« Improv Is Good For You | Main | But Who Is Going to Play ‘Snowy?’ »

Uncle Ned’s Good-Time Actors Union


As I walked out of Membership First’s “meet and greet” on Sunday, a mustachioed, leather-clad SAG politico sneered at me, “So, did you get something for your blog?”

I can be a real wuss at the worst times and this guy is three times my size, so I smiled and mumbled something like, “Sure, totally. Thanks for reading it.” Where Nikki Finke and Arianna would have shot back a withering, Dorothy Parker–esque remark instantly, I drove home composing comebacks in my head, the best of which are still, “Oh yeah? Your mom’s a blog!” or “Hey, I missed Sunset Junction for this, buddy. Don’t mess with me.”

Fortunately, blogger Jonathan Handel wasn’t too wussy to step away from his keyboard and face Unite for Strength poster boy Ned Vaughn and Membership First front-people David Jolliffe and Anne-Marie Johnson yesterday during separate interviews streamed live on the Interwebs. Yes, everyone commented on the irony of broadcasting the interviews on the oh-so-controversial new media. I was hoping Jolliffe or Johnson would make a quip about not receiving residuals, as a handful of ads quietly flashed on the site. If you missed it, you can watch the whole thing here.

For those who have too much of a life, here’s a recap. In general, all three interviewees did an excellent job of being congenial (even flirty in Johnson’s case) while evading questions—just like real politicians! Vaughn said UFS members elected to the board will have to “ascertain what’s possible,” like whether to bend over and take the AMPTP’s proffered contract. Would UFS dissolve the negotiating committee and start over? “It depends on the outcome of the elections.” Is the sky frackin’ blue? More ascertaining is needed.

The Membership First folks weren’t much better. According to Jolliffe, “only Alan and Doug” know the answers to a lot of Handel’s questions, like whether negotiations with studio heads are even going on, or why AFTRA would ever agree to Membership First’s ill-defined shared services agreement. Maybe “the Allens” know if the sky is blue. Stay tuned for an official SAG statement stating the sky was blue until AFTRA turned it purple.

Plus, neither side can say how SAG is going to repair its broken relationship with AFTRA and fill the Grand Canyon–sized rift between Hollywood, New York, and the regional divisions, but both sides promise to solve these problems if elected. Vaughn said electing his slate to the board would show AFTRA that SAG members want to kiss and make up. Jolliffe said the East-West rift is “repairable” if only the national board members would “sit in a room together” and work out their “deep philosophical differences.” Don’t they already sit in rooms together all the time? Dark, creepy rooms probably in the back of Italian restaurants—at least, that’s how I picture it.

Speaking of the Capo, what will be Doug Allen’s fate should UFS take control and “end SAG as we know it?”  Vaughn was….vague. “The NED takes direction from the board, and Membership First, despite good intent, is misguided on policy matters,” he said. But would UFS members fire Allen—you know, the way Membership First fired Bob Pisano then Greg Hessinger as soon as they took control of the board? Vaughn said, “We do not have a specific agenda in regard to Allen or any other staff members.” Though, he added, they would have a “conversation” with Allen. Kind of like that conversation a newly elected Rosenberg had with Hessinger in '05? Hmmm... 

Big props to Handel for trying to get all three interviewees to actually answer his questions—and they did reveal some things. On the prickly subject of qualified/affected voting, Vaughn said his party has much bigger fish to fry: namely getting a TV/Theatrical contract already (then a Commercials contract) and merging with AFTRA. “If you offered me a choice between a merged union or two separate unions with all the qualified voting I could possibly want, I’d take the merged union.” Now that’s a good sound-bitey answer.

Vaughn was on a roll and gave my favorite sound bite of the day soon after. When asked what this new SAG + AFTRA union would be called, he replied, “'Uncle Joe's Actors Union' would be fine with me.”

And me, too! May I humbly suggest Uncle Emmit's Good-Time Ol’ Fashioned Actors Union and Otter Jug Band? UEGTOFAUAOJB for short. I’d never miss Sunset Junction if they were playing.

Johnson didn’t think the “Uncle Joe” response was funny, nor does my buddy Arlin Miller. During her interview, Johnson called the moniker “icing on a distasteful cake.” Mmmm…cake…

Despite their hemming, hawing, and repeating the same arguments we’ve heard before, Jolliffe and Johnson revealed what could be a strategy to get their way with the AMPTP. According to Jolliffe, if SAG members only knew the truth about the contract on the table, they’d all jump on the Doug Allen hard-bargain train. “[The members] are bombarded with the message that we are weak, divided,” he said. “We’re not chasing rainbows; we’re fighting for our economic lives…. If push comes to shove, I believe in my fellow artists and actors to rally around these issues.”

 Joliffe then mentions that SAG members will soon receive a post card in a nine-page bulletin about the negotiations, asking what they think SAG negotiators should do: fight for something better or shut up and sign on the line that is dotted. Jolliffe seemed confident that the answer will overwhelmingly be the former (which also means working under an expired contract as production grinds to a halt in L.A.). In fact, so many actors—oh, say, 75 percent of guild members--will support the fight that they’d vote for strike authorization—not that the Allens have plans to call for one, of course. That’d give the negotiators the leverage they so sorely lack right now.

 Sounds like the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass to me, but that’s not to say it couldn’t work. What about those 44,000 dual cardholders who ratified AFTRA’s deal? Wouldn’t they vote for SAG to take the same deal? And 44,000 is what percent of 120,000? Hello, Hello Kitty calculator….

 Okay, I’ve got more exciting back-and-forth between Membership First and UFS to report. Stay tuned for more fun on the blog.

--Lauren Horwitch

Dig This


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Uncle Ned’s Good-Time Actors Union:


From what I've heard, the nine page report and postcard is basically a push poll -- vote it up or vote it down as is without going into the complications of the contract, or even giving anyone the ability to abstain. It will get the result that is desired -- a yes vote, because who's going to accept a give in on force majuere or french hours? Another waste of money -- I'm all for education, but push polls are a slap to anyone who cares to really grasp the pros and cons of any issues or the terms.

The comments to this entry are closed.