The Hollywood writers' strike has identified its first celebrity scab. Ellen DeGeneres, the comedian and television host, has found she is no longer welcome on the streets of New York because of her decision to keep recording – and writing – her daytime chat show.
After several days of public drubbing by her union – the Writers Guild of America – DeGeneres has announced she won't be taping her show in New York next week as planned, but will stay in Los Angeles and record in the entertainment-industry suburb of Burbank, where the union is less militant and has yet to voice any objection.
DeGeneres took just one day off to show her solidarity with her writing staff, then crossed the picket lines and went back to work.
She says she had no choice. As a member of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, as well as the Writers Guild, she remains – she says – contractually obliged to keep working. She has continued to deliver monologues, which she has scripted herself, but claims she has broken no strike rules.
"Personally, it's heartbreaking. I love my writers; we're a family," she told reporters last week. "It's really hard to have to deal with where they are and where I am because I'm kinda caught in the middle."
The Writers Guild has contrasted the way she has, in their view, failed to stand by her writing staff and the way she broke down on air a month ago over a tug-of-war she had with a pet adoption agency over a stray dog.
"We find it sad that Ellen spent an entire week crying and fighting for a dog that she gave away, yet she couldn't even stand by writers for more than one day – writers who have helped make her extremely successful," the Guild said.
Michael Winship, the head of the Guild's East Coast branch, said DeGeneres should "look to her conscience".
Two opinion polls this week showed more than 60 per cent of the public agree that writers deserve a fair share of the revenue from DVD sales and downloads.