One board member says that Garrett called her "a bitch" and "a whore" at a board meeting. Garrett denies it, saying she called the board member an "oil slick."
Guild Vice President Irma Kalish says that Garrett has called her a "moron" and a "little wimp" in front of the board. Garrett denies it.
Bill Froug, Hindi Brooks, Ron Cohen and Allan Burns all refused to run for reelection to the board because, they say, they couldn't stand the personal attacks. For similar reasons, Al Levitt resigned in the middle of a board meeting. But Levitt and Cohen will come out of board retirement and run this month.
More than 20 veteran guild officials were asked to run for president in the 1983 elections. All refused and, according to nominating committee member Ron Cohen, many cited Garrett's conduct as the reason.
The attorney attacked by Garrett at the beginning of this article is Paul Selvin, whom the WGA has retained for more than 20 years. Garrett's outburst was prompted when she disagreed with Selvin on a legal question. Garrett admitted she was overwrought at the time, and Shirley Hufstedler, a prominent Los Angeles attorney, says, "I cannot imagine that there can be any factual foundation" for Garrett's charges. Former WGAW president Knopf labels Garrett's charge "absurd. . . . He's one of the most totally honest attorneys I've ever encountered in all my life."
The situation has grown so unpleasant that guild president Ernest Lehman wrote the following (to be inserted in the board minutes, though it never appeared):
"If any single member . . . feel(s) that the guild has been letting them down in recent years, perhaps it would be wise for them to consider the possibility that savage internal warfare, personal animosities, internecine intrigue by day, by night and by telephone, maneuverings for power, determination to overthrow the real or fancied enemy within the Guild . . . may be taking up the time, the thought, the energy, the motivation, the direction, the concentration, the \o7 effectiveness\f7 , of many of those . . . delegated to solve the problems . . . of writers."
What startled many about executive director Gurian's firing in April was the strong support that she enjoyed among the membership and her staff. At the conclusion of the March 18 membership meeting, for example, Gurian was given a standing ovation for her performance in negotiations.
Lehman even told Gurian, she says, that she had his full support. But 10 days later, he opened a board meeting by calling for her ouster and voted against her in the 10-9 vote.
Gurian's supporters--and Gurian herself--say that she was the victim of a personal vendetta on the part of Garrett and others, that the board meeting in which she was fired was a "star chamber" and a "lynching." Some of those present at that meeting say that Gurian's three-year performance as executive director was ignored, and that the bulk of the discussion focused on her personality.
Says former board member Levitt, "She's one of the best things that ever happened to the WGA. (Her firing) was a very bad mistake."
Those who voted against Gurian, including board members Garrett, Steve Shagan, Stephen Lord and Oliver Crawford, say she tried to consolidate power, participated in and accepted advice from "a shadow government" and a "cabal" (composed in part, they say, of present and former board members), ignored the membership and mishandled important guild business. Gurian was not, this group says, the object of a personal vendetta. Rather, she was not an effective leader. "As her power grew, she became manipulative to the point of absurdity," Garrett says.
When the 10-9 vote on Gurian was counted, Garrett--according to board members Stone, Reisman and Frank Tarloff--jumped up and yelled enthusiastically, "I have been waiting years for this moment!"
CUT TO PRESENT: A beachfront house in Malibu on a warm and windy day. Lila Garrett is sitting on the deck, just above the crashing waves, discussing this description of her reaction to the vote that ousted Gurian.
"I never said it . . . but it's a very sweet victory."
Fade to black:
Cut to: Credits.