Mission Accomplished: Jeff Loeffelholz’s suicide and Chicago’s Backstage Bullying Picked Up by the New York Times

The New York Times has picked up the story on Jeff Loeffelholz’s suicide and the toxic environment backstage at Chicago courtesy of musical director Leslie Stifelman and director Walter Bobbie.

Much of the information in the Times piece — handily written and reported by Michael Paulson — first appeared here in the Justice for Jeff blog.


6 thoughts on “Mission Accomplished: Jeff Loeffelholz’s suicide and Chicago’s Backstage Bullying Picked Up by the New York Times

  1. I don’t have all the data of course, but I think logically, contrary to what some people are suggesting, I’m not so sure the other factors like the sadness about the chocolate shop cut in favor of the “Chicago” company.

    Are we to think the people at “Chicago” knew nothing about his partner having lost his income, and lots of all these factors mentioned? Even if not that: Are we to believe that no one in management knew they were taking away his and his partner’s only source of income, whether they knew about the chocolate shop or not?

    If they had just fired him, he’d get his $30,000+ to $40,000 buyout plus his six months of unemployment insurance (maybe another $10,000) at least. What the folks were trying to do instead was shame him into quitting voluntarily – which of course meant not getting the 30,000+ buyout, and obviously no unemployment insurance because (in NY) you don’t get that if you quit – nothing if you quit, except with a struggle! If he quit: No cushion at all to ease him back, while finding new opportunities.

    If you don’t have money saved or are in debt, that $50,000 or so can be the difference between having a place to live while you regroup vs. not having one. (If the $106,000 a year were the only money for the couple, while that number sounds like a lot, that could mean they had no savings to fall back on. If you’re an employee, (and it looks like they had not opted to get married, so single rates apply rather than joint rates), a very high amount of payroll taxes and income taxes are taken out of that before you get your paycheck. Despair over money should have been predictable when trying to force someone to quit rather than be fired and take their buyout and cushion.


  2. I read this today in The NY Times and am absolutely saddened that the theater is so fraught with this type of abuse. We go to the shows and are so thrilled by the level of talent; to think now that innocent people are up there entertaining us knowing that they are bullied is disheartening. This must stop! Thank you for writing about this on your blog.


  3. I trust that Walter Bobbie and Leslie Stifleman will be turning themselves into their local precinct soon. Their behavior has been unconscionable and dishonorable, not to mention criminal. They have blood on their hands and should be shunned by society.


  4. The NYTimes reports that “anger has been directed at the producers and directors, but whether that is fair is a difficult question.” PLEASE. Had the abuse and degradation spewed toward Jeff occurred in any other profession I suspect the NYTimes would have no qualms declaring such anger fair and appropriate. Why now is holding individuals in positions of power not legitimate? Come on, NYTimes! It is dubious indeed that they do not disclose an obvious conflict of interest. Paulson reports that Leslie Stifelman and her wife met “through the show” but fail to mention that it was through the audition process (which the NYTimes reported on in a 28June2013 article.) Yes, it happens and may end up in a consensual relationship, but nevertheless, to advance upon someone in a personal manner during an audition or any other job interview is an abuse of power. Period. Do better, New York Times.


  5. It’s shocking that it took the NY Times a full month after Jeff’s death, and almost 6 weeks after this inciting incident, to begin its reporting. It should also be noted that Broadway.com, arguably the preeminent online presence celebrating and reporting on Broadway, has yet to mention this actor or his death. Both organizations receive considerable ad revenue from “Chicago” and other shows produced by the Weisslers.


  6. The abuse of power issue is a key element in current investigations. It is difficult to prove when you begin to look outside the immediate environment of the theatre, unless witnesses come forward. There is general difficulty- ESPECIALLY where abuse is concerned-because so much fear is reinforced by intimidation. which allows escalation over time. So many who have abuse experience cannot transcend their fear till years later. Even then it can be a Herculean task to report whatever destructive behavior has occurred.

    Those inclined to abuse take full advantage of this fear and cultivate/manipulate it so it allows escalation. One might contend that lack of witness reporting, rather than discounting presence of abuse can in many instances be a particularly insidious bi-product.

    The source of what occurred at Chicago is being searched for. The Times cannot create fake news by anticipating an outcome with speculation-even if there is much common sense creating that speculation. With the most powerful figures the fear felt by subordinates can be magnified by the inequality. the wider the divide, the greater the fear. This can make accusation directed at the top, even if 100% appropriate, that much harder to pursue. The bravery of “David facing Goliath” is not easy to come by.

    Though there is much to be genuinely angry about in the article (untruths and blatant misrepresentations-which are easy to discern as desperate and clumsy)…ANY article, no matter how comprehensive, will never cover what may include more than a decade of related story threads, indeed possibly decades with related witnessed behavior offered by others with no direct association with the show.

    Keep in mind that The NY Times is still monitoring the situation and will not hesitate to produce additional coverage as things of import unfold. The situation changes often on a daily, even hourly basis. I would hold off complete condemnation till yet-to-be disclosed information adds weight to pending decisions as to how to conclude this complex, heart-wrenching tragedy. Editing when there is so much involved can be a virtually impossible task. The content can literally be restricted, simply by space.

    Meanwhile we appear when the curtain goes up and deliver despite our pain and uncertainty, despite our own speculations. The duration of waiting for closure is agonizing, but we persevere. There is certainly more to come… Identify speculation for what it is. Try, like those of us suffering in the company, to allow time for the work to be done thoroughly. Who played what role and how many ultimately need to face accountability will only emerge after an exhaustive process. It is in its relative infancy. The Times essentially has given us “part one.” There is every likelihood we will have to endure “part two” and even part three.” Hopefully when all is said and done most will be satisfied to a significant degree. ONWARD…


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