Rita Moreno faced sexual harassment as an ingenue at 20th Century Fox studio in the 1950s, the legendary actress told the crowd Thursday night at the Paley Center for Media’s gala celebrating the achievements of women in television.
Moreno veered from her prepared remarks at the event, held at the Beverly Wilshire hotel, to add her voice to the chorus of women who have come forward in the wake of explosive allegations of sexual assault and harassment against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Moreno — a member of the elite EGOT club of performers who have earned Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony kudos — described being chased for a year by then-Fox studio chief Buddy Adler. She was about 18 and bursting with pride to be a Latina actress under contract at a major Hollywood studio. At 85, she is still active, most recently as a co-star of the Netflix comedy series “One Day at a Time.”
“He just took one look at me and said ‘ooooh,’ ” Moreno recalled of Adler, who died in 1960. He kept calling the home that Moreno shared with three other young women. She told the crowd that she made a point of dining in the commissary with a friend to avoid being caught alone with the executive. It was an open secret on the lot that he already had a mistress.
“I just kind of knew this was not the person I wanted to mess around with,” she said. “You can imagine as a Latino kid it was so important for me to be in movies. I wanted to be a movie star so badly.”
Moreno’s story rang painfully familiar after a week of revelations of more recent allegations against Weinstein, who was fired on Sunday from his post as co-chairman of the Weinstein Co.
When Moreno couldn’t avoid meeting with Adler on his own, he would invariably make a sexual overture. “He’d come and get me. I would say something stupid like ‘Oh my goodness.’ The kind of thing you do when you’re very young and truly, truly innocent and untouched,” Moreno said.
Finally, after about year, Adler gave up. But she’s never forgotten the feeling of being hunted by a powerful man.
“You never get over something like that,” she said. Moreno drew sustained applause by adding: “I just want to say — you know what? I’m still f—— here.”