Marilyn Monrovia knows that she’s a long shot to win the presidency of SAG-AFTRA, but as a longtime betting teller at the Santa Anita race track, she’s seen more than a few hundred-to-one shots cross the finish line first. It doesn’t happen often, and it didn’t happen for her in 2013 when she finished a distant fourth in a field of four with only 960 votes, losing to Ken Howard by more than 15,000 votes. This year, with ballots to be counted Thursday, she’s in a five-person race, and odds are, she won’t win, place or show again this time either.
But Monrovia, who hails from Monrovia and whose stage name pays homage to the late-Marilyn Monroe, is betting that she has an outside chance. “If elected, my first priority is to end the videogame strike that’s been going on since Oct. 21, 2016,” she said in a telephone interview. The strike, now in its 306th day with no sign of ending, is the longest in the history of the Screen Actors Guild. “We need to take a different route,” she said. “Scott Witlin, the companies’ chief negotiator, is known as a union-buster. We need to have thousands of people connect with him through social media and convince him to give us what we deserve.”
Another long shot will be to “convince the members to end the two conflicting parties” – Unite For Strength and Membership First. Formed in support and opposition of the 2012 merger of SAG and AFTRA, she says they’re “No longer relevant. It’s not necessary to be at war with one another anymore. The merger’s over.”
“We should take a vote and everyone agree – no more slates,” she said. “We don’t have to have political parties. This isn’t the House of Representatives, though my daughter, Lorie Burch, is running for the House in Plano, Texas. She’s a Democrat and she’s going up against the incumbent, who’s also a Democrat.”
Long shots apparently run in the family, as does the desire to make a difference. “Whatever club I’m in, I’ve always been a part of the governance. I’m secretary of the Ladies Auxiliary Horseless Carriage Club. I have a Stanley Steamer that was in Seabiscuit and a 1930 Lincoln that was in Timeless. I drove the mayor of Pasadena in the 2013 Rose Parade in that Lincoln. My cars are more famous than I am,” she laughed.
She’s also the vice president of Women in Aviation at the Mount San Antonio College, where she learned to fly. “I have a ranch in the Mojave with an airplane hangar and a runway.” Now all she needs is a plane. A flight instructor crashed her last one on takeoff. She wasn’t onboard and nobody was injured, but the plane was wrecked. She was once featured as a salsa dancer in a national Coca Cola commercial, and hopes to get a few more commercial gigs in order to buy a new plane.
A singer and improv artist, she says it took her 14 years to become a member of SAG, and after nine years as a member, working mostly as a background player, she “would try to make our union a more user-friendly organization, where people would want to become members.”
The guild already has over 30 different national committees, covering everything from organizing to diversity, but Monrovia feels that there should be more. “We should make a committee for every type of member that we have and move forward with what we want to accomplish.”
Membership involvement, she says, is the key to the success of any union, including the other one she’s in: SEIU Local 280, which represents the unionized pari-mutuel betting tellers at Santa Anita, where Seabiscuit ran and won his last race – the 1940 Santa Anita Handicap.
Handicappers don’t expect Monrovia to finish in the money again this year, but if this were a race for best homemade campaign video, she’d be an odds-on favorite. Here it is, and that’s her singing.