Time’s up, fellow music bizzers—the vacation’s over, that’s for sure. If anyone else has been following the Charlie Walk sexual harassment scandal that broke a couple of days ago, below is a VERY LONG but very enlightening read. Basically Walk, current Republic Group prez and judge on The Four, was called out in an open letter Jan. 29 (the image above accompanied the open letter from Tristan Coopersmith; go here to read it: https://www.lifelabhb.com/blog/2018/1/29/metoo-an-open-letter-to-charlie-walk ) for some mighty sleazy behavior while he was at Sony, and my gut feeling is that this will finally open the Weinsteingates all the way in the industry, since anyone with even half a toe’s involvement in the biz knows full well that #metoo isn’t a Hollywood/politics-only phenom. Billboard has a good summary of the Walk story as well. (go here: https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/8097342/charlie-walk-republic-two-women-accuse-sexual-harassment )
Meanwhile, Lefsetz weighed in, naturally – read his brief blog entry on the matter here: http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/2018/01/29/the-charlie-walk-letter/ – and then the letters poured in, including some from other music industry ladies who were similarly harassed by Walk during their tenure working under him. Since it doesn’t appear that Lefsetz publishes all the letters at his blog, you’d only be able to read them if you got the email version of his Lefsetz Letter, so that’s why I’m sharing it here. Pass it along. To anyone who reads this and is also in the industry, if this doesn’t make you red-hot mad and be willing to speak out and do something, you seriously need to find a different career. Jeez, this Walk guy, what a fucking scumbag. Maybe he and Russell Simmons should start a label together, eh? —FRED MILLS (below: Charlie Walk)
From the letter writers to Lefsetz, 1/30/18:
It happened to me too, not ever physically like this brave woman’s story, but the mental games and invitations to galas and dinners that I didn’t deserve, followed by comments about my photos on social media and invitations to hotel rooms and unwanted naked photos sent to my phone via Snapchat so that I couldn’t save them.
One time after I was laid off from Republic he twirled me in front of Joe Carozza Republic’s head of PR and said something like, “She’s so hot, look at her, I can say it now that she doesn’t work for us.”
feel free to print this but please leave my name anonymous.
thanks Bob for paying attention
I wish to remain anonymous but I am not surprised at all to hear this news, Bob. I have warned other women behind closed doors of Charlie Walk but I have never spoken publicly about how uncomfortable and inappropriate he was to me when I worked with him years ago. From repeatedly directing the conversation to my looks, my figure, my eyes and how attractive he found me (I am a married woman and business owner), both in front of people and when alone. He would take a perfectly normal business encounter and steer it toward objectifying me and completely disregard anything I had to say about work (which could be hugely embarrassing, awkward and degrading when said in front of other members of the company). He had also sent me inappropriate text around that time which left me to wonder, where did this man (who is married with children) think exchanges such as these were going to go exactly?
I tried to laugh it off but couldn’t escape the fact that this was a completely inappropriate way to talk to a female colleague. He creeped me out to no ends but given his position of power, I was left with no option other than to downplay this exchange and simply not engage. Who knows where he was hoping to take this but I did not reciprocate. For years I have wondered to myself “am I the only one that has ever experienced this with Charlie Walk?” Seeing that letter today gave me a shock but I hate to say it, I was not surprised.
I am aware that this is NOTHING compared to what others have gone through and are speaking up against right now but it is a prime example of what women have to put up with in this business from men in powerful positions. I’m just glad to see this industry is finally starting wake up. Because of Charlie’s position he felt he could belittle, objectify and act inappropriately towards me and I’m ashamed to admit I have been part of the problem by not speaking up until now.
Like I said, I had warned others about him over the years, because if ever there were a red flag, those encounters I experienced with Charlie were enough of one for me. Predatory behavior is rife in the music industry and I would not be surprised if more women come forward with worse accounts than mine.
Just because this was her experience, doesn’t mean it was everyone’s. And just because this was my experience, doesn’t mean it’s anyone else’s:
On a typical promotions/programming add call in 1993, I told Charlie Walk I was moving to NYC. He asked what I wanted to do and I replied, “work for you.” He said, “You don’t want to move all the way up to New York just to work for me.” I said, “Yes, I do.” What I wanted, was to move out of Radio and into Records. The artful ease in which our weekly calls took place led me to know I could learn a lot from Charlie Walk. It mattered to me that I worked for a major once I got there, so I held the Columbia/Sony dream close. I moved without having a job (like you do when you’re in your 20’s), and I signed up through a temp agency in Manhattan.
As fate would have it, my very first temp gig was for none other than Charlie Walk at Columbia Records. 25th Floor at 550 Madison. I walked into his office and he about crapped his pants. He called me by my last name and said, “You’re _______?!” recalling our conversation two months prior. He stood up from behind his desk and gave me a hug. I assume by his verbal reaction he was surprised I was attractive- or maybe relieved. I was surprised he was as well- I hadn’t been able tell much from the little postage stamp-sized pix I’d seen in R&R. But it was really more like sizing each other up so we’d know what we were dealing with, rather than some sleazy get-to-know-me.
I worked with Charlie for just over a year in that 550 temp position (in the most legit of ways) before moving across the hall to Marketing into a permanent gig.
What I learned from Charlie about the record industry are lessons I STILL use today. He showed me the complex footwork the industry requires, and by example lived and breathed the art of promoting hit records. It was a defining point of reference for a lifetime doing the thing I love most- music. Yes, I saw that “side” of him. In the 90’s most people in the industry had that “side.” The trick was to be one of the boys without losing your femininity. Know your worth, live it fully without the fear of someone else taking it from you. Pursue your goals and don’t forget who you are. The only way to diffuse a cheeseball is by not empowering them with shock or fear. Deal down to them the way you would a drunk, delusional teen. A sincere, catty, demeaning laugh, and an “are you f*cking kidding me” dismissive shrug-off goes a lot further. Nothing lets the air out of unwanted advances more reliably than the steady drumbeat of quick, demeaning laughs.
We are never gonna get certain people to agree to the concept of equal respect when we come from a victim’s position, using the voice of victims. When we do that, we agree to the role we in turn have to fight our way out of. To be clear- I’m not talking about the open-letter author. I’m talking about all of us.
Some don’t respect women in the first place and never will. Appealing to their common decency is a joke. They’re mentally incapable! Appealing to their reason is a joke. Fairness- joke. Morality- joke. Reputation- joke. Even their wallet/bottom line- joke. And as far as that sort of man goes, there will always be women who don’t care who they’re married to. There will always be friends of sleezeballs who sleezeball together and run businesses in a vacuum.
As time marches on, the men and women who can make a difference are taking the place of the bro club members, one member at a time (pun intended)- slowly but surely. And that’s fantastic. Change happens via many outlets.
As for Charlie Walk, part genius/part scoundrel- or just one of those one in a million guys who’s really good at what he does? I think it depends on what his take is on you. His rep precedes him, but he is absolutely capable of decorum and respect.
And just because it didn’t happen to me doesn’t mean I’m attempting to minimize someone else’s trauma or negative experience, to any degree.
The people on both sides of theese stories are multidimensional- not flat, convenient characters.
Name withheld, please.
I realize resentments only poison my soul. I pride myself on not rooting against people who have harmed me. But…..I’m only human. When Donny ran the evil empire and Charlie was a top lieutenant , I was called into his office. I was brought in to help Sony break a Swedish pop girl group Play by Ienner, Botwin and Ingrassia. Having had a modicum of success with the Boy Band Dream Street despite little radio air play. I met first with Play’s A an R rep the delightful Lee Dannay and Project Manager Josh Zeman to share my ideas. When I was called into Walks office, I was showered with compliments which I admittedly soaked up. It took me a while to realize I was being set up, Its a long story but needless to say, it was as sleazy as it gets. Even for the Music Industry. Sometimes Karma isn’t instant, but it’s always a bitch. Sorry Charlie… not.
All for One Media Corp.
Hey Bob – I met Charlie Walk on a set in 2005 when I was a young, stressed-out Hollywood assistant. He was remarkably friendly to me when he didn’t have to be (whether or not this matters, it was my impression). At some point he told us a story about how John Mayer’s “Daughters” was on track to becoming an ignored/forgotten track on the album, had he not personally zeroed in on it’s poignant message and fought tooth and nail for it to become a successful single (and we all know it endures).
If the letter is true, there’s some sad irony in this story now.
This shit is crazy and this is just the beginning.
Another thing no one is talking about, is what are these wives thinking by staying with these dirtbags? What are they teaching their children by not leaving immediately when this happens?
I’ve never been so happy that I decided a long time ago to be my own boss in a small business. I haven’t had to deal with any of this, but I know if it came out that my husband was talking to women this way, I’d be gone day one.
I hope the wives start leaving, including Melania. Show people, especially your kids, you won’t stand for it.
wow. holy shit. i’m glad she wrote this. i’m mad at her for not speaking up sooner, but I understand why she didn’t. I am grateful to you, Bob, for passing this along. I’m sad to say that this is probably EVERY woman’s story in the industry, at some level, in some form.
yes, he needs to be GONE!
I think there are a lot of reasons why the industry is curiously quiet with regards to sexual harassment.
I think a lot of it is subtle enough… we feel uncomfortable but we can’t always quite explain why. On the other hand, sometimes it’s explicit.
I was on an international business trip with a management client years ago. Her main label rep was in town and we got together to catch up after a session one day. He had told me that he wanted me to quit my job and come work for him. The label (owned/operated by an A Level artist) was looking to create a management company, he told me. He said I’d be perfect to run it. I was elated. I love the artist, and the opportunity seemed like a dream come true. Moments later, he began talking to me, bluntly, about wanting to sleep with me. Told me he’d fulfill any “black guy” fantasy I may have. Despite him having a wife and young children. He reiterated this in a text message which I still inadvertently have saved in “Whats App.”
I used to be a tour manager. I’m lucky to have traveled with mostly respectful men over the years, but I will say that on one specific run, one of the crew guys kept dropping his pants/towel around me. The bus door separating the lounge area from the bunk area would open, and he would just drop whatever he was holding and expose himself to me. I had done several tours with him without this behavior, but suddenly, it seemed to be the norm. He was much older with far more road experience, so all I felt I could do in the situation was laugh.
There are so many men that I turned to for advice in my formative years in the industry who hit on me or tried to fuck me. Men I’d approach following panels that would try to take me back to their hotel rooms. The one who I was on a summer tour with who told me he wasn’t married, meanwhile I found out later that his wife works in the music industry. There was the guy who I thought was my friend – who started to teach me the ropes with regards to touring – who I spent an entire day chauffeuring around my city to do off-day tour errands, who called me into his bathroom while he was showering in his hotel room (while two other people were also in the hotel room!!!!) — I turned him down, and at the next day at the next show, he asked security to remove me from the backstage area, even though I was properly credentialed and was accompanied by someone else on the tour. There’s also the guy who sexually assaulted me in the back of his band’s van and lied to my friend in his band when I told him after the fact. There’s also the management client who told me to take my clothes off and that he’d rub oil on me when I was looking for the tour chiropractor.
These are just SOME of my stories. I’d imagine, many women have similar; many have worse.
We’re taught early on that music is a “boy’s club.”
It doesn’t feel like there’s room for our voices to be heard.
Even amongst this movement.
While I think that what Tristan wrote is brave, Tristan is also not in the entertainment industry anymore. Tristan doesn’t have to feel like she’s going to lose out on jobs or experiences because she spoke up. No one will google her name when she’s interviewing for a job and see that she spoke out, and (whether it’s right to do so or not), see the articles and form an opinion with regards to her potential employment.
Women are taught that you need to be able to “hang” with the guys if they want to make it in this industry. And by whistleblowing in the industry, even for men who truly deserve it, we fear our repercussions. Because the terrible men in the music industry are still much stronger than this movement. At least for now.
So instead, we laugh politely and we nervously bow out of uncomfortable situations as best we can, and we hope beyond hope that a small handful of the men that we know will not turn out to be complete creeps. And above all else, we continue to persevere in our careers despite all of it. It’s EXHAUSTING, Bob. Our jobs are hard enough without having to constantly dodge advances and question intentions.
It’s not right, it’s not fair, but I understand why my peers are mum. It still just doesn’t seem smart or safe or “worth it” to speak up.
P.S. a note worth adding: the only woman in the music industry who is actively still in the industry who has spoken out against an abuser is kesha, and she went through hell to even have her voice heard. the way that was handled is not a good example of a safe space for women.
Good riddance. That guy was a loose unit and anyone who met him knew it.
Won’t be missed. Some other irrelevant non creator will step into the breach I am sure…
Thank you for sharing this letter on your platform.
This Fiction Management
His brother Brad(may he RIP) was a wonderful and caring guy. We were fraternity brothers at Tulane. Obviously Charlie was not given the mensch genes that or he drank too much of the NYC society kool aid.
“Put a little sugar in my bowl” Lots of lyrics from blacks in the 20’s 30’s were thinly disguised double entendres aimed at the whites who treated them so disrespectfully
Is this the same Charlie Walk from Boston, started out with Columbia doing radio promotions?? I was assistant GM at The Channel, he was brand new to that gig but I can still picture him and this sounds like exactly the type of person I could see him becoming, just like the guy she’s describing. Sadly I’m not surprised one bit if they are one in the same. Good for her, can’t imagine how difficult that must have been.
Thank you so much for this piece and, most personally for me, this line:
“I’d be scared to be a woman. It’s like running a gauntlet every day.”
It hit hard and clear because it is painfully true.
Hoping that your message is getting through so that younger women (and men) do not have to face that gauntlet.
With warm regards, Lisa B
Director of Sales, Home Entertainment
Music Box Films | Doppelganger Releasing
Not for long, I assure you, Bob. Received an email that “Marie Claire” is currently interviewing women in the biz on and off the record for an expose, so you’re about to see music industry stories come out next….
It’s been quiet from Wall Street too and its because no one worth their weight in salt wants to damage a relationship, and there is a whole lotta sex going on.
With you on this one, Bob. I think the memo that they failed to receive is the one that read, “The Best Revenge is to Live Well.” Instead, they have to punish those who rejected them when they were popping into puberty and slightly beyond, namely GIRLS. Unfortunately, the girls that get punished are not the ones who rejected them.
I was raised by the son of a farmer in northern Kentucky.
My grandfather was a high school drop out from the Great Depression era, who started his first successful business venture at 16 years old, and made himself into a man that eventually became a County Judge and an entrepreneur who owned land, businesses, and livestock. My grandfather sat on the bench and tempered his judgements with the true balance of things…the noble cause of right versus wrong, and the heartfelt belief that everyone could be deserving of a second and even a third chance. He was Judge, but never judgmental…
My father and his father had respect and admiration not for money, nor power, but for people who behaved in a fashion that always trumpeted doing the right thing. My grandfather used to tell me “Don’t ever do anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the newspaper”. Truer words…..
Charlie Walk, if this is all true, you’re an asshole, just like the rest of these cretins……where indeed did these men learn this shit from? A barnyard?
i play in the house band for this show.
i am raising 2 young daughters.
i dare anyone to make these moves while I’m alive.
Well I was waiting for the shoe to drop on the music business.
Honestly other than Marko, and another guy with an M in his name, I never saw any of this stuff.
Probably because I worked for Mo, and he’d never allow that.
I almost hired Charlie out of of college for WB. He was smart and a smooth talker.
Maybe too smooth, because something bothered me and I passed.
As Charlie climbed the Columbia ladder, he always reminded me of my passing on him.
Admittedly, sometimes I thought I made a mistake.
I guess now I know I didn’t.
Hit records and $ do not compensate for a low Moral Compass.
I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more of this, but I’m grateful I worked for Mo Ostin and Russ Thyret.
Thanks Bob, I ask the same questions too, not only about sexual discrimination and harassment, but also about privilege in general. I think this is born from that privilege.
You see, I’m an immigrant and a woman of colour pursuing a music career. I started working jobs when I was 17 to help my family pay for food and shelter, while I dreamed of being a musician. And I’ve finally found a way to play music while I make money on the side, at 34years of age. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved on this journey towards music and it makes me humble everyday.
Privilege means not having to have faced these struggles on a daily basis, while still being mistreated in one way or another. Perhaps that is why we have misguided men (and some women).
You’re damn right it is scary to be a woman. I’ve been assaulted, harassed and abused, but I’m still standing.
My tough upbringing has ensured that very little scares me, I guess that is a “benefit”. And open conversations like yours empower me to speak up, over and over, as much as it’s needed. I never back down an opportunity to stand up for women’s rights these days.
I don’t think I’d have such an urge if it wasn’t for my history.
The blade cuts both ways.
By the way, here in Australia we’ve started our own campaign #meNOmore as a response in support of #metoo:
Regarding the percentage of pervy, pushy, rapey men in music, I suspect we’re no different than any other industry. Doesn’t matter if it’s politics, movies, or dry cleaning, certain men will try to leverage their position to gain sex.
What sets music apart from every other business except porn, is that our product is sex. TV has sex, Films have sex, but music is sex. Men and women get into the business for it. I’ll bet music people have more consensual sex than anyone this side of cocktail waitresses and bartenders. Ask David Crosby if he got into the music business for fame or fortune, and he’ll tell you the original lure was “Girls. We were all in it for the girls.”
I hope you’re getting a lot of response from your female readers.
I think it is equally as important to mention that allegations do not and should not always equate to guilt. A line has been crossed, and the pendulum now swings the opposite way. Where women were once voiceless and all allegations were often discounted as false, we are now seeing the opposite occur, where any woman can make any allegation against any man with power and everyone believes it to be true, regardless of whether or not the alleged acted this way. Charlie may or may not have done what this lady alleged he has done. Maybe it’s best to wait and hear from the person who is said to have acted this way?
I have an artist, most would describe as gorgeous named Dylyn that has spent a good amount of time with Charlie a couple years back. Monte and Charlie were fans and friend with Dylyn and often invited her out with them. She went to private karaoke with them and watched Psy perform, during his Gangnam Style fame. She hung out with them backstage at a handful of shows (including The Weeknd when he blew up) and swears they were both very kind and fun to be with. I asked her again after reading the allegations if Charlie ever crossed any lines with her and she said not only did he not ‘try anything’ he didn’t give off any of those creepy vibes. She always spoke so highly of Charlie and Monte. She is an artist and he is a music mogul that was very much in a powerful position and never once made her uncomfortable. This doesn’t disqualify the allegations that were made. They may be true. But please be careful not to add to the dangerous narrative that any allegation = guilt. This man can lose everything he has with reckless discourse about him. It’s irresponsible to say the least.
Amir Epstein LLB
Epstein Management Firm