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WGA Leader's Background Is Questioned

James Bates writes for LA Times 1/17/04:

Military and university athletic records are at odds with statements by the new president of Hollywood's writers' union that he served as an intelligence officer in an elite Army Special Forces unit and attended college on a football scholarship, a review by The Times shows.

Questions about Charles D. Holland's background have been brewing in the screenwriting community since the veteran television writer assumed the presidency of the beleaguered Writers Guild of America, West, on Jan. 6.

Holland took office after an internal report found that his predecessor, Victoria Riskin, was ineligible to run for reelection in September because she had not written enough to keep her membership current.

The crisis elevated Holland, who was vice president, to the leadership of one of Hollywood's most powerful unions. The questions about his background come at a delicate time for the 9,000-member guild, which represents film and TV writers in Los Angeles: Holland is about to lead the guild into negotiations with studios over a new contract involving such sticky issues as whether writers deserve a bigger piece of DVD revenue and how its health plan can be strengthened.

Inquiries by The Times to the Army and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were made after a number of writers both in e-mails and on the Internet questioned details of Holland's widely publicized past.

Soldier of Fortune Left for dead, Charles D. Holland survived to become a football star, Green Beret, Harvard lawyer, studio V.P., and JAG showrunner

Written by Dinah Eng (From the September 2002 issue of "Written By," the self-promoting magazine of the Writers Guild of America)

Like most people on the West Coast, Holland was asleep on the morning of September 11. A friend in the military called and woke Holland, who is a former U.S. Army Military Intelligence Officer. He turned on the television just before the second plane hit the towers. Holland, who was writing for Soul Food: The Series at that time, then had a phone conversation with executive producer Felicia Henderson about the need to shut down production in the wake of the tragedy.

"The shock was enough for me to realize that I knew people in the Pentagon who might have died, and that was a sinking feeling," says Holland. "My ex-wife is a reservist, and I was able to find out within the hour that she was not there during the time. But there were other people who did not make it. I lost someone I went to jump school with."

He wanted to fight. Somebody. Some place. "With 9/11, one thing that went through my mind is that I'm missing it all. I was trained to really defend my country, and I'm missing that."

Holland paces as he talks on the phone in his Sunset-Gower Studios lot office, juggling questions from writers, technical advisors, production assistants. Although he's the new showrunner of CBS' long-running drama JAG, a gold earring dangles from his left ear lobe. Shaped like a Samurai sword, it glints with defiance against any corporate style. But the former Harvard lawyer is also quick to laugh, blunt yet tactful, and clearly relishes being in command.

Having left the Army as a First Lieutenant, he knows what it means to manage up and supervise down. JAG had struggled until its initial cancellation by NBC in the 1995-96 season. After moving to CBS, the only military drama on air climbed from 68th in the Nielsen ratings to a 17th-place tie with Frasier last season, a rise that some media watchers attribute to patriotic fervor in the aftermath of September 11.

Holland joined JAG last October as a consulting producer, after two years on Showtime's Soul Food: The Series. His initial script assignment on the Navy drama was to write "Tribunal," an episode about a military trial of a suspected al Qaeda terrorist. Holland, who remains a member of the California Bar, says, "When I came on the show, Stephen Zito, the head writer at the time, thought I would be ideal to write the script. I couldn't wait to do it. The story was [JAG creator and executive producer] Don Bellisario's idea. The research staff gave me a huge notebook of information on tribunals, and I read the Manual for Court Martials and Geneva Convention, things I hadn't thought about for a while."

PREPARING THE DEFENSE

In the episode Adm. A.J. Chegwidden (played by John M. Jackson) and Cmdr. Sturgis Turner (Scott Lawrence) defend a suspected leader of the al Qaeda, while Cmdr. Harmon Rabb Jr. (David James Elliott) and Lt. Col. Sarah MacKenzie (Catherine Bell) prosecute the case.

To formulate the defense strategy, Holland called on a mentor he'd apprenticed for in Harvard Law School: famed attorney Alan Dershowitz. "Alan takes cases on appeal dealing with civil liberties," says Holland, who worked for Dershowitz for two years, "and we used to get hundreds of letters a week from prisoners, asking him to take their case. I asked him what his dream defense strategy for an al Qaeda prisoner would be. He said he'd work to get any confession [made under excessive duress] thrown out."

For example, while intelligence officials might use truth serum on a suspected terrorist in wartime to learn where nuclear weapons are hidden, it would violate the spirit of the Fifth Amendment to routinely use truth serum or torture to gain a confession from a suspected murderer. The Fifth Amendment deals with the rights of accused criminals, with due process of law, and states that no one may be forced to testify as a witness against himself.

In the "Tribunal" script, defense attorney Adm. Chegwidden argues that the confession of the suspected terrorist on trial should be excluded from consideration because "13 days of torture to obtain an involuntary confession shocks the conscience, violating both the spirit and the letter of the Fifth Amendment." Then prosecuting attorney Cmdr. Rabb responds, ". . . we are at war. The Fifth Amendment doesn't apply to our enemies. The very idea is ridiculous."

The judges on the tribunal rule that "the government is correct that the Fifth Amendment does not apply here," says Holland. "However, we're excluding Mister Atef's involuntary confession as lacking probative value to a reasonable person under the circumstances."

In addition to consulting Dershowitz, Holland sought advice on military law and the context of the case from one of the show's technical advisors, who used to be the assistant JAG (Judge Advocate General). "Then the Pentagon had a group of lawyers read through an early draft," remembers Holland. "We have a public affairs official there who always gets copies of our scripts. The military doesn't have veto power, but they will tell us if they think something is incorrect. The first two years of the show, they didn't want to cooperate with us, but then they had a sea change. A technical advisor may think something's embarrassing or incorrect, but we may keep it in the script anyway because it's good drama. It's helpful to have the Pentagon's input. There are so many technical things with the Navy and the law. At least when you have technical advice, you can make decisions from knowledge and not from ignorance."

After reading "Tribunal," the only feedback Pentagon lawyers were specific about was the description of what an actual tribunal would look like, according to Holland. The military attorneys said the trial wouldn't be held like a normal court martial and would probably take place in Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. base on Cuba, or an aircraft carrier. Holland chose the aircraft carrier for the setting of his tribunal and spun a tale that wove both fact and fiction in ways that surprised many.

"The revised rules for military tribunals were published during the second day of shooting [March 21], and our guesses were right," says Holland. "What was spooky was the guy I made up as a terrorist then got caught. He had the same background and even looked like the guy we cast [Marc Casabani]." (Abu Zubaydah, thought to be al Qaeda's chief of operations, is the highest ranking terrorist in Osama bin Laden's network now known to be in U.S. custody. Zubaydah was captured March 28 in a Pakistani raid and continues to be interrogated by U.S. officials.)

When "Tribunal" aired April 30, Holland says the show was "deluged by the media, starting with the New York Times, which had a significant ax to grind," according to the showrunner. "There was some sensitivity that I was getting an inside track to serious things that journalists weren't. We didn't have any information that the media didn't have, but reporters always cut out the part of my interview that said, 'Then I made it up!'"

Along with the media critics, military contacts complained as well. "I made the strongest argument [in the script] I could that the fighters in al Qaeda were freedom fighters and not terrorists, and the military thought I did too good a job [in the defense strategy dialogue]," Holland says, shrugging and smiling at the same time. "Part of being a lawyer is arguing things you don't believe in order to win a case. It's so important to have both sides told. My belief is that suspected terrorists would get a fair trial here. We have so many differences in this country, but we have great tolerance. We have checks and balances, and the system works."

After writing "Tribunal," Holland was asked to script the season finale, "Enemy Below," which continues the story of what happens after the terrorist in "Tribunal" is convicted and sentenced to death. In "Enemy Below" the convicted terrorist's brother is involved in an effort to attack a U.S. aircraft carrier.

SOUL SURVIVOR

Holland's experiences in the military changed his view of the world and of himself. Born in Chicago, Holland grew up in a tough housing project with his younger brother and mother, who worked as a legal secretary. He also has a half-sister from his mother's second marriage.

"I never knew my father," says Holland. "My mother worked three jobs because I liked books. I had three sets of encyclopedias, which was a lot for poor children. Back then law firms would hire people to work in shifts to type things and prepare cases, and my mother would work those extra shifts."

While reconstruction work continues on the damaged Pentagon (above), soldiers honor those killed at the site after a memorial service (below).

Holland, as book smart as he was street savvy, played football and ran track in high school. Although he never belonged to a gang, there was little separation between those who signed up for trouble and those who didn't. Everyone knew everyone, and one day, when Holland was 14, trouble found him.

"My best friend was doing something with the wrong girl, a gangbanger's girl," remembers Holland. "I defended my friend and humiliated the gangbanger, and when I wasn't ready, he came back with his gang. I was attacked and left for dead." All but two of Holland's ribs were broken, his nose was broken and he suffered stab wounds that, left untreated, could have resulted in his bleeding to death.

Holland's family, fearful that the gang would return to kill the injured boy, spirited him off to Danville, Illinois, to recuperate with his grandparents. He grimaces, saying the stay with his relatives is not a happy memory, but it was the catalyst that awakened the writer within. "While I was laid up, I had to stay still for long periods of time, and writing was an emotional outlet. It became a thing I did for myself. I'd always make up stories about other people and being in other places. Back home, the savagery of the attack had touched off a war, and the guys who did it were killed or left town. People thought I had died, so when I came back [from Danville], people thought I was cool. I got all this respect and deference, and all I'd done was survive."

He achieved far more than basic survival skills--Holland rebuilt his body into an athlete's, earning a football scholarship to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There he encountered another setback: His dreams of turning pro turned to ash after suffering a severe shoulder injury during a game in his sophomore year. He lost the football scholarship and paid for his remaining undergraduate education by signing on with Army ROTC.

"ROTC seemed like a snap to me--I already knew how to fight," says Holland, laughing. "The silly, but conscious, reason I joined the military was to be a hero. I was assigned to military intelligence and got a chance to find out what a lot of guys wonder about: How would I do in combat? I found out what the real essence of being a hero in combat is. It's really just about showing up."

He abruptly stops talking, reins in his turbulent emotions, and explains: "You show up when there's a chance people may die. You show up and watch other people die."

Holland declines to share what he did as a military intelligence officer in the Seventh Special Forces Group but says, "I can tell you I was based in Fort Bragg. When I served, I went other places. It gave me an appreciation for other ways of life. I was in places where people feared a knock on the door, and you couldn't walk outside without fearing snipers.

"I never went to Afghanistan, but when the attacks happened, I sure wanted to. I oftentimes hope the things I do on this show contribute. Now, somebody else has to show up for me, and there's a degree of guilt about that."

Although he no longer wears the uniform, an unabashed love of country is clear. "The military has become a subculture in this country that people don't know much about," says Holland. "What's good is that the military is not as isolated. At least there's respect now. When I hear the national anthem, I don't think I hear it the way other people do. When I go to ball games, I always stand at attention when it's played. A lot of my friends used to tease me about that. Not anymore."

He pauses once again, almost overcome with emotion, then takes a breath and continues: "Let patriotism be a fad, if that's what it takes to let people be patriotic. You can be a liberal or progressive or a conservative and also be a patriot. It's not inconsistent with ideological beliefs. Today, anybody can have a flag on their car without feeling odd about it."

But while he maintains strong friendships and good memories from those years, he also left military life a bit disillusioned. "At the time [he left the military], I didn't think there was enough accountability for covert operations. Now, technology allows real-time oversight. You can micromanage operations by satellite. But back then, you could make decisions, and what happened was what you said happened. I learned the world was far more complicated than I had thought it was. Many times, I really wanted to be a super hero. Yet I felt like I was on the bad guys' side when I looked at the regimes we were supporting. You'd see some people living like kings, while other people lived in squalor."

So Holland decided to get a masters in public administration, thinking he'd pursue a government career to create social change. Along the way he also decided to become a lawyer. At age 22, he was accepted into Harvard Law School. While studying, he served a year and a half on active duty and later eight years as a Military Police Officer in the Massachusetts National Guard and Army Reserve.

"I learned that I didn't know anything," says Holland of his Harvard years. "It occurred to me I'd have to be willing to give up my life just to move the pile a centimeter in government. When you're in the projects as a kid, and it's 20 below, you watch TV and see [California scenes with] sunshine and beautiful women. It was a fantasy to live and work in L.A., so after law school I came here. I'm unconventional, so I was drawn to the entertainment business."

HARVARD WARRIOR

After landing a job as a studio lawyer at Twentieth Century Fox, Holland rose rapidly through the ranks. When the urge to try screenwriting hit, he couldn't convince anyone that he could write and practice law at the same time. So he gave up his position as vice president of business affairs at Fox and started writing feature scripts. After three unproduced screenplays for three different studios, he turned to television.

"My first credit was for an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger," says Holland. "My first staff job was on New York Undercover, which was the beginning of a very good run." He quickly knocks on the wood of his office desk. The run has included writing and producing such series as Murder One, Profiler, Vengeance Unlimited, and The Strip.

Holland's legal expertise was also tapped by the WGAw for last year's contract negotiations. Holland, vice president of the Guild, served as cochair (with then Secretary-Treasurer Michael Mahern) of the negotiating committee. "I had a legal background for talking with the Guild lawyers, and I had a context for what the other side was saying from my days at Fox. Writers are exceedingly opinionated, and it taxed one's leadership skills to come up with unanimous decisions and pull people together who don't always agree. But we were able to act with a great deal of discipline, and I had some small part in that."

Victoria Riskin, WGAw Guild president, calls Holland "a remarkable combination of street kid, Green Beret, and Harvard Law School graduate, which means whenever he tackles any problem, it's done with fearlessness, modified with his analytical, legal expertise." Riskin, who has worked with Holland on Guild matters for two years, adds, "He doesn't suffer fools gladly. Yet when he smiles, there's this warm, boyish look that's such a delight. It cracks the seriousness of the moment."

His achievements should make it obvious why Holland, a co-executive producer, filled the showrunner's slot on JAG when Stephen Zito resigned. However, some refer to his skin color as a reason, causing the Harvard Warrior to rise in his own defense.

"I've pushed hard for diversity in this business, but I wasn't hired because of that," says Holland, passionately. "Don [Bellisario] is a conservative, and people tend to equate conservativism with bigotry, and that's not true either. There are two main reasons I was hired. We both have a military background. Don's an ex-Marine. He understands what I'm saying, and I get what he's saying. On paper I'm the most qualified person. I've been a number two for four years. I'm a former military person and a lawyer. It doesn't have anything to do with being African-American, and that's the way it should be. To me, this is what it means to be working to get people the opportunity to do things like this, regardless of race or religion. We have to get to the point where it's not that odd [to have a showrunner of color].

"I've always counseled lower-ranking minorities that there's a perception people have of what people in certain positions are supposed to look like, and rarely is it a minority person," Holland continues. "I tell them, 'You have to create an image for yourself of that competent person.' I remember [Supreme Court Justice] Thurgood Marshall visiting us in law school and talking about how he'd earned his place in legal circles but was always reminded when he tried to get a taxi that he was a black guy. I certainly want to do what I can to move diversity forward in Hollywood." Conflicts are never easy to resolve, but if Holland has anything to say about it, solutions will be found. And Holland's changes won't just be on paper.

Blood Bath At Writers Guild

1/15/04

A lot of people got fired at the Guild this week.

Berkely Barb writes: "Dear Luke: In regards to your posting from Tyler Durden (hint: Brad Pitt once played him); Field Marshal Cinque, aka Donald Defreeze of the SLA, did not coin 'death to the fascist insect that preys on the life of the people.' That's an old Maoist line from some other commie."

One side, Tyler Durden Inc, writes:

An important message from "tylerdurdeninc"

Control the power in the Writers Guild of America, west, and you can control the expectations of the members when it comes to negotiations. Negotiating skills are the core product supposedly supplied by current WGAw executive director John McLean.

How does lack of member interest by those who have a vested stake in this negotiation benefit the same old guild staff that are tied to John McLean? Remember, McLean controls the staff the same way Jonathan Dolgen used to control the staff at Paramount. (Recently, Sumner Redstone woke up and, looking at how Paramount no longer makes movies that make money, smelled the coffee).

The five people under McLean and Dolgen get fatter while the rest of the workers in the corporation have to get by with less and less. These five loyalists may not be the most competent, but they owe their positions to McLean/Dolgen. They are not there to work for the customer/writers, but for McLean/Dolgen. They are also there to insulate Dolgen /McLean from any backlash, mistakes, complaintsMcLean/Dolgen doesn't really have to talk to anybody except those responsible for hiring him (guild president/Sumner redstone) and the five loyalists who are terrified to tell McLean/Dolgen anything that might upset the status quo, much less do anything that could possibly go wrong and put McLean/Dolgen in a bad light with members/customers/stockholders.

The first thing that a bean counter like McLean/Dolgen wants to do is tip the usual balance in a creative endeavor from the lunatics to the bean counters. Stifle the dissidents/artists by cutting them out of the process. You do this by cutting off information to them. Not only will the artists/dissidents not be privy to information about the current inner workings of the organization, they also won't be able to communicate among themselves. Can't have power in a political organization if you can't communicate.

What happens in the Guild/Paramount organization is that the people who actually run the guild/Paramount staff, the five loyalists, who were not appointed for their skills in helping the customer/members or leading a staff, are left to carry out the disinformation/disinterest campaign. Often, ironically, the five political loyalists lack the skills and confidence to execute the most basic political jobs when finally asked to do some work.

However, what always happens when the artists lose power in a creative endeavor is that the bean counters wake up one day and say, oh, gee, I guess this was a creative endeavor after all, and the end product is starting to look lousy. We gotta make it look like we're the good guys who care about the end product and bring the lunatics/artists/dissidents back into the fold, but not too much. Just enough to make it look like the game ain't rigged, even though it still is. (That's why the guild staff and leadership thinks they can keep lying about themselves being such great guys and not admit that somebody, somewhere MAY HAVE MADE A MISTAKE in weakening the power of today's WGAw.)

In the case of the Guild, it doesn't matter to the people at the top of the Guild elected leaders and Guild staff if only 1 per cent of the membership vote in elections or vote to ratify a contract. As long as the 1 per cent who vote are in favor of the guild leadership who employ the exec. Director and five loyalists, everybody gets to keep their little board of directors position, get a lifetime achievement award, and, in the case of the Guild staff, keep their jobs, which pay from McLean's half million a year in salary and perks to up to 200 k in asst. exec director fees. The members don't even know that two of these five Guild staff loyalists stay away from the office up to 40 per cent of the time, and the third is a shell of a man who wanders the halls with nothing to do except to look for trash cans that haven't been emptied. But as long as the Guild leadership and top staff don't do anything and there is no ability by the artists/dissidents to note that there's nothing being done, the do-nothing attitude permeates the Guild staff, which is terrible for morale. That's why, when you walk into Guild headquarters, you can hear a mouse peeing on cotton from 100 yards away. Bad morale plus fear equals terror.

And members wonder why they can't even get a membership directory? Well, most members nowadays don't even realize that there was once a membership directory that allowed members a better chance to communicate among themselves.

In my opinion, there will be no negotiations this year. There will be no stockpiling of scripts, or rushed production schedules. Everyone in town knows that the Guild leadership has lost its once huge penetration of the workforce, and the support, much less interest, of the vast majority of its membership. The only leverage you have in collective bargaining is your ability to shut down an industry via a strike. McLean lacks that leverage (there's too much non-union work out there, and he can't rally the membership). Why should the studio bosses even bother to go through the hassle of stockpiling scripts or rushing production skeds in anticipation of any show of strength by the WGAw - if there's not going to be a REAL show of strength?

Let's look at the facts. McLean fired Gerry Daley, the head of the organizing dept. McLean did it personally, because Gerry was always butting heads with him about how McLean let the horse out of the barn when it came to writers writing for reality programming, studio "indie" film divisions, and cable nonfiction programming. He also thought that McLean, who hates artists from his days as Larry Tisch's - and then Redstone's - hatchet man, had zero ability to do what Brian Walton used to do: stand tall and call for the troops to go to war, if need be. In this recent election flare-up that led to the ouster of his running buddy Victoria Riskin, McLean just stayed in his office and said, "Ain't my problem."

In other words, McLean, an old studio guy, was a terrible choice to lead a guild of artists. He's not a leader at all. He's a bean counter, and bean counters don't like - and fear -people who, in their hearts, consider themselves artists.

The 2004 negotiations have already been lost. Forget the "pattern of demands." We're on a hellbound train to no DVD gains, no gains in reality TV, nonfiction, animation, etc. In other words, a continued drop in the penetration of the workforce will dilute the power of the Guild.

There will be nothing but a sop for the members when it comes to the studios' DVD cash cow.

All that's left to negotiate is modest help in health contributions. The studios have already said this is our final number, take it or leave it. It's lowball, but McLean and his old studio bosses have a higher number that they're gonna sell to the membership at the right time as the best deal anybody's gonna get without a nine month strike. It's either/or, with no opportunity for even a short work stoppage. Gerry Daley identified that strategy as b.s., and was fired. (only they gave him a package and his pension and shut him up via a confidentiality agreement) WGAw temporary president Charles Holland is perfect for this strategy. He's a poseur by trade. He got in the business as the cool lawyer on the studio team who really wasn't there to be a lawyer.

Hey, he may be a great writer. (he certainly knows fiction when it comes to his warrior resume.) He may be a great guy and family man. We think he's a cool guy. But when it comes to standing up to his employee, John McLean, he ain't got the stones. If McLean says this is the best deal, and "you" (McLean always refers to Guild members as "you," not "we) would be fools to strike, Holland is gonna say, "whatever."

Then the guild p.r. machine will go to work on making the whole thing look like a good thing, and the same few bored, aging members left giving a shit about this guild will just keep putting the same folks in power, and the leverage in any negotiation will just keep getting less and less, and the power of the guild will subsequently become less and less. Is it any wonder that the Guild staff and leadership don't want to tell the truth about what's really going on - right now -- with Ron Parker (whose election complaint scared the living shit out of the army of Guild staff lawyers and outside counsel the members pay to know about honest elections), Eric Hughes (ultimately, the only legitimate candidate in the Guild presidential election), constitutionally-mandated runoff elections, the Guild campaign not to tell the real story about the Guild's constitutionally-mandated, temporary presidential status of Charles Holland, a body known as the U.S. Dept. of Labor, and publicity- hungry federal prosecutors looking for scalps?

Tyler Durden 1/15/04 "The first rule of the present leadership of the Writers Guild of America, west? Don't talk about the Writers Guild of America, west."

tylerdurdeninc is a splinter faction of a non-profit group dedicated to fairness in union elections. We also fight corruption in unions, and are in constant communication with the AFL-CIO. The above communiqué is not copyrighted, and is intended to be reproduced and passed along by anyone who receives the communiqué in any way, shape or form. All we ask is that, if reprinted, authorship be credited to Tyler Durden. tylerdurdeninc hereby waives any copyright claim or civil claims against anyone who reproduces the above work in any media, in any universe, to the end of time. tylerdurdeninc was formed on Sept.3, the night we saw our guild being hijacked by nonwriters and dealmakers.

We have no personnel fight with anyone mentioned in this letter, but now is not the time for weak men and women, and we will take the battle into the belly of the beast of the corrupt. We want to thank the brave guild members, mostly young people who are risking their careers, and old timers, some of whom were once on the board of the Guild. And we bow in thanks to most brave of all, the freedom-fighting faction of the WGA guild staffers who are with us.

Tyler Durden Inc. Renews Battle On Writers Guild President Charles Holland

Communiqué #2
Jan. 18, 2003

From Tyler Durden Inc

To: Charles Holland and the Writers Guild of America, west Board of Directors

Re: Banned Charles Holland story enclosed

Dear Charles:

It's over, Charles. It's time for you to step down, and it's time for those who worked with you on perpetuating the fraud that was exposed by James Bates in the LA Times on Saturday to be held accountable.

On Saturday morning, 1/17/04, Tyler Durden Inc was a splinter group of 25 Guild members (some former board members) and Guild staffers who had come together to try to save the Guild before federal investigators invade Guild headquarters. Charles, you're a Harvard Law graduate. Do you really want Guild staffers kicked out their offices after being served search warrants, partly because you were afraid to do the honorable thing?

As of Sunday, 200 brave men and women have joined us. By the next board meeting, we will be a thousand strong. For this, we will always be grateful to the Los Angeles Times editors for backing James Bates and Michael Cieply in their quest to expose the truth. You are our heroes.

We stand behind the president-elect of the Writers Guild of America, west: Eric Hughes. Eric and his campaign manager, Ron Parker, were just two members (out of 7,600) who stood up to the union bosses and said, "Something is wrong here, and we're not leaving until we find out what it is." Stay strong, Eric and Ron. Your quest for righteousness will not be denied.

The WGAw constitution, despite the disinformation campaign cooked up by the union bosses, is quite clear on who is president of our UNION. We had an election. Victoria Riskin was elected president with a majority vote. Victoria Riskin allegedly committed fraud to get on the ballot. The constitution calls for a runoff election now between the other presidential candidates on the Sept. 19 ballot. Eric Hughes is the only candidate who ran against Victoria. Charles, if you and the board want to immediately have a runoff election with Eric's as the only name on the ballot, so be it. Otherwise, we DEMAND to see Eric installed as the WGAw president at the next board meeting on Jan. 26.

You're a smart man, Charles. If you are the blatant liar the L.A. Times says you are, resign quietly and express your regrets for lying. If you're not, fight for your reputation with facts.

Your career as a Guild officer is probably over. You don't want to lose your writing career by telling more lies. You will need counseling after this is over, and we feel that our union owes it to you to pay for the help you need. We asked you to do something that maybe you're not capable of. To ask you now to go through the pressure of negotiations would be cruel and unusual punishment. Everyone likes you, Charles. We want you to be happy. But now this: The key to negotiations is having the threat of a strike. You must have the ability to gather up to 3,000 members in one room like Brian Walton and George Kirgo did in 1988. Your credibility with the 16 board members may not be an issue to the board, who want to save face after the Riskin debacle. But to this UNION it is. If one L.A. Times reporter busted your chops, do you think 3,000 angry, scared UNION members are going to follow you and your cronies on a picket line?

How can you be our president after the wacky assertions you made in the September 2002 Written By story, "Soldier of Fortune," were exposed by the Los Angeles Times.

There's a good reason why the union bosses have tried to squash this story by removing it from the Guild's web site. There are few hard copies available, and the union bosses have lately tried to squash information by using terrified staff or corrupt toadies to do their bidding.

Bates in his L.A. Times story stuck to the facts that he could disprove with hard evidence. In the weeks to come, we have reason to believe that writers from the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Boston Globe, Boston Herald and other papers will be going over the "Soldier of Fortune" story, which is a terrible example of puff journalism run amok.

Let's look at the claims you make in the story, claims Bates didn't have time to get into.

You stated that you had an active California State Bar card as of Sept. 11, 2001. According to http://members.calbar.ca.gov/search/member_detail.aspx?x=117874, that's not true. Were you practicing law under another name?

The following is from "Soldier of Fortune." The quotes are yours. "'My best friend was doing something with the wrong girl, a gangbanger's girl,' remembers Holland. 'I defended my friend and humiliated the gangbanger, and when I wasn't ready, he came back with his gang. I was attacked and left for dead.' All but two of Holland's ribs were broken, his nose was broken and he suffered stab wounds that, left untreated, could have resulted in his bleeding to death.

"Holland's family, fearful that the gang would return to kill the injured boy, spirited him off to Danville, Illinois, to recuperate with his grandparents. He grimaces, saying the stay with his relatives is not a happy memory, but it was the catalyst that awakened the writer within. 'While I was laid up, I had to stay still for long periods of time, and writing was an emotional outlet. It became a thing I did for myself. I'd always make up stories about other people and being in other places. Back home, the savagery of the attack had touched off a war, and the guys who did it were killed or left town. People thought I had died, so when I came back [from Danville], people thought I was cool. I got all this respect and deference, and all I'd done was survive.'"

Charles, as a group we challenge you to produce one person who can authenticate the claims in these above paragraphs. On Jan. 26, give the board of directors one name of a "gangbanger" who was killed or left town in the wake of the "war" that allegedly occurred in the wake of the "attack" against you.

Also in "Soldier of Fortune": (The quotes are yours) "'The silly, but conscious, reason I joined the military was to be a hero. I was assigned to military intelligence and got a chance to find out what a lot of guys wonder about: How would I do in combat? I found out what the real essence of being a hero in combat is. It's really just about showing up.'"

"He abruptly stops talking, reins in his turbulent emotions, and explains: "'You show up when there's a chance people may die. You show up and watch other people die.'"

Charles, the military says you were in the National Guard from 1980 to 1983. You were assigned duty as an MP and in the mailroom. That may be "military intelligence" to you. But what about your insinuation in the story of seeing combat? In case you don't know, Charles, the 7th Special Forces division you claim to have been attached to (how you got attached to it as a sometime weekend postal clerk with the National Guard in Massachusetts and Illinois is a mystery) works on special ops in South America. In the time period that you were in the Guard, the only combat some of the 7th might have seen was in El Salvador.

Did you help the Salvadoran right-wing junta bomb leftist villages from helicopters? Or maybe you just stood around as the Salvadoran army burned villages and raped nuns. Or maybe you just dreamed about it after seeing an Oliver Stone film.

Either way, we challenge you to name one Special Forces unit you served in combat with, and the date you served in combat with it. In case you don't know, there's nothing "classified" about being a member of Special Forces. Look on the Internet, for chrissakes; it's full of SF reunion information and everything else under the sun.

But if you were not a member of Special Forces, shame on you for implying that you were and that were a combat veteran. And if you did not play football at the University of Illinois on a scholarship, shame on you for stating that.

Charles, do you have any idea how hard some Guild members have had to work to get a football scholarship at a Big Ten school? What about the Guild members who are combat veterans? Or veterans of elite military units? How do you think it makes them feel when they read stories in the L.A. Times that state your claims are unverifiable?

Charles, just give us one name of someone who can verify you were a football player at the University of Illinois and a member of Special Forces, and we members of Tyler Durden Inc. will support your reinstatement to the position of vice-president under Eric Hughes. Otherwise, to borrow a military term, pack your shit.

1/21/04

The Struggle For Writers Guild West

Johnathan (Under Siege) Lawton writes:

Tyler Durden Inc.,

As someone who supported Eric Hughes for President, and encouraged the Board to take Ron Parkers complaints about the election seriously, your recent e-mail is not helpful to their cause. I strongly believe in election reform, and I believe the Guild has other serious problems that Eric Hughes and Ron Parker have highlighted, but your tactics and tone only endanger any steps the Guild might make toward reform.

Contrary to your interpretation, it was clear to me that the Los Angeles Times tried to dig up dirt on Charles Holland and found none. Yes, his resume sounds too good to be true, and guess what? The Times found it was true. He did graduate from Harvard with a law degree, he was a VP of Business Affairs at Fox, he does have a very successful television writing/producing track record, and yes he was an officer in the United States Military with an unblemished public record of service to his country.

Having failed to find any real dirt on Charles Holland, the reporter did manage to create questions about his aborted football career and tried to use this to smear him. Let me be blunt: I DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT WHETHER CHARLES HOLLAND PLAYED FOOTBALL. Unless he wants to be quarterback of our flag football team, and then I'll ask him about it. As far as the Special Forces thing, I likewise don't give a shit. His public military career, as detailed by the Times, seems more than respectable to me.

Yes, the Soldier of Fortune article was a silly puff piece. So why are you upset it was pulled from the website? Because now that Mr. Holland is president he doesn't want puff pieces about himself on the website? I say, Bravo.

If being made to look silly in a puff piece is a crime, you'd better launch a campaign to get me off the Board. I can think of several puff pieces about me that still make my teeth hurt. Frankly, there are far too many puff pieces in our Guild publications, many worse than the one about Mr. Holland, and I'll love to see them all removed from our websites. If you want to the Guild to raise the level of discussion in our publications, you have my whole hearted support.

And if you think Eric Hughes has a legitimate claim on the presidency, lets debate that. In accepting Mr. Holland as president after Vicki Riskin's resignation, the Board voted to follow the advice of Professor Gould (Mr. Holland was not allowed to vote). I welcome members questions about why we did this. (I personally asked Eric Hughes what he felt about the issue, and he told me he would support Professor Gould's recommendations. Now, Eric might have changed his mind, but I relayed his thoughts to the Board before they voted to accept Gould's opinion.) But any claim Eric Hughes might make on the presidency has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not every statement attributed to Charles Holland in an article printed two years ago can be proven to your satisfaction.

And if you're truly concerned about honesty and integrity, it is cowardly to hide behind the name of a film character and to claim masses of unnamed supporters.

Tyler Durden Inc replies:

From Tyler Durden Inc: Communique #3

Thank you for coming forward, Jonathan Lawton. The points you make are illuminating. And since the Writers Guild of America, WEST has shut down the major means of communication in the 21st century - an organization's web site (see "Soldier of Forturne" at www.wga.org, and if you can't find it there, try www.lukeford.net.) - your willingness to come forward via an email is quite helpful.

We will try to deal with your allegations in the order of importance.

1. Why are we anonymous at Tyler Durden Inc? Good question. Many of our members are TV writers. If you check in with the Dept. of Labor, you will see that one of the problems the guild is about to face are questions why so many employers (TV producers) run a guild that is supposed to represent employees. You created a show called "VIP." You are an employer. Expounding from your board seat doesn't cost you any money, and you get to hang with the studio bosses during negotiations.

Someone who challenges your authority per the Charles Holland debacle is just asking for economic ruin with show runners and the studio bosses, who would love to have Charles Holland "representing" the Guild during negotiations. The leaders of Tyler Durden Inc can't ask the rank and file in our group to give up money for a cause they might lose. They will not, however, give up their honor, thus we have joined together. And the leaders of Tyler Durden Inc will fight to protect the idenity of their members until the time the members wish to reveal it. If that makes us cowards, point taken. (In fact, please put this "coward" claim in the minutes of the next board meeting. By the way, where can members see the board meeting minutes?)

2. Why would James Bates "try to dig up dirt" on Charles Holland? Charles is not exactly a big target. Bates spends his time going after the big fish: Columbia Pictures on the "Heidi" debacle, Parretti on Credit Lyonais, Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna on the Carolco/Cinergi securities/Terminator scams. All Charles had to do was be honest with Bates, and the Charles Holland story would have been three graphs on page 8. It was Charles who turned the Bates story into a front page one.

And two more words for you, Mr. Lawton: Resume fraud. Outside of Hollywood, people care about that stuff.

Let's deal with Charles Holland's claim that he played football under an assumed name at the University of Illinois. What reporter wouldn't go after that claim with a hammer? Have you ever tried to play football at the Big Ten level, Jonathan? The problem with Charles' claim for anyone who's ever hung around the type of animal who goes through the hell of getting a scholarship at a Big Ten school is that, after awhile, they look pretty damn hard. Charles is not a Big Ten football player, and his response when cornered by Mr. Bates speaks volumes about Mr. Holland's character. If you put Charles Holland and Jeff Katzenberg in a room and close the door, our money is on Katzenberg to kick Holland's ass in a contract negotiation, and a fight to the death. And Katzenberg can do it with two pom poms in his hands.

Yes, Charles Holland was an officer in the National Guard. Good for him. But in the "Soldier of Fortune" story in the Guild's own magazine, paid for with member money, Charles makes claims that go far beyond the pale of what a National Guardsman did between the years of 1980 and 1983. Bates made every effort in his Times investigation to give Charles a chance to explain the claims he made in "Soldier of Fortune," and Charles is now hiding behind the skirts of the Guild's p.r. personnel. Jonathan, just like some real Hollywood tough guys got pissed off when your friend Steven Seagal talked all sorts of smack about his martial arts ability (did you ever see the photo of Steven pissing is his pants as a real martial artist squeezed his guts out?), sooner or later, Charles Holland is going to have a reckoning with someone who actually had to pay the dues necessary to fight with the7th Special Forces outfit. Bet on it. And while we're on this subject, if the members paid the costs of the puff piece on Charles that caused on all this ruckus, why were they not asked if they wanted the puff piece taken off the web site they pay for? You're a board member, Jonathan. Why don't you call the Guild web site and demand the "Soldier of Fortune story be posted again? Charles says the story is accurate, according to the Times. Do you know something Charles doesn't? (and for the record, your attack on the Guild's in-house publication is an insult to Richard Stayton, the editor who has been forced to "dumb down" the publication by his union bosses. My advice to you, Jonathan, is to apologize to Richard before you meet him in the dark of night. You wouldn't be the first member to underestimate the character of Richard.)

And one last note on the subject of journalism. Most fiction writers know jack shit about nonfiction writing, and vice versa. What you know about journalism, Jonathan, couldn't fit into one of Pamela Anderson's silicone sacs.

As far as the work of Tyler Durden Inc not helping the efforts of Eric Hughes, we don't work for Eric Hughes. If Eric drops dead tomorrow, our fight will go on with the type of union bosses who are now running the guild. Eric is a big boy, and we'll let him speak for himself when it comes to whom he wants to help him. But know this: if the union bosses can't make a fair deal with Eric on Jan. 27, (the day after the next board meeting) we are ready to go to the Dept. of Labor and demand an election within three weeks of today's date.

We want to have an open election if Eric and the board can't make a deal. Believe it or not, there are thousands of Guild members, both active and retired, who don't think Charles has the character to be our president. We have a candidate that we feel can beat Charles in a fair fight if Eric throws in the towel (and who could blame him?) A fight overseen by the Dept. of Labor. And bet on this: if Charles has to run in a fair fight, all these issues that the L.A. Times investigated are going to be on the agenda.

The report prepared for Gould speaks for itself. Gould was a paid contractor hired by the Guild. His conclusion was that Vicky Riskin wasn't supposed to be on the ballot. As reported by Dave McNary in Variety, the Riskin eligibility issue was an open wound for months. How she dealt with it has been well reported. Bottom line, she didn't want to do the work of a writer until Gould was looking into the whole matter. (I would love to have Vicky continue her work with the Guild. Despite her Imelda Marcos tendencies, she tried to do the right thing for writers and worked her ass off full-time)

Gould took the money and got out of town. Smart guy. The bottom line is that the Guild still has to prepare a written response to Ron Parker's Oct. 6 claim, which it hasn't as this is written. 30 days from the time the written response is submitted, the dept. of labor has to make a decision if it's going to investigate the Guild. Why don't you put that on the web site, Jonathan? And why isn't Ron Parker's original complaint available to members? It might put the Gould report in some sort of CONTEXT.

Let's make this real simple: let's have an open board of directors meeting on Jan. 26 in a public meeting place. Invite all the members to come. Make no matters "confidential." Give each member in the audience two minutes to speak. The L.A. City Council has been doing it for years without the instituion coming to a screeching halt.

And in the spirit of Tyler Durden, let's have a fight club that night BEFORE the bod meeting, if the bod meeting is open to the members in a public place. We will provide one member of Tyler Durden Inc to take on you, Jonathan (don't you claim to know martial arts?) and "ex-special forces" member Charles Holland. One rank and file member against two chest-beating tough union bosses (one who says he's a combat veteran). In fact, you can bring on every member of the bod who was responsible for rigging the last election that Vicky Riskin "won." (but, please, Jonathan, don't send out Irma Kalish to do the fighing for you.)

It's gonna be a tough fight, but it will be a fair and open one. Whaddya say, Jonathan? You know how to reach us.

1/23/04

Tyler Durden Inc Communique #4

The sound you hear, brothers and sisters of the Writers Guild of America, West, is the sound of mattresses being stacked. Deadbolts locked. Gasoline being poured into generators. On the roof of Guild Headquarters across from Farmers Market, snipers crouch in their nests.

At 4:30 pm on Monday, Jan. 26, Operation Last Stand at the Writers Guild commences. That's when the ruling junta of the WGA West board of directors and what remains of its loyalist staff will hunker down in the Guild boardroom for its monthly meeting.

Temporary president Lt. Charles Holland will be in full camo, promising airstrikes from his old war buddies at the Pentagon. Guild lawyers will be handing out revised constitutions that explain why everything that appears to be against the rules really isn't. Pictures of L.A. Times reporters Jim Bates and Micheal Cieply will be passed around to be urinated on.

Then the room will grow silent as the sergeant at arms opens an envelope containing demands. The ones from Guild presidential contender Eric Hughes and his campaign manager, Ron Hughes.

Snickers will fill the room as copies are distributed. Count on at least three board members ceremoniously ripping the demands in two. One board member will strike an aikido stance and cry, "I DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT FEDERAL LAWS!"

Calls for Lt. Holland not to resign will reverberate down Fairfax. Someone will holler, "We either hang together or hang separately!!!" Lt. Holland will stand at attention as he hums the national anthem, then command, "Find that stupid puff journalist who wrote that I was in Special Forces. What I meant was I was in special delivery!"

A Guild p.r. spokesperson will distribute the press release that will, once and for all, explain why Lt. Holland played football under another name at the University of Illinois, and how the student whose name was "borrowed" by Lt. Holland was approached by Lt. Holland in Lt. Holland's sophomore year and told, "I have been playing under your name for two years. I've hurt my shoulder and lost my scholarship. By order of the CIA, you are to appear tomorrow in the locker room and begin playing wide receiver. If anyone asks why you look nothing like me, just tell 'im it's classified."

"No problem," the p.r. release will detail Lt. Holland's charge as replying. "I've always dreamed of catching lots of passes and playing pro ball."

If it all sounds like a nightmare, it's a bummer dream brought on by the Guild itself, and this board knows it.

Last spring, somebody asked Eric Hughes to step into the election ring without telling him the fix was in. When he smelled a rat, others covered for his opponent. Then they marginalized him as a longhaired freak. Called him and his campaign manager Ron Parker crazy. Then the union bosses shut down the information flow that would shed light on the whole black op.

Parker and Hughes fought back after Hughes got rolled in the election. They won the battle, but lost the war when the guild board slammed in Lt. Holland as "president until the next officer election in 2005." The press release should have stated, "president until this whole election scam is sorted out and signed off on."

The board will have to deal with these facts on Jan. 26:

When SAG had an election this year that was well promoted, the union got a 47 per cent eligible-voter turnout.

Five years ago, the WGA West got a 36 per cent eligible voter-turnout in its bod elections.

On Sept. 19, 2003, the WGA West got an 18 per cent voter turnout. All three officer incumbents were re-elected. The eight open board slots were filled by four incumbents, three former members of the board, and one newcomer, Elias Davis, who joined the guild in 1964 (elias, you're in great shape, ol boy).

Eric Hughes and Ron Parker, the crazy men, said the Guild had disenfranchised 6000 members so that the 1500 members who didn't have anything else to do but follow a buried election would keep the same people in power.

Is Hughes crazy, as Lt. Holland called him on Sept. 3 at "Meet the Candidates" night?

Hughes is so crazy, he's got the one thing you don't want to go up against in a negotiation: leverage.

When the board shut out those 6000 members, most of them young, those members had no one to give information to but Hughes. And Hughes listened.

When board members inferred that writers from the L.A. Times were a bunch of biased hacks, writers at the best-known paper west of the Hudson River had no one to talk to but Hughes. And Hughes talked.

When guild bosses stepped on staff members in an effort to ensure silence before the investigations, the staffers had no one to go to except Hughes. And Hughes took notes. Meanwhile, board members wonder why Lt. Holland, who looked like John Rambo a week ago, is staggering around the Hoboken docks sounding like Johnny Friendly at the end of "On the Waterfront."

Be that as it may, Jan.26 is going to be Day One in the new history of the Writers Guild of America West; a new beginning in the 70 year history of this outfit. And it will commence when one board member stands up amid all the whining and blame-shifting and says, "We fucked up. Why don't we try to fix it?"

Brothers and sisters of the Writers Guild, maybe you want Lt. Charles Holland as your president. Fine. He's a talented writer and a smart, personable man who's worked had for the guild for years. Whether he's a secret soldier for the government, a student of magic realism, or he and another board member are suffering from folie a deux (that's where one person keeps telling the same delusion to another enough times that they both start to believe it), doesn't matter. If Lt. Holland is your man, tell the BOD.

Lt. Holland may have a reasonable explanation to the allegations he made in the now- infamous Sept. 2002 story in Written By entitled "soldier of fortune." (available now only at http://www.lukeford.net)

If there's a run-off election, he should have a chance to offer those explanations as a candidate.

But if there's no run-off election, then Eric Hughes should be voted in as president by the BOD on Jan. 26. But if you feel differently, brothers and sisters, tell the BOD. Some are saying that if Lt. Holland is not up to offering an explanation for what's gone on in the past week, then he should not be re-appointed vice-president to serve under Hughes. If you feel that way, tell the BOD.

Bottom line: Eric Hughes and Ron Parker have too much information about what's dirty at the WGAW to be messed with on Jan. 26. The board should find out what they want and try to make a deal as quickly as possible.

And if you too feel that way, brothers and sisters, tell the BOD.

But whether you're for Lt. Holland or against him, Eric Hughes or against him, of if you think there should be a different choice than those two, the question you have to ask yourselves is this: why is the Guild power structure so afraid of two screenwriters, Hughes and Parker, who do not a have a history of violence, union radicalism, or even body odor?

Is it because Hughes and Parker walked by a window shade, opened it, and let some light in the room? And suddenly all the dirt that had gathered in the Guild in the last five years was visible?

The Guild is dirty. It's going to come out. And anyone who thinks otherwise believes in the sort of doublespeak that sounds like this: "The president wasn't supposed to run in the election, but there was nothing wrong with the election. You don't have to have another presidential election or even put the only other eligible candidate in office. Put whomever in the job you want, and if, anyone asks anything about it, ignore them."

Right now, many members are understandably in a state of denial. Many writers are used to being told what to do, or being told to give away ownership to property that's rightfully theirs. They are isolated from the world outside of showbiz, and can't understand why hundreds of military veterans are calling the L.A. Times angry about what they read in the paper on Jan. 17. They don't know why a University of Illinois football player is wondering how the hell Lt. Holland says he got his identity, and why some of those passes he thought he caught were actually caught by Lt. Holland.

Some members just want to have a union that collects the P&H, runs a great legal services department, and chases folks late on residuals. Let somebody else do the dirty work of actually picking leaders that will oversee the machine.

If you do nothing from now until Monday at 4:30, you deserve whatever you get from the Writers Guild of America, West.

But if you're tired of what you've read about in the newspapers, you've got to ACT. If you believe in this message, pass it along to twenty of your Guild friends. Tell them to pass it along to twenty more of their friends. And you've got to keep pasting the email addresses of the board of directors in the "to" box. And you've got to tell them what YOU want.

If you don't like this message, send something else to the bod.

No one else can do it for you.

Attn: receipients: You may receive other communiqués from other Tyler Durdens. That's a good thing, because Tyler Durden, as we all know, never did exist. He is just an idea, a principle, a dream. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, and history is written by the winners.

We at Tyler Durden Inc believe in the power of the writer. We salute all the members of the board and the officers who have worked so tirelessly on a volunteer basis. We salute the members of the staff who desperately want to be allowed a chance to contribute to writers' causes.

We believe that Victoria Riskin deserves formal recognition for all the work she did for the Guild. (If she qualifies, she should have yet another chance to run for president.)

We do not support the reported actions of Lt. Holland, but we support his efforts to clear his name, and offer our humble apologies if there is an explanation for his behavior. And we welcome the new dawn of Day One, January 26, 2004.

"There are two things to remember about revolution: We are going to get our asses kicked, and we are going to win." Fahizah

WGA Moves to Resolve Concerns

From LATimes.com, 1/26/04:

Bedeviled by unexpected plot twists, the union representing Hollywood TV and film scribes is trying to write an ending to its leadership problems as studio contract talks near.

The board of the Writers Guild of America, West, is scheduled to meet today to discuss complaints that it mishandled the removal of Victoria Riskin as guild president this month. Riskin resigned after an independent hearing officer ruled that she hadn't done enough writing to be eligible to run for reelection in September.

The board also is expected to discuss with the new president, Charles Holland, a recent article in which The Times said it found public records that were at odds with his assertions that he served as an elite Green Beret military intelligence officer and attended college on a football scholarship.

"Whether he is telling the truth or not, my own feeling is I will respect what he has to say to us about it," board member Lisa Seidman said.

Seidman added that she isn't especially bothered by the discrepancies: "We're storytellers. It's what we do for a living."

3/18/04

LOS ANGELES - The Writers Guild of America, west announced today that Charles Holland has tendered his resignation as president of the guild. In accordance with the guild's constitution, Vice President Daniel Petrie Jr. succeeds to the presidency and assumes its duties immediately. Petrie was appointed to replace Holland as guild vice president on January 27, after Holland became president following Victoria Riskin's resignation. Petrie previously served the guild as its president (1997-99) and vice president (1995-97, 1999-01) and as a board member (1994-95).