Reed Farrell, who was president of AFTRA from 1989-93, has died. He was 89. “Reed was a committed unionist with a passion for union service and the betterment of his fellow members,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Our gratitude goes out to him for his many years of dedication to our union.”
Farrell, who died July 6, “was inspired to serve his union by the joint AFTRA and SAG commercials strike of 1979;” the guild said today. “He understood the inherent problems with the crossover in jurisdictions between the unions, allowing producers to shop contracts. At AFTRA’s 1989 convention, he encouraged the further exploration of merger.” The two unions merged in 2012.
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He joined AFTRA in 1955 and SAG the following year. He worked as an actor, voice-over artist and narrator in television films, commercials and industrial films and as a writer of hundreds of TV and radio spot commercials.
Farrell gained notoriety in January 1958 while working a disc jockey at KWK-AM in St. Louis, where he was filmed smashing rock ’n’ roll records, declaring, “Rock ’n’ roll has got to go — and go it does at KWK.” The incident was not his idea — he enjoyed rock — but he was ordered to do it by the station’s president after the staff agreed that rock had “dominated the music field long enough.” The clip of Farrell destroying the records has been used in numerous documentaries. Watch it here:
Born Farrell Reed Pasternak in 1930, he grew up in Flint, Michigan. After majoring in drama, radio and television at Los Angeles City College, he also work at radio stations in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Illinois.
Farrell returned to Flint during the 1960s and became a local celebrity 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 interviewed guests including Milton Berle, Robert Goulet, Cloris Leachman and Minnie Pearl.
The joint AFTRA and SAG commercials strike in 1979 inspired him to participate in his union. Soon after being elected AFTRA national president, he said: “Back in 1979 when we went on strike with the commercials contract, I decided to get active and vowed that I would never walk a picket line again without having had something to say about it. I’ve been active ever since.”
After completing his AFTRA presidency in 1993, he was presented with George Heller Memorial Gold Card No. 37 at the AFTRA National Convention in Chicago for his enduring dedication to his union. This reporter knew and wrote about Farrell for many years. He was always a gentleman and a strong advocate for his union.
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