‘Variety Confidential’ True Crime Podcast Examines Hollywood’s Secret History of the Casting Couch   (2024)

Before Hollywood scandals of assaults and rape trials made headlines in recent decades, several notable men who built the entertainment industry were accused abusers in nationally covered legal cases.

Variety and iHeart Podcasts’ true crime podcast “Variety Confidential” debuted Wednesday with an episode spotlighting Alexander Pantages, the ruthless magnate who had major impact on the development of motion pictures and theaters across the country, including the famed Pantages Theatre which remains a premier venue on Hollywood Boulevard.

In the first episode, titled “The Beast,” host Tracy Pattin and co-host Matt Donnelly, Variety’s senior entertainment and media writer, detail Pantages’ rise and fall. At the height of his empire in the 1920s, Pantages was accused of raping Eunice Pringle, a 17-year-old dancer.

In 1929, Pringle alleged that Pantages, who was 54 at the time, attacked her in an office of his Los Angeles theater after discussing her audition. Moviegoers that day witnessed Pringle running into the street in a torn dress and screaming that she had been assaulted by “the beast.”

Pantages, who claimed it was Pringle who had attacked him for a movie part, was found guilty in a jury trial and sentenced to 50 years in prison. Two years later, in 1931, he sought a retrial, hired a new fixer and was found not guilty of raping Pringle.

The Pantages rulings would become a precedent for well-funded efforts to protect high-powered names in Hollywood such as Harvey Weinstein, the former film mogul now imprisoned on sexual assault charges.

Variety Confidential,” a six-episode series, will explore stories of sex, money and murder in the entertainment industry. The podcast dives deep into the Variety Archives, the publication’s research tool using nearly 120 years of Variety articles and reporting. Season 1, titled “The Secret History of the Casting Couch,” will detail the notorious Hollywood casting couch through the decades and draw parallels between recent sex scandals and those of the past, illustrating that sexual predation in the industry is as old as the Hollywood Hills.

Variety Confidential,” distributed by iHeart Podcasts, is available on the iHeartRadio app, Variety.com, as well as other major podcast platforms. New episodes post weekly. “Variety Confidential” was created by Jon Ponder, Tracy Pattin, Dea Lawrence, Variety’s COO and CMO, and Steve Gaydos, Variety’s EVP of content and executive editor. Sydney Kramer, managing director and senior executive producer for the Variety Content Studio, is a producer along with Ponder and Pattin.

Citations and Footnotes from Episode 1, “The Beast”


Anger, Kenneth, Hollywood Babylon II, New American Library, 1984

Beauchamp, Cari, Joseph P. Kennedy Presents His Hollywood Years, Penguin Random House, 2009

Lagos, Taso G., American Zeus, McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Tygiel, Jules, The Great Los Angeles Swindle: Oil, Stocks, and Scandal During the Roaring Twenties, University of California Press, Jan 1, 1996




Savings of 4 Mil If Kennedy Merges FBO Pathe First National, Variety, Aug. 15, 1928

Pantages Very Nasty Mess, Variety, 19290814

Sentiment Swings to Pantages, Variety, October 30, 1929

Pantages Sentenced to 50 Years, Variety, November 13, 1929

Applications for Parole Denied, Variety, February 5, 1930

New Trial Granted, Variety, September 27, 1930

Pantages, Vet Vaudevill Showman; Dies at 65, Had a Colorful Career,” Variety, p. 63, Feb. 19, 1936



Pantages Driver Held Speeding Reckless Driving, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 22, 1924

Pantages Chauffeur Fined Speeding Reckless Driving, Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1924

Pantages in Fight with Actress Husband, Los Angeles Times, July 18, 1924

Pantages Gives Details of Sale, Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1929

Pantages RKO Deal Near, Los Angeles Times, June 7, 1929

Mrs. Pantages Arrested, Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1929

Warners Buys DLTLA Pantages 3 Mil, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 9, 1929

Pantages Placed in Jail, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 10, 1929

Pantages out on Bail – Pringles Sue for $500k, Los Angeles Times, 19290811

Opening Statements Pantages Trial, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 4, 1929

Eunice Tearfully Testifies, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 5, 1929

Eunice’s Dress; Her Rescuer Testifies, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 8, 1929

Pantages Testifies, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 23, 1929

Closing Arguments, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 25, 1929

Pantages Found Guilty, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 28, 1929

Pringle Girl Returns to the Stand, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 24, 1931

Pantages Jury Sent to Hotel, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 25, 1931

Jury Acquits Pantages, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 25, 1931

Dancer Glad Its Over, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 28 1931

Pringle Hist Pantages Freedom, United Press, Nov. 28, 1931

Fate Showed No Pity for Victim of Barroom Gang Rape, Syracuse Post Standard, Jan. 3, 1987

Rasmussen, Cecilia, Giesler’s Rise to Glory in LA Courts, Los Angeles Times, Oct. 4, 1998

D.A. Fitts Was Good Match for Scandalous ë30s, LAT, Sept. 19, 1999 https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1999-sep-19-me-12084-story.html

Parrish, Michael, A Myth Maker’s Clarification, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2002 https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2002-jun-16-tm-45939-story.html

Klondkie Kate Mined Life to Its Fullest, Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2004

California Supreme Court Historical Society Review, A Legal Cudgel for the (Pant)Ages, p. 15, Fall/Winter 2019 https://www.cschs.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/2019-CSCHS-Review-Fall.pdf



Alexander Pantages, (No author cited), https://web.stanford.edu/~ichriss/Pantages.htm

Warner Brothers Downtown, Los Angeles Theatres Blog, https://losangelestheatres.blogspot.com/2017/09/warner-downtown.html

Spitzzeri, Paul R.,The Sexual Assault Trial of Alexander Pantages, Los Angeles, October 1929, Homestead Museum Website, October 10, 2018, Https://homesteadmuseum.wordpress.com/2018/10/10/the-sexual-assault-trial-of-alexander-pantages-los-angeles-october-1929/

Dunaev – Man Who Could Bend Dimes, HOUSEHISTORYMAN BLOG, March 16, 2013, https://househistoryman.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-man-who-could-bend-dime-with-his.html

Joseph P. Kennedy, biography.com, April 2, 2014, https://www.biography.com/history-culture/joseph-p-kennedy

How Joseph Kennedy Made His Fortune, history.com, Oct. 28, 2019, https://www.history.com/news/joseph-kennedy-wealth-alcohol-prohibition

‘Variety Confidential’ True Crime Podcast Examines Hollywood’s Secret History of the Casting Couch   (2024)
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