Gilbert delivers SAG blast

Rival Harper denounces postcard mailing

In a late shot at current Screen Actors Guild leaders, Melissa Gilbert has warned of an apocalyptic future for SAG if her slate is not elected.

“SAG is headed for self-destruction,” Gilbert’s Restore Respect campaign warned in a mass mailing sent this week. “Will your career survive? If you don’t pay much attention to SAG, or don’t vote in Guild elections, you’d better start now. This election is your chance — maybe your last — to take back control of your union.”

Gilbert’s postcard mailing was denounced by chief rival Valerie Harper, who said, “It could not be more innaccurate. We have never been in better shape.”

Harper, who has been endorsed by SAG prexy William Daniels, cited improved commercials and TV-film contracts, streamlining of the national board and Guild operations and moves to expand contract coverage overseas. “The financial problems did not start two years ago but were inherited,” she asserted.

Missive with bite

The Gilbert mailing, aimed at “actors with earnings,” culminates a campaign that has seen the one-time “Little House on the Prairie” star repeatedly blast Daniels. The missive repeats allegations that SAG has “done nothing” about commercial residuals; that its backing of countervailing tariffs against producers is “unrealistic”; SAG is in “financial crisis” due to “reckless” spending; and that SAG needs to head off a “war with agents” over financial-interest rules.

Members of Harper’s Actors Moving Forward slate expressed dismay over the mailing, with treasurer candidate Kent McCord calling the allegations on residuals and finances “flat-out lies.”

With ballots due Wednesday, the postcard appears designed to spark members who do not usually vote. Turnouts of less than 25% are typical in SAG elections. “This is a last-minute scare tactic from people who do not have even a toe on the pulse of the membership,” said 1st VP candidate Anne-Marie Johnson. “The nastiness during the campaign has come from one side.”

Harper’s backers were particularly critical of Gilbert’s stance on runaway production. “It’s irresponsible for them to be using the conditions of the business as a way to elect themselves,” said Elliott Gould, who is on Harper’s slate as a candidate for recording secretary.

Johnson accused the Gilbert slate of being overly concerned with the interests of other Hollywood constituencies. “This is not supposed to the Screen Agents Guild or the Screen Producers Guild,” she said. “We have to be a union, not a country club.”

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