Alexander Polinsky Alleges Scott Baio Exposed Himself on Set, Sexually Harassed Him With Homophobic Slurs
LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Alexander Polinsky is claiming years of "sexual-themed hazing" by Scott Baio on the set of their '80s sitcom "Charles in Charge." According to the former child star, Baio allegedly exposed himself, threw hot tea in Polinsky's face, and pulled down Polinsky's pants when he was a minor.
Polinsky, who was 11 years old at the time the alleged child abuse began, says his harassment was homophobic in nature.
Polinksy shared his story on Wednesday during a press conference in Los Angeles with his attorney Lisa Bloom and his "Charles in Charge" co-star Nicole Eggert, who has also accused Baio of sexual harassment and child abuse.
"I was sexually harassed by Scott Baio and ultimately assaulted by him between the ages of 12 and 15 years old," a somber and shaken Polinsky said during the news conference.
Polinsky says the harassment began one day on set when he was 11 years old and saw Eggert sitting on Baio's lap -- something he interpreted as an innocent interaction. "I was so naive," Polinsky said, not realizing, at the time, what was really going between Eggert and Baio.
He then hopped onto Baio's lap, too, explaining he expected Baio to tell him innocent stories, but instead, "Scott immediately threw me off him and angrily called me f--t."
"It was not innocent. It was sexual in nature," Polinsky said, now looking back on Eggert sitting on Baio's lap. He said he felt "confusion, shame and fear" after realizing that he judged that situation incorrectly. He said he then began to frequently witness Baio's inappropriate conduct with Eggert, which made him feel uncomfortable, since Eggert was so close to his own age. "It made me question my place on the show, my safety on set" and began a period of depression.
Polinsky said Baio's harassment and abuse was a daily occurrence that endured through the sitcom's five-season run, and although it was painful going to work every day, he did not want to leave the show because he was a working actor who had auditioned against hundreds of kids for the role on the sitcom. Polinsky added, "I was a professional who did not want to give up what I had worked so hard for."
Polinsky claims Baio repeatedly talked about "gay sex acts that he told me I would grow up to perform." The actor says he would protest and tell him to stop saying those types of things, but that he was "branded with the most homophobic words about homosexuals that exist." Polinsky recalled, "Scott Baio told me I was never going to be loved by a woman in my life because I was so effeminate."
Polinksy also said Baio would frequently discuss his "sexual conquests" with his co-stars and other women.
Polinsky described Baio's harassment as being disguised as humor, but he noted that "joking taken to extremes becomes hazing and over longer periods of time, becomes torture."
One of the most disturbing instances, per Polinsky, was when Baio cut a hole in the canvas wall of his dressing room on set and "exposed his genitals."
Another time, Polinsky said, Baio was so angered that he "assaulted me by throwing a burning cup of tea to my face."
Polinsky said adults on set were aware of the problem, but no one wanted to say anything out of fear of losing their jobs or ruining the show. He told his parents, who gave him the option to quit the show or "stick it out." The former child actor also said he tried to speak to adults outside of work and the media, but "no one wanted to listen," and he was frequently reminded of the "happy TV family illusion" that he and his co-star Eggert were constantly prodded to portray.
"Both Nicole and I deserved better," Polinsky said, referring to Eggert. "We were kids ... famous actor kids, but we were still kids."
Eggert attended the press conference to support Polinsky, sharing that she has been harboring guilt for not speaking up about witnessing his abuse on the set of "Charles in Charge," but she was dealing with her own harassment and abuse at the hands of Baio.
"Alex was consistently picked on, berated with horrible homosexual slurs," Eggert said. "Our innocence was robbed of us. What was supposed to be the best time of our lives was a living nightmare."
Both Polinsky and Eggert explained they are speaking up so that they can begin the healing process, and the duo is calling for safety and care for working youth.
"I want to finally put this behind me," Polinsky said. "If kids are going to work in the entertainment industry ... shouldn't they be protected from abuse?" Eggert echoed, "This type of abuse should not happen to anyone, especially kids in the workplace. ... It is never too late to come forward. It is never too late to start your healing process."
Bloom updated the room of reporters on the LAPD investigation, explaining there is a possibility of criminal action, since her clients' cases deal with child abuse.
"The LAPD are fully cooperating with this investigation," Bloom said, adding that more than a dozen people from the "Charles in Charge" cast and crew have reached out to corroborate Polinsky and Eggert's claims, and their names have been given to the police as witnesses.
Polinsky and Eggert, who both called Baio a "tyrant," urged Baio to make a public apology. Later today, Baio, who has repeatedly denied all allegations of sexual harassment and abuse, is set to hold his own press conference with his attorney.
"I still have hope he can realize his wrongdoings," Polinsky said, referring to Baio. "He abused me publicly in front of hundreds of people. I would like a public apology."
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