I can’t stop thinking about this whole situation with Sid Lewis. If you’re not already aware of it, I’ll fill you in: Sid Lewis is a musician (with immense talent) who has been part of the Chico music scene for about 20-some-odd years, and started the Chico School of Rock (which he has now stepped down from). Last week, a news story broke that he’s been arrested. A former student of his—a teenage girl— was working for him as a housekeeper, and alleges she looked up to see him masturbating while staring at her.
Some people reacted with revulsion that this person who had been trusted with kids could turn out to be so disgusting. Some people reacted with revulsion that he was being found guilty in the court of public opinion before going to trial. Some people said they knew him and had always been skeeved out by him. Some people said they knew him and were SURE she was making it up.
I can’t weigh in on this particular incident, but I do have a thing or two to say about the importance of character.
Back in the ‘90s he was a pretty big deal around here: hosted a lot of parties, played a lot of shows, and sat in with a lot of bands. One of the first times I met him, his little sister and I were at a small gathering at his house, and when she and I decided to leave, he suggested I stay later and he would get me a cab home. But then later came, everyone had left, and he wanted me to stay there and sleep in his bed. I didn’t want to, and he got mad; refusing to pay for the cab after all. I ended up walking home (drunk, alone, in the middle of the night).
After that I didn’t like him; I thought his approach to getting me in bed was a weird power-play as opposed to seducing me legitimately, and the way he got mad made me really uncomfortable. We traveled in the same circles, and it became more apparent that he was basically a rude person who got by on being impressive.
Over the years I saw him behave in pretty awful ways toward his girlfriend; once he was even physical against her in front of everyone. Nobody wanted to step in. Nobody wanted to make a big deal about it. People respected his talent, and kept including him socially and in musical partnerships. He eventually faded from popularity, but maintained a certain standing.
The whole thing makes me think about Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. Some people like the art someone creates so much they lift that person up above reproach, not seeing how the allegations they make to protect the status of that artist can do harm to potential victims everywhere. It perpetuates the feeling that those in power can get away with treating people badly, and tells victims they will be presumed to be liars.
It’s fair to say a person should be treated as innocent of a crime until proven guilty; we shouldn’t form any lynch mobs based on assumptions. Still, I can’t help but think he should’ve been denied the esteem of the community for being a dick from the very beginning; there are plenty of nice musicians.