A Ploy Named Sue?
THE CHARGE, SEXUAL HARASSMENT, wasn’t that unusual—especially in Hollywood. Nor, unfortunately, was the central question of the case: Was the plaintiff a genuine victim, as she claimed, or—as the other side maintained—an embittered former employee out to make a buck? What was unusual were the accused: sweet-as-milk 16-year-old actor Fred Savage, star of the wholesome ABC sitcom The Wonder Years, and his television brother, actor Jason Hervey, 20.
In the suit, filed March 15 in Los Angeles, former Wonder Years wardrobe assistant Monique Long, 32, claims that Savage and Hervey sexually harassed her during her 12 months with the series. She is seeking unspecified damages. Attorneys for the actors and the show’s production company, also named in the suit, heatedly deny all charges made by Long, who was fired from the show in October. “It’s fantasy-land—these allegations are totally fabricated, and we’re going to prove it in court,” says Savage’s lawyer, Howard L. Weitzman. “She’s a disgruntled employee.”
A tortured employee is Long’s version. Savage, her suit claims, repeatedly begged, “Oh, Monique, I’m so in love with you. Please have an affair with me.” Long says Savage pestered her to go on dates, tried to hold her hand and once greeted her parents, who were visiting the set, as “my future in-laws.”
Hervey, according to Long’s suit, was more aggressive—on one occasion grabbing her arms from behind and simulating intercourse. It was only with the assistance of male crew members, says Long, that she was released from his grasp. Hervey also made suggestive remarks, Long says, including “I bet you’re wild in bed” and “What’s wrong with you? Didn’t you get any last night?”
It was because of that constant harassment, she says, that she couldn’t do her job properly and was fired. (She recently worked as a costumer on the Arnold Schwarzenegger adventure film The Last Action Hero, to be released this summer.) However, one female crew member says that Long’s sacking had nothing to do with sexual harassment: “She’d fall asleep, and we couldn’t find her when it was time to shoot a scene. Or she’d be in the bathroom, primping. We had problems with her from the beginning. She is not a team player.”
Long’s attorney, Beverly Grant, says, “The idea of Monique being fired for poor job performance is ridiculous.” The problem, Grant says, is that, having tried unsuccessfully to address her grievances through proper channels, “Monique didn’t know any other way to get these wrongs righted.” Her suit alleges that she even asked actor Dan Lauria, who plays Savage’s stern father, Jack, to intercede on her behalf. Lauria, the suit claims, answered, “Monique, you know [Fred] has been in love with you since you started with the show…you should be his first.” (Lauria has no comment.)
The lawsuit has left Savage feeling “a little upset and confused,” says Weitzman. “But Fred’s going to be fine. Everybody on the set will tell you—no way did any of this take place.”
Savage’s TV mom, actress Alley Mills, agrees. “This lawsuit is beyond ridiculous,” she says. “Fred is the purest young man I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.” And state welfare worker Caryl Pine, who under California labor law was with Savage constantly on the set during the same months as the alleged incidents, says of the suit: “It’s absurd. If Fred said anything, 20 people would have heard it—he was miked most of the time.”
As for Hervey, Mills says, “He has a heart as big as the Empire State Building. Sure, he’s full of piss and vinegar, but he would never do anything to harm or humiliate a woman.” Hervey is “angry” about the charges, says his attorney, Joel Smith.
What’s more, the mood has curdled on the set of the series, which is facing possible cancellation when it concludes its sixth season this month (final episodes are still being shot). “We work together 14 hours a day, five days a week, and we’re like a family,” says a female member of the crew. “Now we’re not allowed to hug on the set because it could be construed as sexual harassment. It’s real sad.”
JOYCE WAGNER in Los Angeles