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This story first appeared in the May 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Jackie Beat, a Los Angeles drag performer and comedy writer, has been on staff of E!’s Joan Rivers talk show for 15 months but doesn’t have health insurance through the network or the Writers Guild. Although Beat, 49, is a member of the WGA, the performer has not accrued enough hours to qualify for insurance, and Fashion Police, like most unscripted cable series, is non-union.
The show’s writers went on strike April 17, claiming back wages, pension and health benefits as well as “industry-standard compensation” for writers.
“If the show was union, I would be eligible for health insurance,” says Beat (real name Kent Fuher). “Truth be told, we simply got sick and tired of working in a joke ‘sweat shop.’ “
When he couldn’t put off the surgery any longer, Beat started a Give Forward fundraiser to raise $50,000 for the April 19 procedure and several months of rehab.
At press time, the fund had reached $41,465 thanks to two events in Los Angeles and New York featuring supporters including Jane Lynch, Debbie Harry and Kate Flannery. One supporter — surprisingly — is Rivers, who donated to the fund, hosted the New York benefit and opened the show with a short set.
Beat says he appreciates the personal support, but if E! changed its policy, he “wouldn’t need to essentially beg for money online.”
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Tracee Ellis Ross