For actress Megan Drust, what happened between her and comedian Chris D’Elia is something she hasn’t talked about for nearly a decade.
It was 2011 when Drust said D’Elia asked her for a ride home from a Los Angeles restaurant where she had stopped by to meet D’Elia and a friend. That ride never happened, however, because when they got into her car, Drust said D’Elia unzipped his pants and exposed himself to her.
Three women, including Drust, another woman who has asked to remain anonymous for personal reasons, and Laura Vitarelli, who first shared her account with the Los Angeles Times in June, all told CNN that D’Elia exposed himself to them on separate occasions without their consent.
D’Elia denies these allegations and “emphatically states that he has never engaged in any sexual conduct with any woman without her consent,” Andrew Brettler, D’Elia’s attorney, told CNN.
D’Elia, an actor and comedian best known for his edgy stand-up comedy and Netflix specials, was dropped by his representatives and the streaming network replaced him in an upcoming project after the Los Angeles Times published a report that featured a total of five women who alleged sexual impropriety — allegations D’Elia also denied.
‘I had marked him as safe’
The night D’Elia allegedly exposed himself to Drust, they had been at Jones restaurant in West Hollywood with a mutual friend. Drust said she had met D’Elia a handful of times before that night and considered him an “acquaintance.”
Drust, who was 26 at the time, told CNN that as she was getting ready to leave, D’Elia asked her for a ride home.
“I said, ‘Sure.’ This was really before everyone was taking Ubers and I had marked him as safe, which equals a non-threatening male,” Drust told CNN. “He was friends with some of my friends, I had met him before. That’s what you do, at least that’s what I did, you mark certain people as safe.”
Drust said they walked to her car, which was parked on a nearby street, but once they were inside her car, she said things took an unsettling turn.
“We are both sitting there and I’m like, ‘Where are we going?’ And Chris is leaning up against the door of the passenger side and looking at me in this really weird way and then he started to try to make flirty small talk,” she recalled. “I was very confused because it just didn’t fit the moment. Then he took down his zipper and asked me to touch him and I said, ‘What are you doing? No.’ And because I wouldn’t touch him, he started to masturbate. I couldn’t believe it.”
Drust said at that point she got out of the car.
“I get out and I have the door open and I walk out into the street and I’m saying, ‘Why are you doing this?’ And I remember saying, ‘You’re defiling my car.’ I didn’t want to make him mad or upset because you’re in survival mode, you know?,” she said. “He climaxed in his pants and then he zipped everything up and I said, ‘What’s wrong with you?'”
She said D’Elia got out of her car but continued to make her uneasy.
“I got back into my car, he shut the door and kind of just stood towards the hood and looked at me without saying anything and then just walked away.”
Drust told CNN she cried during her drive home. She said a few days later, she recounted what had happened to two of her friends. They confirmed her account to CNN.
Drust ran into D’Elia again a few months later, this time at a different restaurant in Los Angeles called Pink Taco, she said.
“I’m standing there talking to my friends and I remember a guy’s voice with his lips right to my ear say, ‘You.’ I turned around and it was him. I just remember being very flustered and very uncomfortable.”
CNN spoke to a friend of Drust’s who said she was with Drust that day and confirmed the encounter with D’Elia.
“It definitely made me not want to go out to comedy clubs, which was hard because a lot of my friends were comics,” Drust said. “It really raised my guard and I stopped going to events and I never went to anything alone after that.”
‘I was really angry’
Two of the women who spoke with CNN described in-person encounters with D’Elia that happened shortly before or on days he was set to perform a comedy show in or close to cities in which they lived at the time.
One of those women was a manager at the Kimpton Schofield Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio, where D’Elia stayed as a guest in March 2018, she said.
D’Elia was in town to perform at the Cleveland Masonic Theater, according to tour dates on the theater’s website. The woman, who was 24 at the time and asked to remain anonymous for fear of professional repercussions, said she received a call at the front desk from D’Elia one night around midnight.
She was the overnight manager on duty at the time and he’d complained that the air conditioner in his room wasn’t working and that he needed assistance. Since a hotel electrician wasn’t available at that time, she said she went up to his room to try to help.
“When I knocked on the door, he opened the door and he was completely naked,” she said. “I was surprised, and I was annoyed that I just came all the way up just so he could expose himself to me.”
She said she immediately turned around without saying anything and went back to the front desk.
She called her fiancé at the time and told him what allegedly transpired with D’Elia.
A few minutes later, she said, D’Elia called the front desk again.
“He told me I needed to come back upstairs to help with his air conditioner and I told him he would need to wait for the electrician the following morning and I hung up.”
That night and the next morning, the woman also told two co-workers what transpired with D’Elia. CNN has spoken to these individuals who all recalled her account.
The woman said she had never seen any of D’Elia’s work before his stay, but she had been previously alerted that he would be a guest in the hotel, which she said is customary with all high-profile guests. She said she Googled his picture once she was back at the front desk and confirmed that the naked man at the door was indeed D’Elia.
Several hours later, when her shift was over, she reported the incident to her manager and let him know that she included the incident in her MOD [Manager on Duty] report.
“We really didn’t talk about it after I told him,” she said. “But I was made to feel like it wasn’t a big deal because this isn’t really an uncommon thing to happen in the hotel business. It just happened to be a famous person who did it this time. I didn’t want to draw attention to it because I also wanted to keep my job.”
The Kimpton Hotel Group, which manages the property, told CNN in a statement: “No incidents of guest misconduct were reported by guests or staff at the Kimpton Schofield Hotel during the dates in question. At Kimpton the safety of our guests and our people is our top priority. We investigate all incident reports that are filed, however it is our policy to not disclose identifying information about our employees or our guests outside of law enforcement or regulatory authorities.”
‘There was no sign of a party’
Laura Vitarelli told CNN that D’Elia exposed himself to her and a friend in 2015. She was 19 at the time.
They had been excited to meet D’Elia, she said, after one of his comedy shows at Levity Live in West Nyack, New York. After taking photos with her and her friend, D’Elia exchanged numbers with them and extended an invitation to a party, Vitarelli said.
“He gave us the address and we went,” she said. “It turned out to be his hotel.”
Vitarelli recalled that when they walked into D’Elia’s room, the lights were off and he was watching “Cops” and eating a bowl of shrimp scampi. She said D’Elia asked them to put their cell phones in a basket upon entering the room.
“There was no sign of a party at all,” Vitarelli said. “He said he was going to make us drinks and her and I were both a little nervous just because it really didn’t look like he was about to throw a party. There was nobody else there.”
Feeling a little nervous and “deceived,” she said they accepted the drinks. Vitarelli noted D’Elia did not pour himself one.
Vitarelli said D’Elia then sat between them on the couch and almost immediately, “put one of each of his hands down our backsides and started groping us.”
Vitarelli said she looked at her friend, who looked “frightened,” and they made up an excuse to leave.
“He got up with us and followed us to the door and said, ‘Are you sure you want to leave?’ And he pulled out his penis and it was fully erect,” Vitarelli told CNN. “It was very uncomfortable for the both of us, and we knew we had to get out of there so we left as fast as we could.”
Her friend, who confirmed the incident to CNN, asked that her name not be included in this story for fear of backlash from D’Elia’s fan base.
After Vitarelli and other women posted allegations about him on social media in June, D’Elia released a statement to TMZ that said, among other things, “All of my relationships have been both legal and consensual.” He also apologized and explained, “I really am truly sorry. I was a dumb guy who ABSOLUTELY let myself get caught up in my lifestyle. That’s MY fault. I own it. I’ve been reflecting on this for some time now and I promise I will continue to do better.”
Vitarelli has hired attorney Jay Ellwanger and is pursuing a civil complaint.
“Laura Vitarelli has shared horrific stories about how she suffered at the hands of Chris D’Elia and his team. While the legal system can never undo what was done, we will work tirelessly to provide her and the other women we represent with a measure of justice as we work to stop this predatory behavior.”
‘He would expose himself in front of other women’
Fellow comedian, Bill Dawes, who has toured with D’Elia, told CNN that D’Elia has a history of exposing himself to both men and women.
“He was very proud of his body and he would expose himself in front of his guys he was on the road with and other male comics and he would do it kind of as a joke,” Dawes said. “He would expose himself in front of other women when other guys were in the room with him.”
A well-known female comedian, who said she has been friends with D’Elia for over 10 years, also spoke to CNN but asked to remain anonymous for fear of professional repercussions.
“We used to hang out at the 101 Café after sets and the way he would speak about women was degrading, disrespectful and demeaning to women,” she said.
This comedian, who did not witness D’Elia exposing himself but had heard accounts from others, and Dawes both said they were unsurprised when the initial allegations against D’Elia surfaced.
“There’s a lot of people who will say when the MeToo stuff happened, we were all thinking, ‘What about D’Elia?'” Dawes added, “He just seemed really profligate with the way he would go after women, sleep with women, expose himself to women.”
Drust said she hopes sharing her account publicly will empower other women in entertainment or other industries who may have experienced something similar to “stop blaming” themselves.
“You didn’t ask for this,” Drust said. “Even if you liked someone but if they crossed a boundary and made you feel like you couldn’t say no, it’s not okay … I was lucky to be older and had been around the block with people trying to abuse their power in this industry and I was not going to accept it.”
By Chloe Melas, CNN