LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Eight former child actors have said they were sexually abused by producer Gary Goddard in the 1970s, when he oversaw a troupe of young thespians in Santa Barbara, it was reported Wednesday.

A successful former theater prodigy, Goddard returned through his 20s to direct and mentor child actors in his hometown, Santa Barbara, vowing to bring the most talented with him to Hollywood. He attracted a constant orbit of devoted boys. But the seemingly idyllic setting of privilege and promise had a dark edge for several members of the theater group. Four decades later, many of them say they have been haunted by their encounters with Goddard, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Since actor Anthony Edwards wrote in an online essay last month that Goddard sexually abused him as a pubescent actor in Santa Barbara, seven others who were in the same theater group told The Times that their former mentor molested or attempted to molest them as well when they were boys. They say Goddard’s advances included straying hands, fondling in a darkened Disneyland ride, and repeated incidents of sexual abuse during their troupe’s overnight stays while on tour around the state.

In addition, Edwards and another former theater student said in interviews that Scott Drnavich, a classmate who has since died of complications from AIDS, told them that he was sexually assaulted by Goddard as a boy.

Goddard, 63, has led an eclectic and lucrative career directing, producing and writing in Hollywood and on Broadway, and as a designer of theme parks and other attractions. He declined a Times request to be interviewed but is publicist, Sam Singer, disputed the allegations, which he said were “full of innuendo and hearsay,” The Times reported.

Goddard took a leave from his North Hollywood-based entertainment design company, The Goddard Group, after Edwards’ account of child molestation.

Goddard’s publicist, Sam Singer, told The Times Goddard “categorically” denies the allegations.

Goddard’s accusers have gone on to achieve success in Hollywood and other industries, but they say they have grappled with the psychological aftershocks of his abuse, The Times reported. Their personal sagas have involved therapy, tearful revelations to others and dramatic confrontations with the man they once revered.

“This is a man who*s attracted to little boys, and attracted in the sickest way,” said Edwards, an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor known for roles in “Top Gun” and “ER”. “This is not love, this is not friendship what he was doing. It is a horror because it is manipulating young hearts and minds.”

(©2017 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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