BY DIANE DIMOND
It is the movie Hollywood doesn’t want you to see.
This is not your typical Hollywood film. It’s a documentary called “An Open Secret” and it pulls the ugly scab off Hollywood to reveal what has happened to some vulnerable young boys who have tried to break in to the entertainment industry.
I got a special screening and I hope throngs of people go to see it. The “secret” referenced in the title is how so many of these youngsters have so easily fallen prey to pedophile agents, acting coaches, photographers and public relations people.
These “entertainment professionals” haunt Hollywood and stalk unsuspecting children, grooming them into thinking their way is normal, just the way business is done. In the process, of course, parents are also manipulated into thinking everything is fine.
You’ll recognize some of the former child actors featured in this riveting and raw documentary who publicly say they were sexually abused. Todd Bridges, from the 1970s-1980s sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes,” is shown discussing a previous two-part special the writers had produced to highlight the problem of pedophilia.
With a pained expression Bridges says, “I didn’t want to be around it. I ask them, ‘Don’t write me into this … write me out of most of this.” When Bridges’ wish was not granted, he was heartsick. “I, myself, had gone through that and watching it happen on the show — it was like … reliving the whole thing all over again.” Bridges was molested by his public-relations agent.
Child star Corey Feldman, whose hit movies include “Gremlins,” “Stand by Me” and “The Goonies,” also appears to say Hollywood predators ruined his life — propelling him into addiction and failed marriages.
“I can tell you that the number one problem in Hollywood was and is and always will be pedophilia,” Feldman says.
“I was surrounded by them. They were everywhere. Like vultures.” Feldman’s frequent co-star, the late Corey Haim, was also a sexual abuse victim. The pair openly discussed it on their A&E reality show, “The Two Coreys.”
Anne Henry, who works with a group called Biz Parentz and is the mother of child actors, reveals how she came to realize that some of Hollywood’s top professionals were selling the head shots of young actors on the Internet. Non-sexual PR photos of young girls, but mostly boys, that inexplicably sold for more than $800 each. Tracking down the photographers led to an ugly circle of Hollywood insiders, some of whom have now been convicted on charges of child pornography, committing lewd acts upon a child and other sexual crimes.
In one case, a man convicted of sexually abusing a Nickelodeon child actor is now out of prison and back working in the entertainment industry, with jobs that include a Disney show and a horror movie set in a high school.
Besides the celebrity stories, the sad tales of several less recognizable Hollywood hopefuls are told. One always looked much younger than his years; another was an opera lover cast in several movies; and another was a young man named Evan who displayed amazing singing talent. Each adult man explains how, as children, they found themselves surrounded by the industry’s sexual predators. Evan signed with an agent at age 11, and the sexual seduction soon followed. Years later Evan bravely tape-recorded his abuser discussing their sex acts and the man was convicted.
I’ve expressed hope that throngs go to see this documentary but, not surprisingly, the producers have had a difficult time getting movie theaters to agree to show it. Are movie-house operators afraid of offending Hollywood executives?
The union representing actors (SAG-AFTRA) has threatened to sue Amy Berg, the director of the film, since its former Young Performers Committee chairperson is featured in an unflattering — even pedophiliac — light. And now, because the director has refused to help promote the film (maybe for fear of Hollywood retribution), the producers have taken her to arbitration.
All of this, of course, dilutes the core message of “An Open Secret,” and that is a shame. Child sexual abuse can happen anywhere, anytime.
Note that you haven’t heard a peep from studio executives, big talent agencies or entertainment unions about steps they’ve taken to protect young actors against sexual predators. Yet in the words of victim Corey Feldman, “There are people who did this to me … who are still out there, still working and they are some of the richest, most powerful people in this business.”
Remember that next time you watch a movie featuring children. I know I’ll never look at those films the same way again.
Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at www.DianeDimond.netor reach her via email [email protected]