Unions fight long pre-holiday workdays

GOOD MORNING: As the days dwindle down to a precious few in 1997, production companies are pushing to get as much in the can before shutting down for the holidays — and there’s the rub. The unions and guilds are concerned about jeopardizing the safety and health of workers with extra-long hours and are meeting to support “Brent’s Rule.” Back on March 6, Brent Lon Hershman, 35, died in a car crash on his way home to West Hills (at 1 a.m.) from the Long Beach set of “Pleasantville” after working a 19-hour day. Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler launched the campaign for “Brent’s Rule” shortly thereafter and all guilds have joined in the fight. The Alliance of Motion Picture & TV Producers, DGA and IA reps are meeting, reports Wexler, in a high-level confab to discuss the issue of intensive hours. The IA had taken out a full-page ad in the Aug. 8 issue of Daily Variety stressing the union’s efforts to cut back on ultra-long work days The DGA had made a powerful declaration in the June 13 issue, stating its commitment to “life, health and safety and responsibility to our families” as well as to working with other unions and production companies to shorten work days. That DGA letter and the SAG board’s similar actions became known as “Brent’s Rule,” calling for a maximum 14-hour workday … Cinematographer-director-producer Wexler realizes the guilds “are caught in an economic trap — but they must work humanely. They have to look beyond financial negotiating spheres. The DGA Safety Committee has already taken an excellent stand,” he reminds And Wednesday, attorneys John Lawrence and Fredric N. Richman, on behalf of Hershman’s widow Deborah and their two children, Ariel and Hannah, filed a wrongful death suit against New Line and Juno Pix Inc., producers of the feature on which Hershman was second camera assistant when he was killed. The lawsuit’s three causes of action are demanding judgment (multi-million-$ ) for general and specific damages. And the filing of this wrongful death suit will be a further reminder to the guild reps as they meet, sez Wexler, “that the human element is not negotiable.”

IF YOU ARE BETTING, the odds are that Billy Crystal will host the Oscars; if he does, it’ll be the sixth time, joining with producer Gil Cates on his eighth. … Can you believe Jane Fonda is 60 — or will be Dec. 21. Husband Ted Turner is giving her a black-tie party Saturday at Atlanta’s Ritz Carlton Buckhead Hotel. … Mickey Rooney (77) starts the new year guesting in a two-part “Mike Hammer, Private Eye” starring Stacy Keach. … Florence Henderson cameos in Eddie Murphy’s “Holy Man” for Par. She plays a hostess on a home shopping network. … Mia Farrow is being pitched by director Robert Ellis Miller to star in his next pic, “Stranded,” in which she’d play the fanatical, over-protective mother of a young man arrested for the heinous murders of several innocent residents in a small desert community. … Cameron Diaz’s mom in 20th’s “Something About Mary” is played by Markie Post, making her feature bow. Diaz costars with Matt Dillon and Ben Stiller for directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly, who call the pic, “a cross between ‘When Harry Met Sally’ and ‘Blazing Saddles’!” … “Mouse Hunt” scripter Adam Rifkin got word his 1991 cult pic “The Dark Backward” is being talked sequel by producer Brad Wyman. Rifkin’s also scripting “Jumanji II” for Columbia TriStar.

A NEW YULETIDE CD single “The Eyes of Christmas,” released by Retinitis Pigmentosa Intl., features the talents of L.A.-based radio and TV personalities — including Vin Scully, Casey Kasem and Mario Machado. The “Eyes of Christmas” TV special airs Dec. 21 and Christmas Day. … Rabbi David Baron of the Temple Shalom for the Arts is a narrator of A&E’s “The Maccabees,” dealing with the story of Chanukah and airing Dec. 20 on “Mysteries of the Bible”. … The video of “Oi To The World” by the band No Doubt is getting lots of airtime and helping the sales of “A Very Special Christmas 3,” which benefits the Special Olympics. … PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) presents “A Christmas Pudding,” composed and directed by David Birney (fourth year), at the Westwood Presbyterian Church Dec. 19 with traditional songs and stories and proceeds to benefit the homeless. … Jeff Sagansky receives the Executive of the Year Award from the Caucus Awards Jan. 11 at the Four Seasons. Robert Finkel receives the Distinguished Service Award; Roger Gimbel the Member of the Year. Dick Wolf,John McGeevey and Gil Cates are the other awardees. … Daizy Gedeon and Leo Mir, who co-produced “Lebanon Imprisoned Splendor,” narrated by Omar Sharif, will wed in March. They are also developing a miniseries, “Lebanon A Search for Identity”. … The multivoiced Gary Owens got an offer to buy Garry Owen, Montana — the historic landmark where the Battle of Little Big Horn took place. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse met at Garry Owen on June 25, 1876, and, adds our Gary Owens, “That’s when General Custer first wore an Arrow shirt!” … Olympia Dukakis joins the celeb food purveyors with her Olympia Dukakis Greek (Salad ) Dressing. Her pic hugs the neck of the bottle. Now working in her low-budget feature “Better Living” in Yonkers, Olympia tells me her son Ron created her salad dressing. She agrees that Paul Newman’s Own dressing is “wonderful” (and also raises million$ for charities) — “but if you want a Greek dressing –” Guess whose.

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