Screen Actors Guild mourns the loss of former National Board member and New York Division President Larry Keith, a star of television and stage.
Keith will be remembered by the public for roles such as “Nick Davis” on All My Children, for which he was nominated for two Daytime Emmys, but he will also be remembered by his fellow SAG officers and active members for his long, tireless work on behalf of the Guild. He served on numerous committees, including in service of our contract negotiations, and was a trustee of the Screen Actors Guild-Producers Pension and Health Plans.
Known for his integrity, fairness, devotion and, most of all, for his overwhelming capacity to lead during difficult times, Keith will be missed and remembered.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Keith’s name to:
The Actors Fund of America
729 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10019
TACT (The Actors Company Theatre)
900 Broadway, Suite 905
New York, NY 10003
(Please note on check that it is a contribution in memory of Larry Keith)
There is no doubt in my mind, that every SAG member, every future SAG member, every SAG Pension & Health Participant and every future SAG Pension & Health Participant has lost a dear friend and colleague. Through Larry's efforts on the National Board, as New York President, and a long time P&H Plan Trustee, he helped make the future so much brighter for each person's wages, working conditions and Plan Benefits. His commitment, his determination and his eloquence speaking for each of us will long be remembered.
— Bob Kaliban
Here is a poem I wrote that is very much like Larry, my friend and co-trustee for more than thirty years.
Your gift of one
I'll give to ten
so they can pass it on
expanding like ripples
your gift can grow
'til each of us
you've touched will know
the smile of friendship
upon your face
has left this world
a better place
— Al Hubbs
Larry and I had just assumed our coach seats on a plane bound for Wash DC. We were en route to meet President Kathy Nolan to lobby on behalf of SAG. Suddenly, we were surrounded by several airline attendants who, with adoring looks at Larry, instantly escorted him to First Class. I was upgraded too, but without the adoration -- It happened again on the return trip. Larry was a successful soap opera star--but quit because it was interfering with his duties as SAG president. Larry was overwhelmingly dedicated to SAG. --and we all knew it.
— Eugene Francis
I got to know what a marvelous guy Larry Keith was in 1977 when I ran for president of SAG. I knew little about the New York Branch, even less about political campaigning; Larry, then president of the NY Branch, invited me east, took me under his wing and gave me a rousing introduction at a New York Membership Meeting. While I was there, he put me up in his elegant midtown apartment and gave me an education in local and national Guild politics that has proven invaluable. What a wise councillor he was--and what a warm friend and colleague he was over the years that we served together on the SAG Board, and since 1983 as Trustees of the Pension and Health Plan. Larry was a premier raconteur (some of the best jokes I've ever heard); one evening in my home, I did my best to accompany him as he sang Schubert Lieder as elegantly as Fischer-Dieskau: a consummate professional performer and a lovely guy in every way. Boy, I'll miss him.
— William Schallert
Larry served on the Merger Study Committee for years. As the committee neared the end of its work, efforts were still being made to get buy-in from some of the AFTRA and SAG members of the committee who barely talked to each other.
It was unforgettable when Bill Hillman, broadcaster and former AFTRA National President, spoke. He had always spoken against what he felt would be a disaster for his union – Merger with SAG. But on this day he instead made a long and eloquent speech about how he had come to believe that AFTRA would not fare well without changing and joining forces with SAG. He said that despite our differences, in structure, philosophy and history, it was now clear to him that we were all working for the same handful of companies, and that as they had consolidated their power we must also consolidate ours. He said there was much in the Merger deal with which he was not happy, but that paled in comparison to what we had to lose by failing to come together.
The entire time he was speaking, he never took his eyes off Larry Keith. He seemed to be speaking to him alone. This was amazing since the brightest, most incendiary sparks on the Committee seemed always to be struck off the conflicts between these two long-standing union leaders.
When he finished, it was Larry’s turn to speak. Everyone held their breath and waited for the sparks to fly. Larry looked directly at Bill and made the shortest statement I’ve ever heard him make -- “If Bill Hillman can put aside his concerns, prejudices and doubts, so can I. Bill has said everything that has to be said. I will support this Merger.” And he did. Ferociously. Everyone at the table wept.
Many years later, Larry and I were at a bar with several others, and we got into a conversation about the unpredictability of actors’ careers. He said how grateful he was for the chances that had been presented to him so late in his career, and how every once in a while he just smiled to think what he was now doing -- Broadway, off-Broadway – none of which he had ever planned or expected. It was great to see someone with so much history and experience enjoying whatever life brought him. Quite a lesson. But then he always was a natural born teacher.
I send my heartfelt sympathy to the family of Larry. I spent 30 years on the Board of Directors of SAG & AFTRA and with him. He was someone really special who will be remembered with LOVE by so many.
Fellow actor — fellow pilot — good friend. My wing man through all
turbulence. Tried, trusted and true.
Dear Larry put the capital "G" in gentleman. When I first started in the voice-over world I had no idea that he had been an actor first and then, as many of us did, supplemented his income by using that glorious voice of us. I was so glad to see that in his later years he went back to his first love of acting and did many plays, musicals and TV work. He was one of the first people who made me realize how important the unions were and was the primary influence to my serving on the board. He was so smart! He really understood the ins and outs of board work and used his brilliance to cajole, mollify and very often convince the dissenters. He would have made a terrific attorney. Ah well, perhaps in his next life. Have fun up there, Larry, and we'll see you later.
It is with deep sadness that I write these words in honor of our fraternal friend, Larry Keith. Simply...he was a giant in our industry...a man of great talent as a performer, and as a boardmember and trustee...an advocate with tireless devotion and everlasting impact on all of our careers. I came to know Larry during the years that we both served on the SAG Board. I often looked to his wisdom and experience as a voice of reason. Over the years, I also was fortunate to have recorded with him and appreciated his wicked wit, love of humorous stories and his graciousness. Last year, even though his own battle was just beginning, he generously reached out to me to help put together my husband, Don's remembrance evening. I am eternally grateful for this kindness. Thank you, Larry. All the kids on the campus will dearly miss you.
Larry Keith paved the way and set a stellar example for many SAG members who came to serve the Guild. His combined knowledge of SAG business, his generosity to actors and his incredible talent, especially his masterful art of storytelling will live on in our memories. Larry was gracious and smart. If you were on the opposite side of his argument you were immediately filled with self doubt. I'll never forget his performances in Caroline, or Change or watching him recite at Symphony Space. We love you Larry and will miss you always.
I found that serving with Larry Keith on the New York Screen Actors Guild Board of Directors was a particular pleasure. He always brought constant, enthusiastic energy to the meetings, a positive approach to union matters, and I admired his talent as a New York stage actor. Larry will surely be missed.
It’s hard to even imagine that Larry has gone. Seeing him most recently playing comic and dramatic roles with The Actors Company Theatre, his energy seemed boundless - and endless. As an actor, he was a superb craftsman and a true master of his profession. In serving the guild, he was a formidable board member and a strong and trustworthy leader as our president. As a fledgling member of the board, I was bowled over when he asked me to run an election campaign. Problem was, I didn't have a clue as to which way to go until Larry patiently led me through the process, step by painful step. Even then, with all my stumbling efforts, he eventually forgave my clueless efforts and became my good friend. He will be remembered by all with great and true affection. He will be missed.
While the audience knew Larry Keith as an actor of riveting presence on the stage and screen, we were witness to his extraordinary gift of leadership. His approach to boardroom debate was grounded more in knowledge and mutual respect than oratory, but he could deploy a soulful and sonorous tenor voice when the issue inflamed his passion. He did the hard homework of learning the collective bargaining agreements and the strategies employed to enrich them, learning the arcane arithmetic of pension plans and health insurance, learning the patient politics of inclusion. He knew instinctively when to compromise and when to fight. Either way, Larry Keith won far more than he lost. And so therefore did we.
SAG often talks about its founding members and the leadership and sacrifice that they demonstrated in founding our union. We don’t talk enough perhaps about the leaders who followed them over the years to build up our contracts, to strengthen and expand our Pension and Health plans and to fight for the rights of our diverse membership.
Larry Keith was just such a leader. He was president of SAG in NY, he was a National Vice-President, he chaired numerous negotiating committees, he served for decades as a trustee of our P&H Plans, he fought to bring more work opportunities to our women members in the Commercials voice-over field, he dedicated himself to the time consuming task of reviewing hundreds of scholarship applications so that members and their families received financial assistance to further their educations with SAG Foundation scholarship grants.
He was a brilliant actor and overall entertainer and a mentor to many new actors and future SAG leaders. Most of all he cared deeply for his family, his friends, his colleagues, his union and his profession.
He’ll be greatly missed by his fellow Board members, his fellow trustees and especially by the staff (both past and present) at both SAG and the SAG P&H plans.
I was blessed to have him as my friend for so many years.