Young Harvey Weinstein: The Making of a Monster
Long before he was a Miramax movie mogul, Weinstein was an "artsy-fartsy" student, a savvy concert promoter and, it turns out, a budding abuser and sexual predator. The Hollywood Reporter retraces his moves in Queens and Buffalo and interviews dozens of former friends and associates to examine the formative years of Hollywood's most infamous figure.
Paula Wachowiak sits in her 2009 Honda Fit as it cruises past rows of abandoned factories and a wasteland of disintegrating homes, remnants of a metropolis that once billed itself as the “city of light.” Decades ago, Buffalo was an industrial hub of New York, a gateway for commerce and a magnet for nearly 600,000 residents; but on a blustery February day, much of the city seems more like a manifestation of urban blight.
None of that troubles Wachowiak, 62, as she guides a reporter through town. The flame-haired grandmother is no longer the slip of a girl who once studied communications at the University of Buffalo, but she retains sharp memories of the days when she had visions of becoming a filmmaker, until her experience on a real-life film turned sour. It was the summer of 1980, and the then-24-year-old was a divorced single mother when she landed an internship on a low-budget horror flick, The Burning, a slasher story about a summer-camp caretaker who seeks revenge for his grotesque disfigurement, featuring Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter in their first screen roles. The film’s producer was almost as inexperienced as they were: Harvey Weinstein.
“I only knew of him as a music promoter,” says Wachowiak.
At 28, Weinstein had begun to make a name for himself as a swashbuckling concert organizer who’d put Buffalo on the map by bringing in acts like Jethro Tull and the Rolling Stones. The Burning was his first foray into film producing, and so he spent a lot of time on set. Wachowiak, based in the production offices, didn’t see him much; in fact, she saw more of his brother, Bob, 25, the quiet one whom nobody really noticed, who “seemed trustworthy, like somebody you’d talk to.”
One day, a production accountant asked her to take a folder of checks to Harvey’s room in a modest hotel. Wachowiak went upstairs and knocked on his door. When it opened, she says, she found him naked, except for a small towel draped around his waist. Half-hidden as he was by the door, she didn’t quite realize what was going on until she was inside the room and the door had closed behind her.
“My first response was, ‘Oh my God!’ ” she recalls. “Then I thought, ‘This is fine. I’m just going to look at his face, get the checks signed and get out of here. These are sophisticated people, they do this all the time.’ “
Weinstein dropped the towel, and Wachowiak struggled to keep her eyes on his face as he strolled around, until he sat down and laid the folder on his lap. “What’s this for?” he asked, pointing either to a check or his private parts. Then he chuckled, as if enjoying her embarrassment. Saying he had “a kink in his neck,” he asked for a massage.
“I don’t think that’s in my job description,” she replied. (“Mr. Weinstein has a different recollection of these events and categorically denies ever engaging in any nonconsensual sexual conduct with Ms. Wachowiak,” says his spokesperson.)
Wachowiak says Weinstein didn’t insist, as he would be accused of doing later, aggressively and violently, with other women. Still, the incident shook the intern, and when she left the room and stepped into the hallway, she burst into tears.
“I fell apart,” she says. “I was shaking.”
It’s been 38 years since then, and Weinstein, now 65, has gone from being one of the most influential men in entertainment to the industry’s most reviled. In the five months since allegations about his behavior exploded in The New York Times and The New Yorker, dozens of women — including actresses Ashley Judd, Lupita Nyong’o, Rose McGowan, Salma Hayek and Uma Thurman — have accused him of everything from harassment to rape.
Forced out of The Weinstein Co., he has gone into hiding, abandoned by family and friends, as prosecutors in multiple cities weigh criminal charges. In February, the New York Attorney General stalled TWC’s sale with a lawsuit alleging that Weinstein had subjected his employees to physical intimidation and emotional abuse and required them to “facilitate his sexual encounters,” all with the “effective acquiescence” of his brother.
Sources tell THR that Harvey has had little or no contact with his children, and one of his daughters, Remy (from his first marriage to Eve Chilton), has stayed out of the public view, absent for weeks from the L.A. gym where she once was a constant presence. Even Bob’s daughter, Sara, well-regarded for her philanthropic endeavors, has severed ties with the man she considered a second father. As for Bob, 63, he hasn’t spoken to Harvey in months, except for a call that lasted “literally a minute,” according to a well-placed source.
Much has been written about Weinstein’s behavior at TWC and his earlier company, Miramax Films. Now, in an effort to understand what shaped this man before he moved to New York City and launched a film empire, THR has interviewed more than two dozen people who knew him from his early childhood in Queens through his first film forays in Buffalo, New York, before he became “Harvey.” Nearly all of them describe a young man of extremes: charming and coarse, brilliant and belligerent, but always fiercely competitive. While he remains a paradoxical figure, this much emerges: It was not simply power that twisted his moral compass; long before he was a mogul, he was a bully and a predator.
Several of his old friends attribute this in part to a hectoring mother and ineffectual father, though both Harvey and Bob have described their parents as loving; others say it’s compensation for his rough looks. “I think he has a very bad self-image because of the way he feels about his physical appearance,” says Robin Robinson, 63, who worked for him in Buffalo in the early ’80s, where he first arrived as a student in 1969 and remained until he moved to New York City more than a decade later. In his relationships with the opposite sex, “He always has to have another, and another — all to compensate, to say, ‘Look, I really am successful with women.’ “
It’s tempting to look for a smoking gun. But the origins of Weinstein’s behavior are as complex and opaque as the man himself.
The ship was enormous and solid as a rock. Built in 1897 and capable of traveling at a speed of 13 knots, it was nearly 600 feet long and weighed 13,000 tons. But none of that must have mattered to Joe Weinstein as he boarded the SS Pretoria in Hamburg in late 1909 and set forth on the weekslong voyage to America. At 20, Joe (whose family took its name from the “Weinsteins” they peddled, crystals of potassium bitartrate used for cooking and cleaning) was well on his way to the New World, having journeyed 600 miles from his native Galicia in Eastern Europe to this German port, joining thousands of other Jews fleeing rampant anti-Semitism.
What happened upon Joe’s arrival in America is unknown, and he vanishes from the records until 1918, when he married another Galician Jew, Pauline Fischman, a petite 22-year-old who was working as a dress finisher. With Joe now employed as a fishmonger and Pauline in the laundry business, the couple hunkered down to a working-class life, producing 10 children in rapid succession (one died days after being born), including their fourth, Bob and Harvey’s father, Max.
Born in New York City in 1924, Max grew up in a family that was distant and remote, according to a 2011 piece Bob wrote for Vanity Fair. Bob marveled that his father could be such a family man, given how little love he got at home. In his mid-20s, on a visit to the Catskills after serving in World War II, he met a woman named Miriam Postal and asked if she’d like to dance. She turned him down flat, only to relent. They married in 1950 and remained together until Max’s death from cardiac arrest in 1976 at age 51.
Unlike the flamboyant Miriam, Max had a low-key personality, a trait inherited by Bob, though not Harvey. Peter Adler, a close childhood friend of Harvey’s, remembers Max as a quiet, reserved figure who preferred to stay on the sidelines, watching TV or reading.
Finding work as a diamond-cutter in New York’s jewelry district, Max moved with his wife into a two-bedroom, lower-middle-class apartment in the Electchester housing project, a series of squat brick buildings in Flushing, Queens, that had been erected during the 1950s for members of the electricians union. It wasn’t luxury, but it was safe.
Growing up here, Harvey (born in 1952) and Bob (born in 1954) have said they idolized their father. It was Max who introduced them to the movies, Max who taught them the rudiments of business, Max who sat them down one day and told them they must stick together through thick and thin, and Max who occasionally gave them a “butt-whipping” when they got out of hand.
But Max was frustrated. Spending his life “literally and figuratively grinding out a living to support his family,” as Bob recalled, he wanted to be one of the big boys “who controlled his own destiny, could call the shots for himself and had status.” Twice, he tried to break free. First, he opened a store selling diamonds and jade that lasted two or three years, but it collapsed in the face of competition. A few years later, he opened another store, this time selling synthetic diamonds under the brand name Diamonair, an endeavor that also foundered. Modest success was followed by crushing failure, creating an uncertainty that became the boys’ norm.
Max may have stressed family solidarity, but he wasn’t above deviating from it at least once, as Bob discovered when he asked his father for $9,000 in back pay after months working in his shop — money he was counting on for college. Max told his son he’d spent it to buy new equipment for his business.
The betrayal devastated Bob. And, he noted later, “[Max] didn’t feel one ounce of guilt.”
If Max was a significant influence on the boys, their Uncle Shimmy was another.
Shimmy (Sallbarry Greenblatt) lived in the same tower at 96-50 160th St. Compact and pudgy, with a curving mustache and gray hair, he owned a shop that sold refrigerators, washing machines and electronics. A natural raconteur with a knack for exaggeration, he was also a skilled salesman. He struck Adler’s father, who adored him, as a New York hustler straight out of a Damon Runyon story, Adler recalls. If a customer asked about a fridge, Shimmy would shout to his assistant: “Hey, Murray! How much we gonna sell this for?” “Four hundred bucks,” Murray would yell back. Then Shimmy would turn to the customer with a conspiratorial wink. “Three hundred,” he’d whisper, and the customer would leave, happy, not realizing he’d been played.
“Uncle Shimmy was a bit of a shyster,” says Adler. “He had a supply store, and he ripped off black people. But Harvey really, really adored him. He would sit at Shimmy’s feet and listen to these stories. Harvey didn’t respect his dad that much. It wasn’t Max who was his real role model, it was Shimmy Greenblatt.”
Inspired by Shimmy, Harvey learned to wheel and deal, and also perhaps that honesty mattered less than success, a lesson reinforced during the summer after seventh grade. Obtaining some discarded Boy Scout uniforms, he and a friend bought hundreds of boxes of cookies wholesale and, wearing the uniforms, went door to door selling them for $1 a pop, more than twice the 39 cents they’d paid — pocketing the money themselves. “They each made 800 bucks that summer,” marvels Adler. “We thought it was funny and didn’t make much of it. But that was all Shimmy. That was his brain at work.”
Neither Shimmy nor Max had quite the impact of the boys’ mother, a polarizing figure who drew different reactions from people who knew her. Born in Brooklyn in 1926, Miriam was the daughter of a butter-and-egg merchant and worked as a secretary. Those who met her when she was a fixture at Miramax remember her being “very put-together,” in the words of one executive. “As a Jewish kid from Brooklyn, I felt I was meeting a relative. I always got the feeling Bob and Max loved Miriam, but were also annoyed by her.”
To their childhood friend Adler, she was a hovering, constant presence, “shrill and bossy,” endlessly drilling a sense of inadequacy into the boys. “She was overbearing,” he notes, “saying things like, ‘You’re fat. Go outside and play.’ ” As a teenager, he says, Harvey sometimes called her “Momma Portnoy,” a reference to the domineering matriarch in Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, published in Harvey’s senior year of high school. One of the novel’s memorable scenes depicts the mother hectoring young Portnoy while he masturbates behind a bathroom door.
Adler describes Miriam as humorless, but her brusque exterior may have concealed a more comic and subversive side. Her tombstone, in the New Montefiore Jewish cemetery in West Babylon, New York, reads: “I don’t like the atmosphere or the crowd.”
“Every time Bob and Harvey had a major falling out, their mother would get them together and yell at them,” notes one longtime agent who had dealings with the Weinsteins. “They would comply and make up. They were terrified of their mom. When she died [in November 2016], that’s when this whole thing went to shit.”
Certainly, their relationship with her was more complicated than either has revealed. “On the one hand, Harvey involved his mom in the company [Miramax was named after Miriam and Max] and treated her really well,” says Alan Brewer, 64, one of Harvey’s closest childhood friends, now a film and TV producer. “But when he was growing up, she was the boss, not him. When Harvey became a force in the industry and extremely wealthy, that altered their power dynamics.”
As to the power dynamics of her marriage, Miriam held the cards. If Max made a regular thing of taking his sons to the movies, “it was just as much an escape for him as for the boys,” says a childhood friend of the brothers. “Within the family, Miriam had a very loud voice and a tremendous amount of influence about what everybody should be doing. My sense is that the way she treated him is tied to Harvey’s explosive personality later on.”
How much of his legendary rage can be linked to her is debatable. But for those who spent many hours in his household, “there was a tension,” says Adler. “There was a tension about going into that apartment.”
After skipping eighth grade (along with 30 students singled out for their intelligence), in 1967 Harvey entered John Bowne High School with about 1,000 classmates and immersed himself in extra-curricular life, editing the news pages of the school paper, sitting on the student council and participating in a radio club. “He wasn’t particularly athletic, but he was very smart,” says Brewer.
It was just after the “Summer of Love,” a time of social upheaval when 100,000 hippies converged on San Francisco and a message of “flower power” rippled through the country. Harvey aligned himself with the counterculture. His friends say he was part of a tight-knit clique of young men and women that included Brewer and Adler. “We weren’t in the ‘popular’ group,” says Brewer. “We were a smaller community of artsy-fartsy smart kids.”
In school, Harvey discovered he had a gift for organization: When he heard that Irish poet Padraic Colum was teaching at Columbia University, he arranged for him to speak before his class. “That was the kind of thing Harvey did,” says Adler. “He could just make things happen.”
There was a film component in his advanced history and social studies class, and Harvey often brought up examples from the movies he was seeing as he began to venture into the big city. Classmate Jeff Malek remembers hearing that Harvey “knew the entire cast of every movie.” To test him, he pressed Harvey about The Wizard of Oz, and he “proceeded to list the cast and crew, including gaffers, wardrobe, etc., by memory,” says Malek. During senior year, says Adler, Harvey surprised his friends with an announcement: “I’m going to make a movie of our lives,” he said, explaining that he’d already determined which famous actors would play each friend: Adler would be portrayed by Donald Sutherland.
Overtures such as these went over well. But, pasty-skinned and overweight, Harvey got nowhere with girls. He suffered from acne and “was very awkward with women because he was really hideous,” says Adler. “He used sarcasm and humor in his friendships, but I never knew him to have a girlfriend, or even to date.” Still, neither Adler nor any of Harvey’s other friends saw anything in his behavior that would suggest the predator to come.
(Weinstein declined to comment on his childhood, instead releasing a statement through his spokesperson: “Mr. Weinstein will do his own recollection of his childhood memories but appreciates The Hollywood Reporter doing theirs. While he understands there is so much more to say, he will do so at a more appropriate time.”)
At the end of his high school years, however, Harvey wrote a jocular message in a girl’s yearbook that seems eerie in hindsight. After writing, “Dear Sheila, we had a blast. Best is yet to come,” he added a fictitious address: “New York State Prison 3553333369.”
That fall, Harvey enrolled at the University of Buffalo, as far as he could get from Queens while still paying in-state tuition.
There, he met another student, Horace “Corky” Burger, with whom he began to write a regular column for the college paper, featuring a fictional character named “Denny the Hustler,” a womanizing man-about-town who detailed the local social calendar.
Harvey wouldn’t see his high school friends again until he was back home the next summer, when he got together with Adler, who had also returned from university with his girlfriend Patti. After a few hours of socializing, Adler said he was taking Patti back home, and his friends decided to go along for the ride.
Eight young men and Patti bundled into two cars, a 1965 Dodge and a Ford Custom, and headed for the city. Soon, they pulled up in front of a large building at 151 Central Park West, with a doorman and elevator man. The boys had never seen anything like it. Riding the elevator to the 10th floor, they emerged in a massive space whose 70-foot-long living room was adorned with paintings. There were two huge Jackson Pollocks, four Mark Rothkos, a few Motherwells and Rauschenbergs. Pre-Columbian sculptures rested on stands. The biggest apartment in the building, its walls had been reconfigured to accommodate the artwork. Among the cognoscenti, the home was called “the Frick of Central Park West.”
Patti’s father was Ben Heller, an art collector and personal friend of Pollock’s. His name meant nothing to Harvey, but his lifestyle did. “This was Harvey’s first touching-elbows with another class, and I can remember his eyeballs just popping out,” says Adler.
As the young man gazed around him, wonderstruck, he saw the future he wanted, the kind of life he longed to grasp. “Someday,” he told Adler, “I’m going to live like this.”
Dropping out of college, Weinstein and Burger launched Harvey and Corky Present, a concert promotion company, demonstrating the kind of entrepreneurship Max never had.
“They were able to bring stuff to town that Buffalo hadn’t seen before,” says Michael Healy, then a local entertainment journalist. “They were very good promoters, self-promoters, and Buffalo is a grateful town if you do something, so people liked them a lot.”
There were women — lots. “Everybody knew Harvey really liked women, but there was no suspicion of anything out of line,” adds Healy, who remembers attending a Halloween party in a house Harvey was renting. It was crowded, and there were “a lot of beautiful women. It was bacchanalian, without decadence.”
Now Harvey began dating. Starting late in college, and continuing until his first marriage to Chilton (his secretary) in 1987, he had “several decent-length relationships,” according to a friend.
An early employee remembers seeing him “with very attractive women before he was ‘Harvey Weinstein.’ Harvey had game. He could be really charming, really self-deprecating. This was not just some crude beast.”
But he was beginning to change. As he embraced his new life, he began to leave his old friends behind. In March 1973, he invited Adler and about a dozen other John Bowne graduates to a Grateful Dead concert; when Adler arrived after a 740-mile drive, he says: “He treated us like shit. I thought, ‘What happened to my friend Harvey?’ He was being an asshole. He ignored us. He was the big shot. We were too little for him. It was awful. That’s the first time I saw him becoming a schmuck.”
For years, most music promotion in Buffalo had been handled by a family-run company, Festivals East. Harvey and Corky went after their rival with ruthless efficiency. “There was a lot of screaming,” recalls Robinson, a college and club booking agent at Harvey and Corky. “They’d call us up and say this band had worked with them for 20 years, and it wasn’t right.” None of that mattered to Harvey, who learned his strong-arm tactics worked.
He was becoming a local celebrity whose name could be heard in radio promos. When The Police came to town, their performance was billed as “Corky and Harvey Present The Police.” The Cars, Mountain, even the Rolling Stones — Harvey and Corky brought them all. (Corky Burger could not be reached for comment.)
Their second concert featured Chuck Berry, whose interaction with the promoters became the stuff of local legend. Peeking through the curtain when it was time to go on, the rocker saw he had a full house, for which he had been promised a $10,000 attendance bonus. Then, on the spot, he decided that wasn’t enough, and said he wouldn’t play unless Harvey and Corky immediately forked over an additional $50,000 — in cash, in a brown paper bag.
As Harvey has told the story, he asked his “heads of security,” some off-duty SWAT officers, to handle the matter, and they warned Berry there might be a riot. But Robinson says a different, possibly apocryphal, version has become folkloric: Corky, she says, beckoned a relative who allegedly had mob ties. “He comes backstage, carrying a cane, and he gets in Berry’s face: ‘You get out on that stage right now, or first I’m going to take my cane to you, and then I’m going to have my guys come down and take care of you!’ ” Berry did as he was told.
In their business dealings, the partners functioned as good cop/bad cop, Robinson notes, each with a different style. “Corky always had a smile on his face and was very well-dressed, whereas Harvey, even in those years, dressed like a slob.” That was telling. Weinstein’s slovenliness, she believes, was either a deliberate rebellion against expectations or a masochistic declaration against his physical self. “Harvey’s appearance is a sign he hung around his own neck,” she reflects.
Still, whenever there was a problem, Harvey showed no lack of self-confidence. “He’d just blow the water out of the pool,” adds Robinson. “He was extremely effective, especially if there was a block.”
Only once did he try to bully her, as he was starting to bully others. When he began to push her around verbally, she resisted, and he backed off. “You can feel people when they’re testing you,” she says. “They start out small. He wasn’t the big baller he became.”
There were others he tested, too. One local woman, who requested anonymity, describes her interaction with him around 1975, when Harvey would have been 22 or 23. She was working as the manager of the Downtown Buffalo Answering Service, where she was responsible for collections. Harvey and Corky were notoriously late making payments. When the woman contacted Harvey, he said he’d get her tickets for an upcoming Hot Tuna show in exchange for leeway on the bill. She agreed and was told to swing by his house for the tickets. When she knocked at his door in Cheektowaga, a suburb of Buffalo, a roommate answered: “He’s in the tub.”
Perhaps naively, the woman made her way to the bathroom, knocked and entered. Harvey was in the bath. “Can you wash my back?” she says he asked. Flustered, she said she was late meeting friends and rushed out, grabbing her tickets from the dining-room table. When she got to the concert, she decided she should thank Harvey anyway and went to his office. There, he put his arm around her and tried to kiss her, making it clear what he expected.
“He wanted a blow job,” she says.
The partners expanded their activities, taking over a local concert venue, the 3,000-seat Century Theatre, built in the 1920s, with a chandelier and balcony that would throb when audiences pounded their feet. Soon, they were using downtime between concerts to show movies, joined by Bob, who had dropped out of school at the State University of New York at Fredonia in 1973 and followed his brother to Buffalo, where he still was very much a junior player.
“Harvey seemed resentful that he had to bring along Bob,” says someone who worked with the brothers, “while Bob seemed resentful for not getting enough credit, for being overshadowed.” His resentment spilled over in subtle ways. “If you ever see any project they did together, it was always ‘Bob and Harvey Weinstein,’ ” in that order, says a former employee. “Bob insisted his name come first.”
While Bob demonstrated financial savvy (and a commercial sense that later made his Dimension label a bigger earner than Miramax), he never shared Harvey’s passion for film as art. Increasingly, film itself was tugging Harvey away from concerts, as Robinson saw when he became obsessed with bringing the restored silent classic Napoleon to Buffalo after it had made a splash in Los Angeles, performed with a live orchestra led by Carmine Coppola. He wanted to present the picture in Buffalo with Coppola conducting.
“This is an important thing,” he kept telling Robinson. “We need to bring this to Buffalo!”
In the end, the movie came to Buffalo without Coppola. “I’m telling you, the man was distraught,” says Robinson. “His heart was out there. We were ready to cry.”
While she loathes what Harvey became, she says, “These things pull you back from absolutely hating this man.”
By the early 1980s, Harvey’s dreams had outgrown the Century and perhaps Buffalo, too. After serving as a facilitator, he began to think of himself as an artist in his own right, a director like so many of the men he admired.
Locking himself in a cottage he had bought just north of Buffalo, he worked with Bob on a screenplay, Playing for Keeps (see sidebar), based on a draft by Jeremy Leven.
“I did kind of write the movie,” says Leven, “although by the time they finished, there wasn’t much left other than an intense WGA arbitration for credit, which I won. But they had already printed the posters and other material as though they had won, so I don’t think my name appears anywhere but IMDb.”
The siblings set about co-directing the film. “It was a fucking disaster,” says an executive who spent time on the set.
Power exacerbated the worst of Harvey’s instincts. Brewer, who produced the movie with the brothers, was approached on set by a young female crewmember. She told him Harvey had invited her to his hotel to discuss work, then attempted to kiss her. After she resisted, he tried to force oral sex on her. Brewer offered to call the police; she declined but asked him to keep Harvey away from her.
As the film neared its 1986 release, Harvey directed his anger at those closest to him. Brewer had heard rumors about his violent side; now he would see it for himself. On the day of the first preview, he walked into Harvey’s office at Miramax, in its fledgling days in New York City. Bob closed the door. Harvey was upset: He couldn’t locate sound elements he wanted to use in promoting the film for a commercial on The Cosby Show. He began to lash out.
“He went from being seemingly happy,” says Brewer, “to grabbing me by the sweater, hooking his fingers around the collar and swinging at my head.” Brewer, who had known Harvey since he was 12, who had vacationed with him, double-dated and worked at his side for two years on Playing for Keeps, was in shock. He pushed Harvey off and tried to leave, “but they followed me to the elevator,” says Brewer. “Harvey began to attack me again. This spilled into the street.”
Then Harvey changed tactics, “going from convincing to begging to threatening,” he recalls. (Years later, when Brewer heard the infamous tape recording that model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez had made of Weinstein, he recognized his Jekyll-and-Hyde mode.) Their professional relationship ended, their friendship would never be the same. “This person who had been very supportive of my career was treating me like an enemy,” says Brewer. (Weinstein denies any physical altercation.)
Playing for Keeps marked a turning point, not only for Brewer but also his friend. Having failed as a director, Harvey would focus on building an empire through Miramax, which had begun to acquire and release films. Eventually, he would become not just a moviemaker but a mogul. And yet the emotions that drove him would remain unchanged.
“This was a person who had tremendous anger issues,” says Brewer, “that no friendship or sense of loyalty was going to contain.”
In 2008, Wachowiak picked up the phone and called Bob Weinstein. She wanted to show him a movie she and her husband had directed. “It was a stab in the dark,” she says. By then the younger brother was no longer the awkward guy in the back office; he was half of a global machine.
Wachowiak told Bob’s secretary she had worked on The Burning, and to her surprise, he took the call. After she’d offered to send him snapshots from the set of their old film, along with her movie, the conversation turned to Harvey. She mentioned his “being difficult.”
“Oh, yeah,” said Bob. “He’s still like that.”
Today, she wonders why Bob spoke to her at all. Maybe he was on the lookout for his brother’s misdeeds, she ponders, aware of all the loose ends that eventually might be tied up, potentially destroying their company. “I believe he knew what was going on,” says Wachowiak. “He was protecting Harvey. He knew he was a big asshole.”
As she drives past an empty lot where the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium once stood, she can’t quite let go of the brothers, just like so many others. She remembers one of her last face-to-face meetings with Harvey, toward the end of the Burning shoot. She was in a small office that had been set up at a campsite on the edge of town, alone, when he showed up unannounced. “I was nervous,” she remembers. “He looked at me, smarmy.”
“So,” said Harvey, with a grin, “Was seeing me naked the high point of your internship?”
“No,” she retorted. “You disgust me.”
He laughed and walked away.
This story first appeared in the Feb. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.