Linda Bloodworth-Thomason has a different kind of Les Moonves story, but it’s as powerful as many of the others unearthed in Ronan Farrow’s recent exposé about the fallen CBS chief. Farrow’s New Yorker piece detailed multiple sexual misconduct allegations against Moonves, but Bloodworth-Thomason zeroes in on a whole other type of harassment as she shares her story about how the once-powerful CBS executive derailed her career as a television writer.
Linda Bloodworth-Thomason is the creator of the 1980s CBS hit Designing Women. She also created the Burt Reynolds comedy, Evening Shade, and was an early writer for the CBS sitcoms M*A*S*H, Rhoda, and One Day at a Time. In 1992, Bloodworth-Thomason was given the largest writing and producing contract in the history of CBS, a $50 million deal for five new series with substantial penalties for each pilot not picked up.
In a guest column for the Hollywood Reporter, Bloodworth-Thomason revealed that her high-dollar contract collided with the arrival of new CBS president Les Moonves. The legendary TV writer revealed that she was producing a pilot titled Fully Clothed Non-Dancing Women and immediately became worried when she heard that Moonves “was rumored to be a big fan of topless bars.” She also got wind of the fact that he reportedly hated Designing Women and the “loud-mouthed speeches” of strong feminist characters like Julia Sugarbaker (Dixie Carter).
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) September 13, 2018
In her essay, Bloodworth-Thomason detailed an early encounter with Moonves on the set of Fully Clothed Non-Dancing Women.
“He showed up at the first table read and took a chair directly across from mine (actress Illeana Douglas, who later accused him of sexual harassment, sat next to me). …He sat and stared at me throughout the entire reading with eyes that were stunningly cold, as in, ‘You are so dead.’ I had not experienced such a menacing look since Charles Manson tried to stare me down on a daily basis when I was a young reporter covering that trial. As soon as the pilot was completed, Moonves informed me that it would not be picked up. I was at the pinnacle of my career. I would not work again for seven years.”
Bloodworth-Thomason says she continued to try to “win over” Moonves, but he turned down every pilot she wrote. The writer/producer said it always seemed that the CBS boss enjoyed telling her he was turning her shows down and she later found out that he refused to give her scripts to any CBS stars he had under contract. Bloodworth-Thomason later began to hear from female CBS employees about Moonves’ misogynist behavior.
“Over the years, even when an actress managed to get one of my scripts through an agent, the deal would immediately be killed. It was like a personal vendetta and I will never know why.”
Bloodworth-Thomason says Les Moonves denied requests from both Bette Midler and Huey Lewis to work on TV pilots with her. In the end, she questioned why Moonves wouldn’t just tell her that he had no intention of ever putting one of her shows on his network instead of just keeping her “hopping and hoping.”
When she finally realized Moonves was never going to put a show of hers on the air, Bloodworth-Thomason left the network. She detailed her final transaction with Moonves and CBS in her THR piece.
“On the day I officially parted company with CBS, the same day Mr. Moonves said he would only pay a tiny fraction of the penalties, my incredulous agent asked what he should tell me. Mr. Moonves replied, ‘Tell her to go f— herself!'”
Two decades later, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason has a message for Les Moonves, who recently stepped down from his post as CBS President and CEO and is facing sexual harassment allegations from 12 women.
“As for you, Mr. Moonves, in spite of the fact that I was raised to be a proper Southern female, and with your acknowledgement that I have never, in my life, spoken a single cross word to you, despite the way you treated me, may I simply say, channeling my finest Julia Sugarbaker delivery: ‘Go f— yourself!'”
Incidentally, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason is currently developing a Designing Women reboot, but this time she won’t have to worry about Les Moonves blocking it no matter what network she pitches it to.