It was early 1960. First England, then Canada, and now an attempt to make a new beginning in America.
A member of American Actors Equity, I planned to attend my first Annual General Meeting which was being held in the Grand Ballroom of the Astor Hotel on West 45th Street.
A free-for-all shouting match it became, the hot issue at that time being whether actors should perform before segregated audiences in the South.
But meanwhile, in the union constitution, was a provision that permitted actors to refuse to perform alongside their fellow actors if such a person appeared to be tainted by association with a “Communist Front” organization, which was not clearly defined.
Time, this green fellow felt, to improvise a maiden speech followed by a Motion, along the lines of “First Things First”.
It seemed to him that there was something wrong about a noisy bunch of actors who seemed to care more about who they would not perform before, while not seeming to care about the rights of those fellow actors next to whom they would not perform, if they felt like it. No unity here.
Speech made, hushed silence, then a scream of wrath from the assembled membership. Motion denied. Who, they wanted to know, was this guy?
Meeting over, and somewhat bloodied but unbowed, this guy made his way out, to be confronted by a little old character actor with a pronounced British accent.
“My boy”, he asked politely, “are you a recent arrival?”
On being assured that this was so, he went on to say in measured tones “Take it from this old-timer, many years from the old country, and never forget what I am about to tell you.”
He looked right, then left, before continuing in a lowered voice.
“They look like us, they talk like us, but never forget, they are all foreigners.”
And with this bit of advice, he turned and went on his way.
And now, forty-five years on and still here, this guy has many occasions on which to remember his words.