Artists can be sensitive creatures. The smallest things can feel like the biggest, but in the grand scheme of things really aren’t that important. Or they’re so important you spend hours of your fringe time writing about it because it consumes you and you can’t focus until you get it all out there. Then you accidentally delete your draft and have to start all over again. Bugger.
We strive for acceptance and validation from an audience through cheering, clapping, standing ovations… but a five star review can really make it feel like it was all worth it. Why do we put ourselves through it? The pain of a one or two star review can make us feel like throwing in the towel and pursuing other interests despite having a love for performing that would be rare to find anywhere else.
Not getting any recognition would also be terrible, so I set about Meeting the Press at the aptly named event, ‘Meet the Press’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on Saturday 4th August. Long lines of desperate actors, spoken word artists, musicians, poets, dancers, comics and more stood with their bits and pieces in hand ready to sell their shows.
After three hours of blowing my own trumpet I arrived at the Huffington Post/Vice Magazine line. My show partner enjoys the publication but I’ve never read it personally. By this point I really just want to get out of there, we had our show to promote and flyer and I would have much preferred to spend my time trying to get people in – nevertheless I was urged to go to this as ‘press is just as important if not more so than getting an audience in.’
The man at the end of the line interviewing artists was named Harry Mulligan. This line moved incredibly slowly and he chatted with people for between five and ten minutes each, which became increasingly frustrating not just for me. A line full of clock-watching Fringe Artists peered over, curious about what was going on at that table. At one point he got up, and stumbled over to get himself another beverage. Staggering back, it was very clear that he was, in fact, pissed.
Waiting for about forty minutes in that line with my show partner, we got to the front of the queue. At 30 years old I’m now getting pretty good at going with my gut, but sometimes my head thinks it knows that much better. I wouldn’t have liked to have walked away being three from the front, either.
I introduced myself and shook the man’s hand. ‘I’m Erin.’ ‘I’m ‘arry.’ ‘Ari?’ ‘No, ‘arry.’ ‘Oh, Harry.’ ‘Aye.’ Our genius idea to entice people into our show was to hand out gum balls as we were flyering and during the show because my show partner uses novelty bras. I offered him some but he declined.
‘I’d rather suck your nipples.’
I thought I’d heard wrong but he confirmed with me that it was, in fact, what he had said. I tried to change the subject swiftly and spoke about our show, Dirty 30’s. My show partner also made her pitch. ‘You should really come to our show.’
‘Aye. I’m going to come. I’m going to come all over you.’
At this point I should have picked up the half drunken cups of beer and water and thrown them right in his face. Or turned the table over and went all Hilary Swank on him. But as with a heckler, I always think of a response at the end of a show. I felt ill, massively uncomfortable and embarrassed. I couldn’t speak, and let my show partner do the rest of the talking.
Mr. Mulligan then asked what I was doing that night and was I coming for dinner.
Our stay at this table had gone on long enough, and I urged my show partner to leave… now. I tried to put it out of my mind but the thought of his beady eyes, sweaty brow and foul vile chicken-lipped mouth muttering creepy suggestions at me stuck in my little brain all night. I tell my fiance just about everything, sometimes too much, and when I told him this he was infuriated.
With the support of my fiance, show partner and friends I reported it. The response I got from Huffington Post, Vice Magazine and the Edinburgh Fringe office couldn’t be more apologetic, insisting that they would get to the bottom of it and confiscate his Fringe pass. Mr. Mulligan was in fact not an employee of either publication. He had blogged for Vice, but at this 2012 Fringe neither publication had an official presence. Huffington Post has never met him. So basically, Mr. Mulligan has wormed his way into an official event and abused ‘power’ he doesn’t even have, which makes him even more of a jerk than he already is.
Mr. Mulligan was accredited last year and has blogged for several different publications in the past, including the two he claimed to at this event. It seemed like he’d set out to be confrontational, knocking back the free booze like it was Christmas, insulting one friend of mine and sliming on to goodness knows how many other women. In some ways I pity him, but I’m more angry than anything and by no means sympathetic. Having his access to shows taken away is only half of what he deserves – in the USA people would sue. What a pathetic little turd he is. Yuck. I’d love nothing more than to see him crawl back into his pathetic little hole and just stay there. We un-invite you Harry Mulligan, you dirty little creep.
The day before we had an amiable young man come to our show from a brand new publication. He was courteous, appreciative and a delight to have in our audience. Full of enthusiasm and joy at being in the biggest and best Fringe in the world, we couldn’t help but pity his flimsy press badge. Mr. Mulligan could go and see every show in the Fringe with his, but this lad wasn’t able to get full accreditation. We’d have loved to end the day with a gentleman but instead we got Harry Mulligan. And so did a shitload of other people whose valuable time can’t be given back.
I realize not all journalists are creepy, slimy, disgusting pigs… some are, and some are far more discreet with their unorthodox ways. How many women out there, not just in the entertainment industry, are subjected to ‘come out with me for a drink’, ‘I’d love to have a coffee to chat with you more about this,’ ‘Dinner?’ and ‘I can really help you get to where you need to go.’ How many?
Too many. Sadly, many feel that this is how you need to go about enhancing your careers. It’s never just a drink. There are rarely ever ‘no strings attached’. I was so gullible when I was 20, I’d believe anything. Now I’m probably over cynical. There are plenty of people out there with a genuine interest in making your career happen for you, but they’ll do it in a professional way. You could give all sorts of sexual favours – but there’s still no guarantee of becoming a star.
Reading statistics on sexual harassment (which will obviously vary from place to place), I found that 1 in 2 people are sexually harassed. 1 in 6 people in the workplace are sexually harassed. Men are not excluded from this list either. Only 35% of people who are sexually harassed report it, which means these creeps get to continue lurking about and preying on naïve, impressionable people whether they be artists, office workers or cashiers.
If you experience anything that makes you feel even remotely uncomfortable in your workplace, I urge you to report it to the appropriate bodies so that it can be handled. And try not to let it take up too much of your time and energy. If you don’t report it, things like this just keep on happening. Never feel ashamed about things like this happening. Keep doing what you do, do your best and do not feel as though you are obligated to anyone. Work hard. Perform for your crowd and aim to please them – people who’ve paid to be entertained. The rest will follow.