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Thursday, March 20, 2003


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COURTESY KATHY STANFORD
Samantha Geimer and her husband Dave live out of the spotlight on Kauai.




Roman Polanski
gets Oscar support
from unlikely source

Victim of sex assault years ago
believes his work 'The Pianist'
should not suffer due to his misdeeds


By Tim Ryan
tryan@starbulletin.com

KILAUEA, Kauai >> Samantha Geimer is swatting mosquitoes in her open-air office and vowing for the umpteenth time to get a screen door for the entrance. Then she marvels at another beautiful day in paradise on Kauai's North Shore.

A moment later, her youngest son bounds in from the beach all sandy and wet and demanding attention. Geimer, 39, pauses in the interview, then patiently explains to her son -- one of three ages 10, 14 and 20 -- that she'll be done soon.

A personal assistant to a successful Kauai real estate businessman, Geimer's sedate beach life is a far cry from the furor in which the 13-year-old San Fernando Valley girl found herself a quarter-century ago, at the center of a Hollywood scandal.

"Yes, I'm that girl," Geimer says when asked if she's the one whom director Roman Polanski "raped" during a photo shoot in Jack Nicholson's Hollywood Hills home. The incident made, and continues to make, international headlines. "But it was a very long time ago, and I don't really understand why the media is still interested in me about this. No one in Hawaii seems to care."

The crime made Polanksi, charged with drugging and raping a minor, a fugitive. The director of "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby" pleaded guilty in the case, but, faced with the prospect of up to 50 years of jail time, fled before sentencing to Paris, where he has remained exiled. France has no extradition laws.

Geimer and her husband, Dave, another San Fernando Valley product, left Hollywood 15 years ago to join her mother on Kauai. But that didn't stop the media from tracking her down, spending nights in vans parked outside her home waiting for any of the family to step outside, whenever there were rumors that Polanski might be returning to the United States.

REPORTERS' CALLS began again earlier this year when Polanksi was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Director category for "The Pianist."

"How strange that reporters ask me if Polanksi should win this award because of what he did, or (if he should) be allowed back into the United States to attend the ceremony," Geimer says. "How strange that a woman with three children and a husband and living in a secluded spot on Kauai has to say, 'Just let the Academy members do their job.'"

Geimer is a pretty blonde with a sparkling smile, piercing eyes and a strong, confident voice that, she concedes, "probably started after 'the Polanski incident.'"

"I had to grow up fast," she says. "I had to learn to take care of myself in court, at school, to hundreds of media, to curious people."

NOWGEIMER, with her Los Angeles attorney's approval, has gone public, selecting certain media outlets -- "Good Morning America," "Larry King Live" and an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times -- to put out what she hopes is her final message about Polanski.

"I am not and never have thought about writing a book about this," she says about recent news reports.

This Star-Bulletin story is the first time Geimer has spoken to Hawaii news media.

"I thought my Hawaii life should remain private, but with all the recent coverage, everyone pretty much knows I'm here and my story," says Geimer, whose friends and family call her "Sam."

That story began in 1977. Polanski had asked Geimer's mother if he could photograph the 13-year-old girl for a French magazine, and her mother allowed a private photo shoot.

"My mom and I thought the photos would help my acting career," Geimer says, laughing. "I wanted to be a movie star.

"I had done some commercials, but I didn't really want to be a model. I thought this would be helpful."

But soon after her meeting with Polanski, Geimer began to feel uncomfortable around the director 30 years her senior.

"Everything was going fine; then he asked me to change, well, in front of him," she says. "It didn't feel right, and I didn't want to go back to the second shoot. But I didn't at that time have the self-confidence to tell my mother and everyone, 'No, I'm not going to go.'"

During that second shoot, Polanski's motives became apparent.

"We did photos with me drinking champagne," Geimer says. "Toward the end it got a little scary, and I realized he had other intentions and I knew I was not where I should be. I just didn't quite know how to get myself out of there."

Polanski sexually assaulted her after giving her a combination of champagne and Quaaludes.

Geimer's mother, who lives in a guest house on her daughter's Kauai property, found out what happened when "my sister overheard me telling my boyfriend what happened on the phone after I got home."

The sister, who also lives on Kauai, told their mother. Polanski, who claimed the sex was consensual, was arrested the next day.

Geimer says she resisted.

"I said no several times, and then, well, gave up on that," she says.

In a television interview several years ago, Polanski said of the incident, "It was not the right thing to do."

GEIMER SAYS the media "assault" on her and her mother after the incident was another "nightmare."

"We were besieged," Geimer says. "Reporters came to my house and my junior high school; they accused me of making it up. They criticized my mother's parenting, saying the most awful things: We were after money, we wanted a career move or something, but nothing nice."

Having had to repeat what happened so often "really sucks!" Geimer says.

"But there's no way to avoid it. It's easier than when I was 14. This is a part of my life; it happened. Normally I never think about it."

Geimer never had therapy for what happened, saying the frequent retelling "pretty much took the place of going to a therapist."

Following the incident, Geimer decided she wanted nothing to do with show business.

Then in 1997, when Polanksi was rumored to be returning to America, the media began calling and stalking, and Geimer decided to go public on "Inside Edition."

"I decided I wasn't going to hide anymore because they're just going to sneak around looking for me, and I didn't want the media to keep saying things that weren't true," she says. "I needed to ... deal with it, answer questions and move along. I didn't do anything wrong, so why should I hide?"

HER LIFE TODAY is a picture of normalcy. She lives in a two-story house close to the ocean, where her sons and husband like to fish, surf and body-board. Her sister lives nearby.

She and her husband married 13 years ago. It's her second marriage.

"The boys are the fishermen," she says. "My fun is a trip to Vegas once a year."

Her children know her story, and the youngest thinks it's "cool" that mom's been on TV. "I gave a quick overview to them. My oldest boy is just realizing what a huge media event it was way back when."

Geimer is surprisingly magnanimous in her feelings about the director.

"Straight up, what he did to me was wrong," Geimer says. "But I wish he would return to America so the whole ordeal can be put to rest for both of us.

"After the publicity came out, I knew it was just as bad for him as it was for me. I'm sure if he could go back, he wouldn't do it again. He made a terrible mistake but he's paid for it.

"What he did has nothing to do with whether or not he should win an Academy Award," she says. "The film should be judged on its merits alone. I guess people want to me to be really angry and hateful toward him; honestly, I don't feel that way. I think he's a really good director."

Geimer has not seen "The Pianist" because she doesn't think its dark theme is "my kind of film."

"I'm fine now; I have a great life. I can't go back and change things, and I don't dwell," she says, then starts laughing. "I can tell you what Dave and I will be doing Sunday night: watching the Academy Awards.

"You can't be from L.A. and not watch the Oscars."



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