Sexual assault allegations that entered Hollywood last year may be spreading to Broadway, with reports of Ben Vereen – know for his role as “Chicken George” in the 1977 Roots miniseries – being accused of harassment.
According to the Daily News, while directing a 2015 rendition of Hair in Florida, several women on the cast claim that the Tony Award-winning actor used his authoritative position to inappropriately harass them. The victims accuse Vereen of acts such as forced unwanted kisses, aggressive hugs, and even making them strip naked during an “acting exercise.”
And while these are demeaning accusations, two women – Kaitlyn Terpstra, 22, and another 23-year-old actress who only wanted to be identified as Kim – described to OnStage how on two separate occasions, the then 69-year-old Vereen lured them to his house only to violate them during “private rehearsals.”
Both Terpstra and Kim describe how Vereen coaxed them into getting into his hot tube nude with him as a sign of “maturity” for the roles they would be playing in Hair. They then state how Vereen would ask them personal questions as part of an “acting breakthrough.”
“(Vereen) put me on his lap while I was crying, and I felt his erection,” Terpstra detailed. “He asked me, ‘Feel that?’ It was terrifying. I said, ‘Feel what?’ I wanted to act like I didn’t. I pushed myself off with a laugh. Then later, he asked, ‘Do you think I want to f**k you?’ I said ‘Yes,’ and he got angry. He said, ‘Well, I don’t, and that’s unfortunate.’ He made me feel like I had my mind in the gutter.”
Yet, with Kim, things were more explicit as she claims that during her “rehearsal” Vereen asked her to perform oral sex on him, which she reluctantly agreed to out of “confusion.” As these accusations became public, Vereen released a statement to the Daily News where he does not deny the claims against him but rather “apologizes” for his “inappropriate conduct” as the play’s director.
With the new year beginning with sexual accusations still coming to light, one can assume that the hope that show-business has purged itself of all misconduct in 2017 is out the window. However, this does bring optimism that transparency could finally become a staple in this ever-growing industry.