and went out and turned on the jacuzzi. I’ve used it before when everyone else was sleeping; no one’s ever complained from the main house, so I reckoned it was okay. I followed fifteen minutes in the hot tub by a cool shower that felt ice cold – kind of like the cold plunge up at Justen and Luke’s house. That may sound like it would wake me up even more, but it’s actually super relaxing. I also cheated again and had a second beer for the night, but, if this wasn’t the night for that, I don’t know what was. My ass was still on the line, and, while Bryce and his story could help me out of the mess I was in, it all still depended on whether or not they’d believe him and me over the woman who accused me of harassing her.
The jacuzzi, shower and beer worked and I managed to fall asleep, although it was past 2 and y’all know I get up at 6:55 to get the boys off to school. I’m afraid I didn’t exactly look my best when I got a look at myself in the mirror, and, since part of my case was that I was good-looking enough not to need to harass anyone sexually, I needed to look at least as good as I do on TV, and I had dark circles under my eyes. Maya came down to breakfast with the boys and told me she could fix that, but I wasn’t going to wear makeup to my hearing. So I told Maya I would take a nap after I took the boys to school. (Since Robert and Maya were coming to the hearing, Sandy got put in charge of picking up the boys in her car. She’s done it a couple times before, although I know she hates doing ‘assistant’ jobs like getting Maya’s dry cleaning…which is why Sandy found her a dry cleaner who delivers lol.)
I tried to have the nap I told Maya I was going to take, even using the slices of potato Maya told Belen to give me to take away the dark circles, but of course I couldn’t fall asleep, potatoes or no potatoes. So I hit the pool, and swam a shit ton of laps. Eve that didn’t make me tired. Then I remembered that the baseballs were still all over the batting cage, so I went to clean them up. Anything to avoid thinking about the hearing. Belen made me one of her bombass Mexican sandwiches for lunch (the ones they call torta), and, to my surprise, I wolfed the whole thing down. (Belen: “you were swimming for over an hour, of course you were hungry.”)
Maya said I should wear a suit to the hearing, to look serious and respectful; the image most people have of me is in a tshirt and shorts (and, ok, sometimes not a tshirt.) So I put on a blue pinstripe Joyce bought me that I almost never wear, along with a white shirt and a semi-gayass pink tie Joyce bought me to go with the suit. When Maya came to the pool house to double-check my appearance she said I looked like I was running for political office…or would if I had a better haircut.
Me, Maya and Robert got into the Maybach. Robert drove, which I liked, since I’m not Maya and Robert’s chauffeur (I drive the boys around, sure, but that’s different) and I was too nervous to concentrate on the road. We had plenty to talk about – they didn’t know anything about Bryce – so for once no one got pissed off when hit the usual traffic right between Dodger Stadium and Hill Street.
The network’s office was all the way in West LA, so we had plenty of time to discuss everything. Maya had Michelle on the phone for a while, and finally I said that I needed for everyone to be quiet or I was going to go crazy. So we made the last ten minutes of the trip in silence I really needed.