Rising up, Jonathan Wells obsessed over Rolling Stone journal, particularly the poems revealed within the pages of the “counterculture bible.” He even had his subscription despatched to him when he was at boarding college in Switzerland.
And he admired the journal’s famed founder, Jann Wenner. So when the 2 males struck up a friendship within the early 1980s, Wells thought of it “a giant deal.”
Wells moved to New York Metropolis after school with aspirations to work in e-book publishing, and noticed Wenner as somebody who was main a cultural revolution within the general publishing business. Wells, then 28, met Wenner by means of mutual mates. They frolicked collectively, largely in bigger group settings, at eating places and mates’ residences.
“His success, his affluence, he was actually enjoyable,” Wells informed BuzzFeed Information. “He was an thrilling man to be round.”
However in February 1983, after they each spent an evening ingesting and doing cocaine in Wenner’s Higher East Aspect dwelling, Wenner sexually assaulted him, Wells not too long ago informed BuzzFeed Information.
Within the early 1980s, Wenner was “unhealthy, bloated from alcohol and cocaine abuse,” in keeping with Sticky Fingers: The Life and Instances of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Journal by writer Joe Hagan. Hagan describes that point interval as a “twenty-four hour get together at East Sixty-Sixth Road,” calling Wenner’s condominium “the locus of a rolling get together. The door was by no means locked, and anybody might stroll in.”
Wells informed 5 individuals on the time in regards to the incident, which all of them confirmed to BuzzFeed Information. Wenner informed BuzzFeed Information he believed the encounter was consensual. (Wells reached out to BuzzFeed Information after studying in November a couple of author who stated Wenner supplied him work in trade for intercourse.)
Wenner, then 37, had invited a number of individuals to his dwelling and the group frolicked within the writer’s examine. The room inside Wenner’s “fabulous” condominium, Wells stated, was stuffed with books and tapes and likewise housed a daybed.
Wells, on the time, was working for his father’s limited-edition artwork print enterprise — a job he didn’t like. He needed to work in e-book publishing, and Wenner picked up on his skilled ambitions, at occasions “dangling the thought of a job” at Rolling Stone.
Wells stated he arrived at Wenner’s dwelling anticipating to speak about what he might do at Rolling Stone. Wells doesn’t bear in mind in the event that they talked in regards to the prospects of a job — however he does bear in mind ingesting vodka and doing strains of cocaine.
At one level the 2 males have been left alone within the examine and Wenner supplied to name a prostitute for them.
“I used to be excessive. I didn’t really feel something,” Wells not too long ago recalled to BuzzFeed Information. “I stated ‘positive, why not.’”
Wells stated he had shared his childhood historical past with Wenner, together with when Wells’ father, suspecting his son could be homosexual — an “insufferable thought” for his dad — despatched him to a feminine prostitute shortly after his 14th birthday. Wells shouldn’t be homosexual. He stated he has solely ever been drawn to and dated ladies. (Wells’ father died in 2003.)
The prostitute didn’t keep for very lengthy, Wells stated. As soon as she left, the 2 males remained within the room, largely bare. It was then, Wells stated, that Wenner leapt on him, pinning him beneath his physique.
“I used to be mendacity again and he put himself on prime of me,” Wells stated. “He was kissing me, however , regular stuff, kissing my chest. I bear in mind him placing his penis in my mouth. I bear in mind him sucking me, happening on me. I bear in mind his hair on my abdomen.”
Wells stated he felt powerless and defenseless beneath Wenner, who weighed way more than he did.
Wenner wasn’t in a position to get an erection, Wells stated, and ultimately handed out on prime of him. Wells rocked aspect to aspect to assemble up sufficient momentum to push Wenner off him.
“I bought my garments and simply tore out of there and ran dwelling and showered,” Wells stated. “I used to be terrified he was going to catch me.”
“I’m fully stunned by these allegations, as now we have remained mates for nearly 35 years since then,” Wenner stated in a press release to BuzzFeed Information. “I sincerely believed our relationship was completely mutual and consensual — completely, and with out query. I’m saddened to listen to that is his reminiscence of that night, as a result of it’s totally different than mine.”
Wells idolized Wenner. In order he tried to know what had occurred within the examine, he stated he got here to the conclusion that Wenner — like his father — knew one thing about him that he hadn’t but realized: that he was homosexual.
Regardless of having solely ever dated ladies, Wells went on to have consensual intercourse with Wenner twice extra within the weeks after the night in Wenner’s examine.
“Then I noticed, ‘what are you doing?’ — I wakened,” Wells stated. “I used to be by no means drawn to a person in my life.”
In these weeks, Wells and Wenner had additionally begun discussing him working on the journal in better element.
Then got here a job within the area he cherished and at all times dreamed to be part of — director of Rolling Stone Press, the e-book publishing division of the journal.
Although he doesn’t bear in mind precisely when Wenner supplied him the job, the small print of the function have been finalized round Might 1983, and his first day at work was in July.
“I by no means went into the workplace, by no means had an interview with anybody there — I definitely don’t recall one,” Wells stated, including that he didn’t know if somebody had beforehand held the place or if it was created particularly for him.
Wells took the job considering this was the start of his profession. “I hoped I might discover my method,” he stated.
“Once I began working there, Jann wasn’t too focused on what I did,” Wells stated. “I knew once I began working there, there was at all times the query of a seamless sexual relationship.”
Wells thought to himself, although, No, that’s not going to occur.
Wells stated for at the least six months after he began the job, Wenner would invite him out to dinners and ask him to hang around.
“I knew what that meant,” Wells stated of the invites, including that he started cooling issues down with Wenner by declining invites, telling Wenner he was busy. Ultimately, Wenner backed off.
Throughout his time at Rolling Stone Press, Wells labored on variety of books, together with one on Frank Sinatra and a biography of Bruce Springsteen written by Robert Hilburn, a well-known music critic for the Los Angeles Instances.
Then, in February 1985, Wells stated he was unexpectedly fired after he was informed Rolling Stone was rearranging “the Press.”
“I didn’t understand it as retaliation on the time,” Wells stated “I don’t know if I used to be particularly silly or simply I couldn’t perceive the entire thing.”
On the time of his firing, Wells needed to make a e-book about Liberace occur — and was making an attempt to persuade each Wenner and the entertainer to comply with the undertaking. As soon as he was ousted from Rolling Stone, Wells bought the thought for the e-book to publishing home Harper & Row.
Inside weeks, Wenner and Rolling Stone — Wenner referred to as the guardian firm on the time Straight Arrow — threatened to sue Wells for interference with a contract, Wells’ lawyer on the time not too long ago informed BuzzFeed Information. “I used to be scared,” Wells stated. “My intuition was to settle this as quick as I can. I didn’t wish to be in litigation with this man.”
Wells stated he supplied to settle the lawsuit for $30,000 — cash taken from the Liberace e-book advance. Wells informed the journal’s lawyer that in the event that they didn’t settle for the settlement, he’d discuss to the media about Wenner allegedly sexually assaulting him.
“As I bear in mind it, inside the hour I bought a name saying it was accepted and was requested to signal a nondisclosure settlement,” Wells stated.
It’s unclear if Wenner feared Wells would out him as homosexual. Wenner didn’t come out as homosexual till 1994.
Wells stated he at all times interpreted Wenner agreeing to the settlement as him not wanting the character of what occurred to return to gentle. Wells stated he by no means thought it was as a result of Wenner hadn’t publicly come out as homosexual, as a result of “to me, he didn’t appear to care how he was seen.”
Wells’ lawyer from the time informed BuzzFeed Information he doesn’t recall his consumer giving Wenner cash, however stated Rolling Stone agreed to not pursue the case after he urged Wells would discuss to the press. A supply conversant in Wenner informed BuzzFeed Information that the monetary settlement over the Liberace e-book was an financial challenge and that Rolling Stone’s e-book division was shutting down.
Wells continued his profession in books — modifying an anthology of poetry and publishing his poems within the New Yorker and the Academy of American Poets. He coedited a poetry translation sequence and is presently submitting a e-book he wrote to publishers. He has additionally raised 4 kids.
Wells stated his spouse believes he was so traumatized by his expertise with Wenner and dealing at Rolling Stone that he by no means fulfilled the profession he might have had. “I might have turn out to be an agent, an editor,” he stated. “I turned my again, although. I didn’t wish to see any of these individuals.”
“He was a way more assured particular person when he was working there,” Wells’ spouse Jane stated of her husband. “He was fairly assured and completely happy and it was all cool and enjoyable once I began courting him [in 1985]. Instantly when he bought fired and sued issues bought very heavy for him.”
Wells shared his expertise with just a few individuals on the time he felt wouldn’t decide him or make assumptions about him. He didn’t need individuals within the e-book publishing world to search out out and assume his encounter with Wenner was the explanation he was employed to work at Rolling Stone.
Three longtime mates, his sister Alice, and his lawyer from the time all informed BuzzFeed Information that Wells mentioned the occasions with them across the time they occurred — from the evening at Wenner’s condominium to when he was fired. He later informed his spouse Jane about them earlier than they married in 1986.
One of many mates remembered Wells confiding in him on a wintery evening in New York Metropolis inside a month of the assault, and stated Wells was very upset and shaken as he detailed being bodily overtaken by Wenner.
“It was clearly a really severe incident for him,” the pal stated. “He isn’t the sort of one that would make up a narrative like this.”
Wells has had a tough time by means of the years defining what precisely occurred that evening. He stated he had at all times thought of the incident an assault, however discovered himself making an attempt to normalize it and bury his feelings. Then in October, when the nationwide dialog turned to sexual harassment and abuse of energy within the office, Wells began relating to what occurred as rape.
He says he’s nonetheless fairly shaky speaking about what occurred, and up to now weeks has taken on the tough process of telling every of his 4 kids about it.
“You wish to consider your guardian is nice and effective and unblemished,” Wells stated. “And it’s at all times a shock when that’s not true. I don’t assume it impacts how they consider me, however it’s unhappy to share it.”
Since his firing in 1985, Wells stated he’s seen Wenner three or 4 occasions, together with in Might final yr, when Wells visited his workplace to debate a e-book undertaking. Wells took notes proper after the assembly on his iPhone, which he shared with BuzzFeed Information.
Throughout the assembly, Wenner informed Wells he remembered them having “ time” at his condominium, referring to the prostitute he invited over as “a facilitator.”
“I bear in mind pestering you just a little,” Wenner stated of Wells’ time working for Rolling Stone, in keeping with his notes. “However then I might inform you weren’t into it. Then we switched the Press round and also you left.”