Los Angeles-based writer Jessica Teich worked closely with Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss in the mid-80s on an ABC comedy special, during which time he allegedly exposed himself to her and sexually harassed her over the course of several months. The allegations, which Teich told to Vulture, come just a week after Dreyfuss’ son, Harry, revealed that Kevin Spacey groped him when he was just 18 and his father was in the room.
Soon after Harry’s story was published, Richard sent out a tweet in support of his son.
Teich told Vulture that she felt compelled to come forward after seeing the actor’s response to his son. “When I read about his support for his son, which I would never question, I remember thinking, But wait a minute, this guy harassed me for months,” she said. “He was in a position of so much power over me, and I didn’t feel I could tell anyone about it. It just seemed so hypocritical.”
Dreyfuss created “a very hostile work environment, where I felt sexualized, objectified, and unsafe,” alleged Teich. One specific incident occurred in Dreyfuss’ trailer during what was supposed to be a script meeting. “I remember walking up the steps into the trailer and turning towards my left,” she said, “and he was at the back of the trailer, and just — his penis was out, and he sort of tried to draw me close to it.” She continued, “He was hard. I remember my face being brought close to his penis. I can’t remember how my face got close to his penis, but I do remember that the idea was that I was going to give him a blow job. I didn’t, and I left.”
Teich described how she “tried to swiftly get out of the room.” She said, “I kept moving because it was part of my job, and I knew he was, at the time, a very important guy, and certainly important to me. I trusted him. That’s what’s always so weird. I liked him. That’s part of why it’s so painful, because of the level of innocence one brings to these things. I felt responsible, that I must have indicated in some way that I was available for this.”
The months following found the actor harassing her verbally in addition to trying to kiss her in professional settings. “He has that way of sidling up to you and saying things like, ‘I want to fuck you,’” she said. “That was said all the time. He would constantly steer conversations to this yucky, insinuating thing, and I would sort of try to pull us back to a place where we could actually get some work done.”
Dreyfuss quickly responded to Vulture’s request for comment, admitting that at the height of his fame he was an “asshole” who got “swept up in a world of celebrity and drugs.” He also admited to excessive “flirting,” including with Teich. He denied, however, that he exposed himself to Teich, who he described as someone “whom I have considered a friend for 30 years.”
“I am horrified and bewildered to discover that it wasn’t consensual,” he said of his attraction to her. “I didn’t get it. It makes me reassess every relationship I have ever thought was playful and mutual.”
Teich took issue with Dreyfuss’ use of the word “flirt”—“It suggests something mutual, and that was not the case”—and his characterization that the two have been friends for “30 years.”
“I’m not that guy’s friend,” she added. “I haven’t seen that guy or spoken to him in 25 years. But as a person, I respond to the sense of hurt that underlies his words, and something in me feels compassion for him, even though he made my life hell. And that’s part of the complexity of the whole thing, I think.
Read Dreyfuss’ entire statement below:
“I value and respect women, and I value and respect honesty. So I want to try to tell you the complicated truth. At the height of my fame in the late 1970s I became an asshole–the kind of performative masculine man my father had modeled for me to be. I lived by the motto, ‘If you don’t flirt, you die.’ And flirt I did. I flirted with all women, be they actresses, producers, or 80-year-old grandmothers. I even flirted with those who were out of bounds, like the wives of some of my best friends, which especially revolts me. I disrespected myself, and I disrespected them, and ignored my own ethics, which I regret more deeply than I can express. During those years I was swept up in a world of celebrity and drugs – which are not excuses, just truths. Since then I have had to redefine what it means to be a man, and an ethical man. I think every man on Earth has or will have to grapple with this question. But I am not an assaulter.
I emphatically deny ever ‘exposing’ myself to Jessica Teich, whom I have considered a friend for 30 years. I did flirt with her, and I remember trying to kiss Jessica as part of what I thought was a consensual seduction ritual that went on and on for many years. I am horrified and bewildered to discover that it wasn’t consensual. I didn’t get it. It makes me reassess every relationship I have ever thought was playful and mutual.
There is a sea-change happening right now, which we can look upon as a problem or an opportunity. We all of us are awakening to the reality that how men have behaved toward women for eons is not OK. The rules are changing invisibly underneath our feet. I am playing catch up. Maybe we all are.
I hope people can join me in honestly looking at our behavior and trying to make it right. We have to relearn every rule we thought we knew about how men and women interact, because after all getting together is the most fundamental human compulsion. And if we don’t succeed in that, what do we have? I hope this is the beginning of a larger conversation we can have as a culture.”