"You Don't Want To Find Out What Will Happen If You Speak Out."
July 23, 2017 10:51 AM
TO: Leslie Ben-Zvi
FROM: Jeff Whitty
You must understand something. I am scared and I am alone and I don't know who I can trust. You are in Leslie, not in Jeff, and you cannot understand the trauma of this. You have a wife to wake up to, faces you see at work. You do not understand what it is like to see nobody for days on end because the ones you trusted to represent you exploited you. Put yourself in my head. All I do all day every day is brood on this. I see no faces for days on end. Think of what that means. …
You're like "Just make another one!" How, Leslie? All I do is brood on this, every minute of the day, alone. How can I work again in faith knowing that when THAT is stolen, there will be only "Well, it is their right to steal your creative property so let's negotiate you a paltry sum in light of the money you deserve. Sit there mutely please" and then "Why the long face? Write another one Mr. Whitty!"
All of those who hold the show are represented by LPMNY. Why are we even talking to them?
It's like they have something planned, a dreadful surprise, and I am a sitting duck.
Why are we not going after them?
You will simply make me wait and wait and wait and wait and nobody is saying STOP THIS.
I could not stop dwelling on the unfairness of it. When people said, “Just write another one!” they did not consider how many failures I endured before Head Over Heels came along. And how could I even begin “another one” when some of the industry’s most powerful bullies wanted me out of the picture, aggressively making sure I could not prosper?
I was carrying some ugly truths that were a threat to their careers.
And then the exploitation took an even darker turn.
I was visiting New York City on August 9th, 2017, and had an odd experience with a young man who seemed intent on drawing information from me about my Head Over Heels experience. I mentioned the name of John Buzzetti as the bully who began the cycle of abuse.
Two days later, on the morning of August 11th, I was walking on 44th Street and 11th Avenue when a handsome, muscular Hispanic man approached me.
“You are so handsome! I love your blue eyes!” he said. We began chatting, and he told me that he was a personal trainer from Venezuela. One thing led to another, and we made a date to meet up at his place early in the afternoon. He claimed that he was going to train a client before then.
At the appointed hour, I went to the address he gave me at 48th and 10th. I buzzed. He told me to wait a couple of minutes. Then he let me up.
My first thought on entering the apartment was that it wasn’t his. It struck me as an AirBNB. The man immediately sat me down and looked at me gravely.
“I want to give you some advice,” he said, his eyes black coals. “Do not talk badly about people in your industry. If someone is fucking you over, you have to let them fuck you all the way to the end. You do not want to find out what will happen if you speak out.”
My blood ran cold. As I would say countless times over the dozens of incidents across the 25 months that followed:
“You have got to be fucking kidding me.”
I surreptitiously hit “record” on my iPhone to record the next minutes of conversation, but the conversation was muffled. He was dead serious, and would not tell me anything more than the message he was sent to deliver.
I cannot express, amidst the loneliness and shunning, the terror that I felt. And the heavy blanket of being so hated. I fled the apartment.
The following week, I planned to fly back to Los Angeles, but an acquaintance from Palm Springs reached out and offered me his place in DUMBO for a few nights. I did not know him well. And on August 17th, once I was ensconced in his place, he dropped the mask:
“It would be too bad if you spoke out about abuses in your industry and sex tapes were released of you.”
I was stunned. Again: “You have got to be fucking kidding me.” His tone toward me changed to a preening, self-satisfied “Gotcha!” sneer, dripping with disdain.
I grabbed my suitcase and fled, calling an Uber to take me to the airport.
Back in LA my mental health really crashed. I couldn’t sort out over the next couple of months who was being kind to me in order to betray my trust - as John Buzzetti did, as Conrad Rippy did, as the producers did, as the Go-Go’s did. It’s the worst aspect of the abuse: they stole my trust and faith in people.
I had a couple creepy run-ins with individuals who arranged business meetings. One was with a young "climber" Broadway producer who, from nowhere, warned me that if I sued John Buzzetti, he would drop his interest in my Tales of the City musical. I fled - like I would work with him anyway after that. The man at the second meeting seemed only interested in what I might say in public about the Go-Go’s, making dark suggestions that I'd face blowback beyond what I expected. I left both meetings abruptly when their intentions became clear.
On September 20th, I was back in LA. I was away from my apartment when I noticed an alert from an Arlo security camera posted above my living room window. The footage (which I still have) shows a spray coming from a distance, eventually obscuring the camera’s view.
And then I got another alert from my SmartThings sensors: my doors were being opened.
I got an Uber to the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Department. I gave my ID at the desk and told the officer who approached me that someone was breaking into my apartment. I showed him the footage. He was taking me seriously. And then a woman waved to him behind the counter, they engaged in hushed conversation, and he returned, sneering this time. He and his partner refused to take me home, saying they’d meet me there.
Once I got home, the police walked the perimeter (I have that footage too) and then we all stood on my front porch.
“Can we come in?” they asked.
“I’m not comfortable with that,” I replied. “I can go in if you wait here.”
One of the officers knocked on the door. A moment.
And somebody knocked back from inside.
My blood ran cold. “I’m going to begin recording this now,” I said.
“G’bye!” sneered the West Hollywood Sheriffs, and they walked to their car, got in, and drove away.
I spent the night in my front yard, afraid to go inside, my heart breaking.
The next day I went to the Farmers Market for lunch, and then took a walk in Pan-Pacific Park. I was on the phone with my sister, walking beside a street within the park, when a black SUV pulled up beside me and stopped. Nobody got out. I didn’t think much of it and continued meandering through the park, still on the phone, when I got to another area beside a road.
A black SUV pulled up beside me and stopped. Nobody got out. I mentioned this to my sister, suddenly alarmed. I took note of the license plate, then walked directly away from the SUV to another area of the park.
Hundreds of feet from where it last appeared, a black SUV pulled up next to me and stopped. Nobody got out. And the license plate was the same.
I narrated all of this to my sister with escalating fear. Then I got off of the phone, called for an Uber home, and while I waited for the car I shut my phone off from syncing to the cloud. Location services, everything.
I finally entered my apartment. Nothing seemed to be missing nor disturbed. I fell asleep for a few hours and awoke at around midnight, hungry. I decided to get dinner at Kitchen 24 on Santa Monica Boulevard, one long block south and five blocks east.
I walked down the hill on Palm Avenue toward Santa Monica. I carried my phone, my wallet, and a bag with a Samsung tablet in it. About a third of the way down the block, a black SUV passed by and stopped in the middle of the street, just as I was crossing to the east side. It turned out its lights. I didn’t really pay attention.
Four large men burst from the SUV and descended on me, kicking the shit out of me, yelling “Give us your phone, bitch!” I began to scream. They knocked me to the ground and one of them kicked me twice, hard, on the right side of my face where my jaw meets my skull.
My phone was gone. “Shut up, bitch!” one guy yelled as they ran back to the SUV, drove down Palm Avenue and hung a right on Santa Monica. I was caterwauling in fear. My cries died out and I stared up at the sky.
My God. I was a playwright. I never signed on for this. One such incident might be an anomaly – but all of this in 24 hours? After the threats that came before where I was being tracked?
A little piece of my heart died there as I lay on Palm Avenue.
Somebody was sending thugs to intimidate me because they stole something I made and wanted me out of the way.
A hit musical can be worth a billion-plus dollars nowadays.
I knew better than to go to the Weho Sheriffs.
I rose to my feet and ran toward Sunset, leaving my bag on the ground behind me. I still had my wallet.
All the muggers took was my phone. They didn't take my wallet. They didn't take my bag nor the tablet in it. They just took the phone that I’d shut off from syncing to the cloud earlier that day.
The tattoo shop across from the Viper Room was still open. I ran in, breathless, and I will never forget the kindness of the people working there. They talked me down, and one heavily tattooed gentleman took me back to Palm Avenue to retrieve my bag, which lay in the middle of the street. He lived nearby and brought me to his gated front yard, locking me safely in. He told me to take all the time I needed to collect myself.
I eventually returned home. I only told a few people about the incident. The gaslighters had already salted the earth by depicting me as crazy.
Meanwhile, the exploitation in my career only continued. I was growing increasingly disturbed by Leslie’s chummy relationship with Christine Russell:
Oct 23, 2017, at 2:26 PM
FROM: Jeff Whitty
TO: Leslie Ben-Zvi
... I would like to be present on any calls with Christine. It is a subtle status game they are playing. Why does SHE get to call YOU?
Christine runs up my legal bills without costing Susan Mindell her precious billable hours. Fuck them both. They are using you as the note-passer in their opportunistic Geisha fan dance to avoid having to face what they did.
When we have our calls I will be extremely professional. And curt. And I will hurry her along so she doesn’t run up my bills. We must exploit every opportunity to make them feel gross for what they are doing. It will hurry the money along, for starters.
She is above going through a lawyer while I, the sullied and browbeaten one, must?
The equivalent of Christine talking to you is me calling Susan Mindell. “Hello, Susan? It’s Jeff Whitty.”
I am not chopping your balls off, I promise. I won’t go so far as to demand to be on texts as well. But don’t let her rely on texting either!
To be honest I am worried, for when I examine the calendar of weird run-ins I have had with strangers — they are really really weird, Leslie. I can count at least five (not all pick-ups, thankyouverymuch) which even standing on their own are enough to make anyone cock an eyebrow. I will see if I can clarify the audio of the four-part “warning” I got from the stranger who picked me up in NYC — it’s hard evidence that I’m not making this up.
A couple of months ago I called “Check, please” in the middle of a late-night dinner with a doddering visiting young producer, John [omitted], who said out of the blue:
“If you sued John Buzzetti, publicity like that would make me drop my interest in Tales of the City.”
The statement had no logical entry. It’s as though he was given the direction: “Scare Jeff from pursuing the matter” and he was waiting for the right moment to do so. I can’t imagine what bargain there may have been from the powerful agent to the producer wanting entree, but it was incredibly baldly awkward. I stared at him, astonished, then paid the bill and left.
There was another guy as well that an acquaintance connected me with who arranged a Concerned Coffee with me — just to talk, he was once in the business, he said — and I realized midway through that he was simply trying to figure out whether I was going to embarrass the Go-Go’s in the public eye. It was a really weird meetup.
Leslie, what is happening? It’s hard when one is paranoid from logic based on experience, because the mistrust then extends everywhere.
I was mugged for my phone and only my phone a few weeks ago. Kicked in the head on Palm Avenue late at night. I had a wallet and a bag with a tablet in it. Why did they want just my phone? It made no sense. Now am I only paranoid? When one loses trust … it is gone.
I do hope all of these questions will be answered some day because I am keeping indoors for the next spell.
A musical is worth a lot of money.
Sure, it’s musical theater. But nobody knows the value of a hit musical more than New York City’s loudest theater agent.
"‘Cause one can just dispose of the artist,” they think. "It’s not like I gotta see any of the damage.” Their eyes turn.
I’m just sayin.
Oct 23, 2017, at 4:46 PM
FROM: Leslie Ben-Zvi
TO: Jeff Whitty
Per Christine, they are announcing any day now - possibly even tomw. Before we do/say anything, let's see what happens this week and at least get your first payment in hand. Because Christine and I seem to have the best working relationship, it actually takes me less time to accomplish something with her than with either of the lawyers who force me to write letters, read letters, have long phone calls, etc. Truth be told, I haven't spent that much time talking or texting with her anyway.
We'll pivot if we need to, but for now my advice is to stay the course and shake that money tree . . .
Nothing about the harassment.
Oct 24, 2017, 3:26 AM
FROM: Jeff Whitty
TO: Leslie Ben-Zvi
Look at this objectively.
Look at what you just wrote.
Look at it.
Who are you representing?
Do you not see where this puts me, your client, in the status order?
CHRISTINE AND PRODUCERS: “Oh it’s just Jeff, so while we have created the necessities of lawyers, we don’t need to BOTHER with them ourselves, because Jeff is a piece of shit gullible artist and WE HAVE MONEY AND CONNECTIONS. Not that we are spending any money on lawyering! Haha, it’s only Jeff who must speak through a lawyer. ... LOL."
What is happening is this: they have a plan of attack that you don’t see and they are playing you.
It will be devastating to me.
You will be stunned. You will be hurt. You will be outraged at their tactics.
And I will say, “I told you about it in the very email that I am writing now."
Well, if such behavior is acceptable, then I guess I’ve been a total wallflower at this particular dance.
Is this normal when dealing with criminals?
Any interest in the eerie encounters I’ve been having? Where perfect strangers come up to me giving me warnings about my career?
Until the time when I tell you I told you so,
On Oct 24, 2017, at 10:27 AM
FROM: Jeff Whitty
TO: Leslie Ben-Zvi
What I don’t like about this “Christine can call Leslie but can’t just call Jeff with news about the show he wrote” is that you are allowing yourself to be disrespected, and that disrespect then extends toward me.
If she’s just giving news then why can’t she just call me herfuckingself? Why am I paying you to get news from the woman who is making waste of the future I built for myself?
So she can feel comfortable.
So she can do wicked shit and not have to feel the consequences.
You’re being nice.
I’m getting fucked over.
So if asking the opposition to use an equal communication structure is too much bother, then I’m uncertain why I have a lawyer at all. Because I don’t like the idea of their manipulative hands being on my attorney. I sense that after enjoying their waters you are working “over my head,” Leslie — doing what’s best for Jeff because he doesn’t know how things work in this business.
Alas I DO know all too well. I have that show that’s been going for fifteen years, remember?
Is it laziness then at the core of these conversations with the enemy? I have no patience for laziness and inconsistency. You may call anyone I’ve worked with and “lazy” and “inconsistent” are not adjectives that apply ...
I do not like it, Leslie, this lazy chumminess. I think it reflects poorly on you.
Surely if producer Christine could call Leslie any time she pleased – running down my finances at $500/hr – then I could have a nice chat with her lawyer Susan Mindell.
So I called the offices of my former law firm, got Susan Mindell’s assistant, and asked to speak with Susan.
Her assistant put me on hold, then returned: “Susan is in a meeting right now. I’ll let her know you called.” Click.
In short order I got an email from Leslie:
October 24, 2017 at 10:32:03 AM PDT
From: Leslie Ben-Zvi
To: Jeff Whitty
Jeff - just heard from Mindell who asked that you not call her again and that you communicate thru me. The reason that I speak to Christine instead of Mindell is that she and I communicate well without any of the legalese and posturing that creeps in when Mindell et al are in the loop. Again - it’s really important to let them announce the theatre so as to invoke that $100K payment.
If they delay beyond this week, I agree that we should turn up the heat and that I should officially write to Mindell for an update per the settlement agreement.
This was an inappropriate reply. I clearly asked Leslie to behave ethically and he refused.
I was being soaked. Christine and the producers knew that I was poor – because my former law firm knew that I was poor.
And Leslie’s cash register began ringing every time Christine showed up on his caller ID.
What a ridiculous position. Instead of my attorney doing as I asked, I was forced to contact the manipulative Christine Russell myself, requesting that she not speak to Leslie but go through her lawyer instead - the lawyer at my former law firm.
From: Jeff Whitty
Date: October 24, 2017 at 12:54:56 PM PDT
To: Christine Russell, Susan Mindell, Leslie Ben-Zvi
As I am asked not to call Susan Mindell again I request simple logical parity. In order to maintain the balance of Justice I expect you to either channel your communications to me directly or to utilize the services of Susan Mindell of my former law firm, Levine, Plotkin & Menin. Should you choose to communicate with me directly I shall be professional. You need only ask any of my former producers and collaborators on any given project to understand the integrity with which I back up that statement. My former agent and attorney are not reliable witnesses given their behavior towards the unprotected project I so masterfully delivered into their hands, never missing a single deadline and exceeding expectations at every stop along the way.
I will allow you to communicate all the way to the ends of your ideas so you will not feel trod upon. I will expect the same courtesy from you. You may not use my paid attorney as a shield to prevent discomfort for I am not its cause. It is not right that I should finance your ease after all that I have lost. My Thanks to you and all hereby cc-ed.
This felt like a breaking point, so a couple of weeks later I sent an email to mark where everybody stood at this moment in time: