I've always fancied myself to be someone of uncompromising honesty, so it humbles me to confess that I've been living in silent shame. I don't really have a good excuse, except that it's easy to remain quiet when you've convinced yourself you're the only one who's ever been through such humiliation. Which is why I have to thank M'Hammed Soumayah for having the courage to make public a private hell I know all too well.
Soumayah, you may have heard, is the 58-year-old bodyguard who's filed a $100 million lawsuit charging that "during the course of his employment [he], without his consent, was forced to engage in sexual relations" with Liza Minnelli. According to the New York Daily News, Soumayah was petrified of losing his $238,000-a-year job, and not only had to bear boudoir burdens but, similar to the claims of Minnelli's estranged husband, David Gest, endured numerous beatings at the hands of the malevolent icon. The brave Soumayah was eventually fired but, he says, was contacted once more by the nefarious Ms. Minnelli when she found out he was contemplating a suit, at which time she attempted to work her vixenish wiles on him again, calling him "the love of her life" before Soumayah finally managed to gather up all his strength and rebuff her.
I'm sitting here weeping as I type Soumayah's story because it sounds so damn familiar. I, too, have suffered at the hands of a postmenopausal man-eater, and I can tell you that sharing that disgrace with the world is not an easy task.
I'll never forget Carol Channing. I met the Broadway legend at a private party through some friends who thought we'd hit it off; Carol's into personal fitness, too, so instant camaraderie seemed a natural. At first, she was a hoot and a half—a couple of stories about how her bursitis was affecting her workout regime had me in stitches—but things changed when she invited me over to use her home gym and I innocently accepted. She shared a few pointers about getting the most out of a Nautilus circuit, then quietly slipped away for a second. She returned in a sultry tartan housecoat, dangling a cigarette and a half-empty bottle of cooking sherry. It was like Jekyll and Hyde: One minute she's giving me great tips on shaping my glutes, and the next she's grabbing at them like a starving child.
"Mama wants a little ham!" she started hollering, wild-eyed. "Come give baby some sugar!"
I was terrified, but Carol is as strong as an ox when she's sauced. She cracked me one right across the jaw and told me that if I didn't start behaving, and fast, I'd never work in Seattle journalism again. I felt powerless. Carol had me in a headlock and wouldn't stop giving me noogies until I agreed to, as she put it, "say hello to Dolly." I'll spare you the rest of the details. Just know that I truly believed my career in entertainment reporting was in jeopardy, and that I protected it by doing things that would make you incapable of digesting food should you ever hear of them.
So, M'hammed Soumayah, while the rest of the jaded world is disparaging your sorrow, know that I've been there—and I hope that $100 million is enough to replace your dignity.