Craig McLachlan's partner has recounted how her husband had been "sucker-punched" by 2018 articles on alleged sexual assault and harassment during The Rocky Horror Show and other productions.
From the witness box on Monday, conductor Vanessa Scammell said McLachlan, 56, had become a recluse, was afraid to answer phone calls and would surf at night to avoid being seen after the ABC and Fairfax published their allegedly defamatory articles.
"He's still kind and generous but his life force ... his joie de vivre has gone. He's much less trusting," she said.
Scammell, who cried in the stand, called the articles shocking, saying her husband had been devastated, humiliated and betrayed.
Also on Monday, McLachlan faced cross-examination over his tendency to make jokes about his age with younger actresses, referring to his chances with them if he was younger.
"Do you say you can't understand why any women would feel uncomfortable with having a much older man say something like that to her?" defence barrister Michael Hodge QC asked.
"I'm just saying it's obvious it's a joke, Mr Hodge," the actor replied.
None of the women he had made the joke to had a bad reaction to it, McLachlan told the court.
The NSW Supreme Court jury was also painted a picture of a lead actor who manipulated actresses, and played them off each other with insults and promises of role changes.
"You would disparage one female cast member in speaking to another female cast member," Mr Hodge said.
"No," McLachlan replied.
The actor denied describing Erika Haynetz as "s***" and "ruining the show" to another actress Angela Scundi, and said he never referred to a third actress Christie Whelan Browne as "a c*** or a bitch" who would never work in theatre again.
Mr Hodge suggested McLachlan had manipulated Whelan Browne into congratulating him for a 2014 Helpmann award win by saying he was privately in her corner during difficulties in the Rocky Horror production.
Claims he had supported the actress were a lie to get her to apologise for not praising him after the win, Mr Hodge suggested.
"You successfully manipulated her into apologising to you," the barrister said.
"No, I did not, Mr Hodge," McLachlan replied.
McLachlan contends his friendship with the actress remained solid throughout the show's run. However, emails to the show's director Christopher Luscombe revealed he referred to Whelan Browne as "Lucifer" in June 2014 and as a "horror" in August that year.
The award-winning performer agreed that he had brought sexual jokes and pranks to the show, including deep-throating bananas, masturbating crew members' arms and using the nickname "gobbler" for some in the show.
He defended the banana gag after Mr Hodge pointed out he had continued to use it in the 2017/18 run of the show.
"You don't see any problem with pretending to fellate a banana in front of people you've either never met before or barely met before?" Mr Hodge asked.
"Comically in the theatre, in a television set, or on a film set, Mr Hodge, no," McLachlan replied.
McLachlan admitted sending Whelan Browne videos of himself fully clothed pretending to masturbate as well as clips pretending to orgasm in a toilet, but said the actress was not offended by them.
He alleges Whelan Browne was herself "a notoriously foul-mouthed person" who was interested in "deviant sexual acts", claiming she was dishonest for saying she was offended by his conduct.
Scammell told the court that Whelan Browne had asked McLachlan if he could see her "slit" through her underwear, had snapped the elastic on his boxers and had whipped his buttocks with a towel.
The jury heard the allegations stretched back to the 1980s when McLachlan is accused of sticking his hand down the shirt of Neighbours actress Tamasin Ramsay.
He is also alleged to have made lewd remarks to Josie Steele while working on City Homicide in 2008, and touched Anna Samson's bottom and kissed Tamzen Hayes during the filming of The Doctor Blake Mysteries in 2018.
The jury heard these women were all in their 20s or 30s at the time of the alleged assaults, with McLachlan being a decade or two older.
The hearing continues on Tuesday.
Australian Associated Press
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