The problem with developing any form of public persona is that you attract the attention of people that you would rather not know. I received a call at the studio one day from a famous Canadian actor and director. He was livid. It appeared that my personal assistant was stalking him. What personal assistant? It took a couple hours to figure out what was going on. A student in the school I was running presented herself to this man as my assistant with some pretext of collaborative work. Once she had gained access into his inner sanctum – she proceeded to stalk him which amounted to a lot of disturbing faxes, letters and phone calls telling him how they were destined to be together and how much she loved him. My assistant director, Almond and I went and met with the actor. His position was that it was my responsibility to make this woman stop harassing him. Personally – I felt I shouldn’t be held responsible for another person’s actions. I also felt that this man was old enough to handle his own problems – he was a lot older than me at the time. He didn’t share my views and got pretty agitated – soooo – I decided to deal with the problem. I contacted someone in the local government who deals with this sort of thing and guess what I found out? Crazy people have rights too. As long as they are not endangering you or themselves physically, there’s nothing you can do. I get that – but it wasn’t helping my situation at all. The actor was in full blown hysteria mode – calling, crying and screaming on a daily basis. I decided to confront the woman. Theresa and I took her aside one day and gently probed her for information. Yes – she had been on an anti-psychotic drug but she went off her drug regiment because she’s feeling a lot better now. Wow – hard to argue with that logic. We did manage to get the name of her psychiatrist from her and after she left, I put a call into the doctor and suggested that they connect a bit more. Legally – there wasn’t much else I could do. A few months later, she stopped coming to the studio which made our lives easier. I don’t know what happened with the actor.
A woman named Dale showed up at our studio for a beginner ballet class, which she took and then left. A week later, I received an abusive phone call from her. She had been discriminated against during the class. I found that hard to believe given the makeup of the studio clientele: black, white, Asian, native, old, young, professionals, non-professionals, disabled, gay, lesbian, etc. Plus the teacher of the class was Amanda – who didn’t have a mean bone in her body. No amount of reasoning with Dale did any good. She lodged a complaint against me with the Ontario Human Rights Commission for discrimination due to gender, sexual orientation, disability and race. All I could say was Huh? Apparently she was discriminated against because she was female – native North American – lesbian – and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. I was confused – except for the PTSD – every aspect of her personal being was represented at our studio. I called the Human Rights Commission. They informed me that once the charges are brought forward, they have no alternative but to start an investigation. I also found out that two other groups had been named in the suit and luckily for me, one of them was very large and powerful – plus I knew their chief administrator. Their organization, which had very powerful lawyers on their payroll, agreed to pursue the case for all of us (at no expense to me or the other small group named in the charges).
A month into the suit, Dale called my studio and asked if she could come in for a class. My first reaction was – No Way! After all – the first encounter which had appeared normal resulted in an investigation by the government. The lawyer informed me that I had to let her return – to demonstrate my open-door policies and non-discriminatory practices. I did what the lawyer requested. Dale came for a class. The next day – the phone calls began. At least once a day, I would find a message on the studio phone from her – screaming abuse about me, the students at the studio and whatever else came to her mind. The lawyer told me to record the messages and ignore her. I got to a point where I simply couldn’t take it anymore. I asked Dale to meet me on neutral ground, a coffee shop. When she showed up, she sat down, glared at me and said, “Are you here out of pity?” “No,” I said, “You keep calling me so I’m here.” The conversation was guarded on both sides. She mainly talked about her past and her hatred for the dance establishment. When we parted, I went back to the studio in a state of confusion. I hadn’t learned anything new and I still didn’t understand what she wanted of me.
The next day, I had a new problem. She liked me. The phone calls increased in frequency. Sometimes I talked to her but most of the time she left messages without ringing the studio phone. Half were dissertations of her life and her admiration of me and the other half were ranting diatribes of how I represented the worst of humanity. When she was especially agitated, she would leave a series of message hang-ups – as many as she could – until our answering machine couldn’t hold any more. Amanda would spend at least an hour each day, erasing all the messageless messages so that we could use our answering machine again. Dale began to tie up our phone to the point that we couldn’t function. Nobody else could get through to us by phone. I desperately called the lawyer and while she sympathized, she said there wasn’t much that I could do. Two more weeks passed. I finally gave up and called the police. They were wonderful. They told me to do exactly the opposite of what the lawyer had advised me to do. No contact with the woman at all. If I spoke to her on the phone, I was to tell her to stop bothering me and to hang up. No more conversation. Guess what? The harassment stopped almost immediately. The suit was dismissed.
Time slowly filled in some of the blanks. Dale had had similar run-ins with other dance instructors across Canada and the police in several municipalities were aware of her. Restraining orders had been issued by some of her victims. Dale has pretty much moved on from me and shifted her attention to several other teachers and studios – although every now and then she resurfaces with some cyber bullying. I still receive the occasional desperate phone call from those she has targeted. All they have to do is say her name and I sigh in sympathy. I tell them to do – what the police told me to do. I tell them not to do what the lawyer advised me to do. I wish them luck but I don’t get involved. I do not want this woman’s attention again and I definitely do not want to go through this again.