Broadway star and Democrat stalwart Ben Vereen has admitted to accusations that he committed sexual assault and harassment against young actresses during auditions for the musical “Hair” at a community theater in Florida in 2015.
A group of young actresses came forward, in a story published on Friday, to accuse the veteran actor of forcing unwanted kisses on them, using aggressive hugging, and stripping naked during an acting exercise. They said he also made derogatory comments about the actresses’ personal lives, weight, and sex appeal, according to the exclusive report by the New York Daily News.
Two of the actresses told the Daily News that Vereen lured them to his Florida rental home on separate occasions in September 2015 under the guise of “private rehearsals.” Then he pressed his erect penis into their legs without warning.
Kaitlyn Terpstra was 22 years old at the time. The other actress, who asked to be identified by only her first name, Kim, was 23 years old.
Vereen was weeks shy of his 69th birthday…
The women, who first provided statements to Chris Peterson of the blog OnStage before speaking to The News, said they had no idea until recently that Vereen used the same lines on both of them to get them naked in his backyard hot tub.
“He gave this whole speech about how nudity was not inherently sexual. ‘That’s not what it’s about.’ He made me feel that if I wasn’t mature enough to understand that, I wasn’t mature enough to be in ‘Hair,’” Terpstra said.
“He basically told both of us, ‘Get over yourself. Nudity doesn’t have to be sexual.’ If we asked questions or hesitated, we were the ones making it weird,” Kim told the Daily News.
But after they got into the hot tub things did get sexual.
“He was acting as my mentor, asking me about my parents, then that same night, he put me on his lap while I was crying, and I felt his erection,” Terpstra told the News.
“He asked me, ‘Feel that?’ It was terrifying. I said, ‘Feel what?’ I wanted to act like I didn’t. I pushed myself off with a laugh. Then later, he asked, ‘Do you think I want to f–k you?’ I said ‘Yes,’ and he got angry. He said, ‘Well, I don’t, and that’s unfortunate.’ He made me feel like I had my mind in the gutter.”
Kim said that when she was in the hot tub Vereen pressured her into giving him oral sex, and she obliged.
“I just felt powerless because I thought I really needed his help and guidance. And when he said nudity doesn’t have to be sexual, I was like, ‘OK, maybe this isn’t even sexual,’” she told the News.
“Now I understand it was a power play. It was so calculated. It was like we were putty in his hands.”
Like serial sexual abuser Harvey Weinstein, Vereen has been a supporter of Democrats and progressive causes for decades.
In 1983 he was part of a telethon that was designed to raise funds for Democrats to defeat President Ronald Reagan.
And in this past presidential election Vereen performed, with other Broadway stars, at the Democratic National Convention — where they sang the apropos “What The World Needs Now Is Love.”
In a statement to the News, Vereen did not deny the accusations against him, and instead issued an apology.
“I would like to apologize directly to the female cast members of the musical ‘Hair’ for my inappropriate conduct when I directed the production in 2015,” the actor said.
While it was my intention to create an environment that replicated the themes of that musical during the rehearsal process, I have since come to understand that it is my conduct, not my intentions, which are relevant here. So I am not going to make any excuses because the only thing that matters here is acknowledging and apologizing for the effects of my conduct on the lives of these women.
“Going forward, my having come to terms with my past conduct will inform all my future interactions not only with women, but with all individuals. I hope these women will find it in their hearts to accept my sincere apology and forgive me,” he added.