The “Secret Starry SAG Strike Meeting” That Wasn't: WaxWord Blog Post Denied

WEDNESDAY PM UPDATE: Now the blogger says she can’t “confirm with certainty when this meeting took place”. Nor, judging from the corrections she’s already made, the rest of the story. But she still has it online. Amazing.

WEDNESDAY 10 AM UPDATE: Wow, this is sad. Now the blogger has put the story back up. “It was not deleted; I was editing it last night to further check facts and inadvertently left it in ‘draft’. I have now reposted, and apologies to those who missed it in their sleep,” Sharon Waxman writes. But, inexplicably, she claims, “On further reporting, I learn that the essence of the story is correct. I have amended the time element, however.” Actually she amends other errors I’ve pointed out here. But she also fails to correct many still inaccurate elements of her story: that there was a strike vote, that federal mediation was going on, that new conspiracies were at work, etc. She also ignores the fact that SAG is denying her strike story. And she adds a new post attacking me. All I can say is that this doesn’t bode well for her future blog endeavors.

WEDNESDAY AM: Blogging Hollywood is damn hard, especially when it involves the SAG-AMPTP strife and impending strike authorization vote by the big actors guild. So I was surprised to see a WaxWord blog story circulating online for 24 hours about a supposed “secret SAG meeting” last month where heavyweight Hollywood stars were asked to give the thumbs up or down on a strike. Surprised, because this meeting never took place.

The story was first posted on WaxWord, which is former newspaper reporter Sharon Waxman’s blog. (She intends to start an Industry blog sometime in January.) It was picked up by websites such as Defamer and Hollywood Wiretap and TV Guide. When I spoke to Waxman Tuesday night about her story’s inaccuracies, she expressed surprise. Later that evening, a SAG board member emailed me that “SAG has contacted her and some outlets reprinting her story to inform all that it is a hugely inaccurate story.” Shortly after, Waxman deleted Overnight, Waxman amended the posting on her WaxWord. And it still appears on other websites this morning. Why this is troubling is that the story is still inaccurate and ridiculously raises the specter of conspiracy theories when none exist.

When the blog posted Monday, WaxWord’s headline claimed, “FAMOUS STARS GIVE THUMBS UP TO STRIKE IN SECRET MEETING”. I have since confirmed that is wrong. WaxWord claimed the confab occurred last month. That, too, is not true. WaxWord claimed stars were called together by Screen Actors Guild president Alan Rosenberg “according to one person who was present, speaking on condition of anonymity”. That source couldn’t have been present because there was no such meeting last month. WaxWord claimed the celebs were gathered for a thumbs up/thumbs down discussion about striking while the federal mediation was going on. That never happened.

Here was Waxman’s description: “They met in the private room of an Italian restaurant, like in a scene from one of the Godfather movies: Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Nick Nolte, Annette Bening — about 20 of Hollywood’s great stars from the past 30 years. … This elite gathering of stars had an agenda. They were given slips of paper to write down their views as to how or why a strike should or should not occur. Their verdict: the guild should move toward a strike.” None of this took place as reported, even though WaxWord sourced it to “the person who was present”.

What is also inaccurate about WaxWord’s story is its claim that, at the time of this imaginary meeting last month, “a strike vote was nowhere on the horizon. Federal mediation was still ongoing between SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.” That isn’t possible because, on October 19th, the SAG Board agreed on a resolution to first seek federal mediation and, depending on its outcome, to then hold a strike authorization vote for membership. So once federal mediation was underway, the notion of a strike vote was very much “on the horizon”, so to speak.

Worse, Waxman’s blog post could have sowed SAG discord by making it seem as if the guild’s leadership violated the spirit of the federal mediation during this meeting that never happened. WaxWord posted: “the idea of a small group of actors being tapped for an early vote while mediation was meant to be the order may anger some members even more”.

Waxman did seek SAG’s official response to her story. But insiders tell me she failed to divulge details of any specific meeting and instead generally asked about whether the guild has sat sown with high-profile actors to discuss the contract situation. “It wasn’t clear what she was asking about,” said one of my source. Which is why a SAG spokesperson told her, “We have met with high profile actors on sets and elsewhere to discuss various issues throughout our negotiations.” As a result, the guild was blindsided by WaxWord’s blog post.

Here’s what I believe happened, based on my own reporting. I suspect Waxman may have been recently tipped to an old event: a SAG meeting with a group of well-known actors (including Jack Nicholson, Annette Bening and Warren Beatty) that took place at Brentwood’s Toscana restaurant back in June when SAG-AMPTP formal negotiations were still going on and the guild contract set to expire on the 30th. But I can confirm that, at the meeting, no pieces of paper were circulated, no vote taken, no thumbs up/thumbs down opinion sought, about a strike. “That never happened, not even close,” an insider told me. “That wasn’t the purpose of this meeting.” Instead, I’m told, SAG hoped to publish a so-called Solidarity Statement signed by a list of well-known actors all “pledged to stand together in support of these critical negotiations”. Eventually, some 7,000 SAG members of all degrees of fame did sign the Solidarity Statement (posted here on the guild’s website) including many of the actors at the June confab.

Because of a family matter, I haven’t had time to read all the reporting about the SAG-AMPT talks breakdown and federal mediation adjournment. But if I find other inaccuracies, I’ll let DHD readers know.

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