Andy King Says Billy McFarland Asked Him to Perform Oral Sex on Customs Officer In Fyre Festival Documentary
Sometimes the news isn’t as straightforward as it’s made to seem. Juliette Virzi, The Mighty’s mental health editor, explains what to keep in mind if you see this topic or similar stories in your newsfeed. This is The Mighty Takeaway.
The following post contains sexually explicit language.
If you’re anything like me, you were excited to watch Netflix’s new documentary “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.” When I first heard about the doc, I couldn’t help but laugh at the prospect of a bunch of rich millennials stranded and left to fend for themselves in the Bahamas, armed only with copious amounts of tequila and their selfie sticks.
But the documentary wasn’t a funny take on the “dumpster Fyre” that was the festival — it was post-apocalyptic and deeply disturbing.
One of the most-talked-about moments from the documentary came from Andy King, an event producer who knew and worked with the Fyre Festival’s creator, Billy McFarland, for years.
King shared that during event preparation, Bahamian customs seized four trucks full of Evian water intended for festival attendees, demanding $175,000 to release them — a fee the Fyre Festival team couldn’t pay.
In response to this financial dilemma, McFarland asked King to do the unthinkable — perform oral sex on a Bahamian customs official in exchange for the water. According to King, here’s how the conversation went down.
Billy called and said, ‘Andy we need you to take one big thing for the team.’
And I said, ‘My gosh, I’ve been taking something for the team every day.’
He said, Well you’re our wonderful gay leader, and we need you to go down. Will you suck d*ck to fix this water problem?’
I won’t lie to you — my jaw actually dropped when he recounted this story.
King went on to say he was ready to go through with McFarland’s request. “I got to his office, fully prepared to suck his d*ck,” he said in the documentary.
In the end, the customs officer released the water sans payment. King didn’t have to perform unwanted oral sex.
This moment stirred up different responses in viewers. Some joked that King was the world’s best employee, willing to do anything for the good of the company. Some made memes saying that King could be the solution to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Others called out McFarland for his blatant sexual harassment.
If you are laughing at what Andy King had to go through while being a part of the Fyre Festival team, you suck. That’s not funny, that’s sexual harassment. #FyreFestivalDocumentary
— Ellen Kate (@EllenKate14) January 24, 2019
Most were left with the question, “Why on earth would he even consider doing that?”
The answer might possibly be explained by “the boiling frog” metaphor, a metaphor used to explain why people remain in abusive or unfavorable situations for long amounts of time.
Essentially, if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will instinctively jump out. But if the frog is put into room temperature water then brought to a boil gradually, it won’t recognize the danger, will continue to adjust to the heat and slowly get cooked.
Though in the documentary King relays his story in a half-laughing manner, the story is a harrowing look at how much McFarland exploited Fyre Festival staff members.
McFarland’s manipulation ran so deep that a request like “perform oral sex” on the basis of King’s sexual orientation didn’t seem too out of the ordinary. McFarland positioned this request as the one thing that would save the festival, promising King, “You will save this festival” — even when the festival was already on track to be a catastrophic failure.
So how was McFarland able to get away with this kind of manipulative behavior with a staff of smart, capable individuals?
Con artist expert Maria Konnikova (who appears in Hulu’s Fyre Festival documentary), told Vox when she first started researching con artists, “It never occurred to me that victims could be really smart people.”
In the case of McFarland and the Fyre Festival, she said:
This story was, ‘You get to be close to celebrity, you get to be close to powerful people, you get to feel big and strong yourself by virtue of association.’
McFarland’s staff were manipulated in ways that led many of them to agree to do whatever it took to see the festival succeed — even though it ultimately failed.
We can’t keep joking about what a “great” employee King was. We need to talk about the impact of the serious manipulation and coercion he faced. Like many others who have lived through traumatic experiences and manipulation, his experiences impacted his mental wellbeing.
“I definitely had a post-traumatic syndrome, like many of us did, for weeks and weeks,” he shared in the documentary.
If you or a loved one have been affected by sexual harassment or emotional abuse of any kind, there is help available. Call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.
Screenshot via Netflix