To hear her tell it, it was awful, vile, nauseating.
A famous man grabbed her private parts. He got away with it because he was a celebrity. And it happened while cameras were rolling.
This is what Shereen Hariri says happened to her 23 years ago, when a famous British pop singer by the name of Simon Le Bon came into the record store where she worked to sign autographs for hundreds of fans.
Le Bon, the lead singer of Duran Duran, sexually assaulted her in April of 1995, claims Hariri, a 47-year-old Los Angeles therapist who disclosed the bombshell allegation against Le Bon on Wednesday after decades of keeping quiet.
In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, which was first to publish her story, the California woman said that the #MeToo movement inspired her to open up, along with the Donald Trump "Access Hollywood" tape where he talks about grabbing women by their genitalia and getting away with it because he's a celebrity.
“I thought, ‘Wow,’ this is exactly the same thing that I’ve been dealing with,” said Hariri, noting she was still hesitant to go public with her story, even after the infamous Trump video surfaced. “There was another part of me hoping that someone else would speak up. … I kept hoping the music industry would be outed by somebody else, and it didn’t happen.”
Le Bon, 59, is the voice and face of the 1980s pop-rock band Duran Duran, which captured the MTV revolution with numerous new wave and synthpop hits, including "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Rio" "The Reflex" and "Girls on Film." In 1982, Duran Duran won a best-video Grammy for "Hungry Like the Wolf" and also one for best video album. The group continues to perform today.
For the grown and accomplished woman, the fear of backlash for going after a famous figure was still overwhelming, just like it was 23 years ago.
“When I first told people, my colleagues and friends believed me. But the environment has always been a little like, ‘Did it really happen? Is she making this up?’ It’s a scary thing when you’re trying to live a normal life … and you say something about a well-known and well-liked public figure,” Hariri said. “There would be a lot of backlash that I wasn’t ready for.”
But it did happen, she maintains. And she remembers it painfully well.
“I would love for him to own up to me. My assumption is that he doesn’t remember,” she said, stressing this isn’t about money.
There is no lawsuit. She’s not asking for money. She just wants him to own up — a prospect that seemed within reach as her lawyer came close to arranging a meeting between her and Le Bon in recent months.
But the meeting never happened. So she came forward.
“This wasn’t just a quick grope or ass grab. This was a long, drawn-out thing. … There’s no room for misinterpretation here at all,” she said. “My memory is very clear.”
Here, according to Hariri, is what happened to her in the Los Angeles record store on April 10, 1995:
Hariri, a then-aspiring filmmaker, was working at The Wherehouse, a record store where Duran Duran held an autograph signing. Hariri was working the event when the four band members took their seats for a photo op. She was standing slightly behind Le Bon, to his left, when he slipped his left arm around her hips.
“When we started it seemed pretty innocent. As the cameras started clicking, he pretty quickly started moving his hand and doing everything that he did,” she said, claiming that he massaged her butt cheek before making his way down to her genitals and then rubbing her labia.
“And he moaned really loud. It was awful,” she said. “The memory of it is awful. It is so humiliating. I assumed other people could hear it. … I really froze up.”
Then came more.
After the groping, she said, she was posted at Le Bon’s signing table, directly in front of him, to help keep the line of fans moving. She glared at him with her arms folded. He smirked and said, “You’re Persian, aren’t you?”
When she responded 'yes,' she recalled him saying: "I thought so. My wife gets that same expression on her face."
Le Bon's attorney and management company did not respond to calls or emails.
It’s a nauseating memory, says Hariri, now a mother herself who hopes her daughter can grow up in a world where ass grabs aren’t commonplace, where groping isn’t condoned and where women’s bodies are respected.
As a therapist, she has listened to numerous clients talk about being assaulted, mistreated or being sexual predators themselves. Now, she said, it’s time to start talking about what happened to her.
“I’m hoping mostly to help other women,” said Hariri, who is also searching for closure. "I’d like to be able to not feel sick to my stomach and cringe and feel waves of negative emotion when I hear his voice or music, or his name or his band’s name.”
Now that she has opened up, she said she feels a little sense of relief and catharsis. But it doesn’t feel complete yet.
“It doesn’t feel like this is the end of the story,” she said, fearing the #metoo movement hasn’t changed all that much. “I wish I could say it’s different now … but the reality is that this continues to happen. I don’t know if this movement is going to end. The ass grab in itself is so commonplace. I had a client who said it just happened the other day, in the film industry.”
But the more people who open up, she said, the more the world is on notice that this behavior won’t be tolerated.
“I’m not here to hurt anybody,” she said. “This is not about hurting him, his family or his fans. I had the weight of all of this and I weighed it for months, if not years.”
She just wants him to own up, both for her and himself.
“What I really hope for — whatever this is inside of him — I hope he finds a way to heal it I have empathy for him,” she said. “I don’t want his money. I don’t want to benefit from this in any financial way. I’m only trying to help myself feel better and him and other women.”
She stressed: “It’s my truth.”
Northville employee rights attorney Sarah Prescott, who handles sexual misconduct cases and is representing Harira, said her client came close to a sit-down with Le Bon in recent months — through talks with his attorney — but that Le Bon changed his mind and has admitted no wrongdoing.
"He never admitted anything, It was more of, 'I can come and tell you how sorry I am that this happens to women,' " said Prescott, who recalled Le Bon's lawyer not expressing shock or outrage about the allegation.
"The stance was, 'There were a lot of drugs taken those days. He's not going to remember any particular lady or any particular moment,' " Prescott said, referring to Le Bon's lawyers comments.
Le Bon's New York attorney, Dave Berger, did not return calls for comment. Messages were also left unreturned with Duran Duran's management company, Magus Entertainment in New York.
However, the band posted a statement from Le Bon on its Facebook page late Wednesday night.
"I have read the statement which Ms. Hariri posted yesterday on Facebook about a record signing 23 years ago at Wherehouse in L.A.," he said.
The behavior that Ms Hariri has accused me of, would have been just as inappropriate and unacceptable to me then as it is today. But the allegation is simply untrue.
When Ms. Hariri first contacted me about her claim months ago, I proposed meeting with her in person so I could set the record straight. Instead, she has decided to pursue this publicly.
I have always been one who can admit to my mistakes and apologize for my failings. But I cannot apologize for something I did not do."
Contact Tresa Baldas: email@example.com Follow her on Twitter @Tbaldas