‘He asked me to have his fettuccine pasta chopped up ‘ – my summer as Harvey Weinstein’s waitress
Amy Corcoran didn’t know who Harvey Weinstein was when she started working in a New York restaurant that sat below his office. A few weeks later, she knew more than she wanted to know about the man who has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for sexual crimes.
When I landed in New York at the ripe age of 22, my biggest concern after a few weeks on the ground was the amount of cat-calling that was pervading my otherwise wonderful new cosmopolitan existence.
A balmy September arrival meant shorts, and the proliferation of Brooklyn meant builders. The two scenarios colluded to create an almost daily occurrence of hooting or whistling on the walk from my apartment to the subway.
The sounds quickly became for me almost part and parcel of the cityscape. Misogyny was alive and thriving in America.
Despite Hillary Clinton’s loud campaign, Donald Trumpism and grab her by the p***y mentality would triumph in the presidential election a couple of months later.
Harvey Weinstein still roamed the streets of New York and Hollywood, preying on the models and actresses of the world — the word had escaped them, that he was a man to be avoided at all costs behind closed doors.
It was 2016, and I was gainfully employed in a restaurant that attracted a calibre of clientele I had only ever seen before on a big screen. If you had asked me who Weinstein was before I began, I would have said ‘who?’
A year later, when the revelations emerged about him in The New York Times and The New Yorker, not only would I have met him on several occasions, but I would have seen him with “the girls” and bore silent witness to — what has now been proven to be — his systematic and disturbing pattern of abuse against women.
How did I come to be in such proximity? He and a few others in the upper echelons of Hollywood owned the Tribeca building I found myself working as a waitress in. Weinstein’s production offices sat above the restaurant, making him an inevitably predictable and regular customer.
So regular, in fact, was he, they had named a sandwich after him, which my manager was keen to point out upon my induction — “The HW Club”.
After having served him a number of times, I still had not fully grasped who he was. He and his haggard appearance were of such little consequence to me that I hadn’t even taken the time to Google him.
It wasn’t until one day, mid-my obsession with the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes, that I overheard him bark at one of his assistants about getting Cumberbatch on the phone, that I finally understood his level of power in Hollywood.Looking back at the collaboration between the two at the time, they were working on The Current War, a historical drama about Thomas Edison. Weinstein’s name was removed from the credits once the revelations emerged in 2017.
“Harvey” as he was known by the staff, was ubiquitous. Harvey was expected. His predilection for expediency and short fuse required us to anticipate everything Harvey was going to want. If you weren’t quick off the mark, you were liable to have your head chewed off by either the man himself or one of his wound-up and perennially stressed staffers.
We’d all gather and gossip about the girl — how young she was, how sordid it all was. And then we’d go back to work. And when the pair would return, it felt wrong.
I don’t remember meeting him for the first time, for there were many occasions when he appeared out of the side door that led to his offices, and they almost always followed a similar pattern.
If he came at lunchtime, he was followed by his gaggle of staffers who would suffer a litany of abuse while he ate or, conversely, they would sit in complete silence, heads in phones. There was one occasion where I had the distinct displeasure of serving a private lunch with himself and maybe eight guests.
Those guests had won lunch with him. He had been put up as collateral for a prize of some sort and these people had won a lunch hour with him. (If you let that digest, this was the level of ignorance Hollywood was still maintaining less than a year before the story broke. His ubiquity and dominance were absolute right until the end.)
Here was a man who was visibly decaying. Decrepit, he slumped rather than walked
If he arrived for dinner, there was probably a lady waiting for him. She would be young and beautiful. He only ever ordered caviar at nighttime — not, I imagine, because he wanted to impress the girls with his wealth, but because, from what I’d seen at lunchtime, he was trying to hide his ineptitude with eating utensils.
If he deigned to order a soup, half of the bowl would end up on the table.
At the aforementioned lunch with the prizewinners eagerly hanging on to his every word — the idolatry tangible in the intimate setting — he asked me in front of all present to have his fettuccine pasta chopped up because he wasn’t up to the task himself.
Here was a man who was visibly decaying. Decrepit, he slumped rather than walked after what we were told was a heart attack months previously.
His face sagged, often with a ghostly pallor and he sounded constantly ill, despite his bellowing.
Yet here was a married man who still managed to get these girls into the restaurant. And there were lots of them. I can’t remember how many, nor do I think it’s relevant. For me, the relevance is that I saw them at all. And that relevance has only come with hindsight.
After a time, the pair would get up from the table and move upstairs to his offices. We’d all gather and gossip about the girl — how young she was, how sordid it all was. And then we’d go back to work. And when the pair would return, it felt wrong.
He wasn’t taking them upstairs for an office tour.
If every person who had seen or underwent an experience had spoken up, a lot of pain could have been avoided.
Whatever was going on up there wasn’t something we wanted to be thinking about, but we were. And then we’d quickly go back to minding our own business, minding the other tables, and the two would leave. Maybe they would come up again in casual conversation, but for the most part, those interactions weren’t dwelt upon — such was their frequency and normality.
In October 2017 when the news broke, I was no longer working at the restaurant. I went through as many stories as I could at the time to understand the expanse of his abuse and if, perhaps, I had seen any of it transpire. What became apparent to me was that I had borne silent witness to a predator, but that I wasn’t the only one.
The first story about Weinstein didn’t break in 2017 — there had been rumblings for years, even charges made against him. He had however been operating under the protective auspices of the prevailing Hollywood patriarchy, creating a culture of fear for any woman who dared say a word against him.
So many people — respected, idolised celebrities — have since admitted to seeing his lewd behaviour and not saying anything. Because that was Harvey.
If every person who had seen or underwent an experience had spoken up, a lot of pain could have been avoided. But this is easier said than done, especially considering what would later emerge about the smear tactics his team would invoke once a person made a stand against him.
To cast aspersions about his character would find you in an uphill battle for your career. Twenty-three then and maybe a little wiser after a big year in the city, I was cautiously optimistic about what the news represented in the grand scheme of things. The manner in which it came out and the volume in which the stories cascaded, for me at least, felt like a sea change was happening.
It was as if a leak in a roof, that was for years, just whimpering droplets, that would occasionally stop, go dry for a time, before beginning again when a storm got a little louder.
And then, after a long time, the droplets became a little stream. And then the roof caved in, and the river flooded the house.
Tom Hanks told the BBC in the wake of the scandal that “His [Weinstein’s] last name… will become an identifying moniker for a state of being for which there was a before and an after.”
We’re two years into this aftermath and his fate has been decided: that he will more than likely die in prison. But we’re also two years into this new state of being, one that determines this right to total power no longer exists. And so begs the question: are we actively doing enough to ensure this behaviour becomes a relic of a bygone era?
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