Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Steven Seagal is under siege (and perhaps house arrest)

I dare say that no pony-tailed thespian has had a greater impact on straight to video action films than Mr. Steven F. Seagal. His homicide-themed triumphs include Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, Half Past Dead, Out for a Kill, Today You Die, Kill Switch, and Driven to Kill. Born April 10, 1952 in Lansing, Michigan, Mr. Seagal holds a black belt in aikido and briefly operated dojos in Japan and West Hollywood before being hired as the martial arts coordinator for the 1982 film The Challenge.
Delighted by his first taste of the film industry, Steven would later go on to star in the 1992 action-thriller Under Siege where he portrayed a cook with special-ops training. The film was a commercial success, two words that Mr. Seagal never heard much after the early 90’s. He later invested in other endeavors, such as his own line of energy drinks called Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt which came in quasi-offensive flavors like Asian Experience. There was even a mercifully short lived foray into the celebrity aftershave market with Steven Seagal’s Scent of Action. When asked about his professional image, the ever-humble star responded, “I am hoping that I can be known as a great writer and actor some day, rather than a sex symbol.”
In late 2009, Mr. Seagal began producing an A&E reality series called Steven Seagal: Lawman. The show, filmed in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, follows Steven as he dispenses justice Seagal style. His actual law enforcement credentials have been called into question and as best anyone can tell he is listed as a reserve deputy sheriff in Jefferson Parish. I assume that the title is both honorary and normally bestowed upon children visiting the police station as a part of a field trip. There has been some concern that the badge issued to him is actually comprised of milk chocolate wrapped in foil.
While his professional resume provides endless fodder for conversation, it is Mr. Seagal’s private life that keeps him in the public consciousness. A few short weeks ago, a 23-year old executive assistant to star filed a lawsuit in California accusing him of sexual harassment, illegal trafficking of females for sex, failure to prevent sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination and false representation about employment. Aspiring socialite Kayden Nguyen claims that she responded to a Craigslist ad for an “executive assistant” position only to find that she was replacing one of two Russian models that were employed as “sex toys” to the 59 year old action star. She claims that she was held against her will in the star’s Jefferson County home, repeatedly groped, and asked for “massages” by the actor. She claims that when she finally escaped, Mr. Seagal chased her with a “flashlight with a gun attached to it.”*
Mr. Seagal’s attorney has responded that Ms. Nguyen was fired for using narcotics on the job and is simply a disgruntled ex-employee (perhaps she was ineligible for the sexretary severance package enjoyed by her predecessor.) They have filed a countersuit against the model claiming that she is breaching a non-disclosure agreement by filing the lawsuit. To be fair, Ms. Nguyen is no stranger to the limelight herself having been the subject of an episode of the Tyra Banks Show where she bragged about her ability to manipulate men (although she is a staunch lesbian.)
Regardless, this recent development is just the latest in a long string of personal missteps for the actor. In 1984 he married Days of Our Lives star Adrienne La Russa, a slightly imprudent step since he was still married to his first wife and mother of his two children Miyako Fujitani, whom he left in Japan when he returned to the United States to pursue his career. Three years later he began a relationship with actress and model Kelly LeBrock, whom he subsequently impregnated. This met with mild disapproval from his current wife La Russa, who quickly filed for an annulment. On September 7, 1987, Seagal and LeBrock were married and spawned two additional children over the next seven years. At some point the couple hired a nanny named Arissa Wolf whom Steven would also impregnate. LeBrock filed for divorce in 1994 citing "irreconcilable differences.”
Jenny McCarthy claimed that she experienced Mr. Seagal’s subtle charms first hand while auditioning for a role in Under Siege 2. After being summoned to his office for a private casting session, he reportedly told her to “Sit on my couch” & “Take off your dress.” McCarthy originally revealed the exchange during a 1998 interview with Movieline and when recently asked about the experience she continues to stand by her original interview.
Also in 1998, Penthouse magazine published accounts of nine other women who claimed to be the victim of Mr. Seagal’s “inappropriate behavior.” In 2001, Seagal faced a sexual harassment lawsuit from Patricia Nichols who worked with the actor in a recording studio and claimed he made unwanted advances on her.
A&E has suspended production of the show until further notice but Seagal’s attorney has not commented on whether or not Nguyen’s position will be filled. So ladies, keep your eyes on Craiglist and your hand on the pepper spray because one day you too might have the opportunity to be made uncomfortable by unwanted celebrity advances.

* And yes, that is exactly how she phrased it.

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