Reed Farrell, Former AFTRA President, Dies at 89

SAG-AFTRA
Reed Farrell

The broadcaster, actor and writer who served as the acting union's president from 1989–1993 died July 6.

Reed Farrell, a broadcaster, actor and writer who served as AFTRA president from 1989–1993, has died. He was 89. 

Farrell died July 6, SAG-AFTRA announced Monday. "Reed was a committed unionist with a passion for union service and the betterment of his fellow members," SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement. "Our gratitude goes out to him for his many years of dedication to our union." 

Born Farrell Reed Pasternak in 1930, Farrell grew up in Flint, Michigan. He attended the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where he majored in fine arts. He also later attended Los Angeles City College, where he majored in drama, radio and television.

Early in his career, Farrell became a disc jockey for radio stations in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Missouri and Illinois. In January 1958, while a disc jockey at KWK in St. Louis, he was filmed smashing rock ’n’ roll records, declaring, "Rock ’n’ roll has got to go — and go it does at KWK." The film clip of the "record-breaking" campaign has since been used in numerous documentaries.

In the 1960s, Farrell returned to Flint and cultivated stardom as horror film program host Christopher Coffin, the "Guardian of the Ghouls," for WJRT-TV. From 1972-74, he hosted the St. Louis TV program Reed Farrell Morning Affair, where he welcomed guests including Milton Berle, Robert Goulet, Cloris Leachman and Minnie Pearl. 

Farrell joined AFTRA in 1955 and the Screen Actors Guild the following year. He served as an actor, voiceover artist and narrator in television films, commercials and industrial films, and as a writer of hundreds of TV and radio spot commercials.

Farrell was inspired to participate in his union after the joint AFTRA and SAG commercials strike took place in 1979. 

Upon his election as AFTRA national president in 1989, at the union’s 52nd annual convention in Boston, he stated to delegates: “We must bring the efforts of the Merger Committee to a logical conclusion and we must make sure that the membership understands what they are voting for … I’m [also] anxious to join our Executive Director John Hall as we sit down with our sister union SAG in an effort to better define jurisdiction. We can no longer allow producers to shop our contracts. No union truly benefits from anything that is detrimental to another.”

After completing his AFTRA presidency in 1993, Farrell was presented with the George Heller Memorial Gold Card No. 37 at the AFTRA National Convention in Chicago.