Having worked for numerous famous actors, directors, and producers (Yes, you know their names), I can honestly say that being an assistant to anyone famous is one of the most challenging jobs in the world. A successful assistant must at all times and simultaneously be the master of their own personas and the multitude of complexities that constitute the professional, personal and public lives of their charges. In the following article these complexities will be delineated and advised upon.
Let’s take Chapter One as read: You already have the job. Getting the job is a mass of anxiety and politics all of it’s own, so let just start at Day One:
Your life stops at the door. Once you get out of your car in front of the house, office, or other meeting place, you are not living for yourself anymore. You are living for The Celebrity. Assuming you have already been vetted for criminal background, references, credit history, parking tickets, and everything on your resume, you have to make it past whoever hired you. Remember, you have been referred and hired by people other than The Celebrity. Those people will let you know in no uncertain terms that your behavior and performance reflects upon them and they will make you suffer if you embarrass them or let them down. You may or may not meet the famous face this day, but you will soon. With any luck you will get the formalities out of the way right away. Depending on The Celebrity, you may be treated well, or be treated like a medieval slob servant. You may even be way down on the totem pole under a long line of bickering sycophants who do not want you to succeed.
Remember, you have been referred and hired by people other than The Celebrity. Those people will let you know in no uncertain terms that your behavior and performance reflects upon them and they will make you suffer if you embarrass them or let them down.
This characteristic is VITAL. It cannot be overstated how much abuse you may have to endure in this job, from any person, from any angle. The stress will build and the envy will be omnipresent. You must be able to absorb screams and foul comments. You will be blamed for things that you had nothing to do with. You will be instructed to perform a task and them humiliated for doing it just right only because someone wants to put you off your mark. I once worked for a producer who loved to march into the office and bite the new guy just to let everyone know who was boss. We could always tell when she was off her meds. When you arrived in the morning the looks on co-workers’ faces were red flags right from the start. This woman was crazy and hostile and loved the taste of flesh. After a while you could smell it. Whenever we hired a new guy it was part of the Day One introductions to inform the new hire that sooner or later they would get bit. Part of the job was taking the bite and not biting back.
College degrees will never prepare a person for the levels of organization that are required for this job. Your own life needs to be in perfect order as well as all the details of The Celebrity’s life. Your appearance, handwriting, schedules, files, confidential material, contacts, phone records, petty cash receipts, laundry, family requests, secret liaisons, lies, bullying, niceties, gifts, bad habits, personal hygiene needs, all of these things need to be mastered and orchestrated in full. All of the elements in the entire universe of your celebrity boss must be catalogued and controlled if you wish to be a good assistant. It takes a while, but if you take care to prep the day and close the day out everyday, then it will make life much easier in the long run.
Discretion And Confidentiality
You will know things about your celebrity that no one else in the world knows. You have to be ready to be their best friend and protector even though it may be in a disposable fashion. Just like a secret service agent takes care of The President, so shall you take care of your Face Person. I had no less than three tabloid guys who knew which bars I drank at and who I was dating. They made it very clear how much any bit of information was worth and it was worth thousands and thousands of dollars. A kid fresh out of school making $500 a week for 24/7 stress has to put these temptations out of their mind. It takes one bad day to make any assistant want to say “Fuck It” and cash in to the pimps. Again, you will know things that neither wives, husbands, girlfriends, secret sex flings, studio heads, or anyone else knows. I always assumed a smart celebrity throws out temptations and misinformation to test an assistant to see if they are trustworthy. Always assume you are being tested and take it to heart that you are being watched.
I once worked for a producer who loved to march into the office and bite the new guy just to let everyone know who was boss. We could always tell when she was off her meds.
Starting pay is usually quite low due to the fact that everyone in the world wants a job like this. Access is key to this rarified world and people will cut off their own tits for the opportunity that you have. So don’t expect any more than $600 a week. You will have to provide your own car, unless you are hired by production and then you will probably have a driver. You will most likely get gifts and food and plenty of pictures with your arm around the famous one. If you can earn the trust of a huge star or power broker, then you can write your own ticket. Hollywood is full of people who leap-frogged over the competition due to a nod from a celebrity God.
Everyone gets bit in the world of assistants and sooner or later good assistants get fired. If you are too green or lose your composure on your first gig, don’t fret. Unless you stab someone (and this does happen) you will live to fight another day. Fear is the mind killer here in the world of thieves and liars. Keep your chin up. When I was a producer’s assistant there was one desk in the office that was always being emptied and filled. I must have watched six people come and go over the course of 18 months. These unfortunate souls knew they were doomed by the end of the first week. So did everyone else. Some people just can’t handle all that is dumped onto them the first few days. You knew it was Deadsville for an assistant when no one would look at them or talk to them anymore. They were no longer in the loop. When you are out, everyone knows it. It’s just a long silent ride until Friday. That’s when they let you go. If you did a good job other people will take pity on you and recommend you for another gig. This happens all the time. Just don’t let it get you down.
This is the grand adventure of Hollywood, the music biz, the fashion world, or even politics. As a best-selling author once told me, “Go Get ‘Em”. It happened to be a line from the main character of his latest novel. He was my literary hero, mentor and an actual saint. I optioned that novel and adapted it into a screenplay. It is now being shopped around to some of those celebrities I assisted for. Anything can happen. Have fun doing it.
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