Gay Nightlife Promoter Michael J. Cohen Accused of Sexual Misconduct
Author: Trudy Ring
New York City gay nightlife entrepreneur Michael J. Cohen is being accused of sexual misconduct by numerous young queer men, NBC News reported Thursday.
These include “accusations that he groped or pressured men to have sex or send nude photos, as well as a claim of sexual assault,” according to NBC. Nine people shared allegations with the network.
Cohen opened the gay bar Motel 23 in Manhattan in 2020, and he has hosted parties at other nightclubs. NBC began tracking allegations after an anonymous Instagram account regarding occurrences at Motel 23 went online in July.
Accusers include Charles Battersby, who said Cohen repeatedly groped his genitals and buttocks, without consent, at parties Cohen hosted at Goldbar. The instances began in 2015, when Battersby was 19, he said.
Stephen Carlstrom, who was modeling while attending college, said that in 2017, Cohen offered him pay for attending parties, in exchange for oral sex. Carlstrom said he felt coerced, and he complied, but the job never came through.
“It just felt extremely predatory and manipulative afterward,” Carlstrom told NBC. “I definitely wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t talk me into it.”
Several others spoke with NBC under condition of anonymity, but none of the accusers reported the incidents to police. Some of the men were newly out and said they thought such conduct was typical in the community, and others, especially those under 21, said they considered it the price of admission to fashionable parties. Some provided screen shots of explicit text messages from Cohen, and others had their accounts corroborated by friends.
Cohen refused to be interviewed by NBC, but a spokesperson, Alafair Hall, sent the network this email: “Mr. Cohen absolutely denies allegations that he groped, sexually assaulted, forcibly kissed or demanded sex from anyone. … In his years of hosting parties, Mr. Cohen has never engaged in any sexual activity that was not unmistakably consensual. He takes these allegations seriously.”
As for the text messages, Hall told NBC Cohen is “a proud gay man with no shame about his activity on social media, where he has asked adult men to send him sexual pictures, including those of their genitals. But he has never pressured men to have sex.”
Cohen’s parties often had celebrity guest, such as Olympic diver Tom Daley, actor Neil Patrick Harris, and musician Lil Nas X. All of them declined comment to NBC. So did most other investors in Motel 23, including film director Bryan Singer, who has been accused of sexual misconduct at other times. “There is no indication that they knew about the allegations of misconduct against Cohen and Motel 23 reported by NBC News,” the network notes.
The person behind the Instagram account, who remained anonymous, told NBC he set up the account after going to the bar and being told he could get in for free but his Black friend would have to pay a $250 cover charge. Several other people said the bar’s personnel treated white men better than women or people of color.
An actor, who was not named, said that in 2006, when Cohen was a talent manager in Los Angeles, Cohen jumped on him and forcibly kissed him. Another actor, Daniel Franzese of Mean Girls and Looking fame, was one of Cohen’s clients for a time, but Franzese told NBC News, “I don’t recommend working with him,” and declined further comment.
Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring