The Brother I Knew

Written by Kathy Haggis, February 26, 2011 

paul-and-kathyWhen I was a child I used to take all my brother’s cowboy hats, pile them on my head, one on top of the other, and wear them all day long.  Paul loved his hats.  He would complain to our mother and she would say “She’s your sister, you have to be good to her.”  He would sigh and nod his head. He had so wanted a sister.

When his friends would appear at the front door and ask him to come out and play baseball, I was determined to go too.  Utterly humiliated in front of his buddies, he would turn to our mother and ask, “Does she have to come?”  The answer was always the same, and he always quietly obeyed.

I still have pictures of me wearing all those hats. Although I was only three, I remember sitting in a wagon while my brother pulled it down the street. He was patient, kind and decent.

I look at pictures of my brother now and wonder where that boy went.

Our paths parted as teenagers and when they crossed again in Los Angeles our roles reversed. On the business front, I became the caretaker. We collaborated as writers. I was his head of development. I watched his back. I put out “the fires” – meaning, I struggled to resolve the inevitable crises that would arise when his vaulting ambition put companies in financial jeopardy and individuals in harm’s way. I calmed the feuds Paul would instigate between himself and cast members, directors, producers, which only grew more frequent as the years went by.

As he moved up in the industry, he found himself in positions of power and he didn’t handle it well.  It seemed on every set there was someone, usually an actor, occasionally a producer, frequently a woman, whom he harassed and bullied, while at the same time carefully cozying up to whichever star or broadcast executive held the ultimate power.

Paul was so cunning in his tactics, so skillful at turning on the charm to obscure the abusive side of his nature that anyone who did not want to acknowledge that side of him did not have to. Those of us who knew stayed quiet about it. He compensated by rewarding people with jobs and sudden bursts of generosity (like the email I just received from him recommending me for a job he did not want). If you were a person of some influence and he alienated you on one show, he would find some way to buy back your favor on another. The unimportant, he simply destroyed with lies.

Paul and Kathy 1996

In the mid-1990s Paul began a campaign of emotional abuse and character assassination against a co-starring actor which was more severe than any I had observed to date. This actor was and is a fighter. He was an enormous asset to the show but Paul wanted him off the series and the actor, who had a contract and a family to support, would not quit. Paul made that poor man’s life hell. After many months of almost daily abuse the actor was in extreme distress. He turned to me for help and asked me to intervene. I was no stranger to Paul’s physical and emotional abuse myself, and therefore not terribly anxious to throw myself into the breach.  But then, I was supposed to be a co-executive producer – and here was an actor, a person in my care, begging me to show some integrity instead of just write about it.

I did intervene and became, like my actor friend, another favorite target of  Paul’s covert character assassination. It hasn’t made life easy but now I am free to live what I write.

Yet it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. I only visited the set of Crash once, to pick up my father.  As we were walking out, I noticed a young woman sitting in the shadows amongst the equipment, weeping.  My father stopped to speak with her. When he got into the car I asked him what that was about.  He said “She’s one of the actresses.  I guess Paul has been picking on her.  She kept crying and asking me, ‘Why does he hate me so much?”  My father didn’t have an answer for that.  He’s not alone.

I remain hopeful that somewhere along the line Paul will come to his senses, although of late it appears that his hunger for notoriety has only made him worse. One can see from his photographs that the life he is leading is eating him alive.

For a long time, every now and then, I would reach out to him in the hope that he would grab the lifeline and hang on.  But as Paul admitted in a recent interview, he is “a broken person” unable to stop himself from doing harm. He even criticizes others for not forcing him to stop.  Like Icarus, he continues to fly hell-bent for the sun.

I can hear the screams inside you, Paul.  If you need someone to stop you from harming others, I will.

This blog is an intervention. That decent boy is still in there somewhere.  I want him back.

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