WGA stages big Hollywood solidarity march

'We're all in this together'

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It wasn't quite "Day of the Locust," but union scribes swarmed Hollywood on Tuesday in a solidarity march ending near Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

The WGA march down Hollywood Boulevard sought to keep strike commitment high among the rank and file before a Thanksgiving break in picketing and then the resumption of negotiations with studio reps Monday. The WGA hasn't held any bargaining sessions with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers since Nov. 5, the first day of the now 17-day-old strike.

"This is to show solidarity and let the companies know that we continue to be serious in wanting to negotiate a fair contract," said Jonathan Feldman, a TV writer and one of the parade marshals on hand to coordinate a crowd that police estimated at about 1,500 and the WGA said reached 4,500.

Three big Teamsters rigs were parked along the truck route, and members of SAG and AFTRA joined the writers at the event.

"I think this says we're all in this together," said Amy Brenneman, star of ABC's "Private Practice" and a SAG member. "I almost wept when I saw the Teamster trucks."

Brenneman noted that her husband, Brad Silberling, is a member of the DGA negotiating committee that eventually will be working through similar issues the writers are facing in their contract talks with the studios. Film and TV contracts for SAG and the DGA run through June 30, but the WGA's pact with the studios expired Oct. 31.

Singer-actress Alicia Keys performed two songs for the massed writers before their march began.

"Without lyrics, there can be no music, and without writers, there can be no great stories," Keys said.

Sandra Oh, who stars on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," was among those addressing the marchers outside the Chinese. Others on hand included WGA West president Patric Verrone and Teamsters Local 399 secretary-treasurer Leo Reed.

The route the marchers took, running between Vine and Orange streets, is lined with T-shirt shops, boutiques and fast food restaurants whose proprietors appeared a bit blindsided by the closure of Hollywood Boulevard for the WGA event.

"I knew there would be people carrying signs and such, but I didn't know they were going to shut down the street," said Eric Carter, an employee at Hollywood Men's Wear. "No disrespect, though, because they're hurting, too."

But at Greco's Pizza, a long line of hungry marchers seemed to present the one worker on hand with too much afternoon business.

"Meatball sandwich?" the employee repeated to one customer. "Sure, but it's going to take 15 minutes."

Free food was on offer at several intersections along the route, much of it provided by CAA. The talent agencies stationed employees at six spots along the march route, toting trays of scones and cider.

In addition to WGA placards, marchers carried homemade signs, including one reading "Young, Restless, On Strike" and another incorporating a life-size image of John Wayne and the message, "It Ain't Hollywood Without Writers." A balmy day seemed to help lend a festive atmosphere to the proceedings.

"From a strike perspective, a guess I'm just hoping to show the people doing the negotiating (that) we're still solidified," TV scribe Kerry Lehart said. "And after a few weeks of picketing, it's nice to get out here and feel that you're not in this alone or with just 25 other people. You're part of a community."
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