Obviously, the sexual abuse scandals that are now roiling Hollywood did not start recently. But how far back do they date? To answer that question, this investigative reporter tracked down the most flagrant and notorious of Hollywood’s sexual predators. I refer, of course, to that undeniable stinker, Pepé Le Pew.
Unashamed and uninhibited, Pepé Le Pew actually filmed his serial assaults. True, many of his victims were of his same stripe, but on more than one occasion his arrogance and recklessness led him to cross the species-line.
Pepé Le Pew has been out of the public eye — and nose — for many years now. One rumor had it that he had fled to Algiers, there to fulfill his long-cherished desire to live out his romantic fantasies in the fabled Casbah. Another rumor, less credible for such a well-known public figure, had him hiking the Appalachian Trail. Those stories didn’t pass the sniff test, so I started my search at the scene of his many crimes, the Warner Brothers studio in Hollywood.
My initial inquiries, directed at several preternaturally fresh-faced receptionists, were met with blank stares. They claimed never to have heard of Pepé Le Pew. Never heard of the winner of a 1949 Academy Award? Never heard of the star of such classic films as For Scent-imental Reasons and Past Perfumance? Lies! Coverup and stinking lies! As Big Daddy observed, “There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity.” Of course, Big Daddy never met Pepé.
Maybe one of the old-timers at Warner Brothers would know where I could find him. I spied a short old bird who was chatting in an overly-friendly fashion with a gaggle of whiskerless young men.
“Excuse me, but do you know where I can find Pepé Le Pew?” I asked.
“Hey, do I look like an almanac, buddy?” he shouted in a Brooklyn accent. “Do I? Do I? Go ask dat loud-mout’ shnook over dere.”
The loud-mouth shnook proved to be a pot-bellied codger scratching about at the edge of the Warner Brothers lot.
“Aw, shucks, that old chicken-hawk don’t know nothin’,” he told me in an accent that clearly hailed from Dixie. “Pepé Le Pew? Why, old Pepé got hauled off to the taxidermist years ago! Aw, c’mon now, son, that’s a joke, ah say, that’s a joke, son. But if you really wanna find Pepé Le Pew,” he said tapping his beak, “you just gotta, ah say, you just gotta follow your nose!”
And so I did. As I trudged upwind following an ever-stronger mephitidian spoor, I thought of Pepé Le Pew’s many outrages, how he would trap females in blind alleys or locked rooms, how he would lie in wait for them around corners. What kind of monster would do such things? Finally, I arrived at a decrepit single-story stucco building. A rusted sign over the entrance told me that I had arrived at the Animated Film Stars Retirement Home.
Upon entering, I easily got wind of Pepé. As I walked into his room, I found him staring quietly out the window, the thick smoke of Gauloises cigarettes circling about his head.
He might be a roué, but he was ever the gentleman. “S’il vous plait, monsieur, zit on le chaise near me here, and we can parlez, non?
Ah, mon amie, you ask me to recall that temps perdu of so long ago — and you didn’t even bring le lemon cookie! Bien! I came to zis country with little more zan les espadrilles on mes pieds. I didn’t have deux francs to rub togezzer. But I found a home in le show beezness. Eh, bien? What can I say? Toutes les femmes found me irrésistible. Bien sûr, some played la coquette wiz me. Mais, you know, it was toute part of le act.
Ma préférée? Ah, monsieur, surely you know zat too! Zat was ma chère pussycat Penelope. Ah, Penelope, Penelope! Ma petite fleur! Premier amour de mon coeur! Eet has been so long since she has come to visit avec moi. Zat is her sandbox in le corner zere.
Oui, I know what le people are saying, zat I was an oppresseur sexuel, zat I am guilty of le harcèlement sexuel. What can I say? I am une créature romantique. Mais, perhaps c’est vrai. Perhaps I have caused un peu, un peu de douleur. If so, I apolozhise.
I promise to work on mes démons intérieurs. Meanwhile, I will direct my anger contre un vrai méchant, zat chasseur Elmer Fudd and les autres fusiliers du NRA.”
Eric Chevlen is a physician and writer living in Youngstown, Ohio. He is the author of Triple Crown, the only triple heroic crown of sonnets ever written in English.