CRIME CULTURE: He was once the 80s Aussie tv heart-throb with the throbbing mullet and Neighbours fame that stretched all the way to the UK, but actor Craig McLachlan is now cast as an alleged sexual pervert in his own real-life creepy soap opera turned legal drama, writes our intrepid reporter Lois Lane.
I was always taught not to take rumours on face value, especially those related to one’s reputation and character. Rumours could be just that: rumours. However, in the course of my life, some rumours regarding high profile media personalities have not only been enduring but extraordinarily consistent in nature.
The very same could be said of the rumours that match the now criminal allegations laid against celebrity Craig McLachlan; they are consistent, as they are enduring, and they are coming from several people.
So upon hearing of the news the actor and a former boy-next-door idol had been charged with seven charges of indecent assault, one of common assault and one of attempted indecent assault, I must say it seemed an all too familiar theme. The old ‘where there is smoke there is fire‘ feeling kicked into action. In legal circles, they like to use the phrase ‘on the balance of probabilities’ commonly used in cases whereby the evidence is circumstantial.
If the allegations made against McLachlan are true then the balance of probabilities on his past history alone are strengthening in their traction and veracity, and are extremely damning.
Not only are the allegations against McLachlan extremely serious but it is the personality profile of him according to his alleged victims that I find somewhat particularly disturbing.
Similar to other celebrities such as Rolf Harris who have been unmasked in recent years, McLachlan is said to have been hiding behind the calculated facade of a loveable TV personality; quirky, charming, even funny. An image that concealed a predator that ruthlessly groomed his victims. The victims allege they were treated to McLachlan’s personality flip side, one that carried a rather sinister level of darkness, narcissism, entitlement and above all sexually predatorial behaviour.
It has also raised the same old questions of who knew of this behaviour and for how long, and if they did know something why was nothing done about it? Not unlike the Jimmy Savile case in the UK where the BBC is still under scrutiny over the very same themes, any culture of concealment symbolises acceptance of these behaviours and a green light for perpetrators to continue on with their destructive ways. Not only continue but to do so unfettered, unaccountable and with an unsuspecting public continuing its affection for these individuals – even lauding them as loveable, famous human beings if not entertainment industry icons. It’s a system and culture which treats the victims with about as much contempt as the perpetrators did.
Long before the police charges were laid against McLachlan the rumours had been flowing over his overwhelming self-adulation, malignant narcissism and sexually ruthless behaviour all of which were deemed “common knowledge”. It is alleged that Craig’s only one true love of his life was with himself, and whatever Craig wanted Craig got and as it is alleged, even sexually. The public and superficial image he propagated was distinctly different to the alleged manipulating predatorial monster that was awakened once that veneer of charm and loveable quirkiness was peeled away.
Acclaimed musical theatre actress Kerrie Anne Greenland told News Corp publications she had been warned about the former golden boy’s allegedly sleazy behaviour that was as she puts it, an “open secret” in the entertainment industry.
“It was common knowledge and I was not surprised when it came out,” she said.
“I know people were feeling very uncomfortable both on the stage and off the stage and a lot of people felt very uncomfortable during the show.”
Craig McLachlan as Frank-n-Furter during the 2014 tour of The Rocky Horror Show [Image: ABC]
Sex offences are and remain one of the most difficult crimes to investigate and prosecute, in particular, historical ones. Having said that, Victoria Police or any police force in any other state of Australia, for that matter, would not have arrested a celebrity like McLachlan unless they were extremely confident with the loading of evidence thus far gathered. The strength of which was seemingly confined to his behaviour toward fellow female cast members of the Rocky Horror Show. Still, even more difficult and traumatising are these offences when committed by high-profile or powerful figures, or in McLachlan’s case a TV and theatre personality. The victims have a very real and plausible fear as well as shame regarding the risk that public sentiment may turn against them, while in a case such as this their careers as well as their entire reputations are placed on the line.
In my view and because of this I applaud their immense courage in bringing this out in the open.
If one thing can be said of narcissists, you can always count on the fact that their hugely inflated sense of ego and importance will be their ultimate downfall. They fail miserably in the ability to calibrate the accumulative effect of their actions and the ultimate consequences. However it’s when you factor in that culture of acceptance from higher up the order of management do celebrity monsters such as the likes of Jimmy Savile, Hey Dad star Robert Hughes, or Rolf Harris gain a stronger sense of self-endorsed power and immunity from legal accountability. Given the egos of these individuals, it feeds the ever growing monster within them.
ABC-FAIRFAX MEDIA INVESTIGATION
A previous joint investigation by the ABC and Fairfax Media revealed that a number of female cast members of the 2014 version of The Rocky Horror Show had made formal allegations that they were abused, harassed or assaulted by McLachlan. At least three cast members have lodged a complaint with Vic Police. It has been alleged a number of actresses in the show were subjected to McLachlan touching their genitals, groping their breasts, exposing himself and pressing his penis against them. Also alleged is that complaints made to the show’s production company, The Gordon Frost Association, fell on deaf ears.
The show must go on, and all that jazz.
Model and actress Erika Heynatz has described McLachlan as being “really calculated and very manipulative, a predator”.
Heyntaz’s allegations whilst exclusive to her match the type of behaviour other women have alleged about McLachlan. Heynatz has said that in one instance whilst sitting in the “green room” at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre, McLachlan allegedly walked over before straddling her on the couch with knees either side and started kissing her on the neck. Heynatz recoiled and McLachlan is alleged to have leaned back and said “too much” before casually walking away.
Actress and model Erika Heynatz says she believes Craig McLachlan is “really calculated and very manipulative, a predator” [Image: Eva Rinaldi / Wikimedia]
Heynatz further explained in a television interview, “this was not normal workplace behaviour. That’s not normal, that’s not okay, and yet for some reason because of his sense of entitlement and this level of confidence he thought there was nothing wrong with doing that”.
It has been reported she was one of the actresses to have filed a police complaint over McLachlan’s behaviour.
Whilst another actress who has previously worked with McLachlan said her “biggest pet peeve is that people think he is this ukulele-playing larrikin they see on the Today show every couple of months when he comes on to spruik about something he is he’s doing”.
The actress continued: “He is a larrikin up for a laugh and certainly when we all first met him, that’s indeed how he came across. But there is another side to the man that he has very, very craftily and cleverly disguised from people for so long. It’s like a split personality. The other personality is this sinister, predatory behaviour.”
McLachlan has maintained that these allegations are “baseless” and further “they seem to be simple inventions, perhaps made for financial reasons, perhaps to gain notoriety”.
“These allegations are ALL made up,” he said in an e-mailed response to media when reports of his alleged offending first broke.
CHRISTIE WHELAN BROWNE
One of the country’s foremost musical performers, Christie Whelan Browne, alleges that during the 2014 Rocky Horror show tour McLachlan sexually assaulted her during the show. The incident allegedly occured while the pair were supposed to perform a sex scene, with Whelan Browne said to have been left horrified when McLachlan went drastically off script. The carefully choreographed scene required McLachlan to commence kissing Whelan Browne on the neck and then vanish under the sheets. The kissing however allegedly moved to her breasts and stomach.
Musical theatre star Christie Whelan Browne has few fond memories of staring a stage with Craig McLachlan [Image: ABC]
“So he would keep kissing as if he was going to keep going and I would have to swat him away. But one night he turned me around, he pulled my undies up so my bum cheek was out and he was kissing my bum. There was nothing I could do there were 2,000 people watching me and they cannot see him,” Whelan Brown told the joint ABC-Fairfax investigation.
“As the tour progressed he would say he could see my vagina through my white underpants and he could smell it and it smelled sweet.”
Actress Angela Scundi’s claims are similar. And there is a more sinister allegation regarding how McLachlan reacted when those he allegedly abused attempted to call him out for his behaviour. It was explosive as it was near violent according to the accounts and, if true, suggest the actor is indeed a potentially dangerous person.
It has been alleged by Scundi, that McLachlan made unwanted comments about her breasts, while also describing that he created “special moments for her” on stage and in one instance he was wearing only satin boxer shorts when he embraced her.
Scundi alleges “he pushes his pelvis into me and moved around so I could feel his penis against my body”. Scundi was the understudy to Heynatz’s role as Magenta during The Rocky Horror Show’s tour in 2014. Scundi, like Heynatz, has made a lengthy statement to the police.
Actress Angela Scundi says she was left terrified by Craig McLachlan’s alleged behaviour [Image: ABC]
She further alleges that in another instance McLachlan requested she come into his dressing room as he had something private to discuss. After the door was closed he undressed and then stood up naked. Scundi responded with ‘what the fuck’ and turned to leave. McLachlan meanwhile is alleged to have responded with laughter.
“No, no, no. Don’t go, sorry, I’m just so comfortable,” it is alleged he told Scundi.
DISARMING OF VICTIMS
In another incident and the allegation is quite chilling was when prior to one performance she was applying makeup in her dressing room he came in told her to stop what she was doing and said “What I have to tell you is important.”
Turning the chair to face her McLachlan alledly told Scundi: “You’re really beautiful and I can’t stop thinking about you and every day I am becoming more enchanted by you and I’m falling for you”.
Scundi described him as gushing.
“There is something I have got to do,” McLachlan said before allegedly taking Scundi by the face with his hands and kissing her.
“I was almost paralysed,” she later recounted, “I was in shock. It’s like being kissed by your boss.”
Responding to Scundi’s allegations of harassment and indecent assault, McLachlan has refuted it all and suggested he had no reason to harass anybody as he was a in “stable” long-term relationship.
“I have NEVER done anything like this,” McLachlan has told media previously through an emailed statement.
“I am, and have been at all relevant times, in a stable relationship with my long-term partner.”
CAST OF ROCKY HORROR SHOW & MCLACHLAN’S RAGE
Heynatz according to her observations alleges that McLachlan’s behaviour escalated as time moved on during the 2014 tour of The Rocky Horror Show, feeling that he was becoming more bold and brazen with his behaviour both on and off stage. Again McLachlan has dismissed this claim.
Cast members alleged that he was observed taking full advantage of intimate scenes with one particular actress identified as Scundi who when advised she would be filling in for Heynatz informed the theatre company management she did not want to be kissed like that. Scundi alleges it was to no avail and on the second night McLachlan allegedly forced his tongue into her mouth. After the scene had concluded and while both were off stage, Scundi says she told the actor to never kiss her like that again. With that she alleges McLachlan became enraged. She further alleges that “the show was still going so it was quiet and he had his finger in my face … I was terrified.”
McLachlan is alleged to have threatened the scared actress.
“You are nothing. Don’t you dare talk to me like that. I will end you,” Scundi recalls McLachlan saying to her.
Scundi – fearful of losing her job – threw her hands in the air and said “I am only joking”.
It was during her final performance of the tour when Scundi was back playing her role of the Phantom McLachlan it is alleged went off script. This time, kneeling in front of her, grabbing her shoulders and pulling Scundi in to kiss her. She alleges she pushed him off and he fell backwards. His response to this is alleged to have been one of shock and then rage. Despite being still on stage, Scundi says she burst into tears.
Heynatz spoke of another actress who was subjected to McLachlan’s unregulated onstage behaviour. She described how whilst on a platform, the former soap star was reaching up groping between the legs and up the buttocks of the actress, forcing her to donkey kick him away.
Heynatz has stated this made her feel extremely anxious as she had already been a recipient of this behaviour. As time went on, anxieties amongst the sections of the cast increased as to what McLachlan would do next and how it would affect performances. It was when a male cast member complained about McLachlan’s behaviour and his alleged inappropriate lewdness that was needlessly included in a scene did the actor’s anger and menace allegedly escalate into a rage.
Gathered behind stage one night prior to a show it is alleged McLachlan shouted at them “you are a bunch of untalented and ungrateful cunts”. It was in that performance he is alleged to have become aggressive toward cast members on stage. Whelan Browne said that when he was supposed to have stroked her face lovingly as he said goodbye, “he instead grabbed me by the jaw” and wrenched her face to one side. And as they were taking a bow, Whelan Browne recalled her terror as he glared angrily at her and “clapped his hands in my face”.
She has since stated she ran off the stage and said to the director “what the fuck is going on”. According to Whelan Browne, the director just stared straight ahead.
John Frost, the director of GFO, dropped into the theatre the next day and was informed of McLachlan’s behaviour. Whelan Browne burst into tears as she responded to Frost’s inquiry over whether she was okay.
She said, “I am not okay, I am frightened of him”.
Frost allegedly gave her concerns some lip service only before saying they had never had a problem with McLachlan before. Whelan Browne says Frost gave her a hug and told her to call him if there were any further problems.
Feeling supported by Frost’s response she outlined her concerns to the stage manager the next day. According to Whelan Browne, their response was, “that’s a very serious allegation and if you wish to take it further I am going to have to call the producers, is this what you want?”.
FEARS THE COMPLAINANTS HELD
The female complainants state they had not collaborated or shared their experiences during The Rocky Horror Show due to feelings of fear, isolation and loneliness and the concern that McLachlan may have pitted them against each other.
During the show’s tour, Whelan Browne had taken two weeks off due to a back injury and Heynatz and Scundi recall that McLachlan said she’s “a cunt” and won’t be returning. It was alleged by Whelan Browne on her return that McLachlan said of her understudy Scundi “Thank god you’re back, her pussy stinks”.
Upon learning of the allegations McLachlan replied, “this is a simple lie, the use of such language is repugnant” as well as pointing out that his accusers “have had thousands of opportunities to raise these concerns but none of them did”.
MOLLY MELDRUM & MCLACHLAN’S “WILDLY SWINGING MEMBER”
Molly Meldrum’s 2016 autobiography Ah Well Nobody’s Perfect contains an account written by McLachlan himself of a troubling incident in which the former Countdown host was the recipient of the actor’s strange stage behaviour. It occurred in the late 1990’s when Meldrum filled in on The Rocky Horror Show as the narrator.
In the book, McLachlan admits, “I couldn’t help myself that night” before explaining he was off-stage and no one could see him.
“As Molly was reading his piece, I glided my seven-inch stiletto heel on the back of his trouser leg. By the time I got to his knee, the audience could see my shoe. I continued up … located where I imagined his arsehole to be,” McLachlan wrote.
“Molly looked down ready to give me a good serve, but I had manipulated my dick out of my G-string and was wildly swinging my member around.
“It was too much for Molly. He lost it and said, ‘Craig you are awful to me’. ‘I’m Frank-N-Furter, you idiot,’ I hissed ‘if you’re gonna lose it, at least stay in character'”.
It is worth noting that the theatre company denies knowledge of McLachlan’s behaviour. The three actors that have raised the allegations of indecent assault and sexual harassment have pushed back at claims by the producers of the Rocky Horror Show that the company knew nothing about McLachlan’s behaviour until the joint Fairfax and ABC investigations went to air.
In a statement issued by Gordon Frost Organisation, it said the production company was shocked to learn of the allegations and that it was “not aware of any details of these allegations until they were published in the media”.
Erika Heynatz fired back, stating that for “GFO to say that they had no details of the complaint prior to our going to the media is not true”.
“Our first letter to the Lawyers provided a bullet point list of explicitly inappropriate behaviour by Craig McLachlan … there was more than enough detail for GFO to recognise that the allegations raised were serious and warranted investigation,” she said.
“But instead they threatened to sue us for defamation.
“[GFO’s recent actions] highlights that perhaps we were right all along in assuming there was not any support for us back then.”
It’s an all too dangerous mix we have seen before.
The alleged perpetrator and the lack of support in condemning a history of alleged appalling behaviour but offering the “its common knowledge” statement and then … nothing . How much does common knowledge need to exist before something affirmative is done ?, or is “common knowledge” some type of support for “we were passive spectators, powerless” to do anything.
McLachlan’s denials – the text of which appears to be loaded with blame and shame – are interesting. He claims the show was a “confrontational musical oozing sexuality” and that to make the show actors had to perform certain actions, “all of which flow from the show itself”. Spoken almost like a true director, someone ‘in charge, in control’.
In rejecting the kissing scenes had become longer and more intense McLachlan said “how little you appear to know about the production of the show” claiming that during the performance there are “a small number of kisses directed in one piece”.
McLachlan has also filed a defamation case against the ABC, Fairfax (now Nine) as well as his former co-star Whelan Browne. That case won’t be heard now until after his criminal case, due to take place in mid-November at the Melbourne Magistrates Court.
If the allegations have any basis in truth, the eventual repercussions need to be broader than the portrayed monster that is McLachlan to also include the system; the dark, predatorial and narcissistic monster that is a managerial culture which rewards bad and abusive behaviour so long as the money is rolling in.