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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 Savage
Beverly Hills

 


[

TAKING ACTION

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.”

—John D. Taylor
West Hollywood

A TOUCH OF CMS

Re: “Freeways
to Perdition” [Open City, August 23–29]
. Kudos to Steven Mikulan and his
observations regarding use of the freeway Changeable Message Signs (CMS). It’s
good to see that someone else gets it. Instead of just updating motorists of
imminent hazards on a particular route when necessary, it’s just a matter of
time until some bean-counting bureaucrat gets the notion that “selling time”
on the CMS grid(s) will help the signs’ operating budget.

If this trend continues, using the signs for other purposes will only exacerbate
the already stressing problem of “rush hour,” “gridlock” and generally slow
traffic. As an airborne traffic reporter, however, I do see a bright side. As
commuters spill their double lattes and swerve into adjacent lanes while fumbling
around to check the Lotto numbers that are being flashed onto the overhead freeway
signs, my colleagues and I will be on the air reporting â dozens of new fender-benders
. . . and the resulting backlog of freeway traffic!

—Mike Taylor-Baez
Fullerton

 

CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARDS

Re: “The Endless
Summer Show” by Doug Harvey [August 30–September 5]
. I’ve surfed in Southern
California for 40 years, and worked in the surfing industry for the past 30,
including a stint as the editor of Surfer magazine in the mid-’70s. Mr.
Harvey’s observations regarding the lackluster display of the fine collection
of historical surfboards at the expense of some cheesy works of “Surf Art” reflect
the ongoing struggle that many of us within the surf media fight on a daily
basis. Mr. Harvey’s observations were music to my ears.

—Paul Gross
Woodland Hills

 

THE OTHER LONG BEACH

In his review of the movie City
by the Sea

[New Film Releases, September 6–12]
, Chuck Wilson calls Long Beach, New
York, a dilapidated seaside town. I suppose that Mr. Wilson was aware that this
film was not made in Long Beach, but in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Long Beach
is not a drug town, nor is it rundown. We are a small city to which many visitors
come each year for the sake of our well-maintained beaches. Obviously, Wilson
does not know “reel” from real.

—Margaret Rossi
Long Beach, New York

 

OFFBEAT AND OUT OF PLACE

Re: Skylaire Alfvegren’s “Glad
To See You A-Go-Go” [A Considerable Town, August 30–September 5]
. Mondo
Video’s offbeat antics at the store, as well as their high-spirited hijinks
as guests on radio’s Music for Nimrods, breathed fresh life into a rather
dull, placid Los Feliz scene. May their relocation be the beginning of a just
revenge on the unimaginative snots who elect themselves the arbiters of everyone
else’s tastes.

—James Nolan
Los Angeles

 

STAND DOWN, PETA

In response to Ira Hozinsky’s letter regarding
Weekly Standard readers [Letters
page, September 20–26]
, I would like to point out that I have been a reader
of the Weekly Standard since its first issue and have never drowned a
kitten, nor have I ever felt the desire to do so. Mind you, I’ve missed a few
issues of the magazine over the years, so it’s entirely possible that I overlooked
a how-to article on the killing of small, cute animals, but since I’m pretty
sure that the letters columns of subsequent issues would have included some
reaction to such an article, I’m going to assume that they didn’t cover the
subject. Of course, since Mr. Hozinsky has never read a single copy of the Weekly
Standard
, he can be forgiven for his ignorance of the magazine’s editorial
contents, if not for his vitriol.

[

—Mike Harris
Venice

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