A rerun of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) election pitting two TV stars against each other for president headed into its finale (ballots were due today) as political infighting in the fractious union reached a fevered pitch.
SAG, which represents some 98,000 performers, held an initial election last fall that was won by Melissa Gilbert, former child star of "Little House on the Prairie." But the outcome was contested by rival Valerie Harper, TV's "Rhoda." A SAG election committee in January ordered a rerun for the top three posts.
Last week, five former SAG presidents - including Charlton Heston and Ed Asner - unleashed a tirade against Ms. Gilbert and the guild's chief executive, Bob Pisano, in a letter to members.
The letter charges that Gilbert and Pisano have ignored the authority of SAG's board of directors to advance their own agenda. It also accused them of "following the dictates" of the major studios, other unions, and talent agents. That followed charges by Gilbert supporters that the voting rerun is an attempt by Ms. Harper and her allies to hijack the election.
"I don't recall anything quite like this in the history of entertainment union elections," said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. "It's getting to the point where it's self-defeating."