At the dawn of the movie industry, Variety reported that Thomas Edison asked actors to be in the talkies for free for the prestige of getting a foothold in a new industry. It might have gone something like this:
Do you like lightbulbs? That was me. Now star in my talking picture for free!
The entertainment industry has always been as much about hair pulling as hair raising. A creative team armed with a good lawyers can institute colossal change right in the middle of battling market forces. ASCAP was founded when someone visited a cabaret and noticed the music bringing a revenue stream right through the door and thought, "Hey wait, I wrote that song."
All this came about a century ago as the new frontier of movies, radio and cabaret clashed for dominance. Some promoters demanded that stars sign exclusive contracts to only star in vaudeville and not cheat with radio or, ye gads, the movies.
It didn't work. A new frontier isn't going to just sit there without being filled, warts and all. The internet brought us spam and Craigslist. Vaudeville brought us drunk dog acts (someone really should have called PETA) and Sarah Bernhardt. In Will Farrell's online Funny or Die, actors star for free because of the prestige. Here on the Huffington Post, writers blog because of the access to millions of eyeballs.
Back when video killed the radio star, home computers were almost unheard of and cell phones were the size of a laptop. Today laptops connect to an internet first developed for the government. Like Tang. The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund wouldn't exist without it. (The internet, not Tang.) A laptop and a Starbucks connection helped us found NOMRF as we were flung about the country for months after Katrina. It's also how we found out where musicians ended up after the levee failure.
And when faced with a turn of events that dark, Funny or Die becomes fairly true. The entertainment industry not only keeps Americans pacified, it occasionally wakes us up.
Part of the genius of the last Soprano's episode was when the screen went dark in the middle of a scene. The fact that a writer could have added more but didn't kept millions of eyeballs on a black screen until we got it. A reflection on mortality smack dab in the middle of Sunday night.
With both sides back to the table over internet royalties, how about getting Nobel Prize winner Al Gore in there to oversee Writers Guild negotiations. After chartering two aircraft to evacuate almost 300 New Orleaneans after Katrina, he qualifies as a person of action.
It might go something like:
Do you like the internet? That was me. Now give those writers a piece of the web and start entertaining.
Speaking of entertainment, did you like Love Story? That was me. Do you like An Inconvenient Truth . . .
Read more about the strike on the Huffington Post's writers' strike page.
Follow Karen Dalton-Beninato on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kbeninato