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Here and Now

Behind-the-scenes strikes

October 30, 2003|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

With two ongoing strikes affecting mass transit and the city's major supermarkets, here's a look back at how some lesser-known strikes hit home in Hollywood.

The Deepak Chopra Strike of 1989

Length of work stoppage: Three months

Synopsis: Was the path to spiritual enlightenment connecting with your Dosha or developing a strong sense of Synchrodestiny? After months of negotiations in his head, Mr. Chopra declared an impasse on this question and briefly walked out on himself. It didn't help that he had numerous canker sores at the time. The strike lasted 12 weeks, during which Brentwood declared a state of spiritual emergency. Mr. Chopra, meanwhile, was mostly seen at Hollywood Park, unshaven, going, "How should I know whether that horse is going to win? Who am I, Deepak Chopra?" The irony of course being that he was Deepak Chopra.

Resolution: Mr. Chopra had what he termed a "transformative experience" one day while trying to parallel park. He declined to elaborate.


The Joey's Gym for Children Lockout of 1991

Length of work stoppage: Three and a half months

Synopsis: Birthday parties on the Westside were brought to a grinding halt in the summer of '91 when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals began protesting Joey's Gym for Children parties, claiming a popular balloon animal looked exactly like an endangered cheetah. Beverly Hills homeowners, fearing the protests would cause their property values to drop, locked their doors and began celebrating their kids' birthdays just with cake and perhaps the presentation of a gift certificate.

Resolution: PETA heard that fur coats were back in.


The Billy Crystal Strike of 1995

Length of work stoppage: 10 minutes

Synopsis: For 10 minutes one Monday in 1995, Billy Crystal stopped feeling funny.

Resolution: Those 10 minutes passed.


The Union of Chemical Peel Workers Strike of 1992

Length of work stoppage: Nine months

Synopsis: The chemical peelers walked over the issue of "liability for crusting," a subject about which the less said the better. The protracted strike hit spas in the Beverly Hills/Bel-Air/Brentwood regions and caused ripple panic as far west as Santa Monica. With the strike in its fifth month, President Clinton declined urgent requests from the Westside to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act and order the peelers back to peeling.

Resolution: Barbra Streisand finally held a benefit concert, and when she sang "People" the whole crusting issue fell by the wayside.


The Beard (Local 182) Strike of 1981

Length of work stoppage: Three weeks

Synopsis: It was chaos in Hollywood for three weeks in November of 1981, when the town's "beards" suddenly unionized and announced they would no longer participate in sham celebrity marriages, heterosexual relationships, crime cover-ups and card games in which they were supposed to lose. The strike only lasted three weeks, but fears that it could drag into awards show season quickly spread, and a special mediator was brought in to get the beards back to the bargaining table.

Resolution: Increase in hush money; medical benefits that cover weekends at Canyon Ranch.


The Rational Fears Strike of 1896

Length of work stoppage: Ongoing

Synopsis: Everything in the known universe revolves around me. Irrational thoughts and fears can include but are not limited to the following: unlawful breaking and entering of my car/house; that other-skinned person wants to mug me; my table is not ready; this outfit makes me look big through the hips; the pharmacist called; my movie won't open huge; the housekeeper is late; the housekeeper steals; my husband is in love with the housekeeper; the paper says it's supposed to rain.

Resolution: None yet. Yoga, therapy, yelling, eating, exercising, meditating, shopping have failed to solve impasse.

Paul Brownfield can be contacted at

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