In 1952, six year-old Barry Gordon-a performer since age 3 – got "Nuttin' for Christmas." But he wasn't complaining – "Nuttin'..." was actually a novelty recording, and sold over 2 million copies! While attending New York's Professional Children's School, young Barry got to know a fellow student-Patty Duke-whom he would succeed as Screen Actors Guild president in 1988. At just 14 years of age, in 1963, he was nominated for a Tony Award for the Broadway production A Thousand Clowns and would repeat his role in the feature film.

In 1986, although he'd just added law school studies to his busy schedule, he joined the Guild's Theatrical/Television Wages and Working Conditions Committee, and was also appointed to the Negotiating Team. He later admitted "Once I became involved, I was hooked."Later that year, he was elected to the SAG Board of Directors, and served on many other committees, including Young Performers (as National Chair), 1987 Commercials Wages & Working Conditions, Guild Government Review, Legislative, Agents Relations, Membership Assistance, and Negotiating Strategies committees. He was elected 1st Vice President in 1987. After Patty Duke resigned her Guild presidency in June, 1988, Gordon was chosen as acting president. By that time, aided and accelerated by the de-regulation of the 1980's, "vertical integration" was firmly entrenched – and growing – in the film business. In December, the Board of Directors formally elected him as a permanent replacement to finish Duke's term, and the membership would elect him President for two-year terms in 1989, 1991, and 1993. During Gordon's tenure, the Guild reclaimed jurisdiction over west coast extra players (1990 and 1992).

When he resigned in July, 1995 to prepare for a run for Congress, Barry Gordon had served longer than any other Guild president-seven years, one month. He was succeeded by 1st Vice-President Sumi Haru, a Board member since 1974, who was appointed acting President until the November election.

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