James Toback and John Besh Face Sexual Misconduct Allegations
The Los Angeles Times interviewed 38 women separately. Many said Mr. Toback tried to convince them that he could advance their careers in the movie industry. Some said he asked for eye contact while he masturbated in front of them. Two described tearful reactions, either in the moment or years later.
Sari Kamin, a writer who also works in radio and photography, told The Los Angeles Times she was at a Kinko’s in Manhattan when Mr. Toback approached her in 2003.
Ms. Kamin, then 23, was an aspiring actress. She said the two met a few times for dinner before he invited her to a hotel room. There, she said, he convinced her to take off her clothes to prove she could perform sex scenes as an actress.
Then, she said, he began rubbing his groin against her leg, and she fled.
In a phone interview on Sunday, Ms. Kamin said that telling her story in a public forum made her feel strong and vulnerable at the same time. “It’s really amazing to be part of this community,” she said of the dozens of women who had shared similar stories. “I couldn’t be more happy that this is the outcome — that other women would also feel empowered.”
Mr. Toback did not respond to an email seeking comment. But he told The Los Angeles Times that he had not met any of the accusers, or that if he did, it “was for five minutes and have no recollection.”
The accusations against Mr. Besh and other employees at the Besh Restaurant Group paint a picture of a work environment in which women repeatedly dealt with unwanted physical contact, comments and come-ons. The Times-Picayune reported that 25 current and former employees said they had experienced sexual harassment from managers or co-workers, and two filed complaints with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The Times-Picayune reported that one complaint, filed by a female employee who was not identified, said Mr. Besh tried to force her to “submit to his sexual overtures.”
Mr. Besh said in a statement that he had had a “consensual relationship with one member of my team.”
He added: “I alone am entirely responsible for my moral failings. This is not the way the head of a company like ours should have acted, let alone a husband and father. But it should not taint our incredible team of more than 1,000 employees, nor undermine our unyielding commitment to treating everyone with respect and dignity, regardless of gender, race, age and sexual preference.”
In a phone interview on Sunday, Madie Robison, who said she experienced harassment during her two years working for the restaurant group, said there was no human resources department during her time there. “I think a lot of this could have been avoided if we had a trusted person to talk to,” she said.
Raymond Landry, Besh Restaurant Group’s general counsel, said in an earlier statement that “while we’ve had a complaint procedure in place that complies with all existing laws, we now recognize that, as a practical matter, we needed to do more than what the law requires and we have revamped our training, education and procedures accordingly.”
On Sunday night, Harrah’s New Orleans casino released a statement saying it had ended its relationship with Besh Restaurant Group and would rename its Besh Steak restaurant.
Ms. Robison said she had been struck by how the allegations against Besh Restaurant Group employees mirrored similar stories of intimidation and harassment across a range of industries, from news media to technology to fashion. “You think you’re alone,” she said. “And you’re not.”