The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Variety on SAG's Doug Allen: He's out! No, he's not!

January 13, 2009 |  6:24 pm

Dailyvariety_2I know what it's like to write on deadline, so I don't want to go crazy here, making fun of Variety's strike reporting team, which has a tough job to do as it is, trying to write objectively about the Screen Actors Guild soap opera. That's especially true when you consider that Variety's Big Kahuna, Peter Bart, is so obviously eager to paint the union in the worst possible light (although the union has been doing a pretty good job of doing that all by itself). Still, Variety had to be embarrassed to have run a huge story saying SAG had ousted its lead negotiator, the hapless Doug Allen, based on only one named source--the always excitable character actor Seymour Cassel, which is sort of like running a story on the internal squabbling involving Al Franken's bid for a Senate seat and quoting Ann Coulter. Cassel told Variety's Dave McNary that Allen had been removed during an emergency SAG board meeting that ended up lasting--SAG being SAG--a whopping 30 hours. Only one problem: It wasn't true.

Now Variety has had to eat its words, so to speak. It turns out that after 30 hours of contentious wrangling, Allen still has a job and the guild's strike vote will proceed as planned. Basically, SAG's current leadership prevented a dissident faction from passing a resolution that would have effectively relieved Allen of his duties as chief negotiator and rescinded the strike authorization vote.

Guess what? Allen will be ousted. It's just a matter of sooner or later. SAG's current bomb-throwing leadership has been trying to lead the union over a cliff by insisting on getting a better deal when everyone else in the country is simply trying to pay their bills and keep the dog from the door. In fact, SAG prez Alan Rosenberg will probably be the next out the door, having completely misread the mood of the union rank and file, not to mention the studio chiefs who sit across the negotiating table. The union needs new leadership--it's the only way SAG will live to fight another day.