The four-month strike by union actors took a tragic turn over the weekend as a 38-year-old actor died after collapsing on a picket line in Hollywood.
Strike captains for the Screen Actors Guild said William Ray Embry fell down on Saturday morning during a Sunset Boulevard demonstration against a non-union shoot for Sony Playstation. Embry remained conscious and was able to give a thumbs-up signal as he was being taken into an ambulance by paramedics.
SAG members said Embry, a union member and Hollywood resident, was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. A rep for the medical center said Embry passed away that evening.
“It really is a shame,” said SAG strike captain Vince Melocchi, who remained at the medical center throughout the day and evening. “I’ve heard nothing but great things about him — how he always had a smile and was very generous and giving.”
Funeral services for Embry are pending.
SAG president William Daniels said: “I’m terribly saddened by something like this happening during a strike action. We will certainly get in touch with his family and express our profound regrets and sorrow.”
More than 100 actors picketed at the Sony shoot and were joined on the line by Michael J. Fox, Alexandra Paul and Estelle Getty.
Over 100 juvenile members of SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists also picketed for two hours Saturday at a Hollywood McDonald’s including members of the cats of “The Hughleys” and “Malcolm in the Middle.” It was the first such event during the strike specifically for children who are union members.
“The juvenile performers are clearly feeling the impact of the strike since one year in their career is like 10 in mine,” said strike captain Tisza Major. “The picket was very effective because we saw only four customers cross the line.”
SAG also drew about 200 people Friday to a meeting for non-union performers at the Writers Guild of America West headquarters in Los Angeles. Thesp Rob Schneider spoke at the event, designed to answer questions and concerns by non-union actors.
Union leaders plan to continue their strategy this week of increasing pressure on advertisers prior to the Sept. 13 resumption of bargaining by targeting corporations that have shot non-union spots. General Motors, which has been picketed at its Detroit facilities for the past two weeks, will be the target of daily demonstrations this week.
SAG and AFTRA will picket at the Hamtramck assembly plant today, the Pontiac facility on Tuesday and the Renaissance Center corporate headquarters on Wednesday. “We are going to hit all 14 GM plants in this area,” strike captain Michael Brennan promised.
On Saturday, about 70 SAG members picketed at a GM spare parts plant in Portland, Ore., following a meeting of SAG branch leaders. Daniels, who chaired the meeting, participated in the picketing and a subsequent leafleting at a GM dealer. Daniels also said that the meeting was held to inform branch leaders of the current state of the strike and the prospects for a settlement in the upcoming negotiations Sept. 13.
During the past week, demonstrations have taken place at Hamtramck, Renaissance Center and the Orion plant at Port Huron. Brennan said the pickets have sharply reduced production by holding down deliveries from drivers who refuse to cross union lines, but GM rep Peg Holmes has insisted that the demonstrators have not affected operations.
In New York, supporters plan to continue targeting GM regional headquarters in Manhattan. Strike leaders also will meet tonight with Paul Newman’s recently formed committee of high-profile members to plan a Sept. 7 rally and other events prior to the resumption of negotiations.
Union supporters staged a silent demonstration Friday at CBS’ Manhattan studios in order to protest what they believe is a lack of coverage of the work stoppage. “What ticks people off is how the media have not taken the strike more seriously, considering how much money is involved,” strike captain Paul Christie said.
In San Francisco, a downtown rally featuring Elliot Gould drew more than 200 supporters on Friday.