May 6th, 2017

Sheila Nevins and sleeping with your boss

I don’t get HBO and don’t think I’ve ever watched one of their documentaries. So the name “Sheila Nevins” meant very little to me, but the headline of this article caught my eye. It features an interview in which Nevins is promoting her new book, and the title (of the article, not the book) is “HBO Docs Genius Sheila Nevins Says She Slept With Bosses Early in Her Career.”

So hey, my curiosity piqued, I clicked on it. Here’s Nevins, who is one of the most honored (in the sense of Emmys, that is) documentary producer in television history, describing her rise to power:

Sheila Nevins, the lauded documentary maven of HBO, recently told “CBS” that she slept with her bosses early in her career. “I don’t know that I slept my way to the top, but I didn’t not sleep with my bosses in the early days, when they wanted me,” she said in an interview with Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes.”

However, with the rise of feminism, and taking inspiration from Gloria Steinem, Nevins said she ditched what can be described as a “Mad Men”-era strategy and began succeeding on her own merit.

“It just splashes you in the face and you say, ‘Why have I done this? Why am I wearing tight jeans to work? Why am I starving myself on some diet? Why am I sleeping with the boss? And why am I thinking that’s the way to go up?’ And it was the way. It worked. I would love to say it didn’t work. It would be so appropriate, so now. But it worked,” Nevins said.

So, it was only Gloria Steinem who motivated Nevins to ask questions like “Why am I sleeping with the boss?” Did Nevins have no prior moral sense or psychological curiosity at all, irrespective of feminism? And was she sleeping with bosses she wasn’t even attracted to, in order to get ahead? Were some of these bosses married (I would be very surprised if the answer wasn’t “yes”)? Are any of them still alive—or are their wives—and is this revelation going to screw up what remains of their marriages?

Nevins’ blithe mindset, then and now, and her extreme self-interest and self-promotion, is hardly unique. Hey, it worked, as she says. So that must make it right—in the practical sense, anyway. And is there any other, according to Nevins?

Perhaps in her book Nevins expresses some form of regret. I haven’t read it; maybe I will, out of curiosity. But in that article she seems utterly pragmatic, as in it’s what you had to do to get ahead, and so I did it, and I didn’t question it until Steinem the feminist removed the scales from my eyes.

The subtext of Nevins’ discussion is that, prior to feminism, this was the only way to get ahead, but that after feminism merit was more likely to be rewarded, and that that justifies her earlier behavior. Well, for those who put ambition above all else, I suppose it would. Is it even true? Not strictly (I knew exceptions, even back when I was growing up), although Nevins seems to be using it as a justification.

It’s ironic, now that women are acknowledged to have achieved the ability to advance without sleeping with everyone in sight, they’ve become exceedingly touchy about anything that even smacks of sex or sexual advances in the workplace. But does anyone doubt that some women are still using the time-honored “sleep your way up” routine to facilitate their climb, and fully justifying it with hey, it works? Sometimes, anyway. The boss in question had better be careful though—because afterwards, he might get slapped with a harassment suit.

And, since I can’t seem to get away from talking about health care coverage reform lately, I couldn’t help but notice another quote from Nevins:

Early on at HBO, Nevins developed the series “Real Sex” and “G-String Divas,” which received backlash for their portrayal of sex work. She said that colleagues asked her, “How could you?” But Nevins found that there were far bigger issues. “Why not? Well, who was getting hurt? The real pornography of life is living without healthcare; it’s not sliding up and down a pole for a buck,” she told Stahl.

This is the caliber of the mind shaping the documentaries at HBO. Now, I have no doubt Nevins knows how to produce a documentary that grabs viewers. But no; pornography is pornography, and living without healthcare is living without healthcare, and it’s another problem entirely. And then there’s EMTALA (as I keep repeating)…

In researching Nevins and her life, I also happened across this incident in which Nevins and her husband were involved in January of 2009:

Sheila Nevins, the president of HBO Documentary Films, was flying with her husband Sidney Koch to New York January 20 [at the time of Obama’s first inauguration] from the Sundance Film Festival in Utah aboard a Delta Airlines flight. Ms. Nevins, in first class, had checked beforehand to make sure that live television would be available, according to her lawyer, John Horan.

But shortly after takeoff, many of the television monitors in first class failed, including Ms. Nevins’ monitor, Mr. Horan said.

Adding to the aggravation were announcements from the cockpit of the sort that “those on the left side of the plane can see some lovely scenery .”

“Sidney had been watching Obama’s speech and a couple times when President Obama was speaking, the airplane pilot made a public address interrupting Obama’s speech,” said Jean Frost, an assistant executive director at the Directors Guild, who was also in first class. “Sidney got very upset at that happening and went to talk to the stewardess.”…

“There was a customer who was upset that the in-seat screen wasn’t working and became verbally abusive to a flight attendant, and that flight was met by local law enforcement,” said Betsy Talton, a spokesperson for Delta…

Port Authority police at Kennedy Airport led Mr. Koch and Ms. Nevins off the plane and they were questioned in the public waiting area, Mr. Horan [Nevins’ lawyer] said. “They were detained at JFK in a public space for two hours and were humiliated by the experience. It was ghastly and unnecessary.”

Ah, but maybe that’s the real pornography .

31 Responses to “Sheila Nevins and sleeping with your boss”

  1. Griffin Says:

    Wikipedia tells me this woman is 78 years old and has been married since 1972. So if one is to assume (I know) that this went on prior to her marriage then this in fact did take place in the ‘Mad Men’ era. Sounds like she does an awful lot of rationalizing of her questionable actions.

  2. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Did Nevins have no prior moral sense or psychological curiosity at all, irrespective of feminism?

    Why would one expect any kind of moral sense from an admitted whore? A whore being defined as a woman who accepts material benefit in exchange for sex outside of a personal relationship.

  3. vanderleun Says:

    “taking inspiration from Gloria Steinem, Nevins said she ditched what can be described as a “Mad Men”-era strategy and began succeeding on her own merit.”

    Still lying after all these years…

  4. J.J. Says:

    Way back in my days in the cockpit there were no TVs, no movies, and certainly no cell phones on airplanes. Magazines or books were the entertainment du jour. Many passengers, especially on the tourist type routes, were appreciative of having geographical landmarks pointed out. That was a different era.

    However, there were still problem passengers. On an SFO to BOI flight we had a woman on board with a small dog in a carrier. She let the dog out of the carrier and the flight attendant informed her that it was an FAA regulation that she must keep the dog in the carrier. The third time the woman let her dog out the flight attendant came to the cockpit with the problem. At the time I was flying second officer and most captains sent me back to the cabin to handle such problems. But this captain was a go getter. He went back. I sighed a sigh of relief. 🙂

    When he came back to the cockpit, he directed that I call the company in BOI and have the station manager and the FBI meet the airplane. Wow, that was serious!

    He said the woman, who was the wife of a Boise Cascade executive, threatened to sue the airline for harassment. He told her to keep her dog in the carrier or she was going to jail. Some nearby passenger said he was a lawyer and would represent the woman with the dog. The captain, not one to mince words, told him to shut his mouth or he was going to jail as well. When we pulled up to the gate and opened the door, the BOI station manager and an FBI man were right there.

    When the woman came to the door the station manager stepped forward and said, “Mrs. Boise Cascade, we have had enough of you and your creation of chaos on our airplanes. We don’t want your business. Don’t even try to buy a ticket on our airplanes.” Then he introduced her to the FBI man who showed her his badge. He told her to come with him, which she did – quite meekly, I might add.

    I had never seen a company manager tell any passenger that they were trouble and to take their business elsewhere. The station manager told us that she had been a problem for a couple of years and had been warned many times. She seemed to think she was immune to rules. Fortunately, there were few passengers like that in those days.

  5. expat Says:

    Trump was right in that Billy Bush episode. Why are all women assumed now to be angels? Churchill was right when he said that that women was now only negotiating the price.

  6. F Says:

    “It’s ironic, now that women are acknowledged to have achieved the ability to advance without sleeping with everyone in sight, they’ve become exceedingly touchy about anything that even smacks of sex or sexual advances in the workplace.”

    I see this a little differently. It seems to me as if women these days are far more prepared to engage in sexual liaisons outside of marriage — adultery — than was the case 30 or 40 years ago. And they do so with less compunction about marriage vows, morality, whatever.

    So perhaps they are not sleeping their way to the top, but they are sleeping around as frequently or more, and with no ulterior motive other than randiness. I will not cast aspersions on them, but I did want to make the point that your conclusion does not mean women are sleeping around less, just that they are not doing so for career gain.

  7. AesopFan Says:

    F, I presume you have seen these stories.

    Yet the gossip column cemetery is chock-a-block with killed stories about Joe & Mika’s alleged off-air intimacies.
    In one such case in November 2013, shortly after Scarborough’s divorce from his second wife was finalized (and three years before Brzezinski’s official split from her own spouse), The New York Post’s Richard Johnson was preparing to declare them an item.
    According to sources familiar with the situation, a distraught Brzezinski reached out to then-Fox News CEO Roger Ailes —like Johnson, a vassal in the Murdoch media empire—and tearfully asked Ailes, with whom she was friendly, to intervene with the gossip columnist, arguing that their respective children would be hurt by such publicity.
    Ailes made his pitch to Johnson on Brzezinski’s behalf, and the columnist obligingly stood down.
    The next day, the sources said, Johnson was rewarded when Scarborough phoned him and gave him the juicy scoop that Alec Baldwin was about to be fired from his short-lived MSNBC program.
    Not only did everybody win (with the possible exception of Alec Baldwin), the outcome suggested that Joe & Mika have a virtuosic mastery of the power grid—and know precisely which buttons to push.

    * *
    The Daily Beast sounds as if they think that adultery and bribery are, if not commendable behavior, at least practical: they worked.

  8. AesopFan Says:

    For a slightly lighter tone, my theater director in college had quite a bit of “street cred” in tv and stage, although he never became a big-name. One story he told was of a play that was SO bad, the star was reduced to asking who she had to sleep with to get out of her contract.

  9. TommyJay Says:

    If a lady with very flexible ethical standards were to produce action films, for example; then so what. But documentary films??

    Just watched the new-on-Netflix doc “Murder in the Park.” Must see stuff for anyone who cares about corruption in the media and academia, and to some extent, the justice system. The overturning of the Anthony Porter death penalty case led Illinois Gov. Ryan to commute 167 death penalty cases and ultimately eliminate the death penalty in Ill.; all because of a fraud perpetrated by the journalism dept. at Northwestern U.

  10. Ann Says:

    Nevins sounds to me as if she was more influenced by Helen Gurley Brown than Gloria Steinem.

  11. neo-neocon Says:


    I have no doubt that some women are still sleeping around for career gain. It hasn’t completely gone out of style. I suppose some men are doing it, too, now that there are more women positioned to help them, careerwise.

  12. groundhog Says:


    A ballet clip for you, neo.

  13. Wooly Bully Says:

    Mediocre singer Lana Del Rey pretty much brags about having “slept” her way to the top, though she’s more explicit in how she describes it.

  14. richardaubrey Says:

    Lana Del Rey and the “top”? Quick poll: Who’s ever heard of her?

  15. Wooly Bully Says:

    Lana Del Rey and the “top”? Quick poll: Who’s ever heard of her?

    Her last album was number one in the U.S.

  16. The Other Chuck Says:

    JJ, a great story. I’ve heard several from my 1st cousin, a retired United stewardess, excuse me, flight attendant.
    Her least favorite passengers were Hollywood celebs. One especially obnoxious one was Art Linkletter who according to her never missed an opportunity to belittle the help, complain in a loud voice about the fare served in 1st class, and in general make himself a victim of airline incompetence. Her favorite response to these types was to lean down close, whisper an apology, an then raise up laughing and in a voice loud enough for others to hear say, Mr. Whoever, I’m a married woman with children. You should be ashamed. And at your age!

  17. F Says:


    No, I had not seen that. And I’ll admit I’ve never watched their program, although I’ve seen clips on other programs. Their relationship interests me not at all, and their news program perhaps less.

    Neo: Agreed, about men using favors to improve their career.

  18. OldTexan Says:

    This lady might be a witch or something. I looked her up on Wikipedia and she does not look 78 years old at all, rather she looks like a woman in her late 40’s who was taxidermied, left out in the weather, wearing a high dollar wig. Kind of like bobcats and coyotes on the shelf in a store, next to a lake, that sells beer and bait and you know those taxidermied critters saw better days when FDR was president.

  19. F Says:

    Well I broke down and looked up Sheila Nevins. Say what you want about her, she has a long and illustrious career producing documentaries, and an arm-load of awards testifying to the high esteem Hollywood holds her in. She might have slept her way to the top, but when she was awake she appears to have been a hard worker. The fact that I didn’t know her should not be held against her. She appears to have a talent that extends back at least half a century.

  20. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Wooly; I never heard of her, which doesn’t mean much. What genre?
    She can’t be sleeping with enough fans to get them to buy, so, possibly, she’s good.

  21. Lizzy Says:

    I had never heard of Nevins until I saw her interviewed last Sunday. Finally, I knew the mastermind behind HBO’s decades long push to normalize sexual deviance and push the Democrat/progressive agenda!

    I’ve had HBO included in my basic cable package at times, and their documentaries (as well as based on real events movies) are awful. Here’s just a bit of what she’s produced: G-String Divas, Fetishes, Porn 101, Cathouse, Atlantic City Hookers, Pornucopia, Downtown Girls, Heidi Fleiss, Real Sex, and so on. She’s also done numerous serious documentaries, mostly of the progressive variety, which I assume are the ones that earned her awards.

    The bits you’ve included about Nevins seem to confirm that she is just as as sleazy and crazy progressive as I would have imagined her to be.

  22. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    For clarity, I am not disputing Nevins talent, just her lack of moral integrity.


    All women are now assumed to be angels by the liberal left because the powerless are blameless, their actions justified by their oppression. That is the rstionale

  23. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Ggrrr! Stupid android tablets.
    That is the rationale, facts, reason and logic need not apply. As David Horowitz reminds, “For the left, the issue is never about the issue, it is about [advancing] the revolution”

  24. Lizzy Says:

    Geoffry Britain – Nevins seems quite fascinated by whores and the sex industry in general based on what she’s produced. Her “Real Sex” series profiled non-traditional sexual relationships, too (e.g., hippie swingers), so it would not surprise me one bit if she has an open marriage beyond the sleeping with bosses. Considering her chosen industry, entertainment, she has a lot of company in the deviant/experimental sex arena (casting couch, pedophiles, etc.). You’re right to assume she’s no angel.

  25. J.J. Says:

    The Other Chuck, your cousin sounds like the sort of flight attendant who seldom needed help from the cockpit. I’m sure she’s got a lot of good stories. Probably could write an interesting book.

    My experience of Hollywood types was mostly good. I had Walter Brennan, Jane Wyman, Joanne Woodward, Danny Kaye, and Debbie Reynolds on board at one time or another. All delightful people who came up to the cockpit (That was back in the day when passengers could come up before the doors closed.) and chit chatted a bit before departure.

  26. expat Says:

    OT, but interesting: Not only did Macron reall whip le Pen (65 to 35) in France, but in the state elections in Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, the CDU beat the Social Democrats (SPD). The latter had been counting on Martin Schultz to enhance their popularity, but it didn’t work. The Greens did Onk, but my husband says that their state partyy is more pragmatic than some. The Linke didn’t make the 5% hurdle to get into the parliament, but the Free Democrats got over 10%, which means they are overcoming the horrible Westerwelle/Brüdele years. The AfD got just enough votes to make it into the Parliament, but they are sinking. All in all, this is a good sign for Merkel. North Rhine Westphalia has elections next week, so we’ll have to see what happens there. Their SPD Minister President, Hannalore Kohl, seems to be having some problems.

    I’m happy about Macron because he is not the anti-American pro-Putin socialist Le Pen. The immigration thing was used to get out her voters, but I don’t know what she would have done about Muslims already in France. She was also proposing 2 currencies, the Franc and the EU. Macron maybe an unwritten chapter, but he is said to be smart and he wants economic reforms. He did not pin himself down to many specifics, which I hope means that he will be able to look at situations and act pragmatically. We will have to wait and see.

  27. expat Says:

    Here is more on Merkel:

  28. Frog Says:

    Documentaries used to be more-or-less factual. But they have become propaganda, usually Leftist. I would not watch HBO under any circumstances; I never have.

  29. Lurch Says:

    Didn’t Hillary sleep her way to the top as well?

  30. expat Says:

    She may have tried, but she didn’t make it all the way.

  31. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Corrupt humans expect more corrupt humans to make government efficient and pure. Like that’s going to happen.

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