Monthly Archives: November 2007

“Big Martha” Kostyra (1914-2007)

This weekend, Christine and I were very sad to hear of the passing of Martha Stewart’s super cool, Polish-American mother, Martha Kostyra (aka “Big” Martha) at the age of 93.

Anyone who’s read “Little Martha’s” magazines or watched her many TV shows over the years — and lord knows we have, Christine Tivo’s and watches Martha’s daily show…daily! — knows what a huge impact her sweet, craft-tastic mother had on making Martha Stewart who she is today.

“Big Martha” Kostyra (1914-2007) on the beach in 1941!

Whether she was helping her daughter make Borscht, offering sewing tips, or just sitting in the audience watching the show, “Big Martha” was a huge presence in the Martha Stewart universe — even showing up in the courtroom every day when “Little Martha” was on trial a couple years back! So cool!

But I think our favorite thing about “Big Martha” was her wry sense of humor and her totally deadpan delivery. Watching her and “Little Martha” working together in the kitchen — especially when they weren’t seeing eye to eye on something — was always a highlight of the show. Seriously, it was like watching me and my mom cook enchiladas on Christmas day…tense, funny and messy as hell, but in the end, totally awesome…and delicious to boot.

Our thoughts go out to Martha and Alexis Stewart and the entire Kostyra family during this difficult time. To coin a phrase from the vernacular of her time, “Big Martha” was truly the bees knees! She will be missed…

In honor of “Big Martha’s” passing, we wanted to post this sweet video tribute that appeared on “Martha” a while back. Enjoy!

If you’re interested in reading more about the life of “Big Martha” Kostyra, you can find some of her signature recipes, fan tributes, and even a brief letter from “Little Martha” herself at:


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John Edwards walks the line!

Taking time out from his busy campaign schedule, Democratic Presidential hopeful, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards “put his money where his mouth is” when he walked the NBC picket lines with upwards of 1,200 striking WGA writers on Friday.

Democratic Presidential hopeful, former North Carolina Senator, John Edwards on the NBC picket lines (Nov. 16, 2007)

Hooray! Finally a strike story that our local news can’t bury beneath endless OJ trial coverage! Seriously, my “star-making” turn on the Fox News aside, the networks down here have been totally burying accurate and timely coverage of the strike. Guess it doesn’t look too good to cut to live shots from the picket lines when they’re right outside your own front gate.

On Wednesday, ABC news actually said that the KT Tunstall mini-concert happened at NBC, which is either a huge blunder by their fact checkers or a straight-up lie. I’m going with straight-up lie as the event was staged within walking distance (if not earshot) of their news desk. Shame on you, ABC!

John Edwards flashing that JFK smile to the press @ NBC (Nov. 16, 2007)

Anyway, back to our future Prez, John Edwards. Glowing like a Kennedy-in-waiting, John Edwards wowed the crowd from the get-go as he climbed up onto a planter box and addressed the striking masses. Grabbing the bullhorn, Edwards shouted: “I’m so proud to be with you in this fight for justice. And I’ll be with you every day when I’m President of the United States.” Rock on, Carolina!

John Edwards walking the picket line w/striking WGA members @ NBC Burbank (Nov. 16, 2007)

“Unions organizing all working people is the only way we will ensure that conglomerates don’t take over America.” He continued, to roars of approval from the crowd as the press swarmed around him (see below).

“The striking Writers Guild members are fighting an important battle to protect their creative rights. These writers deserve to be compensated fairly for their work and I commend their courage in standing up to big media conglomerates.” Whoo-hoo! You can say that again, tarheel!

The press swarming around John Edwards as he arrives @ the picket lines (Nov. 16, 2007)

Wan (who, like Edwards, is from Chapel Hill, NC) and I were just a few folks away from Edwards when he spoke, and though we didn’t get to shake his hand (which was our nerd-tastic goal going into the day!) we did manage to get some halfway decent pics despite the crowd, so, yeah!

Christine and I have been huge fans of Edwards’ every since his ill-fated run for the White House in ’04, but now, expensive haircuts or not, we love the dude even more.

John Edwards charms the crowd on the WGA picket lines @ NBC Burbank (Nov. 16, 2007)

Not sure what kind of real chance he has of making it past Iowa right now, but I say any politico who takes the time to roll up his sleeves (very Juan Peron of him!) and walk the picket line with a bunch of sweaty, unshaven writers is a friend of mine! Go, Edwards!


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WGA/AMPTP talks to resume!

Good news! Late Friday evening, the AMPTP finally agreed to return to the negotiating table with WGA leaders on Monday, November 26th.

And while that doesn’t mean the strike is over — not by a longshot! We will continue to strike and man our picket lines at full force for the duration of the talks — it is a good sign that the AMPTP are at least agreeing to meet again.

Awesome WGA member shirt seen on the picket lines @ NBC Burbank (Nov. 16, 2007)

I’m not sure what spurred the studios into action — maybe they just got sick of looking like soulless corporate assholes! — or even if I trust their motives at this point, but I do welcome their decision to return to the bargaining table. So, welcome back, greed-meisters! And please, try not to screw us over too bad.

Rather that go on about the details, I’ve decided instead to reprint excerpts from a super cool e-mail that went out tonight from our rocking WGA Prez, Patric Verrone. Wow, no wonder he’s the head of our guild, this dude can write!

Enjoy, and que viva la union!

WGA lemonade stand on the NBC picket lines (Nov. 16, 2007)

To My Fellow Members:

This evening the WGA and the AMPTP announced that we will resume negotiations on Monday, November 26. This announcement is a direct result of your efforts. It is the direct result of the hours you have spent on the picket lines, the days you’ve spent educating friends and colleagues, the boundless energy you’ve put into engaging with not only the Hollywood talent community, but people all over the country and the world. It is a direct result of your dedication to this union and to each other.

Over the past two weeks we have shown incredible resolve and resourcefulness. Every fifteen minutes someone sends me an e-mail with a new suggestion or a copy of a supportive news article or an entertaining and informative pro-writer YouTube video. Actors, local legislators, fans, and fellow members of the Hollywood workforce joined us in droves on our picketing lines this week. SAG’s Alan Rosenberg and I were warmly welcomed in Washington D.C. and offered support from every member of Congress with whom we met. These developments all undoubtedly contributed to the decision to return to the table.

For 12 days I have repeated that a powerful strike means a short strike. In that time we have proven that bad news won’t slow us down. Now it is equally important that we now prove that good news won’t slow us down, either. We must remember that returning to the bargaining table is only a start. Our work is not done until we achieve a good contract and that is by no means assured. Accordingly, what we achieve in negotiations will be a direct result of how successfully we can keep up our determination and resolve.

Once again, I thank you all for your efforts and ask you to continue to dedicate yourself to this cause with the same level of energy and enthusiasm that has gotten us to where we are today. We are all in this together.


Patric M. Verrone
President, WGAW

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Bullhorn madness on Fox

Remember what I was saying about the bullhorn in my last post? Well, if you’re interested in hearing my chanting skills in all their “glory”, they appeared front and center in a segment on last nights Fox 11 News. The clip also has some rocking footage of the KT Tunstall set I mentioned before and even a brief interview with the sassy Scot.

While we were picketing outside NBC, the Fox News crew filmed us running through our entire litany of chants, and sadly, ended up airing one of our lesser ditties: “Keep your Tivos nice and filled…please support the Writers Guild!”

I know, I know…not my finest wordsmithery, but hey, you try coming up with new rhyming chants every few minutes for FOUR HOURS. It’s hard work!

SCREENCAP from Fox 11 News of me chanting on the picket lines outside NBC Studios, Burbank (Nov. 14, 2007)

Anyway, don’t know if the link here is still active or if Fox has it set up to change to a newer video clip every few hours, but give it a try and see what happens:

And at the very least, you can enjoy the blurry screencap provided above. But if you do get to watch the clip, stick around till the end where we serve up our second favorite chant of the day: “Ellen is no friend of mine…she danced across our picket line!” That’s right, we’ll give you something to cry about Degeneres!

Also take a moment to savor the irony of the fact that the news clip is embedded with an advertisement for the upcoming feature film, “Beowulf”. Hmm…and the AMPTP says they haven’t discovered a way to monetize the internet yet?

Ha! They’ve monetized the freaking nightly new, just imagine how much more they can get for scripted shows! Ooo, that’s good. I’ll have to try and work that into tomorrow’s chant…

What rhymes with monetize?


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KT Tunstall rocks the line!

This afternoon at 2:30pm, Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter KT Tunstall performed a brief impromptu concert for the striking WGA “troops” on the picket lines outside the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.

KT Tunstall rocks the WGA picket line @ Disney Studios, Burbank (Nov. 14, 2007)

Though I was stationed at NBC with my usual picket line crew, we all hiked down Alameda to Disney to see the show. And what a show it was!

In town to tape a few talk show appearances that aren’t happening due to the strike — guess she wasn’t booked on that old scab Ellen’s show! — KT decided to support our cause and bring her music to the streets. Honestly, I wasn’t that big of a fan before, but man alive, that skinny Scot can blow!

KT Tunstall rocking the WGA picket line outside the Disney Studios, Burbank (Nov. 14, 2007)

She was awesome! Starting off her set with her hit song “Black Horse & The Cherry Tree” (which was slaughtered nightly by Katherine McPhee on “American Idol” a couple years back) KT then launched straight away into another number I didn’t know. It was good, but the highlight was probably her rocking version of that TV show staple “Suddenly I See” which sounded amazing, even out there on the street!

Finishing up her set, KT sang The Jackson Five’s classic “I Want You Back” changing the lyrics to represent the current status of talks (which is no talking at all) between the AMPTP and WGA leadership. I wish I could remember her revised lyrics, they were pretty funny.

KT Tunstall singing the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” to striking WGA writers @ Disney Studios, Burbank (Nov. 14, 2007)

Despite the sweltering November heat, KT put on a pretty cool little show, and best of all — during these lean times for everyone involved — it was free! Thank you, KT Tunstall! You rock!

On our way back to NBC, my friend Wan (a writer’s assistant on ABC’s “Caveman”) and I ran into “There’s Something About Mary” writer/director Peter Farrelly. He was super friendly and even allowed us to take a couple of pictures with him. Thanks, dude!

Writer/Director Bobby Farrelly & Wan @ the WGA picket lines outside Disney Studios, Burbank (Nov. 14, 2007)

And then, megaphone in hand, I chanted back down the block with my team (actually, I think I was the only one chanting at that point) towards our regular picket line at NBC. As you can tell from the picture below, I’m getting pretty comfortable behind that old megaphone these days.

Rocking the megaphone after KT Tunstall’s WGA picket line gig @ Disney (Nov. 14, 2007)

I’m no KT Tunstall (yet!) but brother, I can chant it out with the best of them! Que viva la union!


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“Voices Of Uncertainty”

This was forwarded to me tonight by one of the writers on my WGA strike team. Culled from actual interviews with many of the CEO’s we’re striking against, it was put together and posted yesterday on YouTube by one of our more impassioned members.

I know the image quality is a bit wonky in spots, but this clip pretty much sums up what we’ve been saying about the AMPTP all along…and in their own words no less! Another fine example of classic “Hollywood accounting” in action. Enjoy!



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WGA Strike: Day Five!

Sorry for the delay in getting this post up, but my WGA picket line duties — which, oddly enough, have become even more fun and invigorating in week two — have nonetheless put a serious cramp in my blogging time. I’m not complaining, but, man alive, after sticking it to the AMPTP all day long, writing is the last thing I wanna do at night.

Cool, Mr. Burns picket sign designed by a striking “Simpsons” writer @ the FOX Studios strike rally (Nov. 9, 2007)

So, while I probably won’t be posting daily updates from the picket lines EVERY day from here on out, I wanted to finish out the posts from week one with a bang.

And let me tell ya, Friday’s historic WGA unity rally — with over 4,000 striking writers gathering outside the main gates of the 20th Century Fox Studios in Century City — was one hell of a bang!

WGA members gathering outside FOX Studios (Nov. 9, 2007)

Shutting down Pico Blvd. and Avenue of the Stars in both directions, red-shirted WGA members and their supporters poured into the streets for a rousing strike rally kicked off by a rocking mini-set from Rage Against The Machine’s madmen Zach de la Rocha and Tom Morello.

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE’s Zach de la Rocha and Tom Morello @ the WGA strike rally oustide FOX (Nov. 9, 2007)

Unfortunately, there were so many people there that I couldn’t hear a word they sang, much less get a picture like the one above (which I borrowed from a cool photo essay on but I heard later that their brief set was filled with pro-union songs calling for “a fair share of the wealth” and that sounds good to me. So, rock on, hermanos!

Next up was the Rev. Jesse Jackson — who I also could not see or hear, so, thanks again to for the pic! — who spoke at length about the long, storied history of unions in America. That’s right, Jesse, sing it, dude!

Rev. Jesse Jackson rallying the WGA troops outside FOX Studios (Nov. 9, 2007)

But despite rousing speeches by SAG president Alan Rosenberg (“L.A. Law”), several members of the WGA negotiating committee, and TV legend Norman Lear (who I managed to snap a pic of later, see below) perhaps the most heartfelt words spoken that day came from “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane.

Speaking to the fact that the average WGA member makes $62,000 a year (WAY less than the $200,000 figure tossed out last week by the AMPTP) and usually struggles to make ends meet between gigs, MacFarlane said: “[WGA members] are middle class. They live in homes that look to me like the home I grew up in, and my parents were teachers.” Nicely put, Seth!

TV legend Norman Lear meets the press @ the WGA unity rally outside FOX Studios (Nov. 9, 2007)

And as the cheering crowd wildly shook their picket signs in approval, WGA President Patric Verrone summed up the energy of the membership perfectly with his parting words: “Two years ago, we started this campaign by looking for leadership from our members…what we found was a membership of leaders!” Wow…not a dry eye in the crowd.

And then, we marched down Avenue of the Stars towards Fox!

WGA members @ the unity rally outside FOX Studios (Nov. 9, 2007)

Being the total celebrity stalker that I am, I made the rounds snapping pictures with anyone and everyone who’d have me: “Happy Days” writer/director Gary Marshall, “Best Week Ever” co-hosts and self-proclaimed “cultural pundits” Frances and Angela (aka “Frangela”), Oscar-winning writer/director Paul Haggis, and best of all, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” creator, Joss Whedon! Awesome!!

Me & “Happy Days” writer/director Gary Marshall @ the WGA strike rally outside FOX Studios (Nov. 9, 2007)

Me & BEST WEEK EVER’s “Frangela” @ the WGA strike rally outside FOX Studios (Nov. 9, 2007)

Oscar-winning “Crash” writer/director Paul Haggis and me outside FOX Studios (Nov. 9, 2007)

“Buffy The Vampire Slayer” creator Joss Whedon & me @ the WGA strike rally outside FOX Studios (Nov. 9, 2007)

I also snapped some candid shots of “Frasier’s” Kelsey Grammer, former “24” and “Far From Heaven” actor Dennis Haysbert and even though it didn’t turn out (sorry!) an impassioned Billy Baldwin (“Dirty Sexy Money”) discussing the strike with a fiery redhead.

But probably the highlight of the celebrity tilt-a-whirl that day was talking AMPTP trash (at length!) with “Family Ties” actress Justine Bateman, who is shown below chatting up my super cool strike captain (and ride for the day!) game show writer Aaron Solomon.

Kelsey Grammer chats with reporters @ the WGA unity rally outside FOX Studios (Nov. 9, 2007)

“24″ actor Dennis Haysbert talks to the media @ the WGA strike rally outside FOX Studios (Nov. 9, 2007)

Don’t know if you can make it out from the Bateman pic or not, but Aaron (on the far left) is wearing a shirt from the short-lived Fox game show “GREED”.

Aside from our friend Ginger, who had the misfortune of attending a taping of that lame-ass show with me back in the day, I’m sure no one watched “GREED”. But man, just the sight of the words: “I feel the need for GREED” looming over the Fox logo on Aaron’s shirt was hilarious!

My WGA strike captain, Aaron talking strike with “Family Ties” actress, Justine Bateman @ the WGA strike rally (Nov. 9, 2007)

Ha! Who would have thought a grungy old shirt from a canceled game show (hosted by the über cheesy Chuck Woolery no less!) would so perfectly encapsulate one of the central problems at the heart of this strike?

Down with AMPTP corporate greed, que viva la union!


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