David Alter, former Screen Actors Guild senior advisor and legal counsel, passed away Wednesday, Aug. 26 at age 85.
Alter was legal counsel to Screen Actors Guild in a variety of capacities beginning in 1966 and concluding with his retirement from the Guild in 2004. He began his career as an attorney for individual performers until he was tapped by SAG leadership to represent the interests of the Guild and all its members. He was named outside counsel to the Guild in New York in 1966 and became national outside counsel in 1980. Alter served in this role until 1998, when he retired from private law practice and became the Guild's director of legal affairs and in 2004 senior advisor. He retired in July of that year.
Alter, a widely regarded entertainment law specialist, devoted his professional life to representing actors and their interests. He was an expert negotiator whose legal acumen and tenacity helped favorably conclude a number of significant arbitrations resulting in considerable savings and settlements for the Guild.
Screen Actors Guild Interim National Executive Director and former General Counsel David White said, "David Alter was a tremendous advocate for the rights and interests of actors and he was a respected and admired part of the Screen Actors Guild for many years. His deep knowledge and expertise were invaluable contributions to my early years with the Guild and I will personally miss his brilliant spirit. He was a friend to actors, a friend to the Guild and a friend to me. We are all deeply saddened at his passing and extend our condolences to his family."
"David Alter's contributions to Screen Actors Guild and to the entertainment industry were unmatched," said John McGuire, Screen Actors Guild's senior advisor and chief negotiator. "He was a beloved member of the SAG family and the entire entertainment community benefited from his years of service and wisdom."
Alter is survived by his wife Deborah, his daughters Lisa and Amy and four grandchildren.
Memorial services are scheduled for 11:45 a.m. Sunday, August 30, 2009 at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 W. 76th Street, New York, NY 10023.
In lieu of flowers the family has requested donations be made to:
Parkinson's Disease Foundation
c/o Lucine J. Cote, M.D.
1359 Broadway, Suite 1509
New York, NY 1001
Remembrances of David Alter
"Many of the important protections that actors enjoy today are the direct result of the caring effort and diligent work of David Alter. SAG, and all actors, owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for his work on our behalf."
Alan Rosenberg, Screen Actors Guild National President
"I was fortunate to have worked closely with David Alter for years. He was the keel on the Screen Actors Guild for more than three decades. His calm, steady, wise counsel was a constant source of balance for me and for this organization, as we have repeatedly been rocked by internal and external forces. We have missed him since he retired, and will miss him even more now that he's gone."
Richard Masur, Past Screen Actors Guild National President
"Every Screen Actors Guild member for over four decades has benefited from David Alter's wisdom, counsel and knowledge. David was a true leader and cared deeply for the performers he represented. He was not only a very close, dear friend, but an inspiration to all who knew him."
Ken Orsatti, Former National Executive Director
"David Alter's mind and integrity and commitment, his passion and compassion and his keen, droll humor are quietly woven into the lasting fabric of who we of the Screen Actors Guild really are and will continue to be."
Maureen Donnelly, National Board Member
"We are saddened by the loss of Mr. Alter, who for so many years served the membership with great intelligence, dedication and honor. In his years of service, he was a tremendous advocate for the rights and interests of all SAG members. We express our sincerest condolences to his family."
Sam Freed, New York Division President
"David Alter was a brilliant lawyer and fierce advocate for the Screen Actors Guild and its members. He also possessed one of the quickest and driest wits I've ever come across - which came in handy on many occasions! He was one of the joys I found during my service on the NY SAG Board of Directors and especially as NY President when on many occasion I leaned on his thoughtful judgment to get through the issue of the moment. I will miss him dearly"
Eileen Henry, Past New York Division President
"David's extraordinary legal knowledge and negotiating skills have protected and furthered the interest and welfare of the Guild and its members for years to come. Admired and respected by industry and union leaders alike, he was a man of extraordinary character and honor, and gave all of us priceless support and guidance. He loved us, and we loved him. It is impossible to overstate the contribution David made to SAG and its members."
Joyce Gordon, Past New York Division President
"Working with David was a true pleasure. He was a brilliant advocate, able to advance the interests of the Guild and its members while maintaining his trademark charm and grace. The gains David achieved for the members are immeasurable, and his wise counsel is irreplaceable. We will all miss him deeply."
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG Deputy National Executive Director and General Counsel
"David set the standard for how counsel can effectively partner staff with the acting community for the enforcement of our members' rights."
Jae Je Simmons, SAG Executive Director, New York Division