July 21, 2005

Hollywood actors union chief Gilbert to step down

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former "Little House on the
Prairie" star Melissa Gilbert said on Thursday she would step
down as president of the Screen Actors Guild in the fall,
citing "rifts that may very well be irreparable."

The 41-year-old actress said she would not seek a third
two-year term at the helm of the bitterly divided Hollywood
union. Thursday was the deadline for candidates to throw their
hats in the ring for board and officer elections.

Hollywood trade paper Daily Variety said contenders for the
presidency include TV actors Morgan Fairchild, Alan Rosenberg
and Robert Conrad. The union has not yet published the slate.
Ballots are expected to go out in late August and must be back
by Sept. 23, when the outcome will be announced.

"The past four years have been remarkable -- at times
frustrating -- but incredibly rewarding," Gilbert said in a
statement. "It is no big secret that there are problems within
the leadership of SAG. There are rifts that may very well be

Gilbert's faction, a moderate group called Restore Respect,
has battled the more-confrontational MembershipFirst group for
years, failing to win rank-and-file support for initiatives
such as a merger with the smaller American Federation of
Television and Radio Artists and a proposed dues increase.

Under Gilbert, the union secured modest film and TV
contract increases, but not higher residuals. The studios also
held fast on that contentious issue with the unions
representing directors and screenwriters.

Daily Variety said soap veteran Fairchild was a SAG board
member allied with Gilbert, while Rosenberg ("L.A. Law") is
married to "CSI" star Marg Helgenberger, a board member
representing MembershipFirst. Conrad (the 1960s TV show "Wild,
Wild West") has not previously held SAG office, it said.