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Oscar should be in the shape of Scabby the Rat.
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Growing up in West Hollywood in the 1960s our family lived in the flatlands just below the famed Sunset Strip.
Walking to school I could look up at the Hollywood Hills and see the fancy homes of the rich and the movie stars.
Some of the stars, like the Doors and Jim Morrison, I could only view as images on giant billboards.
And the Chateau Marmont, a hotel whose driveway came off of Sunset Boulevard but which quickly turned behind tall Cypress trees so those staying at the hotel could avoid the looks of fans and commoners.
The workers at the Chateau Marmont are on strike. They are members of UniteHere.
Even so, there was a party there with Hollywood agents, producers, lawyers and stars after Sunday’s Oscar Awards that featured The Slap.
Some of Hollywood’s most famous crossed the picket line.
Some of Hollywood’s best wouldn’t.
I read that Issa Rae, Jane Fonda, Tom Morello, Adam McKay, Samira Wiley, Spike Lee, Robin Thede, Alfonso Cuarón, Amanda Seyfried, Steven Van Zandt, Ashley Nicole Black, Sarah Silverman, Martin Sheen and Edie Falco stayed away.
By the way, we have a union issue involving entertainment unions here in Chicago. Production workers at public television station WTTW are on strike.
This morning the striking local, IBEW 1220, tweeted out:
The striking workers of IBEW would like to acknowledge the members of SAG-AFTRA working at WTTW who are respecting the Local's jurisdiction and refraining from doing any of our technical work while our members are on strike.
Same as its ever been.
Scabs and those who stand in solidarity.
In fact, that is the story of the Motion Picture Academy and Oscar.
Oscar was born as a scab.
Back in the day, studio mogul Louis B. Mayor wanted to build a mansion in Santa Monica using studio carpenters. The millionaire movie maker thought he could save a few bucks that way.
Louis’ problem was that the carpenters had just signed a union contract and Louis’ mansion was going to cost him more.
Afraid of the spread of unionism among the rest of Hollywood, including the talent, Louis brought together an anti-union group to settle labor disputes between Hollywood workers, without a union. Just to make sure his actors felt especially special, he put together the first Academy Awards ceremony to give creatives the illusion of recognition without paying them more, giving them health care, or doing anything actually, you know, helpful.
Years later the so-called Waldorf Statement — named for the New York hotel where it was drafted in 1947, by the Motion Picture Association president Eric Johnston on behalf of 48 movie executives — decreed that 10 Hollywood men who had just been cited for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities would not be allowed to work in the business until each had “purged himself of contempt and declares under oath that he is not a communist.”
The heads of the major studios including Louis B. Mayer all signed the declaration.