Actor Ben Vereen is the latest Hollywood entertainer to be accused of sexual misconduct.
In a telling report by the New York Daily News, several women who worked alongside Vereen during the 2015 Venice Theater production of ‘Hair,’ recalled disturbing incidents of being groped, kissed or subjected to other unwanted sexual advances by the 71-year-old actor. The women who have come forward thus far were all in their early to late 20s at the time of the incidents.
According to NYDN, two of the actresses said Vereen invited them to his Florida rental home on separate occasions for “private rehearsals,” and then pressed his erect penis against them without consent or warning. The women also said Vereen lured them into a hot tub after giving them a speech about now not all nudity is sexual in nature as it pertained to the play and making them feel as if they were not mature enough for a role in ‘Hair’ if they weren’t mature enough to understand as much.
One of the actresses said Vereen asked her to perform oral sex on him while they were in the hot tub.
Recalling a different encounter, a third actress said Vereen pressed himself up against her as they hugged goodbye after a rehearsal, before later texting her, “Yo (sic) felt so good tonight.” The same woman said Vereen abruptly kissed her on the lips without her consent during the first few weeks of rehearsal.
“He didn’t shove his tongue down my throat,” she told the NYDN. “But it gave me an uneasy feeling. Then he moved on. I didn’t know what to do. From that point on, I kept myself at arm’s length with Ben.”
Several of the actresses recounted a particularly uncomfortable day where they had to strip naked for a rehearsal exercise ahead of a big nude scene in the play and were left startled when Vereen also removed his clothes during the exercise.
Vereen has since responded to the allegations with an apology, but stopped short of denying any of the accusations.
“I would like to apologize directly to the female cast members of the musical ‘Hair’ for my inappropriate conduct when I directed the production in 2015,” he said in a statement. “While it was my intention to create an environment that replicated the themes of that musical during the rehearsal process, I have since come to understand that it is my conduct, not my intentions, which are relevant here. So I am not going to make any excuses because the only thing that matters here is acknowledging and apologizing for the effects of my conduct on the lives of these women.”