A woman comedian was booed and two attendees kicked out after they protested the appearance of disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein at an event for young performers in lower Manhattan on Wednesday night.
Weinstein turned up with an entourage to watch Actor's Hour, a monthly event "dedicated to artists" at the Downtime bar in the Lower East Side.
One comedian, Kelly Bachman, called him out in her act onstage, referring to him as "the elephant in the room" and "Freddy Krueger."
"I didn’t know we had to bring our own Mace and rape whistles to Actor's Hour," said Bachman in a video posted to Instagram.
Some audience members, ostensibly men, then started booing. "Shut up,” said one person.
"This kills at group therapy for rape survivors," replied Bachman, who noted she herself was a rape survivor. Bachman said "fuck you" to Weinstein before continuing with her set.
"I'm comfortable enough to talk about my experience, but when I'm sitting in the room with a monster that people are supporting, it just sucked the air out of my chest," Bachman, 27, told BuzzFeed News.
Dozens of women, including many prominent actors, have come forward with allegations of sexual assault against the former movie mogul. Weinstein is due to stand trial in January in New York City over a rape allegation.
Bachman told BuzzFeed News that she'd previously had nightmares about Weinstein and that seeing him in the audience during her gig was her "nightmare come to life."
"It kind of felt like old-school Harvey to me — having his own table in a Lower East Side bar, surrounded by actors," said Bachman.
At one moment during her comedy set, which is about sex, she yelled "consent is important" and stared directly at Weinstein.
"I didn't want to make everyone comfortable," said Bachman. "I didn't want to make light of this person and make everyone feel good about it."
She said she was frustrated that Weinstein's presence had affected her ability to perform the stand-up set, since the event was going to be recorded, and annoyed that she didn't call him out further.
"Mom always tells me to reject Satan, but I wish I had said more," Bachman said.
Zoe Stuckless, a 21-year-old actor, told BuzzFeed News they were horrified after recognizing Weinstein sitting at a booth across from them.
Stuckless, who uses "they"/"them" pronouns, said they saw Weinstein enter the venue using a walker, and initially did not suspect anything unusual. But as the booth began filling up with younger women and older men in suits, Stuckless said, it became clear it was the disgraced Hollywood mogul.
"As his little booth filled out, his demeanor changed. And it became really apparent that it was who we thought he was," said Stuckless.
When Bachman mentioned Weinstein's presence during her set, Stuckless was grateful that someone was acknowledging what the entire room was whispering about.
"I was sitting there and I was like, surely the event organizers will say something. Now she’s brought it up, it can't be denied," said Bachman.
But the show's emcee made no mention of it. Later, a male comedian joked about Bachman bringing up Weinstein.
"I'd like to address the elephant in the room," said Andrew B. Silas, a comedian visiting from Florida. "Who in this room produced Good Will Hunting? 'Cause that shit was great."
Silas told BuzzFeed News that shortly before performing, one of the show's organizers asked performers not to mention Weinstein's presence. Silas said he did not mean for his Good Will Hunting crack to support Weinstein and instead was intended to play off and remind people of Bachman's earlier joke.
"Her courage was incredible," said Silas via Instagram DM. "I didn't want Kelly to feel alone. And I didn't want to tread on her, honestly. And if he didn't want attention, I was going to give him attention."
Silas, who said he'd had three gin and tonics before performing, said he'd planned to joke about asking Weinstein where to obtain chloroform "but something told me that would be in poor taste."
"I swear I'm not a piece of shit," he added.
Silas said that after his bit, he walked past Weinstein and shrugged at him but the two did not speak.
However, Stuckless said that watching the male comedian engage with Weinstein after his joke upset them.
"That's when I felt so much anger and shame and fear bubbling in my gut," said Stuckless. "That [Weinstein] was allowed to be in this space and allowed to be laughing, and that comic was able to demean the person that went up before him."
Stuckless said they could not believe the room's support of Weinstein and that event organizers also seemed to encourage it.
"So many women have suffered so greatly because of their experiences with this man, and there were no repercussions," they said. "And, in fact, he was being supported — and the community meant to uplift emerging actors and emerging artists was not only complicit but directly responsible for their silencing."
Stuckless said they felt paralyzed by fear but knew they needed to say something because they "couldn't imagine walking out of the room and him still feeling safe to go in and laugh with the community he was responsible for terrorizing for so many years."
When intermission began, Stuckless decided to confront Weinstein.
"Tell me — what's your name?" they asked Weinstein in a video obtained by BuzzFeed News.
Weinstein placed his elbows on the table while another man next to him was heard speaking to Stuckless. They said the man accompanying Weinstein told them it was none of their business and that they had no right to ask.
"Nobody is going to say anything?" screamed Stuckless in a video their friend filmed and later posted to Facebook. "Nobody is really going to say anything?," they continued, pointing a finger toward Weinstein.
Stuckless was then asked to leave the venue.
"I'll get out of here, that's fine, I am happy to leave, but nobody is going to say anything?" they continued. "I'm going to stand four feet from a fucking rapist, and no one is going to say anything?"
Stuckless said they were ushered out of the room by a man and a woman.
"This guy was leading me out the stairs, just repeating 'due process, due process' to me," said Stuckless, who asked the man if he worked at the bar. He did not respond.
The Downtime bar has not responded to BuzzFeed News' request for comment, but posted a note on its Facebook page apparently referring to Stuckless as a heckler.
"Shortly into the evening, one guest began heckling another, causing a disturbance to everyone in attendance. After several requests to stop were ignored, we kindly asked the heckler to leave," it said.
Moments after Stuckless confronted Weinstein, so did Amber Rollo, a 31-year-old comedian who had attended the show to support her friend, Bachman.
“She's right," Rollo told Weinstein, she recalled. "You’re a fucking monster. What are you doing out here? Fuck you.”
Rollo said one of the men accompanying Weinstein called her a "cunt" in response, while another woman at Weinstein's table guided her outside. Rollo said she was disappointed that Weinstein was welcomed at the event and that those who questioned his presence were booed or removed from the venue.
"I am a rape survivor myself," said Rollo. "I thought that everyone agreed that [Weinstein] was a bad person. Other people are questionable; he’s the worst of the worst. I thought we all knew that."
Alexandra Laliberte, the organizer of Actor's Hour, told BuzzFeed News it was the second time Weinstein had turned up to one of her events. Laliberte added that she doesn't have a security team, and rather than turn Weinstein away, she thought the community could address him.
"I welcome all walks of life into my space," she said.
When asked why she allowed Weinstein to attend an event specifically intended to support and encourage young actors when he has been accused of sexually assaulting and harassing dozens of them, Laliberte told BuzzFeed News: "I protect them by freedom of speech."
"Comedians made fun of him," said the 26-year-old actor. "This one lady stood up and screamed at him. People walked out, which was fantastic."
But in a follow-up statement shared on Actor's Hour's Facebook page, the organization said it "apologize[s] wholeheartedly for the way the situation was handled."
Laliberte denied that Weinstein was invited by her or anyone from her organization. However, Rollo and Bachman said they were told by other event organizers that Laliberte had allocated that table specifically for her industry contacts.
A representative for Weinstein, Juda Engelmayer, told BuzzFeed News that the former producer has rights and has not been convicted of a crime.
"I would just point out that accusations are not convictions, and due process is still the foundation of each and every one of our civil rights in this country," said Engelmayer.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Weinstein said he was "happy to address anyone's questions."
"We should all be offered the courtesy to voice opinions and be heard, and to even get answers," he said. "I am glad we all still have these rights."
But the women who spoke with BuzzFeed News said they wished Weinstein had heard their request to stay away from spaces for young performers.
"I thought he would have not been allowed to go to an event to support actors and artists, when he’s ruined so many actors' and artists' lives," said Rollo. "It feels like I'm in the twilight zone."