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Entries in child exploitation (18)

Saturday
Dec032011

Another Child Abuse Arrest in the World of Entertainment

Another adult who was in a position of power and control over children in the entertainment industry has been arrested for abusing a child.   Los Angeles children's talent agent Martin Weiss, 47, is charged with three counts of sodomy of a person under 16; two counts each of lewd act upon a child and continuous sexual abuse; and one count of forcible lewd act upon a child. 

About a week ago an 18-year-old man who was a prior client of Weiss', came forward with allegations that Weiss had repeatedly molested him over a three-year period between 2005 and 2008.  The victim had kept the molestation a secret until now because he feared the disclosure would damage his reputation in the industry and traumatize his family.  He finally came forward out of concern Weiss may be victimizing others.   Weiss told the victim that what they were doing was common practice in the entertainment industry, said police.

Weiss, who faces 34 years in prison if convicted, has worked with several child actors, according to Jezebel, on shows like "iCarly" and "Parenthood" and recent movies like "The Muppets Movie."  He was arrested after his victim secretly taped a conversation in which he confronted Wesiss about abusing him when he was younger.  Weiss's defense?  According to a search warrant affidavit filed Wednesday, Weiss claimed the boy invited the sex and “claimed the Penn State situation was different because ‘those kids didn’t want it.’

The victim would have been ages 12 to 15 at the times of the assaults, and he was obviously repeatedly alone with the molester.  Where were his parents, guardians, or other adults responsible for his safety and well-being during the multiple times he was left alone with Weiss in Weiss' home?  Why would the boy's parents leave him alone at repeated meetings with his agent in the complicated and often unsavory business of entertainment, a business that is often difficult for even the most intelligent and savvy of adults to navigate? 

Earlier this week 28 child actors were listed on the abuser's web site (currently removed from the Internet) and he's had many other underage clients in the past.  How many children have been victimized by Weiss because their parents or other protective adults had stars in their eyes, blinding them to the dangers to children in the entertainment industry? 

Friday
Oct282011

Shit: Meet Fan ~ TLC Employee Arrested for Child Pornography

One of the fears of many who have watched the Gosselin saga over the years has come true: An employee of TLC has been arrested for the distribution of child pornography. William Johnson Blankinship has worked as on online editor for TLC on Kate Plus Eight as well as other shows involving children.

 

Kate tweeted she's never heard of Blankinship but that's not the point. The point is that private images of her eight children were accessible to him because there were no legal protections in place to prevent it from happening. We do know that Kate allowed images of her children being filmed and aired that she no doubt never would have allowed to be taken of herself: Images of them sitting on the potty, undressed, having their diapers changed, and vomiting for example. If that's what we saw being considered acceptable fare for airing, God only knows what Blankenship could have collected from all the film considered inappropriate for airing.  If he is a pedophile who gets off on this material he would've had the pick of the litter with all those thousands of hours of film, and if he used child porn for financial gain he could've made a mint on selling rare film of famous children to other pedophiles.

 

I've blogged about the PA Dept of Labor & Industry's slacking off when it comes to requiring all adults who work with children in entertainment in PA undergoing mandatory criminal background checks and child abuse clearances. This lack of corporate responsibility is further discussed in my interview with Paul Petersen and others in my book on the effects of reality TV on the Gosselin family. No, these safety measures wouldn't spot pedophiles who haven't been busted in the past, but at least those with records could be rejected as employees. Without these background checks any old pedophile can work for television production companies and have access to hours of private film of young children, not to mention sometimes having access to the children themselves.

 

In Pennsylvania anyone whose work “normally and regularly” brings them into contact with minors must meet these simple legal requirements. The papers are cheap and easy to fill out and must be completed by all daycare workers, school employees, and anyone else working with kids here in PA. I've blogged before about the mystery of not only why TLC does not perform this simple, inexpensive safety check on all of their employees, but also why the PA Dept of L&I hasn't required them to. It's one of the several examples of how children in entertainment in this state have fallen through the cracks of a system that protects other children but not them. The cracks have only widened and deepened since Jon & Kate Plus Eight began filming here and reality TV production came to PA.

 

Ironically, it was only two days ago that Kate slammed Paul Petersen on Twitter, despite his being the driving force behind working toward legislation to protect children in entertainment in this country. This is the same reality TV mom who allowed her very young children to be alone at various times with crew members who had not undergone the background checks, in such isolated places as bathrooms, the kids bedrooms, and in the woods outside the home. Efforts to remove the children from the public eye by the father have been repeatedly dashed to the extreme where she even went to a judge to have his refusal to allow filming overruled. Throughout it all and despite much evidence to the contrary, she has insisted that, unlike she who works hard, the kids have only played in front of the cameras.

 

One out of every three or four children in this country is sexually abused before the age of 18, and kids in entertainment are a natural target.  Why hasn't a mother who desires (apparently VERY, VERY badly) to have her children in entertainment  insisted that all possible precautions be in place to protect her children?  And why hasn't a television network which calls itself The Learning Channel taken simple, inexpensive precautions to protect itself from the legal repurcussions that could result if the minors in its care are subjected to predators and criminals?  And why haven't either utilized the free services of A Minor Consideration, which could guide them toward creating their exntertainment in ways that would be responsible to the minors involved?  What will it take for these adults to consider this situation to be serious enough to actually do something about it?  Because for most of us, or at least those of us who aren't monetarily invested in this situation, today the shit hit the fan.

 

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Article first published as TLC Employee Arrested for Child Pornography on Technorati.

Wednesday
Oct262011

Kate Gosselin's Tweets Not So Sweet

Kate Gosselin's tweets, which have been known to include veiled (or not so veiled) jabs at her ex-husband Jon, took a new direction in nastiness Monday when she put down widely respected veteran actor and child advocate Paul Petersen. When a Kate fan informed her through Twitter that Petersen had been on a local radio show that morning, Kate's response was, “lol. He just needs a platform to hear himself talk...”

Paul Petersen's worked in the entertainment business for over fifty years. He starred on the Mickey Mouse Show, co-starred in classic feature films with Hollywood royalty like Cary Grant and Sophia Loren, has had several hit singles, and authored a series of sixteen books. In 1990, following the suicide of former child star Rusty Hamer, Petersen founded A Minor Consideration, a non-profit child advocacy group providing support and guidance to former child stars and children in the entertainment business. The group's membership currently includes approximately 600 former child actors. In 2009, he successfully petitioned a California court to appoint a law guardian to oversee the earnings of the widely publicized octuplets born to "octomom" Nadya Suleman. In 2010 he met with community leaders, lawmakers and the media to promote PA Representative Thomas Murt’s bill to reform Pennsylvania’s child labor laws (still pending). Ironically, Kate Gosselin, who achieved fame by giving birth to sextuplets after intrauterine insemination and is widely reputed to be self-centered and difficult to get along with, would be lucky to achieve half the success in her lifetime that Petersen has achieved in his.

Kate's rude tweet about Petersen was in response to the fan telling her that Petersen had been “judgmental” on the local radio show, but it's hard to figure how someone who's dedicated his life to preventing future child actor disasters could be construed as anything but positive to a mother of eight famous children. Perhaps Kate Gosselin resents the fact that Petersen brought attention to the need for improved child labor laws in Pennsylvania partially as a result of her shows, Jon & Kate Plus Eight and Kate Plus Eight, being filmed here. Many former fans of Gosselin's shows now believe she exploited her children for fame and money by allowing them to be filmed engaging in such private acts as having their diapers changed, sitting on the potty, fighting and having tantrums, and vomiting. The proposed bill will protect the working children of PA by limiting hours they're allowed to work, mandating that they have guardians on set, and have protections for their financial well being set in place, among other improvements. For most parents of kids working in entertainment in Pennsylvania, that bill, when it finally passes, will truly be something worthy of tweeting about.                                                               

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Article first published as Kate Gosselin's Tweets Not So Sweet on Technorati.

Wednesday
Sep142011

Kate Plus Eight: Finale Recap

I wish I could present you with a pithy happy blog entry celebrating the end of Kate Plus Eight, but after watching it I am far from buoyant.

 

The beginning for the finale continued the discord at the end of the RV episode viewers saw last week. Ashley said she and kate have some issues to resolve, eventually, and she looked skeptical about resolution. On the other hand kate minimized the seriousness of Ashley's feelings by calling her overly dramatic and stating that in the five years they've worked together they've never had a disagreement, even a small one. That doesn't mesh with Ashley's strong statement that she was sick of kate's dramatics, indicating long term, not short term, drama. Maybe Ashley kept her mouth shut for the past five years but that doesn't mean there wasn't ever a disagreement. We all saw what happened when Jon tried to argue – or reason – with kate when she hit him, put him down or was otherwise abusive. It's easy to imagine Ashley not bothering to argue with kate after repeatedly seeing the futility of it, and only finally speaking out when trapped in the middle of nowhere with kate and having no other outlet for her frustration.

 

How sad it is that after all this kate says she loves Ashley and Ashley is family. As I wrote in my book, I believe that kate's unhappy childhood has prevented her from knowing what a family truly is. Over the years kate's referred to TLC and the crew as family while she's repeatedly alienated or rejected close and extended biological family members. When given the choice between ending the show or losing her marriage she chose the show, despite her promise to the kids that “we will always be a family.” The bottom line is kate can call anyone family or say she's got family as much as she wants to but those are just words that haven't borne out in her choices to have things rather than genuine quality human relationships, including saving her relationship with her husband for her family's sake.

 

Kate groused, “Holy cow, I'm unemployed and I have eight kids to provide for.” This would be the time for kate to move into Plan B, if she had one, but she was the first to admit she was shocked when the show was cancelled. I think kate's concerns about money is not that she doesn't have plenty, but that she's used to spending others' money rather than having to dip into her own wallet. At the time of the divorce Jon and kate were said to be worth $10 million, and the leading entertainment trade journal listed Kate's 2010 income as $4 million. The “bodyguard” was paid over $1000 a day by TLC. Former Timmy from TV's Lassie Jon Provost said in my book that TLC no doubt paid for the private school so the kids would be more available for filming than they would be at a public school where the rules about missing school are more stringent. And we all know about many of the other freebies (although not all, I'm sure.) Hopefully money has been set aside for the kids in reserves that cannot be accessed by kate because it's going to be awfully hard for her to eventually succumb to the mediocrity most of us are satisfied living with on a daily basis when the money runs out.

 

Interesting that when asked how they feel about the show ending, the kids said they're sad but they couldn't say why and none of them look genuinely sad. One of the twins even pulled the sides of her mouth down with her fingers rather than displaying genuine sadness, and then followed that up by explaining, in case we didn't get it the first time, that her doing that to her mouth meant she was sad. They all looked like they were repeating the party line because that's what they were supposed to say.

 

Kate stated “all of that financial responsibility” for the kids is on her, “Whew!” She neglected to mention the child support her former husband pays her. It may be mediocre compared to the $250,000 she made per episode, but he works an honest job and does the right thing by his kids, and it's insensitive to minimize that, just like it's insensitive to continually gripe about being a “single parent” when in fact she is only one half of the children's two parents.

 

“The First Voiceover Session” shown didn't mesh with kate's assertion that this was the “realest reality show ever.” Yes, there were retakes, and no, the kids weren't playing in front of the camera as she's asserted many times over the years. I was at the corn maze filming and I witnessed and documented what happened. These kids have worked their entire lives, period, and now they finally have a chance to stop working until they're old enough to choose their own jobs. Please, kate, don't screw it up again.

 

In her couch interview Jamie said the kate she sees now is not the kate she met at Reading Hospital, one she remembers being softer and more caring. The kate she sees now cares more about how she looks and being skinny, which Jamie attributes to kate having become used to a different level of treatment due to fame. This goes against what I've heard from others who worked with kate or knew her before fame hit, who've said that while fame has exacerbated kate's sense of entitlement, she was always difficult and demanding.

 

“Whoa, swearing, swearing.” God forbid anyone should swear in front of the kids, right? But what about the huge tantrums, including swearing, kate is notorious for at home when the cameras are off? Eventually the kids are going to rebel against this “do as I say but not as I do” hypocrisy, and it ain't gonna be pretty, and some of them are going to have hella potty mouths too.

 

Kate's always complained about the huge throngs of fans who've made her life miserable but from the clips shown it looks like she's drawn more attention to herself than necessary when she's recognized in public. She should try just calmly saying “hi” or “thanks” and keep walking, rather than standing there flailing her arms and complaining loudly that everyone is staring at her. That might help.

 

When asked how many times she and Jon discussed whether or not all the invasion was worth it, she said Jon was always ready to quit but she wasn't because “there's no perfect job, and it's a constant matter of just weighing the pros and the cons.” What a shame that it was never enough for her that her ex-husband wanted the kids off TV and wanted their normal life back. Instead she had to have more, more, more, and now she's got family “memories” on the same DVDs anyone else can buy and no marriage to show for it. And she's role-modeled very poor cooperative skills to her children in the process.

 

“Oh no, we don't hit, this is the potty corner.” Which means it's okay to hit outside of the potty corner? Former Gosselin employees have talked about kate taking the kids into rooms away from the cameras and hitting them and Al Walentis' book recounts one incident where she spewed F-bombs at the top of her lungs in front of the children as though there was nothing unusual in her doing so. Again with the “do as I say and not as I do.” Let's hope the eight are those kinds of learners who utilize their childhood experiences to improve their own parenting down the road, rather than replicating it and becoming hitters themselves. Unfortunately only time will tell but chances are excellent that at least some of them are going to turn out just like their momster.

 

The “I'm in charge and that's never going to change!” scene. I wasn't going to address the fake boobs but it's impossible to ignore the two elephants in the room. This is more than weight loss, running and a good bra. This is surgical. I think the reason viewers have been so annoyed at kate's not owning all of her cosmetic surgeries is because they feel that their intelligence has been insulted, much like viewers of The View felt insulted when Star Jones wouldn't cop to having had gastric-bypass surgery when it was obvious she had. As Judge Judy would say, don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining. If my TV was 3D both of my eyes would've been poked out by now.

 

Yes kate, all kids love watching their parents doing things together and getting along, but how sad that the only family documentation of this is in old footage that anyone can buy for a couple of bucks on eBay. Since the Gosselin family belonged to TLC, they were strictly limited in being allowed to take images even of their own family, but why would kate bother when she considers TV shows to be the family videos? The problem is, there are no truly private family moments in those “family videos,” no matter how much they are produced to appear to capture intimate moments. As Paul Petersen says, the presence of cameras changes everything, and even babies recognize they are being filmed and alter their behavior as a result.

 

Kate says this has been the most real reality show and the kids will always be able to look back and see their real lives and it doesn't matter whose living rooms it went to. One of the criticisms of the show has always been that the eight have had no choice about having their most private moments sold as entertainment for others. Unfortunately the finale showed more of the infamous potty and vomiting moments as well as some meltdowns. Why would the kids look back on this with fondness and why would they want others to see this? And why doesn't it matter whose homes it went into? How confusing it must be for the eight to hear in school about never putting private information about themselves on the Internet and to learn about stranger danger and personal safety, only to have videos of themselves in all levels of nudity available to any pedophile with $9.99, not to mention their mom sharing their actual locations at various times on twitter.

 

The last ten minutes of the finale were warm and fuzzy and featured a lovely song by Francesca Battistelli but I still left the last episode feeling sadness that after years of showing us how abusive she is, kate didn't utilize this last large-scale opportunity to redeem herself by acknowledging and taking responsibility for her bullying ways. It's unbelievable that someone could receive so much consistent feedback about themselves over so many years and yet still find ways to minimize, rationalize and outright deny it. She may have filed the divorce papers but it was her loss. Jon may not have been perfect during the marriage but at least he was a nice person, and he's long redeemed himself as a good parent by sticking to his word to put his children first.

 

Kate stated in an interview this week that we'll see the kids again and that she's not concerned that Jon doesn't want them on TV.   She also proudly unveiled her new web site which from first look promises to be another venture in grifting, self-aggrandizement and mercilessly selling her children. Unlike Jon, she hasn't learned a thing.

 

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To follow me on Twitter follow wernygal.

Monday
Aug152011

Breaking News: Kate & Eight CANCELLED!

According to a People Magazine story released just twenty minutes ago that is just now hitting the Internet, TLC has cancelled Kate Plus Eight

"TLC has decided not to renew another season of Kate Plus 8," a network rep told PEOPLE in a statement.  Read more here.

How will Kate and the kids be able to keep the home and property the kids paid for with their childhoods?  Will kate try to exploit the kids again since she's been having difficulty finding her own niche within the entertainment industry?  Will she be forced to humble herself and return to a regular job as a nurse?

Paul Petersen has given us many examples of cases where parents who sold their children for money and fame ended up dipping into the family's savings because of no backup plan.  People who get rich through no talent of their own begin to feel entitled and believe they will always be rich and famous simply because, unlike others who have to work hard for their money, they deserve it.  The families starts dipping into the kids' savings, the college funds, etc, and eventually the mansions go, along with the landscaing, the expensive vehicles and all the other perks of high living.  Has Kate planned for her childrens' futures or when they turn 18 will they discover they have earned nothing by giving up their childhoods? 

Was selling the eights' childhoods worth it in the long run?  And what's the Plan B?

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Follow me on twitter ~ WernyGal ~ for current thoughts on this and other issues related to reality TV and the Gosselins.