18th March 2017
In 1959 Berry was arrested for taking a 14-year-old girl, Janice Escalanti, across state lines for “immoral purposes”, a crime for which he eventually served two years in prison. But that was almost 60 years ago, some might say: different time, different morals! Well, kinda. That he was then accused of installing a video camera in the ladies’ toilet of his Missouri restaurant is less easy to jazz hands away, given that it happened in the not wildly distant year of 1989. After tapes from this camera were found in Berry’s home, he was given a suspended sentence and settled a class action with 59 women.
I am not someone who thinks an artist’s personal flaws – for want of a better phrase – damn their professional output. My eyes roll hard when I hear someone say they “just can’t watch Woody Allen movies any more”, because I believe it is perfectly possible to separate the artist and the art. But I am always intrigued about which artists get a free pass about this stuff, and who doesn’t.
Woody Allen is now 81, and when he dies his various sex scandals – leaving his partner for her adopted daughter, being accused by another daughter of sexually molesting her – will be mentioned, if not in the first line, then certainly in the first paragraph of his obituaries. Allen was never charged, let alone jailed, and has always denied the allegations; but it is impossible to imagine politicians tweeting such unhesitant praise when he goes. Similarly, Roman Polanski’s entire life has been shaped by his decision in 1977 to sexually assault 13-year-old Samantha Gailey; this, too, will be acknowledged early on in the tributes. The New York Times obituary of Berry, by contrast, didn’t mention the Escalanti case until the 23rd paragraph; the so-called “potty camera” scandal was entirely absent. Instead, the news coverage of his death leaned on soothingly euphemistic terms like “legal troubles” and “colourful life”.
While everyone knows Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13-year-old cousin, no sensible soul today says people shouldn’t listen to Great Balls Of Fire – not in the way that Gary Glitter or even Michael Jackson’s music has been deemed problematic in liberal circles. Had Operation Yewtree decided to investigate every high-profile musician accused of sleeping with underage girls, including (Britain, you are not going to thank me for this) David Bowie, they would have run out of police officers by the end of day one. Allegations that John Peel had sex with an underage girl have in no way impeded his status as one of Britain’s great late national heroes.
This is not about celebrities from the past getting away with more. Actors Fatty Arbuckle in the 1920s and Errol Flynn in the 1940s saw their careers destroyed when they were accused – and acquitted – of rape. Rather, it’s more about what the celebrity represents, and whether the infraction contradicts that. Part of the reason Allen got such a swift and merciless kicking was that he epitomised, to both his fans and his critics, an intellectual Manhattan elitism, and shacking up with your stepdaughter doesn’t really fit. READ IN FULL https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/25/singer-musician-sex-offender-lets-remember-the-whole-chuck-berry https://archive.is/chS1D
In 1990 he was sued by several women who claimed that he had installed a video camera in the bathroom.
Berry claimed that he had the camera installed to catch a worker who was suspected of stealing from the restaurant. Though his guilt was never proved in court, Berry opted for a class action settlement with 59 women. His biographer, Bruce Pegg, estimated that it cost Berry over $1.2 million plus legal fees. During this time Berry began using Wayne T. Schoeneberg as his legal counsel.
Reportedly, a police raid on his house found videotapes of women using the restroom, as well as one minor. Also found in the raid were 62 grams of marijuana. Felony drug & **child-abuse charges** were filed.
In order to avoid the child-abuse charges, Berry agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana. He was given a six-month suspended jail sentence and two years’ unsupervised probation and was ordered to donate $5,000 to a local hospital.