By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
BUMS RUSH IN
Re: “Throw the Bums Out” [Deadline Hollywood, August 30–September 5]. With a major Screen Actors Guild election imminent, it would have been nice to find a professionally written, balanced article in the Weekly outlining the differences between the opposing campaign groups. Instead we got Nikki Finke’s rambling, poorly informed, one-sided tirade.
No one seems to remember that the recent strike against the ad industry was the result of the ad-industry reps presenting an ultimatum to the Guild: “No more residuals — take it or leave it.” When SAG insisted on negotiating the matter, the ad people walked out, leaving SAG no alternative but to capitulate or to strike. Yes, the strike took its toll, both financially and emotionally. But, in the end, it not only preserved the actors’ rights to residuals, but strengthened SAG’s support within powerful organized labor entities such as the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO. Oddly, the entertainment press continues to characterize the commercial strike as a disaster, when in fact it was a tremendous accomplishment.
As for Ms. Finke’s smug implications that 1) only agented actors should vote on the agents’ franchise agreement and that 2) only working actors should vote, she has obviously not thought these ideas through. In the acting world, an 18-year-old babe with a nice silicone job has very little trouble getting signed by an agent; a 40-year-old Shakespearean actor with a Ph.D. and 20 years of experience may be out of luck. Besides, if only working actors could vote, the agents and the producers who control which actors work and which actors don’t would be able to guarantee that no actors who opposed their terms would ever work again. They would then have absolute control over the outcomes of all SAG elections.
Finke quotes the usual unnamed “union insider” to bolster her invective against the Guild, and singles out for her derision those who speak out loudly against Guild complacency. Well, I know many of these people whom she refers to as a “gang” and “the Taliban.” To be sure, though some of their rhetoric may become shrill from time to time, it’s clearly because they believe so strongly that actors have a right to fair and honest treatment from their guild.
—S. Holliday Los Angeles
My grandfather used to say, "Don’t believe anything you read, and only half of what you see." With that caveat in mind, you can take what I say with a grain of salt as well.
First, I was confused by Nikki Finke’s article about the Screen Actors Guild. I’ve read the Weekly for years and have always considered the Weekly a traditionally progressive critic, but I still thought the Weekly’s ultimate goal was journalism. In the traditional sense, journalism is defined as "writing characterized by a direct presentation of the facts or description of events without interpretation." When Ms. Finke poses as a journalist, she has a responsibility to your readers to seek the truth; it’s inherent to the job description.
Are there problems at SAG? Absolutely! Are there people presently on the board of directors who are not capable of comprehending the complex and even not-so-complex pressing issues and contracts currently facing the Screen Actors Guild? Absolutely! But Finke’s article does not even begin to separate the wheat from the chaff, and probably for good reason — she doesn’t seem to know the difference. Take, for example, her allusion to runaway production, and her dismissal of SAG’s policy on runaway production as "do-nothing." I assure you that is not SAG’s current policy. We at the Guild have been fighting to get "tax incentives," both in Sacramento and in Washington, D.C., to encourage production here in the U.S. And at the risk of being labeled as "the Taliban," a few more "bums" in the current boardroom have been trying to implement a plan to investigate Canada’s trade practices. In May 2002, after a long, hard fight in the boardroom, SAG announced that "Global Rule One" had passed, and more important, would be enforced. Such SAG strategies could ultimately help to curtail runaway production, they’re a far cry from "do nothing."
Finally, it was the height of irony to read another article by fellow journalist Bruce Shapiro in the very same L.A. Weekly edition. In his article about Attorney General John Ashcroft’s homeland security unraveling in the face of resistance from courts nationwide, Mr. Shapiro quotes Judge Damon Keith of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who writes, "Democracies die behind closed doors . . . when government begins closing doors, it selectively controls information that rightly belongs to the people. Selective information is misinformation." An irony, I hope, that won’t be lost on Nikki Finke in the future.
—Susan SavageBeverly Hills
Derrick Mathis, in “Random Publicity” [September 13–19], clearly failed to consider how his own inaction in connection with Mr. Ferrise’s case may have contributed to Mr. Broudy’s failure to be “watchful.” Perhaps he was too occupied with blaming others and with hiding behind the ragged, worn-out cliché of racism to think about how he, as a gay man, might share the blame. The difference between Trev Broudy’s situation and that of Mr. Ferrise is that Trev’s friends, acquaintances, and family took action. We called the West Hollywood Police Department and City Hall. Telephones rang; e-mails flew. We tried to get on the City Council agenda to voice our concerns. Enraged that the local media waited five days to report the incident, I wrote to a number of TV stations, to the L.A. Times, to you, to U.S. Representative Henry Waxman and to both our senators. Mathis, like so many others, exhibits the attitude of complacency and a sense of entitlement that are the greatest contributors to leaving hate crimes unreported and unpublicized, and that generally relegate gay issues to the “closet.”
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