Broadcaster, actor and writer Reed Farrell joined AFTRA in 1955 and Screen Actors Guild the following year. He made his mark as an actor, voiceover artist and narrator in television films, commercials and industrial films, and as a writer of hundreds of TV and radio spot commercials. In January of 1958, while a disc jockey at KWK in St. Louis, he was filmed smashing rock ’n’ roll records, declaring “Rock ’n’ roll has got to go — and go it does at KWK.” The “record-breaking” campaign was not Farrell’s idea — he enjoyed rock — but was ordered to do it by the station’s president after staff agreed that rock had “dominated the music field long enough.” The film clip of Farrell destroying the records has been used in numerous documentaries. Two months after the record-smashing week, Farrell appeared on a Pop Music Disc Jockey Convention panel in Kansas City, Missouri, titled Is Rock and Roll a Bad Influence on Today’s Teenagers?
He was born Farrell Reed Pasternak in 1930 and grew up in Flint, Michigan. His college education took him to the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque as a fine arts major, and to Los Angeles City College, where he majored in drama, radio and television. Not averse to travel, Farrell became a disc jockey early in his career for radio stations in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Missouri and Illinois.
In the 1960s, Farrell returned to Flint, Michigan, and became a local celebrity as horror film program host Christopher Coffin, the “Guardian of the Ghouls” for WJRT-TV. From 1972 – 1974, he hosted the St. Louis TV program Reed Farrell Morning Affair, where he hosted guests like Milton Berle, Robert Goulet, Cloris Leachman and Minnie Pearl.
The joint AFTRA and SAG commercials strike in 1979 inspired him to participate in his union. Soon after being elected AFTRA national president, he explained: “Back in 1979 when we went on strike with the commercials contract, I decided to get active and vowed that I would never walk a picket line again without having had something to say about it. I’ve been active ever since.” Upon his election as AFTRA national president in 1989, at the union’s 52nd annual convention in Boston, he stated to delegates: “We must bring the efforts of the Merger Committee to a logical conclusion and we must make sure that the membership understands what they are voting for … I’m [also] anxious to join our Executive Director John Hall as we sit down with our sister union SAG in an effort to better define jurisdiction. We can no longer allow producers to shop our contracts. No union truly benefits from anything that is detrimental to another.”
After completing his AFTRA presidency in 1993, he was presented with George Heller Memorial Gold Card No. 37 at the AFTRA National Convention in Chicago.