Here’s the deal: I drive a PT Cruiser. I hate driving in L.A.; loathe it! I would rather have my impacted wisdom teeth extracted by a drunken Teamster than drive from NoHo to Century City at 9am. So, I took the bus to the rally – from Vineland and Magnolia to Santa Monica and Ave. of the Stars. There were a lot of people on the bus – brown, black, white – it was rush hour. I had my WGAw button on my cap and I got nods and smiles from these folks. They know! They get it! They understand. These bus-riders know. They don’t drive, but they do watch TV and go to the movies and live in America and they know the value of a buck and how hard it is to make one meet another these days. The ride took a while, but I didn’t mind. I liked these people.
Now: I get to the rally. Whoa! What a showing! What unity! The slogans! The chants! The encouragement! It was a fantastic moment. And it was like old home week for many. Back slapping! Smiles! CAA churros and William Morris bagels! Eighty-nine year old Bob Schiller, one of the original “I Love Lucy” writers was there! Amazing! Wonder what he drives? Hope he doesn’t.
Home again: Well, if you take a bus someplace, usually you have to take it back. As I was waiting for the 704 out there on Santa Monica I noticed something – a steady parade of BMW’s, Mercedes, Porches and Prisus’, etc. streaming out of the mall parking. Red shirts a drivin’, cell phones a yakkin’. Back to the world – sort of.
The way it is: I’ve been out here for ten years, really a writer for eight. I’ve sold EXACTLY three pilot scripts. I have not worked a Guild job in two years. My benny’s ran out a year ago and Cobra gone bye-bye. When I went to the New Members something-or-other back in ‘ought-one’ I didn’t feel real comfy – thought some of the folks at the Guild snooty. My ambivalence was immediate – I was a writer and in the Guild, but, boy, they’re snooty! And, honestly, I’m not a good Guild member. I owe them dues. Hell, I still owe part of my initiation money. Sorry about that. But I’ve been on the pavement since last Monday and I will remain on the pavement until this is resolved. Why? I’ll get to that.
My Pop: As some of you, or anyone who has had the misfortune to cross my path these last five days, may know, my grand-father, Carey Wilber, was one of the earliest members of this Guild. For a good portion of the shows he wrote, like the hopefully non-driving Bob Schiller, he didn’t get residuals – they didn’t yet exist. He fought for them. He was proud of that. Sure, it was about the money. But it wasn’t ONLY about the money. It was about the fight and the ‘why’ behind it. To the day he died he was proud of his Union and what he accomplished. He drove a Saturn at the end. And I mention him every chance I get because of that, because of that history, that reverence for a battle for what is right. And that’s it – THIS IS A BATTLE FOR WHAT IS RIGHT.
Why the Walk: Because it’s the right thing to do! Not just for me. Not just for the Guild. Not for the four cents and the Internet. Not for those BMW’s, Mercedes and Porches and Prius’. It’s so much bigger than all that. It’s for my neighbor, the work-a-day actor who has to count every penny of residual money to make his yearly nut for benefits. He drives a Malibu. It’s for the friend of my wife, a costumer on Back To You, who just got laid-off. She drives a Dodge mini-van. It’s for the union Fire Fighter from West Virginia that would not cross the NBC picket line Thursday to take his family on the studio tour without asking if we minded. He drove a Toyota. It’s for the United Farm Workers, who probably LIVE IN what they drive. It’s for the TWELVE THOUSAND CHRYSLER WORKERS THAT JUST GOT LAID OFF after making a deal! They – EVERY LAST SOUL – want, NEED, us to win! Win for the little guy. And, you know what? I AM THE LITTLE GUY! And so are they. And so are you. And so are the PT Cruiser drivers, and the BMW drivers, and the Ford drivers. And the bus-riders. You get it. Fine, a Tom Joad moment. As it should be.
The BIG BAD: It’s faceless. It’s vapor. It’s without fear or conscience. Its appetite is voracious and insatiable. It is the darkest of the human soul and condition. It is the disease of MORE! And it has penetrated and co-opted, once again, the institutions that dominate our society. We all know what I’m talkin’ about. And it won’t stop unless it is forced to stop. That is our job, our stand to make. We, oddly enough, a bunch of…well…writers, of all things, we are the spearhead attempting to at least mildly quell this…this infection that has, for all practical purposes, mortally wounded the middle-class of America. The bus-riders know this too! Because we are so privileged to be working is an amazing industry rife with fame and fortune and really good-looking people that are snazzy dressers, we get the press and the splash! But the joes, the bus-riders, they are a savvy bunch! Today the writers, tomorrow…who knows! Them! There once was a promise made to us in this country. And it’s fading, it’s being stolen – nipped off bit by bit. They, the bus-riders, want to believe again – they NEED to believe again. And so do I. And so I’ll walk because I can and I should.
Besides, everyone hates a bully.
After: This strike will end. And when it does, things will get back to some semblance of normal, or what passes for normal in this burgh. We are in a crazy business. We’d like to think we are curing cancer. But we’re not. This gig, self-importance runs rampant. So, when it’s all over and we are victorious – which I am sure we will be because we are right – remember the unity, the comradeship, the kick from feeling part of something right and good and bigger than yourself. Remember that you are the Little Guy. And, when pulling up to the valet at the Palm, or the Sky Bar, or someplace important, that other Little Guy, just like you, taking your keys and parking your Porsche or Prius, supported you in your time of need and shares the same dreams and desires and need to believe that you do – that we all do. Give him or her a nod and a smile and remember that they probably take the bus.
– Jeff Wilber 11/9/07