Handful of Clouds

Don’t scab! A 1934 San Francisco picket line.
Who (or Whom) Do You Trust?
Have you ever crossed a picket line?
That uncommon test of one’s character — uncommon because there are fewer unions and fewer union actions — is more likely to be faced vicariously and safely on the Sally Field platforms of narrative culture. But you probably know why I’m asking, because on the new year’s first Wednesday night, a certain “populist” presidential candidate crossed the line, as it were, in Burbank, Calif., to appear with fellow gay-baiter Jay Leno. (The Huckabee thread on the Writers Guild of America website is heartening.)
So I bravely decided that I wouldn’t cross this virtual picket line and chose to watch David Letterman instead, hoping that the items on his Top Ten List would be union demands. And they were, each read by a striking member of the Writers Guild:
“Complimentary tote bag with next insulting contract offer” — The Daily Show’s Tim Carvell
“I’m no accountant, but instead of us getting 4 cents for a $20 dollar DVD, how about we get $20 for a 4-cent DVD?” — Law & Order’s Gina Johnfrido
“Hazard pay for breaking up fights on The View” — Nora Ephron
Progressive owner Dave settled a better-than-decent contract with his shop, so he had a new written show. Leno wrote his own, and there’s still some guild discussion as to whether that makes him a scab.
“Scab” is a noun and a verb.
Letterman’s Jan. 2 show, the first in months that wasn’t a rerun, began with a line of high-stepping chorines holding Writers Guild signs. “How ’bout those Eugene V. Debs?” Dave quips, demonstrating why his program will never be the talk-show front-runner, appealing as it does to a slightly skewed demographic.
Debs’s V, by the way, stands for Victor, an optimistic touch.
Village Voice union T-shirt, early ’90s, front and back
Saving Our Voice
Speaking of V, the Village Voice, where I worked for almost two decades, was unionized, but not with the usual newsprint union, the Newspaper Guild. That cement-bound group was suspicious of the weekly paper’s use of regular freelance writers and wouldn’t be bothered to find a way to cover them. Sad to say, the Newspaper Guild does poorly with those sort of real-life issues even now.
District 65, a smaller but much more creative organization, bargained these writers in and helped us to negotiate contract after contract with Voice owners such as Rupert Murdoch. District 65 later merged with the United Auto Workers, which gave us pink-collar types an iconic — yet ironic — assembly-line oomph during our CBGB-ish fundraisers.
Unions and the arts, together again.
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Can anyone recognize where the title of this posting comes from? Or — easier — the first subhed?
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  1. says

    Umm–I kind of cheated, but here’s my guess…Cop to Hood: “You’re going to treat yourself to a handful of clouds, I mean the kind that come out from the end of a .38 automatic.”
    From Doorway to Hell (1930)