Mark Locher, national director of communications for the Screen Actors Guild, died Friday of pneumonia from AIDS-related complications. He was 37.
The 13-year SAG veteran was well known throughout the Hollywood community as spokesman for the volatile thesp org. Locher handled the guild’s media relations through some of its most difficult and tumultuous times, including last fall’s controversy over agent resid commission payments.
SAG execs remembered Locher as more than simply a spokesman, rather as someone who played a crucial role in the politics and administration of the Guild.
“Obviously, Mark will be sorely missed,” SAG national exec director Ken Orsatti said. “He was an integral part of the senior executive team. We will miss his advice and counsel and friendship.”
“Mark certainly grew in stature in that job to the point where his judgment and his advice and counsel were accepted by the senior executives and senior leaders,” he added.
Locher started his career at SAG in 1980 in the membership department. He became associate editor of publications and an assistant publicist in 1981, organizing SAG’s 50th anniversary ball at the Hollywood Palladium and writing material for the Emmy-winning 50th anniversary TV special on CBS.
He was named national director of communications in 1985 at age 29, the youngest person in Guild history to hold that position. He managed SAG’s media relations, produced press releases and served as a SAG liaison with other arts labor and community groups.
He coordinated speeches for Guild presidents Edward Asner, Patty Duke and Barry Gordon, and wrote testimony for legislative lobbying on issues including national health care, personal privacy and anti-stalking laws, and the need to preserve America’s film heritage.
“We worked on speeches together, sometimes until the wee hours of the night,” SAG prexy Gordon said. “We really did function as a team. It’s amazing to me how he began to pick up on my rhythms. He really became an extension of my personality.”
Last year, Locher helped found the SAG Foundation AIDS Task Force, which gives financial support to orgs that help performers with HIV and AIDS. Gordon said that will be the biggest legacy Locher leaves.
Apart from SAG, Locher served on the board of directors for Project Angel Food, a non-profit org that serves 3,500 hot meals aweek to home-bound HIV patients in Los Angeles.
He is survived by his parents, two brothers and a sister.
A public memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at the First United Methodist Church in Glendale. A SAG tribute to Locher will take place at the Directors Guild Theatre at 11 a.m. Jan. 23.
Donations can be made in his name to the Screen Actors Guild Foundation AIDS Task Force.