Wednesday 26 June 2019

Rose McGowan's memoir review: Brave warrior lifts the lid on the sleazy side of Hollywood

Memoir: Brave Rose McGowan, HQ, €16.99

Exposing a monster: Rose McGowan told the world she was raped by Harvey Weinstein prompting the #metoo campaign
Exposing a monster: Rose McGowan told the world she was raped by Harvey Weinstein prompting the #metoo campaign
Rose McGowan with Marilyn Manson, in controversial chain dress
Deirdre Conroy

Deirdre Conroy

Rose McGowan has instigated a vital global conversation since her brave disclosure of the man known as 'Monster ' in her memoir. Her film career was on the rise after appearing in movies with Ben Affleck, and the infamous Scream with Courteney Cox and David Arquette. But it took a sharp nosedive soon after a 'meeting' with film producer, Harvey Weinstein, at his hotel, during the Sundance Film Festival in 1997.

The 'monster' had been sitting behind her in the cinema at the Phantoms première the previous night, and set up a breakfast meeting the following morning, through her manager.

Tragically, Rose's ex-manager, Jill Messick, took her own life on 7th February 2018, aged 50, a week after the book was published. The ramifications of one man's pathological behaviour over decades are only hitting the surface now.

Her memoir recounts that Weinstein, who allegedly raped Rose in his jacuzzi, was not the first to manipulate and assault her as a young woman. Nor does it appear that she is the first or last he dragged into a steam room. Recently, Uma Thurman revealed his steam fetish in Paris, as he led her to a meeting in his bathroom, while she was clothed head to toe in black leather.

Rose McGowan with Marilyn Manson, in controversial chain dress
Rose McGowan with Marilyn Manson, in controversial chain dress

Prior to reading the first few chapters, I was inclined to think if you go to Hollywood you are seeking fame, fortune, have a big ego, because you're convinced you are seriously beautiful, and talented and should be a famous movie star. But the fascinating and tormenting detail of McGowan's Italian childhood, trapped in a cult, the Children of God, rationalises her arrival in Hollywood.

In Tuscany, she was put on the street and into churches to sing and dance as a child, forced into performance to gather money for the cult. Rose perceived the cult leader 'Moses David' abuse of girls and women and thus began to shrink into a lone state of mind. From age four, Rose knew that she was a performer and she had a battle on her hands.

As soon as she discovered films, she saw that character inventions were an escape from the cruel tyranny of the male -dominated cult. No wonder then, when her father despatched her to the US aged eight to live with a difficult step-grandmother, her journey to Hollywood became embedded.

Arriving on the northwest coast, she immediately hated America, particularly the gluttony. The buildings bothered her too. She realised that her perspective was European and that her Italian childhood had a cultural impact; she missed the art, architecture, food and music. Not that her parents fed her or took care of her very well.

They seemed utterly irresponsible, even though in her latter years she looks benignly on them. Her father left her mother behind in the cult and took off with another woman, somehow there were eight children between them.

Rose was the eldest and ended up on LSD at 13, homeless on the streets at 14, anorexic and living with a drug addict in Beverly Hills at 15, the same year she represented herself in court to divorce her parents in case they went after any money she earned. Her mother hooked up with a particularly hideous man whom Rose interrupted in bed with his own daughter.

I admit, this is a hard story to get through, the author is only 44 now and is in the midst of her #metoo campaign, which has taken Hollywood by storm, and given movie stars an excuse to wear black on the red carpet, but will it change anything?

Aided by what must have been an arrestingly beautiful face, a rebel attitude and a Goth style, Rose went from responding to an ad for a movie extra, to starring in TV series and indie films, short-listed for awards in the Sundance Film Festival in that fateful year, 1997. All of this sounds gloriously lucky, only, as she says, she came to Hollywood backwards. Most aspiring actors would deliberately make it their route, going to acting school, waiting on tables, starting off in a commercial, maybe a voice over.

With Rose, it was straight in off the street to the set, to pay her father rent for a room. That way she never learned about the dark side of Hollywood, though the casting couch has been mentioned for decades, and apparently it's rape in a hot tub now.

There are many episodes where McGowan recalls a horrific assault and describes how she transports her mind outside her body, taking away any feeling or memory of the most gruesome acts forced upon her by gross males.

The first was in a changing room in a clothes shop, where the creep, having assaulted her was discovered by his wife who flung her bag and screamed 'whore' at Rose. Then there was the cop who beat her up and left her with a fractured skull.

It really is a miracle the teenager survived. As her motive is to encourage other women to overcome life-threatening abusive incidents, I wonder why she doesn't tell girls to bellow 'RAPE' instead of transmeditating.

This memoir has an angry preface and is punctuated with raging expletives throughout. There are elements that are surreal, such as blaming long hair as a means to attract men. Frankly, not many women can get away with a gamine look similar to Rose's current short-haired image, and they actually dress and manage their look for themselves, not for anybody else.

At the MTV awards in 1998 with boyfriend, Marilyn Manson, Rose cites the dress (skimpy chain) she wore as a gesture of 'putting up her middle finger' and was angry at the 'slut-shaming' that followed.

Maybe at 24 she was too young to anticipate that the response was not going to be flattering. Twenty years later she sounds like a smart and creative businesswoman, anti-media, pro-Twitter, proud of her directing debut, her first book published and an album recorded.

Sadly, I would say the unfortunate women that would benefit from this, might never get to read a book. For that reason, McGowan's life story should be made into a movie and translated around the world.

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