My job is in media (that’s as detailed as I want to get), and this past weekend was the launch of TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival). To be in Toronto during this time means seeing the famous in line at Starbucks, sitting beside Roger Ebert in a theatre and for us media types, parties, after parties, private parties and well…more parties.
At one such private party on Saturday I was hanging out and conversing with an actor about life and industry stuff when the host of the party started to give a speech. A kindly, much older gentleman standing beside me joked that I was an actress (uh, yeah right) and proceeded to be flirty in the way men past 65 can be: harmless and full of compliments. He started to ask what my line of work was and after I explained what I do, he asked for my card. Card given, he introduced me to his circle, and invited me to join them at a prominent restaurant that they were all heading to, but I declined as I had an after party to attend (such is TIFF). The Gentleman joked about finding me before the weekend was over, and I pointed out that I would be in attendance at a high profile party the next day (one that he would be at).
The next day, I attended the party with a coworker and bumped into The Gentleman as we walked through the door. He pulls my business card from his pocket, to show he remembered me and proceeds to point me in the right direction for refreshments, entertainment, etc. To hear my coworker tell the story the next day, he “didn’t introduce himself to (her), basically ignored (her) and had eyes only for HLBB! He was smitten!” I didn’t see The Gentleman for the rest of the day and even though I did seek him out at the end, I couldn’t find him.
A weekend of parties complete, I returned to my office life yesterday and got back to my usual 9-5 grind. At lunch the phone rings and my call display reads in big letters “THE GENTLEMAN”. I answer the phone, thank him for his hospitality the day before, and he says, “I have two questions for you…”
“Will you be at (Party X) on _____? Your client is apparently involved.”
“I didn’t know about it, but it’s likely I will be.”
“Okay. Now, what are you doing this evening? There is a private reception for (insert major corporation here) at _________ and I’d like for you to attend. There are a few things I want to ask you and find out a bit more about you.”
Sidebar: because I know some people are going to say, “bah…I know where this is going…” Let me reiterate: I work in media; when a man of this power and stature summons you to find out more, you take a moment to think about this invitation. It’s the double edged sword in my industry: if you’re female, you have to stop and think “is this business or not business? What happens if I say ‘no’?” If you’re a male, you think, “this power broker wants to go where? Sign me up!”
So I accepted the invite, went home and changed into something very conservative. Then, I did some research. TIFF parties are publicized in the media, even when the media isn’t allowed to cover it. I couldn’t find a single thing listed. The restaurant that this party was being held at is a known TIFF venue; one where deals are made and those with names like Weinstein have lunch. I couldn’t find anything listed. So yes, I got weirded out. What the fuck was this. I called a friend who is connected to see if she knew. She didn’t. I even asked someone I just met over the weekend if they had heard anything (which I hated doing because I don’t like asking for favours) but I was getting desperate. This party started in 3 hours and no one in my circles knew it existed.
Was it a set up? Not necessarily. Parties like this happen often…it’s just that regular folk don’t know about them. As the party was in the evening, at not at night, I decided to not cancel. I told coworkers and two friends where I’d be. I also invented a boyfriend with a back story (“Michael”) in case I was asked. I arrived and sure enough, there was the woman with the clipboard. I said that I was supposed to be meeting The Gentleman and told her my name. She smiled and said “Oh, yes. He didn’t tell me your name, but The Gentleman told me to expect you; go right upstairs love…”
To look around the room, most of the attendees looked like your everyday Vice President in media. Some had come straight from screenings; others were already dressed for after parties. Open bar, hors d’oeuvres, food…everything you might expect. While some boast of popping bottles, this was the kind of party where a bottle was popped about every 5 minutes. My host arrived with friends in tow and proceeded to introduce me to the room. VPs? Fuck that, these people decide what movies we see and the TV shows on the air. Their names are on liquor bottles, the spines of books and of course, listed in the credits. Agents, artist managers, they were all there. If there was a VP in the room, I didn’t meet them; I met their boss.
The Gentleman knows them all. In fact, even though this was a stand and mingle/schmooze type of party, he sat at a table and had the people come to him. Even though the hors d’oeuvres were passed around, the serving staff came to our table first. Even though the bar was open, our drinks were brought to us. I questioned him about his obvious influence and asked if it was fear or respect. He said he hoped no one feared him. He asked me about work, what I did, how did I get there, etc etc…so I basically recited my resume.
I thought, “Oh thank gawd…he’s not a dirty old man. This will be a person to know. He can open doors…for me (and by extension friends and clients)…this could change the path of my career. This is amazing!” As people approached the table to say their hellos, one gentleman sat down and talked with us for a bit. He was the son of someone The Gentleman knew well (and closer to my age). As they chatted, he introduced me and said “this is HLBB, a very good friend of ours, so you’ll need to behave yourself.”
Now, The Gentleman has been like a grandfatherly mentor up to this point, so I’m half expecting him to do some sort of matchmaking; especially since he just inquired about this guy’s dating status (single). But then he says:
“She’d be more than a friend if it wasn’t for 1 – excuse me – 2 obstacles. One being my wife and the other being Martin, her boyfriend.”
“Yeah that. Him.”
After the guy leaves, I proceed to have a “boundaries conversation”. He may view his wife as a minor technicality, but I have a boyfriend and we’ve been together for over two years. He then says, (in front of others) “I will be honest with you. When I saw you on Saturday, I thought to myself ‘this is a beautiful, intelligent and savvy woman who has the most gorgeous mouth I have ever seen.”
I choked on my champagne and laughed.
“Don’t belittle this! I’m telling you the truth. Ask anyone from that night!” (One friend actually nods in agreement.)
“I’m laughing because that’s the second time I’ve ever heard a compliment about my mouth.”
“I’m surprised you don’t hear it daily. Who was the first?”
(fack fack fack…by the way, I am telling the truth, that was the second time ever that I’ve heard that compliment. But I couldn’t say whom. So…)
“My boyfriend. But he now jokes that he doesn’t always like what comes out of it, of course!”
“Does Martin know you’re here?”
“Michael. Yes of course he does. He knows all about my activities this weekend and how I met you. I told him over coffee just this morning”
“Over coffee?!? Do you – live together?”
“Sometimes. Sometimes he’s with me, or I’m with him. My place is closer to his work…”
“I can live with that.”
“Now wait a minute. There’s nothing for you to live with. I have a boyfriend. You have a wife —-“
He of course explains his marital situation, and I come up with every rebuttal you can think of. I even mention what his children (who are closer to my age) might think.
“My eldest would approve…”
He starts to tell me about all the events I could attend with him in this week alone, including screenings, galas, and more private parties. Should I choose and if “Martin” (“Michael”. “Yes him”) were to give permission. He starts to tell me about the people I could be introduced to and the doors that would be opened for me. I keep downing champagne as I’m absorbing the implications. We move to another part of the room and I duck out to the ladies. Frantic texts and tweets read “DIRTY OLD MAN!!” I then returned to our new seat. The introductions keep coming; and so do the implications.
As he proceeds to further compliment my figure, he tells me that all the best features. Not in a crass way, but more in the way car collector describes the lines and contours of a classic jaguar. He then says, “unlike other men of my generation, I have no problems with oral sex. While I wouldn’t dare imagine your breasts, rest assured I have imagined my head between your thighs.”
I downed my freshly poured flute of champagne in about 10 seconds.
He made no apologies for the things he said, and would only feel bad if had offended me. As HLBB, there’s not much you can say that will really offend me, but I had no idea how to react. He continued:
“You are a beautiful woman. You may not realize this as yet, but there are people in this room who will want to know you and I’d be happy to introduce you.”
We parted ways about a half hour later…me to “meet friends”, at another restaurant, him home to his wife. His parting words were, “I want you to think about it, because I know you are. You can tell Martin (“Michael”. “Yes. Michael”) if you want. But I will leave the ball in your court.”
So here’s the situation this morning as I write this in a champagne induced hangover. I will see The Gentleman by circumstance (at my client’s events and such); there will be no avoiding him and he’s made his desire(s) quite clear. Doors could be opened…but I’m not sure if I have to open my legs to make those doors open…
I’m not going to tell you what I’m thinking. I want you to tell me what you think…