I’ve posted this before. I get the feeling that not many people have read it; I get the feeling that it somehow failed to go viral the first time it was published. Narratives are always being shaped and public opinion is aimed in certain directions to hit certain targets.
Now, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that Woody Allen is a total creep (where any of us late Boomers ever got the notion that Allen is “progressive” escapes me; he made five or six great films… that is all I know), but the gap between “creep,” and the awful thing that Allen is casually MeTooAccused of having done, is profound… and my concern with this story, is, in part, something to do with the increasing blurring of that sane distinction. Like the distinction between being flirtatious and perpetrating assault, being unpopular and being wrong, or, say, the difference between a detailed investigation and a power-mad, self-serving, good old Murrkkan witch hunt. Some of the Toxic Snowflakes out there are already factoring Age and Gender into the Normative definition of “Creep,” aren’t they? That should be “concerning,” to borrow their ugly neologism. Well, don’t expect me to keep quiet about that. Allen’s Media kangaroo-courting* maintains a dangerous precedent that will, if left unchecked, affect all of us. The time is coming (perhaps it’s already here) that the actual courts are mere adjuncts to the courts in session, 24/7/365, at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al, with real world consequences for anyone who is, or does or says anything even rumored to be inappropriate. Is that the smiley, huggy, post-Stasi hellscape you really want to live within?
Meanwhile: yeah: some buried information. Have a look.
EXCERPT (bold-type emphasis mine):
In truth, Woody and Soon-Yi rarely even spoke during her childhood. It was my mother who first suggested, when Soon-Yi was 20, that Woody reach out and spend time with her. He agreed and started taking her to Knicks games. That’s how their romance started. Yes, it was unorthodox, uncomfortable, disruptive to our family and it hurt my mother terribly. But the relationship itself was not nearly as devastating to our family as my mother’s insistence on making this betrayal the center of all our lives from then on.
But the fatal dysfunction within my childhood home had nothing to do with Woody. It began long before he entered the picture and came straight from a deep and persistent darkness within the Farrow family.
It was common knowledge in Hollywood that my grandfather, the director John Farrow, was a notorious drinker and serial philanderer. There were numerous alcohol-fueled arguments between her parents, and Mia told me that she was the victim of attempted molestation within her own family. Her brother, my uncle John, who visited us many times when we were young, is currently in prison on a conviction of multiple child molestation charges. (My mother has never publicly commented on this or expressed concern about his victims.) My uncle Patrick and his family would often come by, but those visits could end abruptly as Mia and Patrick would often wind up arguing. Patrick would commit suicide in 2009.
My mother, of course, had her own darkness. She married 50-year-old Frank Sinatra when she was only 21. After they divorced, she moved in to live with her close friend Dory Previn and her husband André. When my mother became pregnant by André, the Previns’ marriage broke up, leading to Dory’s institutionalization. It was never spoken of in our home, of course, and not even known to me until a few years ago. But, as I look at it – as a licensed therapist as well as an eyewitness – it’s easy to see the seeds of dysfunction that would flourish within our own home.
It was important to my mother to project to the world a picture of a happy blended household of both biological and adopted children, but this was far from the truth. I’m sure my mother had good intentions in adopting children with disabilities from the direst of circumstances, but the reality inside our walls was very different. It pains me to recall instances in which I witnessed siblings, some blind or physically disabled, dragged down a flight of stairs to be thrown into a bedroom or a closet, then having the door locked from the outside. She even shut my brother Thaddeus, paraplegic from polio, in an outdoor shed overnight as punishment for a minor transgression.
Soon-Yi was her most frequent scapegoat. My sister had an independent streak and, of all of us, was the least intimidated by Mia. When pushed, she would call our mother out on her behavior and ugly arguments would ensue. When Soon-Yi was young, Mia once threw a large porcelain centerpiece at her head. Luckily it missed, but the shattered pieces hit her legs. Years later, Mia beat her with a telephone receiver. Soon-Yi’s made it clear that her desire was simply to be left alone, which increasingly became the case. Even if her relationship with Woody was unconventional, it allowed her to escape. Others weren’t so lucky.
Most media sources claim my sister Tam died of “heart failure” at the age of 21. In fact, Tam struggled with depression for much of her life, a situation exacerbated by my mother refusing to get her help, insisting that Tam was just “moody.” One afternoon in 2000, after one final fight with Mia, which ended with my mother leaving the house, Tam committed suicide by overdosing on pills. My mother would tell others that the drug overdose was accidental, saying that Tam, who was blind, didn’t know which pills she was taking. But Tam had both an ironclad memory and sense of spatial recognition. And, of course, blindness didn’t impair her ability to count.
The details of Tam’s overdose and the fight with Mia that precipitated it were relayed directly to me by my brother Thaddeus, a first-hand witness. Tragically, he is no longer able to confirm this account. Just two years ago, Thaddeus also committed suicide by shooting himself in his car, less than 10 minutes from my mother’s house.
My sister Lark was another fatality. She wound up on a path of self-destruction, struggled with addiction, and eventually died in poverty from AIDS-related causes in 2008 at age 35.
For all of us, life under my mother’s roof was impossible if you didn’t do exactly what you were told, no matter how questionable the demand.
The summer between first and second grades, she was having new wallpaper installed in the bedroom I slept in, across the hall from hers on the second floor of the Connecticut house. I was getting ready to go to sleep, when my mother came over to my bed and found a tape measure. She gave me a piercing look that stopped me in my tracks and asked if I had taken it, as she had been looking for it all day. I stood in front of her, frozen. She asked why it was on my bed. I told her I didn’t know, that perhaps a workman had left it there. She asked again and again and again.
When I didn’t give the answer she wanted, she slapped my face, knocking off my glasses. She told me I was lying and directed me to tell my brothers and sisters that I had taken the tape measure. Through my tears I listened to her as she explained that we would rehearse what should have happened. She would walk into the room and I would tell her I was sorry for taking the tape measure, that I had taken it to play with and that I would never do it again. She made me rehearse it at least a half-dozen times.
That was the start of her coaching, drilling, scripting, and rehearsing – in essence, brainwashing. I became anxious and fearful. Once, when I was given a new pair of jeans, I thought they would look cool if I cut off a couple of the belt loops. When Mia saw what I had done, she spanked me repeatedly and had me remove all my clothing, saying, “You’re not deserving of any clothes” and making me stand naked in the corner of her room, in front of my older siblings who had just returned from dinner with their father André. (After I spoke to People magazine in 2014 about how I was treated, Dylan called it a “betrayal” and said that I was “dead to” her. She later publicly dismissed my recollections of my childhood as “irrelevant.” This from a woman who now styles herself an “advocate for abuse victims.”)
Fighting back was not a viable option. One summer day, Mia accused me of leaving the curtains closed in the TV room. They had been drawn the day before when Dylan and Satchel were watching a movie. She insisted that I had closed them and left them that way. Her friend Casey had come over to visit and while they were in the kitchen, my mother insisted I had shut the curtains. At that point, I couldn’t take it anymore and I lost it, yelling, “You’re lying!” She shot me a look and took me into the bathroom next to the TV room. She hit me uncontrollably all over my body. She slapped me, pushed me backwards and hit me on my chest, shouting, “How dare you say I’m a liar in front of my friend. You’re the pathological liar.” I was defeated, deflated, beaten and beaten down. Mia had stripped me of my voice and my sense of self. It was clear that if I stepped even slightly outside her carefully crafted reality, she would not tolerate it. It was an upbringing that made me, paradoxically, both fiercely loyal and obedient to her, as well as deeply afraid.
In short, it was not a happy home – or a healthy one. Which brings us back to August 4, 1992.
Strangers on Twitter pose me this question all the time: “You weren’t there to witness the assault, so how do you know it didn’t happen?” But how could anyone witness an assault if it never happened?
As the “man of the house” that day, I had promised to keep an eye out for any trouble, and I was doing just that. I remember where Woody sat in the TV room, and I can picture where Dylan and Satchel were. Not that everybody stayed glued to the same spot, but I deliberately made sure to note everyone’s coming and going. I do remember that Woody would leave the room on occasion, but never with Dylan. He would wander into another room to make a phone call, read the paper, use the bathroom, or step outside to get some air and walk around the large pond on the property.
Along with five kids, there were three adults in the house, all of whom had been told for months what a monster Woody was. None of us would have allowed Dylan to step away with Woody, even if he tried. Casey’s nanny, Alison, would later claim that she walked into the TV room and saw Woody kneeling on the floor with his head in Dylan’s lap on the couch. Really? With all of us in there? And if she had witnessed that, why wouldn’t she have said something immediately to our nanny Kristi? (I also remember some discussion of this act perhaps taking place on the staircase that led to Mia’s room. Again, this would have been in full view of anyone who entered the living room, assuming Woody managed to walk off with Dylan in the first place.) The narrative had to be changed since the only place for anyone to commit an act of depravity in private would have been in a small crawl space off my mother’s upstairs bedroom. By default, the attic became the scene of the alleged assault.
In her widely-circulated 2014 open letter in The New York Times, the adult Dylan suddenly seemed to remember every moment of the alleged assault, writing, “He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we’d go to Paris and I’d be a star in his movies. I remember staring at that toy train, focusing on it as it traveled in its circle around the attic. To this day, I find it difficult to look at toy trains.”
It’s a precise and compelling narrative, but there’s a major problem: there was no electric train set in that attic. There was, in fact, no way for kids to play up there, even if we had wanted to. It was an unfinished crawl space, under a steeply-angled gabled roof, with exposed nails and floorboards, billows of fiberglass insulation, filled with mousetraps and droppings and stinking of mothballs, and crammed with trunks full of hand-me-down clothes and my mother’s old wardrobes.
The idea that the space could possibly have accommodated a functioning electric train set, circling around the attic, is ridiculous. One of my brothers did have an elaborate model train set, but it was set up in the boys’ room, a converted garage on the first floor. (Maybe that was the train set my sister thinks she remembers?) Now, whenever I hear Dylan making a public statement about what allegedly happened to her that day when she was barely seven, I can only think of that imaginary train set, which she never brought up during the original investigation or custody hearing. Did somebody suggest to the adult Dylan that such a specific detail would make her story more credible? Or does she really believe she remembers this train “circling around the attic” the same way she says she remembers Woody’s whispered promises of trips to Paris and movie stardom (kind of odd enticements to offer a 7-year-old, rather than a new toy or a doll)? And all this apparently took place while those of us who promised to have our eyes trained on Woody were downstairs, seemingly oblivious to what was happening right above our heads?
Eventually, my mother returned with Casey and her newest adoptees, Tam and baby Isaiah. There were no complaints by the nannies, and nothing odd about Dylan’s behavior. In fact, Woody and Mia went out to dinner that night. After dinner, they returned to Frog Hollow and Woody stayed over in a downstairs bedroom – with, apparently, no abnormal behavior by Dylan, and no negative reports from any of the grown-ups.
The next morning, Woody was still at the house. Before he left, I briefly wandered into the living room and witnessed Dylan and Satchel sitting with him on the floor by a wall with a big picture window. The kids had a catalogue from a toy store and were marking off the toys they wanted him to bring back on his next visit. It was a cheerful, playful atmosphere – which would soon seem jarring compared to what Mia would allege happened less than a day before. Many years later, I once mentioned my recollection to Woody, and he said that he, too, remembered it quite vividly, telling me how he had told Satchel and Dylan to mark one or two toys each, but they had laughingly managed to check off virtually every toy in the catalogue. He remembers bringing it back to the city with him, with the intention of purchasing a few of the items they had checked. He told me he wound up holding onto that catalogue for years, having no idea that he would never see his daughter again.
Interestingly, it was only after Woody returned to the city that Mia would receive a phone call that would change our lives forever. It was from her friend Casey, who reported that her nanny Alison had witnessed Woody supposedly placing his head in Dylan’s lap on the sofa in the TV room.
When Monica, our long-term nanny who was out that day, returned to work the next day, I confided to her that I thought the story was made up. Monica, who had been with us for six years, would quit her job a few months later, saying that Mia was pressuring her to take her side and support the accusation.
It was Monica who later testified that she saw Mia taping Dylan describe how Woody had supposedly touched her in the attic, saying it took Mia two or three days to make the recording. In her testimony she said, “I recall Ms. Farrow saying to Dylan at that time, ‘Dylan, what did daddy do… and what did he do next?’ Dylan appeared not to be interested, and Ms. Farrow would stop taping for a while and then continue.” I can vouch for this, having witnessed some of this process myself. When another one of Dylan’s therapists, Dr. Nancy Schultz, criticized the making of the video, and questioned the legitimacy of the content, she too, was fired immediately by Mia. (My mother, for whom “loyalty” was hugely important, would also fire another long-term caretaker, Mavis, claiming that she was making statements against her.)
During the custody hearing, my mother kept stressing how we needed to stick together as a family. Frightened and beaten down, I, too, played my part. I even wrote a letter condemning Woody, saying that he had done something horrible and unforgivable, and had broken my dreams. I even read the letter for the news media that were now regularly gathered at the end of our driveway, knowing that doing so would earn my mother’s approval. That public denouncement of my father remains the biggest regret of my life.
*As witch-hunting pseudo-journalist Anna Prudhomme “reports” for French hipster rag Numero (note the purely objective adjectives with which Ms. Prudhomme chooses to juice up her article; would any such journalist deploy the pejorative “old” against Marina Abramović or Yoko Ono?):
Amazon, original producer of the movie, terminated its contract with Woody Allen due to the revelations of sexual assaults on his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, as a child. The film was unlikely to even see the light of day. Rebecca Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona’s hero, announced last year that she no longer wanted to work with the old director, and gave her full salary to the association created in response to the Weinstein case: Time’s Up. The charming Timothée Chalamet and the pop star Selena Gomez followed in her footsteps: they donated their salary to organizations fighting rape and sexual abuse.