Narcissist. Swellhead. Egomaniac. Prima donna. Fetishist.
None of these are legal terms so I don’t have to use the “alleged” qualifier in describing Jian Ghomeshi, to avoid libel.
A dim-wattage celebrity, beyond the navel-gazing orbit of CBC personalities.
Admission: I’d never heard of Ghomeshi until his self-penned alternate-lifestyle Facebook posting — the consensual bondage stuff — went viral as pre-emptive swipe at the employer he feared might fire him over BDSM tastes. Which Mother Corp. did, subsequently. But I don’t move in Can-Cult circles. Don’t attend entertainment industry parties. Don’t hang out at the bars CBC “glitterati” frequent.
What a small and insular world that is.
Actress-producer Lucy DeCoutere wasn’t up on the Ghomeshi File either, apparently, when first she met the CBC host at a 2003 TV conference in Banff. Actually at a karaoke contest, briefly, then a barbecue which was “a big mixer” event. “He asked if I was American, I think because I did not know a lot about his work at that point,” DeCoutere told court Thursday, taking the stand as the second accuser against Ghomeshi at his sexual assault trial. “The fact he asked me if I was American made me feel maybe I should have known a little bit more about him.”
While his vanity may have been bruised, Ghomeshi certainly seemed intrigued by the attractive and cheerful DeCoutere — best known, in the years since, for her role in Trailer Park Boys, though she’s now a training and development officer as captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force. “Extremely friendly, with flirtatious undertones that were a bit cheeky,” DeCoutere said of their BBQ conversation.
He gave her his business card. “I was flattered that he wanted to stay in touch.”
In the following weeks they communicated mostly by email, she in Halifax, he in Toronto. “I thought he was cute and interesting,” DeCoutere — the only complainant (from among three in this trial) who has waived the right to a publication ban on her name — told Crown attorney Corie Langdon. “I wanted to explore his personality a little more, to see if he was somebody I might want to spend more time with.”
The email exchange was occasionally lewd. “Anyone who knows me knows I have a sense of humour that falls into the bawdy scale . . . banter that’s a little bit lascivious and cheeky.”
As a witness awaiting her turn on the stand, DeCoutere had been warned by the prosecution not to follow reports about this trial, in either mainstream or social media. So I won’t say that she was aware of what had befallen the first complainant who testified earlier this week, caught flat-footed by the coy emails (one with a bikini pic attached) she’d sent to Ghomeshi after the night he’d allegedly punched her three times in the head. But under direct questioning, DeCoutere put the content of those emails on the record, presumably before defence lawyer Marie Henein had the opportunity to pounce.
Thus we heard about “Rusty Trombone” — a sex act the witness said was mentioned as a joke. She added: “In this environment I’m feeling it’s not so funny, but at the time it was.”
Ghomeshi suggested phone sex; DeCoutere said no.
But by July, a month after Banff, she was in Toronto, partly to see friends and partly to explore the “potential” of a romantic relationship with Ghomeshi.
They met for dinner on the Friday night at Pan, a Danforth restaurant. He was annoyed that she didn’t eat cheese. “If I didn’t like spicy food either, that would be a deal-breaker.”
Ghomeshi, as the witness recalls it, wanted to quash some rumours, in case they’d reached DeCoutere’s ears: He was not gay and he had never been funded by the PLO. Mostly he was keen on talking about his career successes and impressing her with his celeb status: That he’d picked Pan because everyone knew him and the restaurant had even put on extra staff when it was learned he was coming that night; that, in younger and poorer days he’d dreamed about having the money to dine at Pan.
“He got angry at me during dinner because I didn’t show more interest in his career.”
Afterwards they went to his Riverdale home, so Ghomeshi could get a sweater and they’d take a walk. DeCoutere had no concerns. “It’s not like he was gonna kill me if we go back to his house. Lots of people had seen us (together). I knew there was a chance that he might want to be intimate but I knew that would only go to a certain point because I had no interest in having sex with him.”
They did kiss. And big deal to that. During a tour of the residence, he presented his walk-in closet — showoff-y. She noticed all the shirts were hung according to range of colours. “It was, like, perfect.”
Abruptly: “He started kissing me. Then he took me by the throat, pushed me up against the wall, cutting off my breath and choking me. There was no build-up, it was like suddenly. The way I remember it, he hit me a couple of times.”
And just stared at her afterwards, neither saying anything.
The open-mouth kissing was consensual, DeCoutere acknowledged. The rest of it, no way. “I was not able to consent to the choking or slapping. I was just receiving it.
“A thumb on one side, his palm on the front of my throat and his fingers on the other side of my throat . . . hard enough that I couldn’t breathe.”
Slap-slap. Pause. Slap.
“Hard enough that it got my attention. Not hard enough to leave a mark. It’s pretty shocking when someone slaps your face. I’ve never really had that happen before.”
Yet they didn’t speak of it. DeCoutere stayed for a while longer. “I didn’t want to be rude, which I know sounds weird after what had just happened to me. It’s a ridiculous concern.”
There was more smooching and a kiss goodnight. She wondered if the alleged attack had somehow been her fault, “because of my pleasing personality.” And, well, “everybody makes gaffes.” Further: “I kind of had compassion for him. But he didn’t have compassion for me . . . Also, I wasn’t in a relationship (with him) so was this intimate-partner violence? I didn’t know how to process it.”
Despite the alleged assault, DeCoutere (with a mutual friend) met Ghomeshi the following day at a Danforth patio for brunch, went to an art show. At some point that weekend there was a walk in the park, though DeCoutere had no memory of that until defence lawyer Marie Henein, during cross-examination, produced photographs taken of them, cuddling up.
On the Sunday, Ghomeshi took her to a barbecue. But first, when DeCoutere came by the house to hook up with him, she accidentally stepped on Ghomeshi’s glasses, breaking them. “He was on the verge of tears.” Later, Ghomeshi fell into a grumpy mood because DeCoutere declined to accompany him on what sounded very much like a late date with another woman.
DeCoutere returned to Halifax on the Monday and sent Ghomeshi flowers.
“I knew I didn’t want to have a romantic relationship with Mr. Ghomeshi. I did want to stay in touch with him.”
Charismatic, DeCoutere described Ghomeshi, charming — when he wasn’t smacking her in the face.
Full of himself, though.
“Nobody loves Jian more than Jian.”
A year later, back in Banff, they were on the karaoke stage together, performing “(Hit Me) . . . Baby One More Time.”