Dear Big Daddy,
You’re an old labor guy. You gonna walk off the job in sympathy with the Hollywood writer’s strike — or maybe use it to get the Capitol Weekly to pay you more money?
Are you offering to be my agent? Because I’m way ahead of you. I’ve already secured a 50,000 percent raise from the publishers of Capitol Weekly. Which, if you multiply that by my weekly payment for writing this column, brings me to … er, still zero. I guess the ol’ posthumous dementia kicked in pretty hard during those negotiations.
Still, I’m sure there are those out there who think I deserve a pay cut. Never mind that I’m this rag’s most popular feature, second only to the salary database, the lobby ledger, the society page, the “Experts Take Anonymous Potshots” feature, the pissed-off readers section, the Legislators put their name on editorials they’ve never even read let alone wrote section, the classified ads and, occasionally, the news stories.
But those Hollywood writers and I do have a few things in common. They’re worried about being cut out of the loop during that fine mythical future day when the Internet turns into a gold mine for traditional media companies (just after the apocalypse and just before health care reform). I too am mercilessly exploited via the Internet, though in my case it has more to do with my inherent sympathy for rich Nigerians in a bind.
My money is on the writers, because they’ve been having periodic strikes for so long that Lech Walesa could learn a few things from them. Remember that ancient cuneiform tablet that archaeologists have been trying to decipher since the 1800s? Turns out it was the cuneiform writers demanding more money.
If the TV producers were smart, they’d give the picket lines wall-to-wall coverage. Why? For one thing, writers are a competitive bunch. I’m sure they’d respond by creating enough placards with clever one-liners on them to keep the masses entertained for a few extra days. They could even turn the picket lines into an unwitting reality show — just get one of those obnoxious Brits from one of the music or cooking shows to make catty comments about each writer’s past work (appearance, sex life, etc.) as they walk by.
Come to think of it, that’s my basic function around here.
Now it’s hard to get too worked up for folks who are making an average of 200 grand per annum (especially since what they crank out often makes me wonder why the viewers don’t go on strike). Like professional athletes, they need to point out the even more absurd amounts made by those even higher on the food chain. And in case you don’t think Hollywood writers put their physical and mental health on the line the way pro athletes do, you’ve never spent a 19-hour rewrite session locked in a room filled with endless supplies of junk food and 11 other hyperactive class clowns. Well, neither have I, but I picture it being sort of like being stuck in a version of “No Exit” with Robin Williams and Gilbert Godfrey.
But the great untold story here — and by untold, I mean of interest only to a few political geeks like myself — is that this is yet another dispute putting Democrats in a bind. Tribes vs. labor has got nothing on Hollywood vs. Hollywood when it comes to a political Catch-22. In each case, both sides are holding cash registers that are important to the Democratic cause — and Dems are desperate to keep both ringing away heading into The Election Year You Don’t Want to Miss!
Like Dems always seem to do, they held their finger up to test the wind (coming out of pollsters’ mouths). With around two-thirds of those who give a damn siding with the writers (probably out of guilt from giving them so many wedgies in high school), the DNC made the smart decision to cancel the presidential debate scheduled for Dec. 10 at CBS’s LA studios. They’re not only depriving the networks of cheap programming, they’re taking away another opportunity for the also-rans to take televised potshots at presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. Besides, that series has been really boring ever since they kicked Mike Gravel off the island.