One longtime personal assistant’s story of her time working for a Hollywood household name, as told to Jennifer Vineyard.
She’d said I would be working on her production side, and I thought, Perfect, I’ll be doing personal-assistant work, production work; I might even be working on her films. This is exactly what I want to do. She gave me the first book she wanted to option, and I was like, This is awesome. I want to be a part of this. Because I thought this was going to be a production job. So I stayed on, thinking it would happen, and it never happened. That was the first of many straws of that broke the camel’s back.
I broke up with a very prominent actor boyfriend of hers. She said, “Oh, we’re done making a movie together; it’s not really going to work; I’m sort of seeing somebody else. Could you just tell him to back off and leave me alone?” And she said this over the phone, over Christmas. She told me, “Accept the date on my behalf. Take the date. Go instead of me.” So, that’s what I did. You would think sending a text is the worst — no. Sending your assistant to break up with him is the worst. He had no idea it was coming, either, which was sad. Because when I was talking to him on the phone before, he was like, “Great! She said yes! Tell her I’ll see her here; I’ll order us her favorite wine,” and I was just like, “Okay!” Ugh. I felt horrible for him. I was like, “You do not deserve this.” That breakup was two weeks into the job. That was my initiation — Oh my God, this is what I’m doing?
Before I lived with her, I would leave at four in the morning to get to her house. I would get there at five in the morning to go over the daily routine with her, get her tea, her food, all her vitamins. And once I lived at her house, I would start at five in the morning and go down to Starbucks and get her coffee and put it beside her bed. Go downstairs and make her tea. Start up her computer and get the schedule of what was happening that day, print it out. Go through emails for her and check to see what was coming in. Grab a couple of newspapers and check the book reviews, because then I would have to go to Barnes and Noble to get the books for her, whether or not she would actually read them. Most of them she did not read. Or she would read the first four or five chapters and then give the book away. I’d turn on the TV and figure out what was going on. By 7 a.m., she’d want to know everything that had happened in the news, what she should be aware of around the world. I was very well informed at that point. If she was up for a job, I’d go through the script with her. She was shooting a lot, and on those days, I would have to be her alarm, and wake her up at 4 a.m. And then later in the day I would drive her child and the babysitter to the set to visit her, and I would have to be around, in case the kid threw a fit, to take them back.
You don’t get that time to do your own stuff if you’re living at the house. And I never had privacy whatsoever. To escape, I would have to physically leave her house at certain times. I took a lot of weekend trips. Sometimes the nanny would let me stay over at her apartment — I would drive around the corner and hide my car and hang out at the nanny’s apartment on weekends, just to sleep. And I would leave the house and just go drink a lot. I would go down the street from her place and walk to a couple of the bars. The bar owners knew me, and they understood, because she would pick me up sometimes — they would be like, “Trust me, I know what you have to go home to. These next few rounds are on us.” I would drink, and then go back and feed her, and then go to sleep in the office. That lasted several months, until I was like, This is making me into a drunk. I’m not happy with who I am becoming. Even my sister later told me, “I wanted to slap you, because you didn’t have a life. You weren’t you. You weren’t happy. You had the fake Hollywood smile.”
Once I got called in as an emergency because she said, “I need to see my therapist.” So I had to leave my family and drive over and pick her up, because she was like, “After therapy, I can’t drive.” That’s fine, I get it: So she’s in with the therapist, and I’m sitting there in the car, reading, and I remember seeing the therapist’s name — but she wasn’t a therapist. Oh no. She was a palm reader. She was a palm reader that we got a discount for in the gift bag at an awards show. She was a psychic. And I was like, “I left a family event to take her to come see a psychic?” You could have called 1-900-whatever and gotten the same information, and stayed at home.
My eyes were opened. Then I started to check all the details on the things I had to do for her. Like when I had to go to pick up her quote-unquote “herbs” — I didn’t realize until then: Oh crap, I’m a drug runner. She said “herbs” because she was being holistic, and I was naïve and thought it was something herbal to help her calm down. Once when we went to a film festival, I flew out early so I could lay out the clothes she would wear. When she got in, she was like, “Did you get my stuff?” What stuff? “Oh, I put some stuff in your bag.” Oh my God, I went on a fucking plane carrying drugs for you? I could have gotten arrested! You could have at least told me so I knew what I was doing, and put it in the bag that’s not checked! What are you doing to me? At least ask and say, “Hey, do you mind carrying for me?” Not that I would have said no, but at least I could have put it in a concealed location.
I would go pick up her medicine for her, all her pills, and after that I started checking every little thing to see what it was. I was like, Oh my God, I know exactly what she has now. I realized I needed to warn whoever was with her about certain STDs. I called the ex-boyfriend, and I was like, “Hey, you need to get checked out. I don’t think she’ll ever call you.” And he was like, “Oh, shit. Thanks.” This was seven months after the breakup. That’s just the nice thing to do, to let them know.
I had planned on going to this international film festival with her, because she told me, “I can’t be without you.” This would be — not my little vacation, because I would be working — but at least an experience, at least to make up for the bad shit. And then at the last moment, she said, “Oh, yeah, I’m not going to take you.”
Excuse me? “No, there’s this guy who I’m seeing right now, and he’s just going to come in for a day, instead of the two weeks that you would be there.” And she wanted to use my flight to bring him in for one day.
So I gave my two weeks. And then when I was giving my notice to everyone else, they were like, “Oh, so I’m going to have to work with another assistant?” I was like, “Wait, how many assistants has she had?” And they said, “You’ve been the only one who’s not related to her who’s lasted longer than six months.” That was my deciding factor: Yeah, I’m done. So I survived her. But I was very jaded, and I hated everything to do with the industry after that.
The first time I saw her after I quit, she looked at me, and I was like, “Hey, I knew you were going to be here, so I got you the coffee you liked.” And she was like, “Oh!” She was totally not expecting anyone to be nice to her. I asked, “How’s the kid?” — I was actually interested. I wasn’t trying to be fake with her. And then she asked me to do her a favor, because I was somebody she trusted. And I was like, Through all of this, I’m somebody she trusts? Crap. It shocked me. It really did shock me. Even after everything.