If you consider death as bad, then we had our trifecta in less then two months this spring.
Ken Howard, Patty Duke and Bill Shallert all left this earth with solid union and humanitarian legacies.
On March 23rd it came as a shock to most of the board and the membership when we lost sitting SAG-AFTRA National President Ken Howard was dead. Ken ran for president of the Screen Actors Guild against strong opposition twice, battling for merger, a merger he championed and later oversaw as the new unions first President and eventually as the AFTRA-SAG’s first elected president. It was no easy feat. This was the fourth attempt at merger, the third in my tenure representing Nevada on the National Board. It was a sacrifice for both unions to build for the future, and as a career-working actor Ken knew merger was needed if the current membership and future generations were to prosper as performer. I knew him personally, and professionally. We worked closely. His loss hit me hard. He is missed. And as a six foot four performer myself, to know a man who towered above me in more ways then one (Ken was 6’6) and shared my passions for musical theater, dogs and the rights and future of all talent, he leaves a hole in the universe of acting and of those passionate about their fellow performers. We miss you Ken.
We lost Patty Duke March 29th. A dedicated unionist and hard worker, Oscar winning actor and advocate for mental health. She had to live with her own bi-polar disorder, when led to her life work after the Guild. She resigned from office to produce the filmed version of her own memoir, outlining her personal life, struggles with Bi-polar disorder and the pressure of being forced into the child star mold earning her Oscar at age 16 as Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker”). I was proud to be a member of our union under her leadership. I only met her a few times, but know from those that worked with her that she stood up for television performers right to earn a living. She fought hard against the spread of Right-to-Work and the erosion of unionism in America. Anna Patty Duke Pearce was president from 1985 to 1988.
William Shallert left us May 9th. Most memorable in his role as the father of a fellow future Screen Actors Guild President on “The Patty Duke Show”, he served as the Guild’s president from 1979 to 1981 and was active on the board during much of my tenure on the union board in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Mild mannered but with strong views, he fought for working actors and for the future for all actors. When he passed at age 93, he was fully aware of al the changes that had occurred in our professions over his lifetime and the rapid changes ahead of us.
I encourage you to search for their bios and obituaries using the search option at sagaftra.org.
The passing of three presidents over such a short period of time has me looking back at SAG, AFTRA and SAG-AFTRA and all they do for membership, and all the work and dedication, even career decisions and loss by so many for us to have a strong, now fully merged union.
We need to evangelize for unions, all unions.
We owe it to them, to those who gave up careers, lost revenue, risked being fired in all professions just to stand up for basic health, safety, living wages and realistic hours.
We know Nevada. We know Las Vegas. Great potential, but also not the best place to be union. Those of us who are must keep our brothers and sisters from working “off card”, violating Rule One of their union card agreement and working non-union. We need to get career Taft-Hartley “SAG Eligible” to stop taking our jobs and join our side of the fence, so together we can earn more work, higher wages and all the benefits of being union.
We owe it to the three president’s we lost and to all of those who fought so hard, gave up so much, for us to have what we take for granted today.
We owe it to ourselves…to continue the trend set under SAG-AFTRA of stronger contracts built for the future, organizing of areas that have become increasingly non-union or even anti-union, and building out membership of qualified professional performers.
Report violations of Rule One.
Volunteer for Service. Contact President Artours Weeden in Nevada or National President Garielle Carteris ore myself.
Support the Conservatory, attend union meetings and talk-up SAG-AFTRA every chance you get.
Holding my union card high in Solidarity.
National Board Director
This is not an official statement
nor has it been approved by
any other source but this author.