Hip-hop's legendary impresario turned to yoga and meditation as he stalked and preyed on co-workers and starlets for decades.
Legendary music impresario Russell Simmons is the latest high-flying celebrity to fall from grace thanks to charges of sexual assault and rape. And he’s not going quietly. Despite claims of abuse from more than a dozen women over three decades, many of them young aspiring artists that eagerly sought his backing, Simmons says he never “knowingly” abused anyone – and will fight the charges.
It’s the kind of defense one often hears these days from predatory men claiming an exalted place in the world of the Spirit. Living in a world of unabashed entitlement and conspicuous wealth, and surrounded by fawning and all-too-gullible admirers, they tend to believe that anyone that enters their sights must be eager and willing “prey.”
Simmons, the 6o-year old founder of Def Jam, with a net worth of $325 million, has regularly extolled the virtues of the Hindu breathing and posture practice that untold millions of Americans – mainly upscale, fashion-conscious white women — are imbibing like a club drug. He’s even written a book or two about transcendental meditation, and fancies himself a leader in the field.
Earlier this year Simmons laid the foundation stone for a planned yoga empire with the opening of a posh studio and clothing boutique on Sunset Boulevard. It was greeted with considerable fanfare.
But it’s all gone now, a casualty of the deepening scandal that threatens to land him in jail. Even without a formal complaint, the NYPD has decided to launch an official investigation in to charges of sexual assault, based simply on the extraordinarily detailed accounts of abuse that have appeared in various media reports. And HBO, J.C. Penney and other major corporate backers have already begun severing their ties.
Simmons insists that he’s innocent and will refute the charges. But he’s radioactive now. Before a jury, especially in today’s political and legal climate, he probably doesn’t stand a chance.
It’s not hard to see why. As the women’s accounts make clear, these weren’t cases of misunderstood intentions and canoodling gone awry. Simmons engaged in manipulation and deceit to corner and isolate his victims, who soon found themselves trapped. He pinned at least three of them down, and despite their protests, insisted on having his way with them.
There are reports, too, that he colluded with film producer Brent Ratner to stalk and prey on young starlets. In 1991, Keri Claussen Khalighi, a 17-year-old fashion model from a farm town in Nebraska, met Simmons and Ratner at a casting call. The two men invited her to a private location where Simmons, she claims, tore her clothes off and tried to rape her. She says she eventually performed oral sex on him just to survive the encounter.
Throughout the ordeal, she begged Ratner to intervene, but he refused, she says. She soon realized that Ratner was in on the rape-scapade from the beginning (a claim Ratner has denied).