McLachlan allegedly sexually harassed cast and crew on Doctor Blake set

Posted January 13, 2018 00:00:06

An actor and a crew member from the top-rating TV drama The Doctor Blake Mysteries have come forward with allegations Craig McLachlan sexually harassed staff and behaved inappropriately on the set.

Key points:

  • Doctor Blake production company launches investigation amid fresh allegations
  • McLachlan allegedly ‘dry humped’ female crew member, told male crew member he’d ‘prefer a hand job’ to a drink
  • Crew member says inappropriate behaviour occurred ’10 to 15 times a day’

The new allegations include that he held a banana to his crotch and thrust it into the faces of an actress and a director.

He is also accused of “dry humping” a female crew member during the production and telling a male crew member who offered to get him a drink “I’d prefer hand job”.

The TV show is produced by Melbourne-based company December Media, which has put the current production on hold.

In a statement earlier this week it said it had not received any complaints about McLachlan.

But in a statement late on Friday in response to the new allegations, December Media chief executive Stuart Menzies said the company had appointed an independent investigator to talk to all core cast and crew on the series and provide it with a report and advice.

“If these allegations are substantiated, this points to a serious breakdown in the adherence to the policies and procedures that December Media has in place,” Mr Menzies said.

The male crew member told the ABC and Fairfax “there is no possibility that they didn’t know he was up to inappropriate behaviour”.

“I don’t know how blind and deaf you have to be to miss this stuff,” he said.

McLachlan has not responded to questions about the latest allegations.

‘This is the worst set for this kind of stuff’

The crew member who worked on Dr Blake in late 2016, on season five episodes one and two, said he was shocked at McLachlan’s behaviour on set, which seemed to be accepted.

“A lot of the time it was sexual innuendo, sexual joking, talking about sex and that filtered through,” he said.

“And people would laugh and say, ‘It’s all a big joke’.

“But right from the start, in my first few days there I thought, ‘surely not everyone is OK with this’.

“Privately, over time during the two-and-a-half months I was there, people said ‘this is the worst set, for this kind of stuff, that I have ever been on’.

“He’s a star and other people do the same kind of thing because he sets the tone of the place. In my opinion, a lot of it looked like sexual harassment.”

He recalled an incident involving a banana.

“One incident which has stayed in my mind was before we went on set we were doing rehearsals,” the crew member said.

“It was me, the director, Craig and two actors who were just there for the one episode. One was an older man, the other was a young woman in her mid to late 20s.

“At the time she hadn’t really done much at all. Right in the middle of rehearsing this scene, Craig gets up and walks out. He comes back a minute later and he’s got a banana.

“He’s holding it where his crotch is and starts thrusting it into the face of the actress and then into the face of the director and everyone just kind of laughs because what else are you going to do?

“I am looking around the room thinking, ‘what the f**k! Are you serious?’

“That kind of behaviour would happen 10 to 15 times a day.”

McLachlan allegedly humped camera assistant ‘like a dog’

He said on another occasion, he saw McLachlan sneak up behind a female camera assistant and start “humping her like a dog”.

“It was inside Williamstown Town Hall, which was mocked up to look like Ballarat Town Hall,” he said.

“She didn’t react but I’m thinking, ‘that’s not appropriate behaviour’.”

The crew member added that McLachlan made a lewd comment to him.

“I came up to him at lunch and said ‘Craig would you like a drink?’ He said, ‘No thanks, I’d prefer a hand job thank you’,” the crew member said.

“It was at one of the tables at catering. This was on set.”

He said he never complained about the behaviour but that those in charge were often on set and could see it for themselves.

“I was there for only two-and-a-half months and I saw so much,” the crew member said.

“They were there for five years.

Another man, who was an extra on Dr Blake in 2013, told the ABC and Fairfax he saw McLachlan push his crotch into a female crew member and make a lewd comment.

“The scene was set in an apple orchard. I was playing a migrant fruit picker,” he said.

“It was a break during filming at the location, at the orchard. I was just sitting around and Craig came up to a woman, I think she was in wardrobe, and he pressed his crotch against her leg, while she was facing the other way.

“He said, ‘Oops, you got a bit of knob on you’.

“She joked and laughed it off, like it was a common thing.”

The ABC said in a statement on Monday it had received no complaints involving any members of the Doctor Blake cast, who are employed by December Media.

– with additional research by Tracey Spicer

Topics: television-broadcasting, television, sexual-offences, law-crime-and-justice, australia

Male Rocky Horror crew member alleges McLachlan indecently assaulted him

Updated January 11, 2018 12:58:14

A male crew member on the 2014 tour of the Rocky Horror Show has told police that the show’s star, Craig McLachlan, indecently assaulted him.

The man, who asked not to be identified, told the ABC that the alleged incident happened backstage when the show was in Melbourne.

The man also alleges he witnessed McLachlan grope the breasts of a female crew member several times.

“I never talked to her about it. It’s just one of those things. Sometimes it’s not talked about. It happened more than three times,” the man said.

He told the ABC there was “a general toxicity” backstage.

“Craig made everyone feel extremely uncomfortable, cast and crew,” he said.

The man also described a ritual when cast members went on stage to do a microphone check.

“Craig McLachlan’s twist on that was to do these lewd limericks,” he said.

“Sometimes they were funny and witty, but it started to get quite disgusting.

“It got to the point where it got a bit too repulsive for some of the others around.

“He crossed a further line when he used names in the limericks. He talked about their body parts and things that they did.

“The feeling was that everyone was laughing along because they were supposed to, but it was too much, taking it too far.

“That to me was a form of bullying or verbal abuse.”

‘He was a general creep’

A female crew member who worked on the production told the ABC she had also spoken to police this week.

She said McLachlan sexually harassed her and she witnessed him behaving inappropriately towards actress Erika Heynatz.

“It was just a lot of comments and because I had to go into his room a lot, there were times when he was just naked,” she said.

“I’d go in there, super uncomfortable and he had little or no clothing on. I saw him doing this to other girls as well.

“I witnessed a lot of that.”

On Monday, Heynatz told the ABC’s 7.30 program that McLachlan made a sexual advance towards her when the show was playing in Melbourne.

“I was sitting downstairs in the green room on the couch, facing the kitchen, and he walked down the stairs, through the kitchen and straddled me on the couch, knee either side, and started kissing my neck, and then leant back and said, ‘Too much?’ And I said, ‘Yes’,” Heynatz said.

“And he climbed off and just walked away. There were other people around.

“That’s not normal workplace behaviour, that’s not OK.”

McLachlan said he has no recollection of such an event.

But the female crew member said she witnessed the incident.

“One time, in the green room, she was on the couch. He was sitting on top of her and she looked terrified. It looked awful,” the crew member said.

“He was just a general creep, just unwanted comments all the time and you just had to laugh them off.

“It started off as a bit of fun, but then it was, ‘No, this is really wrong’.”

McLachlan did not respond to requests for comment on the new allegations.

But he has previously denied allegations revealed in a joint ABC/Fairfax investigation that he indecently assaulted, sexually harassed and bullied three of his female co-stars, Heynatz, Christie Whelan Browne and Angela Scundi, on the 2014 production.

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, television, australia

First posted January 11, 2018 12:03:44

Ex-Biggest Loser contestant finds strength to lift herself out of depression

Posted January 11, 2018 11:52:40

Lydia Hantke knows what it means to push her body to the limit and then keep going.

But she also knows what it feels like to come undone.

The Tasmanian changed her life forever (for the first time) in 2012 when she competed in the reality TV program The Biggest Loser.

“I discovered that I was really good at something and I discovered that I really enjoyed training,” she told Helen Shield on ABC Radio.

“And that training for me was something I was going to need to do for the rest of my life, as much psychologically as physically.”

When Ms Hantke returned to regular life after the television show she started working as a personal trainer.

It is a job she still loves.

“I’ve been a personal trainer since 2012 … I have never ever struggled to have work,” she said.

Then, a decision to have a baby two years ago changed Ms Hantke’s life once again.

She kept training and working hard while pregnant; she even competed in strongman competitions.

“When I was 17 weeks pregnant I took part in my first strongman competition.

“The second one that I won I was maybe 32 weeks pregnant. I had to get a medical clearance to compete.”

But despite her desire to keep active and strong pre and post baby, the reality of having a tiny human enter her world hit Ms Hantke harder than she expected.

“I wasn’t prepared for the loss of independence.

“I wasn’t prepared for how much my life changed for having a child and that’s where the wheels fell off a bit.

“I became very housebound, I didn’t want to leave the house.

“I was so self-conscious of the fact that as time went on I wasn’t losing the [baby] weight. I felt like a failure.”

Ms Hantke said she experienced feelings of anxiety and depression

“It’s very easy to find excuses, it’s very hard to keep going.”

Needing something to aim for, Ms Hantke began training again in the hope of one day competing in weightlifting.

“I wanted to be a really strong and a really fit individual.

“I like being really strong. I’m really addicted to it.

“The biggest bit of advice I can give to people is when you train, whether it’s for physical or psychological reasons or both, you’ve got to have goals.”

Lifting for competition involves three key moves — squats, bench press and deadlift.

Ms Hantke said at the beginning it was very hard.

“There were days I just wanted to cry.

“I’ve got severe osteoarthritis in my knees. We really pushed my knees.”

Then last month she entered the powerlifting competition at the Festival of Strength, and she surprised herself by winning her first deadlift competition.

“I hadn’t really thought about winning … I just wanted to lift all the heavy things.”

Ms Hantke pulled a whopping 170 kilograms in her third lift to take out the competition.

She said her fitness, both physically and mentally, was now firmly back on track.

“I felt like the strongest person in the room.

“I wasn’t, but I felt like it.”

Topics: exercise-and-fitness, mental-health, human-interest, person, television, people, hobart-7000

Rocky Horror producer issues personal apology to McLachlan accusers

Updated January 10, 2018 18:22:49

The company which staged the Rocky Horror Show production at the centre of indecent assault allegations against actor Craig McLachlan has apologised to the three women involved, but denied it had any prior knowledge of the allegations.

Key points:

  • One of the women accusing Craig McLachlan says she spoke to Rocky Horror managers in 2014
  • The production company behind the show has consistently denied it has knowledge of the claims
  • McLachlan’s accusers have said the production company threatened to sue them for defamation

On Tuesday the women slammed the company’s initial response to their accusations, with actress Christie Whelan Browne saying she had personally spoken to two people in management at the time of the production.

In a statement released on Wednesday John Frost, the managing director of the Gordon Frost Organisation (GFO), said “anyone should feel comfortable reporting issues of sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying”.

“The fact that these three women did not feel as though they could report these issues in 2014 is concerning and distressing to me, and I sincerely apologise to them for this,” he said.

GFO previously said it was not aware of “any details” of the allegations until they were made public as part of a joint ABC-Fairfax investigation this week, and that no complaint had been made to producers in 2014.

The women’s claims include that McLachlan pulled a cast member’s underpants aside and kissed her buttocks during a performance, that he exposed himself to another actress and kissed a third woman without her permission.

McLachlan has strenuously denied the allegations.

Stressing that the women had not made a formal complaint, Mr Frost said he had “no reason to disbelieve anyone who says they spoke to one of our managers in 2014”.

“However, none of our managers were aware of any issues that warranted further action at the time, and all of our employees were aware of the procedures of making a complaint,” he said.

“I’d also like to say to Christie, who said she spoke to me personally backstage and told me that she was frightened of Craig, that I can honestly say while I remember seeing her briefly, I cannot remember any discussion around Craig.

“I can only explain this by pointing out that I speak to many people backstage across many productions and have little time to spend with each person.”

Mr Frost also addressed the women’s claims that GFO had threatened to sue them for defamation after lawyers acting for the trio sent an email with a list of complaints against McLachlan.

“While the letter we received contained some of the alleged allegations, it is impossible to conduct any sort of investigation when the names of those making the allegations are not given nor specific details,” he said.

“The anonymous nature of their letter also indicated other possible motives.”

Yesterday, another of McLachlan’s accusers, Erika Heynatz, said it was the company’s response to their lawyer’s letter that “drove us to tell our story in the media”.

Topics: opera-and-musical-theatre, arts-and-entertainment, television, australia

First posted January 10, 2018 18:18:13

McLachlan accuser ‘rising above’ hate-filled Twitter trolls

Updated January 10, 2018 17:17:18

One of the women to accuse Craig McLachlan of indecent assault and sexual harassment has hit back at Twitter trolls, saying she has received rape threats on the platform.

Christie Whelan Browne is one of three actresses who told a joint ABC-Fairfax investigation McLachlan acted inappropriately towards them while performing in the Rocky Horror Show musical in 2014.

McLachlan has denied the accusations.

Writing on Twitter, Whelan Browne said she had been the target of trolls.

“The people who have tweeted me to say they hope I get raped, hope I never work again [and] that they wish to spit in my face are incredibly hard to ignore,” she wrote.

“But the amount of love is drowning them out.

“Rising above is hard, but I’m trying.”

Whelan Browne received a raft of support from others in Australia’s acting community.

“Let me add to that love,” television personality Julia Zemiro wrote. “I can’t imagine what [you’re] going through.”

“I am so sorry you are having to endure such horrific cyber bullying,” former Hey Hey It’s Saturday co-host Jo Beth Taylor wrote.

“Stay strong. Don’t let them hurt you.”

Love Child star Harriet Dyer responded with: “Let me at em.”

Whelan Browne has previously spoken out to deny suggestions she made the accusations against McLachlan for money or fame.

The women’s claims include that McLachlan pulled a cast member’s underpants aside and kissed her buttocks during a performance, that he exposed himself to another actress and kissed a third woman without her permission.

McLachlan told the ABC he considered the claims to be “utterly and entirely false”.

“Frankly, they seem to be simple inventions perhaps made for financial reasons, perhaps to gain notoriety,” he said.

But Whelan Browne said “there’s no money to be made”.

“I don’t want to be associated with Craig McLachlan for the rest of my life,” she said.

“I risked my career.”

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, television, opera-and-musical-theatre, australia

First posted January 10, 2018 17:02:32

It’s in Apple’s interest to curb iPhone use among kids

Updated January 10, 2018 15:49:57

The average teen spends at least six hours a day looking at a screen, with most of it from using a smartphone.

Many parents, naturally, have wondered if so much time spent in front of a screen is safe.

Recent research suggests it’s not. Teens who spend five or more hours a day on electronic devices are 71 per cent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide than those who spend less than an hour a day on a device.

Digital media use is linked with more depression and less happiness, with experiments, natural experiments and longitudinal studies all showing that digital media use leads to unhappiness rather than the other way around.

Steve Jobs might have been onto something when he told a surprised reporter in 2010 that he didn’t let his kids use iPads and he generally restricted their screen time.

Indeed, there’s an increasing consensus that the technology companies who have led us into the digital age have a responsibility to build some safeguards.

That’s why I helped draft a letter from Apple shareholders spearheaded by Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System that asks the company to take steps to protect its youngest consumers.

Not only is it the right thing to do, but it could also improve the company’s bottom line.

Limitation, not elimination

According to the research, the problem isn’t teens owning smartphones. In fact, teens who don’t use smartphones at all are actually a little less happy than those who use them a limited amount.

It’s only when use goes beyond two hours a day that issues begin to appear, including less sleep and a higher risk of suicide-related outcomes such as depression and making suicide plans.

The solution, then, seems easy: Limit the amount of time the device can be used and how it can be used. This works out fairly well for Apple; most of their profit is locked in once someone buys an iPhone or iPad, regardless of how much the owner uses it.

The problem is that most teens who are handed a smartphone aren’t going to use it for just an hour or two per day.

Research suggests that digital media stimulates the same brain chemicals and regions as other addictive products. Although some teens are able to limit their use, a substantial number end up spending the majority of their leisure time with their devices, which — as noted earlier — could lead to mental health issues.

Some have pointed out that parents can use third-party apps such as Kidslox or Norton Family Premier to limit time spent on the phone or on social media sites. Although some parents might find these apps helpful, others might be overwhelmed by the setup process or find the download fees too expensive. Clever teens might also find ways around these apps.

But what if Apple were to include the ability to limit screen time in the iPhone’s operating system?

For example, when registering and setting up the phone, Apple could include an option to select the age of the user. If you say the phone is for a 12-year-old, it could give parents the option to restrict the apps used, shut down the phone at night, limit the number of hours it can be used and permit communication with a preapproved list of phone numbers.

As the child grows older, these restrictions could be changed or lifted. Making this part of the iOS would seamlessly integrate safety for children and teens into the iPhone — and seamless integration has always been Apple’s calling card.

Better phones for happier kids

This has another benefit for Apple: Parents might be more willing to buy their children smartphones if they were easier to regulate.

Outside of buying an old-school flip phone — which are increasingly difficult to find — there’s currently no easy way to give a child a mobile phone without opening up the world of unlimited internet access, constant social media and endless evenings spent arguing over putting the phone away at dinner.

As the parent of an 11-year-old, I would be much more comfortable giving my daughter a smartphone if I knew she wouldn’t be bullied on it, see things she shouldn’t see or stare at it for six hours a day.

Social media companies like Facebook also have something to answer for here — and they know it. Given links between advertising revenue and time spent on the site, balancing profit and safety will be a tougher task for them.

But for Apple, it’s arguably a win-win: The safer their product is for kids, the more they could sell. So why not make it safer by offering parents more tools and options?

Jean Twenge is professor of psychology at San Diego State University. This article first appeared in The Conversation.

Topics: internet-technology, telecommunications, information-and-communication, television, family-and-children, child-health-and-behaviour, arts-and-entertainment, digital-multimedia, australia, united-states

First posted January 10, 2018 15:10:20

Two more people contact police after McLachlan allegations

Updated January 09, 2018 06:30:24

Two more members of the 2014 Rocky Horror Show production have contacted police about the alleged behaviour of its star, Craig McLachlan.

The ABC has spoken to two former crew members, one woman and one man, who went to police yesterday.

It follows a joint investigation published by the ABC and Fairfax Media that revealed three female co-stars had accused the award-winning actor of assault, sexual harassment and bullying while performing in the 2014 production.

Victoria Police have also confirmed they are investigating claims of sexual offences by McLachlan from two of the women.

The show’s production company yesterday confirmed McLachlan would take no further part in the current production of the Rocky Horror Show after the accusations.

Production firm Gordon Frost Organisation (GFO), which was behind both the 2014 tour and the new 2018 season, said it was “shocked to learn of allegations against Craig McLachlan while he was involved in the Rocky Horror Show in 2014”.

“We take these allegations very seriously, and have always endeavoured to prioritise a safe working environment,” the producers stated.

“In response, we have spoken to Craig and have mutually agreed that it is not appropriate for him to continue in the current production of the show. We will be conducting a full internal investigation and will cooperate fully with authorities.”

The makers of the Doctor Blake Mysteries also said they would temporarily suspend production while police investigate the allegations against McLachlan.

McLachlan denies allegations

It is claimed the 52-year-old took his raunchy role as Dr Frank-N-Furter too far and pulled a cast member’s underpants aside during a performance and kissed her buttocks.

He was also accused of kissing a third woman without her permission during a performance and exposing himself to another actress backstage.

McLachlan was further accused of reaching up an actress’s skirt while she was on stage but he was out of sight, and that he had bullied and intimidated some cast members.

He has strenuously denied all the claims made against him and told the ABC he considered them “to the best of his knowledge, utterly and entirely false”.

“Frankly, they seem to be simple inventions, perhaps made for financial reasons, perhaps to gain notoriety,” McLachlan said.

The Rocky Horror Australian tour is scheduled to play in Adelaide until January 13, before moving on to Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne.

GFO said the allegations would “not affect the production across Australia”, with the show to continue in accordance with the current schedule.

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, opera-and-musical-theatre, television, australia

First posted January 09, 2018 06:16:53