In this era of rote apologies for sexual transgressions, I’ll fess up and add one more—mine. You be the judge if what I once did should be added to the mounting trash bin of Weinsteamy wrongdoing that’s making America look not so great again.
I’m referring of course to the continually breaking news about a blockchain of sexual harassments leading to sensational firings at FOX, CBS, PBS and now at my former workplace or playground–NBC.
Yes I admit I was maybe too courteous toward a fellow female executive when I was once in a power position at 30 Rock. It resulted in an embarrassing complaint, but thank heaven in those sexually carefree days back in the 80’s, it fortunately stayed swept under the rug at NBC. Until now.
In the words of Matt Lauer and a stream of seamy others, I too regret any pain I might have caused. The phrase has almost become a cliché.
At the time it wasn’t Matt Lauer but Tom Brokaw who was the face of the “Today” show while I was vice president, assistant to the president of NBC, then TV wunderkind Fred Silverman. Those were heady days up in my palatial suite of offices on the rarified sixth floor at 30 Rock overlooking the ice skating rink and Christmas trees at Rockefeller Center.
In those carefree days, we thought we could do no wrong. Occasionally I’d go out for a liquid lunch with my corporate buddies, a ribald group from network sales. We’d celebrate anything . . . we’d toast to Tuesday or to the miniseries that got good ratings or to landing yet another sponsor for Saturday Night Live. Anything was worth a toast.
It was a fun time when only three major networks ruled the airwaves, and were raking it in. We were a band of Robin Hood thieves robbing from the rich and keeping the loot for ourselves. My sales buddies were cool guys–a chain smoking, loud-talking, hard-drinking bunch . . . stalwart advertising bowmen with a raucous sense of humor that got louder with each Martini. We shared dirty jokes and lewd gossip about goings on at 30 Rock, about the coke snorting in the bathrooms and male executives cavorting with their female secretaries, excuse me, assistants. Yes, every top executive had one. It was male heaven, a vastly different cultural time when inter-office sexual activity was considered just “fooling around,” not despised like it is today.
One day a women executive asked if she could tag along and join our wild bunch for lunch.
While she was with us, I and my fellow male executives cleaned up our act. We spoke softly, drank less and smiled pleasantly. And, of course, we refrained from telling our usual smutty jokes and raunchy stories of sexy encounters at the office.
This only infuriated her. She was deeply hurt and upset that we had altered our behavior in her presence because of her sex. She believed it was her right to be treated the same as her male colleagues. She didn’t need or want our phony courtesy or pleasantness. She felt it was demeaning. Insulting!
Afterward she went straight to the legal department and threatened to sue us for speaking and acting differently in her presence because she was a woman. That she claimed was transparently discriminating. She believed she deserved to hear the same dirty discourse.
When we heard about the threatened lawsuit we were aghast, but her charges would soon fade away. We never heard how her grievance was resolved. It probably got swept under that gigantic corporate rug that covered everything in those days or settled financially like so many other transgressions at the networks until they become an egregious pattern that attracts media coverage.
I talk about our evolving attitudes toward sex and a new phenomenon, the Trump Divorce, in my new book “Is there enough Brady in Trump to win the inSUPERable BOWL?” available at Amazon.