If ever there was a day that will show the divide between Hollywood and New York, it will be the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The day has left Gotham’s agents grappling with two difficult realities: they live in a town that will not do business that day, but they work in an industry that will.
Nearly all of Hollywood talent agencies’ Gotham offices will be taking half days — or closing all together — to commemorate lives lost in the terrorist attacks, while all West Coast agencies and movie studios are open for business.
Paradigm will close its office all day in New York, while Gotham branches of The William Morris Agency, Writers & Artists Agency and The Gersh Agency, as well as performers union AFTRA, will all delay opening until after noon to give employees the opportunity to attend memorial services in lower Manhattan, or to simply reflect on the meaning of the day. Even Disney’s three musicals in New York City, “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aida” will not be staged.
And Hollywood, while open for business, is hardly doing business as usual. “This will not be an ordinary workday,” said an email at one of the Big Five agencies.
At Los Angeles-based percenteries like United Talent Agency, Endeavor, and Writers & Artists Agency (which have, respectively, no, nominal and small New York operations) the focus was on communal discussion and outreach.
“I’ve ask myself how the people killed September 11th would want to be remembered,” said CEO Norman Aladjem, of Writers & Artists, adding: “To me, it’s important that these seemingly senseless deaths have meaning. The most important thing we can do is to ensure that these deaths not be senseless — that they serve some higher purpose. These people can’t have died for nothing. In our industry, too many people equate not getting caught in a lie with telling the truth, and too many people believe that good results justify bad means. We should honor the victims of September 11th by committing to live with purpose and integrity throughout the year — that will be my message to my colleagues at our company gathering.”
Normal H’w’d sked
Back at Hollywood’s studios, flags are to be flown at half-staff, but the lots will be at full staff: Only Warner Bros. will delay its opening by an hour, starting business at 10 ayem. All other MPA signatories and studios like DreamWorks and Revolution will start and finish the day according to normal workday schedules.
However, that’s not to say there will be no observation of the day in Hollywood or its far-flung creations. At Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, flags will be flown at half-staff on Sept. 11 and a moment of silence will be observed throughout all venues. A moment of silence, too, is planned at Universal Studios’ popular adventure parks.
Creative Artists Agency is open for business, but an agency spokesman said that those employees who want to observe the anniversary at home that day are free to do so.
At UTA, a spokesman said that a “non-denominational” gathering would occur in the Los Angeles office over the lunch hour with a local rabbi leading a discussion about the tragedy.
United by phone
For its part, Endeavor is planning a 9 a.m. teleconference with its half dozen Gotham staffers and its entire L.A. staff. Lead by partners David Lonner and Rick Rosen, meeting will also mark the announcement of the Endeavor Foundation’s first Gotham beneficiary, the Fresh Air Fund, which recently instituted a series of family camping weekends at Fund camps in Fishkill, N.Y., for children and adults who have been affected by the tragedy.
Others, like the Screen Actors Guild, will literally give something of themselves: In conjunction with the UCLA Blood and Platelet Center, SAG will hold a blood drive at its Hollywood headquarters from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Endeavor, like SAG, is also planning a company-wide blood drive, but will hold it in October, when post-patriotic fervor is expected to die down, and critical (and perishable) blood reserves are expected to dwindle.
For Gotham’s agents, the day will be spent far differently.
“It was very stressful on our office — several of our people very nearly lost their lives,” said Sam Gores, the L.A.-based prexy of Paradigm. “I feel that you need to go on, but that if you lived in New York City and had to go through that horror, then it’s completely appropriate to take the day to look back and reflect, and to look ahead and be grateful.”
Mirroring the position of agency International Creative Management, management concern 3 Arts Entertainment will also be open in New York, but “coming into the office is absolutely optional,” said David Miner, head of 3 Arts’ New York office. It’s a personal decision, and we didn’t want to impose either way. I feel these actions and reactions are personal. There is no right way to handle any of this. There are still occasions to mourn or simply pause to reflect, and there is still work to do, life to live. Coming out of a holiday, I had time recently to reflect, and so I personally feel comfortable working and flying. As for safety, I have few to no concerns.”
Miner added that he will be flying on business on Sept. 11, on American Airlines.
The Gotham office of tenpercentery Innovative Artists will also remain open, but its head of talent and Gotham capo Richie Jackson had strong words about why and what that meant.
“Of the many things that were attacked on 9/11, we really believe that part of it was an attack against the workplace,” said Jackson, “We wanted everyone to be together here. (Owner) Scott Harris has flown in, and at the end of the day, we will be having our own reception to gather together and reflect on what we have all been through.”
(Cathy Dunkley, Marc Graser and Dana Harris contributed to this report.)