Leon was a Screen Actors Guild institution and treasure, named "President emeritus" from 1979 until his 1993 death. He served but a single year as President (1957-58) but his total tenure as an elected officer and Board member stretched unbroken from 1945 to 1979. "Waycoff" was the surname he was born with, and it was "Leon Waycoff" that he used professionally in films between 1931 and 1935. From 1935, it was "Leon Ames."Leon would join the Guild as founding member #15 - the number he drew from Jimmie Gleason's hat at the original organizing meeting at Gleason's Beverly Hills home. Later, he accidentally dropped his precious #15 into his dessert -- an upside down cake. Of those first days in 1933, he recalled: "Equity lost everything out here attempting to organize the industry [in the 1920s] No actor wanted to talk union, nobody wanted to talk union -'It's a failure, we're through, the Academy will look after us, and the hell with it'. [The Guild] started as a whispering campaign at Masquers Club. Ken Thomson approached me and he said 'What are you doing tonight? Can you come to my house...?' And I said 'Sure, I'll be there.' That's the way I got in.The working conditions were unbelievable, you'd get a call to the studio to makeup at maybe six o'clock in the morning, or four o'clock...you were treated like cattle, you had no place to sit down...who ever heard of food - you bring your own lunch, if you could. You began to say 'what the hell is this?' -there was no place to sit down, nothing to eat, and the actors began to say 'This is ridiculous'." From 1953-55, Leon was one of television's favorite dads, starring in the series Life with Father opposite his fellow Screen Actors Guild Board member, Lurene Tuttle.

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