In the latest explosive story alleging sexual assault against a prominent entertainment figure, The New York Times reported on Thursday (Nov. 30) that lauded playwright Israel Horovitz, 78, has been accused by nine women of sexual assault and misconduct dating back to the mid-1980s.
The shocking allegations surrounding the actor, director and Obie-winning writer of more than 70 plays — each corroborated independently by the Times with people in whom the women confided — involve what the paper described as “chilling similarities” in the methods allegedly used by Horovitz.
Horovitz’s son, Beastie Boys rapper Adam Horovitz, issued a statement to the Times in response to the report that read: “I believe the allegations against my father are true, and I stand behind the women that made them.” Inspired by recent revelations about sexual misconduct and assault by disgraced former movie producer Harvey Weinstein and comedian Louis C.K., among many others, the women said they came forward for the first time to describe the sexual abuse and violations by a man they described as a trusted mentor and friend.
One woman, Maddie Corman, said she was a 16 year-old actress working in an Off Broadway play as her mother lay dying in a hospital following a stroke in 1986 when Horovitz, then 47, attempted to console her, only to press her against a wall and “forcefully” kiss her just as she was about to go onstage. Jocelyn Meinhardt, then 19, recalled the beginning of her 1989 summer internship at the Gloucester Stage Company in Massachusetts — where Horovitz was artistic director — when the playwright drove her to the family home her first night, locked the door and kissed and fondled her as she began to cry. Meinhardt, whose dated Adam Horovitz in high school, said the author then led her to his bedroom and raped her.
Frédérique Giffard, a 16 year-old au pair for Horovitz in 1991, said he groped her breasts and placed her hand on his erect penis. In another similar incident, Maia Ermansons, then 21, said she met with Horovitz — whom she’d known since she was a girl — to discuss a theater project and he “kissed her hard and cupped her breasts, remarking how ‘large and beautiful’ they had become.”
“I felt close to him like a grandfather, but also he was a somewhat famous guy whose time I felt privileged to have,” Ermansons said. “For the man who represented all that, to treat me the way he did, was the ultimate betrayal.”
In response to the allegations, Horovitz told the Times that though he had a different memory of some of the events, “I apologize with all my heart to any woman who has ever felt compromised by my actions, and to my family and friends who have put their trust in me. To hear that I have caused pain is profoundly upsetting, as is the idea that I might have crossed a line with anyone who considered me a mentor.”
The paper said Horovitz’s demeanor around women had long been the subject of whispers in the theater world, but that officials at the Gloucester Stage, where Horovitz was founding artistic director, knew since at least 1993 that they were more than rumors about his conduct, in light of an exposé in the Boston Phoenix that year in which 10 women accused him of sexual harassment and assault; the theater cut ties with Horovitz last week after learning of Ermansons’ accusations.
“I apologize to the brave women who came forward in 1992 and 1993 but were not listened to,” the Gloucester board’s current president Elizabeth Neumeier said in a statement. “We are individually and collectively appalled by the allegations, both old and new.” The women described Horovitz as a “complicated” man who was both a charismatic mentor and sometimes empathetic friend who nurtured young writers, but also preyed on them in moments of vulnerability, using his role as a world-famous auteur to take advantage of young women who were professionally dependent on him and often living far away from home. “He was a good mentor, until he was the worst, probably most nightmarish mentor you could have,” Meinhardt said.
The Times report came a day after longtime Today Show co-host Matt Lauer was fired in light of a growing list of sexual misconduct and assault allegations, and the same day as rap impresario Russell Simmons stepped down from his role in his companies amid sexual misconduct allegations.
Click here to read the full account from the Times.