Model Babi Christina Engelhardt has come forward with a story about an eight-year-long secret relationship with Woody Allen that she says she began when she was just 16 years old.
Engelhardt met Allen in 1976, when he was 41, and she believes that she was a major inspiration for his his film Manhattan. In a new profile in The Hollywood Reporter, she explains how she sought the director out when she was a brash young woman.
Engelhardt says that it all began when she slipped Allen her phone number at the legendary NYC restaurant Elaine's. As a young aspiring model, she was hungry for opportunities, and she thought Allen was a great person to give them to her.
"Since you've signed enough autographs, here's mine!" read the note she dropped at his table. It included her phone number.
What followed was a full-blown affair. Engelhardt says that she and Allen slept together "within weeks," and that the director never asked her how old she was. However, she was living with her parents in suburban New Jersey, and traveling to New York to pursue a modelling career with Allen's help whenever her high school schedule would allow.
Engelhardt told reporters that her feelings and memories about that time were confusing, to say the least. The relationship is described as "claustrophobic, controlling and yet dreamy." To Engelhardt, the Me Too movement and the accusations of Allen's adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, make it even more difficult to parse her experience.
"It's almost as if I'm now expected to trash him," she said.
Two friends back up Engelhardt's version of events, claiming that they knew her during the dubious relationship. One even said that they dropped her off at Allen's Manhattan penthouse from time to time. Of course, the other corroborating evidence is Manhattan, which Engelhardt says "reminded me why I thought he was so interesting."
"His wit is magnetic," she went on. "It was why I liked him and why I'm still impressed with him as an artist. How he played with characters in his movies, and how he played with me."
Allen declined to provide a comment for the story, and Engelhardt took pains to say that she did not want to persecute the director for anything. She seemed intent on offering a different perspective after a long year of entertainment industry shake-ups.
"What made me speak is I thought I could provide a perspective," she said. "I'm not attacking Woody. This is not 'bring down this man.' I'm talking about my love story. This made me who I am. I have no regrets."