By: Bec Fordyce
Image: Jeannine Cannon
It’s one of the oldest clichés in showbusiness. The casting couch.
I always thought I was savvy enough to spot being played by a director or a producer. I used to judge the girls that had been duped by these men with all of their promises of fame and fortune. How could they be so gullible? Why would they degrade themselves like that? “Serves them right”, I would think.
Until it happened to me.
It was mid January, and a blizzard had hit a few hours ago. A new friend of mine messaged me and insisted I joined him for drinks. All I had to do was cross to the other side of the West Side Highway.
I lived in Battery Park City at the time. It’s sandwiched between the Hudson River and the West Side Highway. It’s a wind tunnel that time of year, and everything in that part of Manhattan is significantly colder. I didn’t want to leave my apartment. It was miserable out there! I protested, but then he sent me another text.
“That producer friend I was telling you about is with me. I really think you should come.”
I’d heard a lot about this friend of his. He dropped his name a few times before. He’d had some success as a documentary producer and had recently sold a screenplay to a heavyweight producer in television. Some big names were already attached to the project. Couldn’t hurt going out for just one drink, right?
I transformed myself into something a little more glamorous than the couch potato look I was currently sporting and trudged over to the bar. When I got there, my friend was standing with a larger than life man. I mean that in every sense of the word.
The producer was a monolith of a man. He was tall and had a solid build. His eyes were an icy blue. He had a wild head of hair and a boisterous laugh. He was funny, witty and wildly entertaining. He had an extraordinary ability to make you feel like you are the most important person in the world whenever he spoke to you. He did that to everyone when he was out in public.
He was immediately drawn to my Australian accent. He shared his anecdotes about the Aussies he had worked with on various productions. Both men were a good twenty years older than me, so they made fun of me for having a couple of tattoos. It turned out to be a lovely little evening.
We all left around dinnertime. The producer just so happened to live up the road from me with his wife in Tribeca, so he offered to walk me home.
The conversation flowed very naturally between us. We both had a similar sense of humor. I was in awe of his intelligence. He walked me right to my building. As he dropped me off, he stared at me square in the eyes and asked, “Does it ever get lonely down here in Battery Park City, Bec?”
I didn’t even need to respond. He got it in one. He took my phone and put in his phone number.
“If you ever get lonely, you call me, ok?”
A few weeks later, I got another text from my friend. He told me that he was out at this bar in Tribeca with a few of his buddies. The producer might head down a bit later, too. I already made plans with some of my girlfriends, but said I might drop by on the way home.
On the way home that night, I stopped by the bar. The producer was there with his wife. My friend introduced me to everyone in the group. The wife glared at me. She had already made up her mind that she did not like me. She didn’t even have to say a word. The look on her face said it all.
I tried to brush it off. I was significantly younger than everyone in the group. I assumed she had a preconceived idea about me because I was a young, blonde actress. Not the first time that has happened.
Early spring, I got invited to a screening party for a new TV series. The producer asked if I would like to go with him because his wife was staying at their beach house in Cape May. He said his wife asked him to take me. I found that comment rather odd, but I accepted the invitation. The only condition was that I had to leave early because my parents were coming into JFK in the morning.
The screening party was fairly non-eventful. The one detail about that night that stood out to me the most was the fact he was very adamant that I didn’t post any photos of us together on social media.
One evening, when my parents were in town, I suggested it might be nice to have a dinner with some of my new friends. They were a bit closer to my parent’s age, so I thought it might be nice for everyone. I asked the producer and his wife if they would like to join us. I told him that my father is a lawyer, just like his wife. They also specialized in similar niches, so I thought they’d have plenty to talk about.
The dinner was spectacularly awkward. My parents and I arrived and met our friends at the bar. The wife had a sour expression on her face. On top of it, she looked like she’d already had a few.
We were seated at a long table. The producer and his wife sat on the furthest side. The wife didn’t say much, but she would lean over and whisper things into her husband’s ear every now and then. This went on for about half of the meal until, out of nowhere, they both stood up and excused themselves.
They didn’t offer to pay for anything that they ordered. The producer just thanked my family for the invitation and wished us good night.
I was mortified.
My parents were gracious enough to play it off like it was their treat to everyone for my birthday.
On the taxi back to my place, my parents could only exclaim, “What the bloody hell was that?!” I couldn’t find the words for it. All I could do was apologize profusely on their behalf.
I eventually got a text from the producer a couple of days later. He gave me a very feeble excuse for leaving that night. He said he would make it up to me by taking me to the Bjork exhibition at MoMA.
The visit to the MoMA was a huge turning point for both of us. After the exhibition, he took me to a bar in Hell’s Kitchen where we started to get a little tipsy. He apologized for his wife’s behavior at dinner again –and the subtext was very clear– he was not happily married. One drink led to another and eventually we started kissing.
We quickly composed ourselves and laughed it off as being a bit drunk. He put me in a taxi and sent me home.
I didn’t hear from him for a few days, and I tried not to think too much about what had happened. I had to admit though, it got under my skin a little.
The next phone call from him was very businesslike. He wanted me to read a part at a table read for a new sitcom he’d written. I was honored that he asked me to be a part of this. He hadn’t even seen my work before. He’d just heard me go in an out of American and Australian dialects. I was beaming with excitement. Someone prolific seemed genuinely interested in my work.
I liked this. Everything was nice and businesslike. We were just drunk and had made out. It was silly, plus he’s way too old for me. I can just go to the reading and act like the professional I am. He was somebody I genuinely wanted to work with. He was also becoming somewhat of a friend and mentor to me.
The day of the table read was incredibly exciting for me. I was finally able to showcase a little bit of my work to him. All I wanted to do was impress him with my acting.
The reading went well. The comedian the show was based upon was a delightful man. He also had a lovely wife. We all agreed to go for a drink up the road in Soho before they drove back to Pennsylvania.
When we arrived at the bar, the comedian and his wife went off to buy the first round of drinks. The producer and I got a table with the other people from the reading. He sat right next to me. Throughout the afternoon, I felt his hand ever so subtly stroke my thigh under the table.
One by one, people started to leave and it was just him and I alone in the back of an empty bar. He congratulated me on my work again. Then, he dangled the ultimate carrot in front of my nose. He suggested that there might just be a part for me in his really big project.
As I vaguely mentioned earlier, this man had written a TV series about Times Square in the 1970s. It was sold to an incredible production team to a premium cable channel. There were serious heavyweights attached to this one. It wasn’t in the ballpark of all the indie projects I had been working on. It was looking as though there might be a direct line in for me. This could be a game-changer.
Again, some time passed, and I didn’t hear from him.
One evening, that same friend of mine invited me to hang out with a cast member from a popular TV series in the East Village. He told me I should come, and that the producer will be there. I immediately got a car over to the bar.
I was minutes away from the venue when I get a call from my friend. He was uninvitingme. You’d expect words like that out of a child’s mouth. Not a fifty-year-old man. I was pissed. He told me it isn’t a good idea because the producer’s wife was there, and it would hurt her feelings.
I was a bit baffled by this, because he had quietly alluded that they were very unhappily married in a few conversations we had. Also, beyond a drunken kiss or two– nothing else had happened.
Also, how did he know we’d kissed once or twice? What was the producer saying about us?
A little while later the producer called me directly. He was drunk and high but basically said that his wife sensed “the heat” between him and I. I was annoyed, but I understood where he was coming from. I really needed for this relationship to remain strictly professional moving forward.
Easier said than done.
The rumor about my role had gone from “might have a role” to “she’s got a role”. Another actress friend of mine was furious. She felt like that part should be hers because she introduced us to this mutual friend. I was upset by this, but I was also really starting to buy into those rumors. It started to tickle my ego for sure. I hadn’t seen any formal scripts or anything, but it felt like my career was finally on its way to the next level. This started to get to my head.
One evening, after work, I met up with the producer in the East Village for drinks. I had originally promised myself to keep it tame. I had to be on set early in the morning. I had not eaten much that day, so it didn’t take very much for me to get blind, rotten drunk.
I don’t know how I got home that evening.
By some miracle, I woke up in time and managed to meet the production shuttle to get to set. I was so disappointed that I became this reckless when it came to my career. I was also secretly really worried. Just how exactly did I get home?
I got a call from him during my lunch break. He asked if I made it to set. He told me I got so drunk that I couldn’t remember which building I lived in. He had to carry me up and put me to bed. He told me he was proud of me that I kept my promise that I would be on set on time.
I was dying inside when he told me all of this, but he seemed to have a good sense of humor about it. Just as I got over the embarrassment, he went on to tell me that we had kissed…again.
I felt very conflicted with my feelings for the producer. It was a grey area with his marriage. I’ve been in a shitty marriage, so I am not entirely against acting out when you’re unhappy.
I also didn’t want to be that actress, but the truth was that I was developing some very strong feelings for him. It also felt like he was reciprocating. I also felt I needed to play my cards right for my career. It was very tricky, but I kept working at keeping the dynamic professional.
The producer started showing up to a lot to places that I was at. He always “happened to be in the neighborhood” or nearby wherever I was. He scared off quite a few people I had been on dates with, that’s for sure. I’m sure it was quite off-putting to have a giant, random man come crash your date. I always downplayed it like he’s my whacky mentor. Either way, none of these guys wanted to stick around after meeting him.
I remember one such instance at an opening night of an art gallery. Guess who mysteriously showed up along with that friend of mine?
I had taken a gaffer from the show I had worked on as my date. He was an incredibly good-looking male. The producer saw red.
My friend made a point of pulling me aside to tell me that I had made the producer very upset. I thought it was a bit rich, but I also started to panic a little. What if this means I’m not a part of the production? I couldn’t allow a once in a lifetime opportunity like this slip through my fingers.
Later that evening, the producer commented that I needed to learn to “handle my affairs better” because he’s a very jealous man. I found it rather confusing, because we hadn’t slept together. Desperation swept over me, and I apologized profusely. He really wanted to make me sweat over this one.
I didn’t hear from him for about two weeks after that night. I obviously never heard from the gaffer again. Suddenly, I just felt like plain old Bec again. I was so disappointed.
Then, one afternoon, he called me.
He was going to bring his iPad over to my place, and he was going to let me read the very secret script for the first episode. Maybe this man really did believe in my talents? He was willing to have a professional relationship with me.
He came over late that night with his iPad. He’d been out doing lines of coke with his friends at the pub earlier, so it wasn’t the most flattering way of seeing him. He was sweaty and his breath smelled horrendous. It was repulsive, but I couldn’t let that on. He had something far more important that I needed to see.
All of a sudden we start making out, and then finally, it happened. It was gross and very unromantic. I’d just sold my soul.
I read the script on my couch while he snorted some lines on my coffee table. I wasn’t paying too much attention to what he was doing until I felt something warm and wet under my leg.
Oh Jesus Christ, he’d pissed himself.
I noticed that his eyes were rolling in the back of his head. This looked very much like he was having an overdose. Turns out cocaine isn’t a great companion to heart medication.
My first instinct was to get him off the couch. Problem is, he’s over 6’5” with a solid build, and I’m a tiny creature of 5’4”. This was not going to be an easy task. I tried to wake him to tell him that he’d peed himself and I needed to get him to the bathroom.
I hauled him off the couch. After a few steps, he fell flat on his face. He split his eyebrow open and was bleeding on the wooden floor. All I wanted to do was call an ambulance.
His response was, “No, baby, don’t do that. I’m too famous.”
I had a huge ethical dilemma on my hands. I’m going to look like a prize piece of trash having a married man die in my apartment on a Wednesday night. I also didn’t want him to die. I don’t know why, but I let him sleep on the couch.
The next morning, he was gone. There was no note, no text message, just a $100 note left on the coffee table. I assumed it was left to cover cleaning costs. Classy.
Really, at this stage, I should have just told this man to go away. Sadly, I started turning a blind eye to some outright appalling behavior as the weeks went on.
The night I read the script was very upsetting to me, but as usual, he always found a way to put a charming spin on things. He laughed and said, “Now we’ve both seen each other when we’ve partied too hard.”
He apologized and promised me something like this would never happen again. I’ve been around the party scene long enough that I was willing to forgive it.
At this time, I was in a play. It was a boring show, but it was exciting that I had another opportunity to showcase my work to the producer. He showed up to opening night high as a kite. It was embarrassing, but he certainly made a point of name-dropping the three letters of the network he was now working for.
To “celebrate” he took me out for drinks by the theater in Chelsea. He then told me he wanted to go and visit his friend nearby. I had a matinee show in the morning, so I just wanted to go home. He promised me it would be a short visit. He also asked me to make sure he didn’t spend more than four hundred dollars.
Oh, great, now we’re off to his coke dealer’s apartment.
I felt immediately uncomfortable when I went into this man’s apartment. He took us into a room that had a tiny window. He closed and locked the door. He had two television monitors. One had a basketball game on. He put hardcore porn on the other. He asked if I smoked. I thought he meant weed. Nope. Out came a crack pipe. I’ve seen some things in my time, but not this.
The producer took a hit. He turned into a dribbling infant a few moments later. This was not the bright and brilliant man I once knew. This was a monster. I was disgusted and I was getting scared. The smell in the room was also making me sick.
He started trying to take my clothes off. I didn’t want to. The dealer laughed and told me I was “cold as ice” as I kept trying to swat the producer’s hands off me.
I’m sure you can figure out what these two men wanted. I did not consent to it. I also knew I was in a tricky situation. I’m locked in a crack den with two men who are much bigger than I. I had to think quickly on my feet. I came up with the best possible compromise.
The gory details are too horrifying to write, but the watered down version is that I basically agreed to let them see me naked while they did drugs.
I went into shock.
We left about twenty minutes later. I was so calm, it was like I had left my body.
I kept telling myself, I just needed to make my call-time and do the show in the morning. I wasn’t even ready to think about what had happened. It was so wrong.
The producer was becoming more erratic. He was spending a lot of money on cocaine and was getting into fights with the main executive producer. He also told me that he was going to leave his wife. I had many phone calls with him rambling on while drunk and high. If he kept this up, he was going to kill himself before the cameras started rolling.
One early afternoon, I got a voicemail from that friend of mine. It was brief. It just said “I don’t know if you’ve seen the news this morning, but it’s about [him].”
“He’s finally had that fatal overdose”, was my first thought. I actually wish that had been the case. The news was much, much worse.
I called to find out what happened. The producer was in some serious trouble. He had been out partying with another beautiful blonde woman at a venue in the East Village. He took her to the same dealer’s apartment in Chelsea.
She was found dead in the vestibule area of the building the dealer lived in. Her shirt and bra were missing and her panties had been stuffed in her purse.
The horrific reality came crashing down. This woman could very well have been me.
I’m quite sure how the series of events have unfolded in that apartment. The cocktail of drugs caused her to overdose. The men called the paramedics but ran away as soon as they arrived, like the cowards they are.
This was a mother of three children. A former beauty queen turned doctor. What a demeaning thing to do to someone.
Who leaves someone to die like that?
I never did get to work on the show. Who knows if I even had the part to begin with? I had been deceived by so many lies and had dealt with so much insanity over the course of those few months.
It was very hard seeing that series go to air. It was very upsetting for me on so many levels. I actually thought they were going to pull the plug on the show, given all the negative press surrounding early production. Mind you, when you have a name as big as the executive producer, you already know how to go into damage control.
I did my best to try to move forward from all of it for a while there.
Then, I got an unexpected visit from the DEA. They had tried to see me, but I was in Los Angeles at the time. They left their business card with the doorman.
I was given the card the moment I got back home. Even though it was 11:30pm, I had to call the number on that card. I had a sneaking suspicion that it was something to do with this woman’s death.
The agent I spoke to was friendly, but relatively vague. He went out of his way to assure me I wasn’t in any trouble. We agreed to meet to talk more in person with his partners.
I had my first meeting with three DEA agents. They did their best to make me feel at ease, and I was willing to do whatever I could to help them.
I wanted to see those motherfuckers go down.
I fortunately, never had to go to trial. I never want to see that man’s face, ever again. I found out about a year later that the dealer was sentenced and the producer also got sentenced for two years.
Looking back on everything, it was so obvious that I was being groomed. My mother picked up on it. Oddly enough, the wife of the comedian also picked up on it. We ran into each other on another gig I worked on with her husband. The producer’s name and the scandal were obviously brought up. She said, “My instinct was off on that man. I found him incredibly creepy.”
I’m sure there will be some readers that will judge me harshly for my actions. It’s understandable. I did some incredibly unethical things. I will say this though; you will never know what it is like until it has happened to you.
The devil is slick like that.