From a yellowed copy of the L.A. Times
, a true story that really captures the spirit of the entertainment industry place (believe me about this, for I've been there, and if not Hollywood there exactly, then a place very close that's rubbed off forever, or certainly until the present).
THE RULES OF HOLLYWOOD
Don't Leave Your Desk, Unless It's for Good
By Liza Monroy, Liza Monroy has been published in the New York Times, Newsweek and the Village Voice.
June 18, 2006
I'd been working for a mega-agency for a while when an old-school actor's small production company offered to hire me. I wanted to be in development, so it was perfect. The production honcho (I'll call her Nancy) never removed her headset during my interview, taking calls throughout. I got maybe 10 minutes. It wasn't a good sign, but I was still bright-eyed and hopeful.
"Don't take anything she says personally," said Alexa, the old assistant, finishing off my three-night training period. "Goodbye!" She waved as though I were walking down a gangplank.
My first task was to reconcile the office petty cash supply, used for things such as intern errands, stamps and Nancy's peanut-butter protein power smoothies. My spreadsheet showed the cash supply as $200 short.
"Alexa must have stolen it," Nancy snapped.
"She seemed like an honest person," I said.
"You seemed like a smart person," Nancy said. She dropped a stack of papers and a bag of potato chips on my desk.
"Messenger this home."
"The chips too?" I asked.
"Those are for you." She strutted off. I stood in my cubicle, dumbfounded. "Thanks," I said to no one.
That evening, as I was wrapping up for the day, Nancy kept calling until I answered.
"I was in the bathroom," I said.
"I don't care where you were! You are responsible for always being at that desk."
I considered getting a bedpan to keep under my chair, or quitting. Because Nancy was going to work on a film in Canada, I decided to stay put for the summer.
Up north, Nancy hired a Canadian assistant, Jackie. Jackie and I became cordial, discussing Nancy's needs by phone. One morning, Jackie broke down.
"Do you hate her too?" she sobbed. "She made me peel her hard-boiled eggs. When I handed them to her, she said `You peel them.'"
"She's about to be kicked out of her hotel," Jackie continued. "She cursed out the manager in front of kids. He asked her not swear in front of them, and she yelled, `I don't [colorful expletive] care about the children!"
"Well that's surprising," I said.
"So you know she's . . . ?"
Entertainment industry assistants receive instructions by listening in on their boss' phone calls. It was immensely time-saving and extremely impersonal. If I wasn't on a call and missed an important bit of information, I got screamed at. But it was also how I found out that my romantically unattached boss was pregnant. After breaking the news to a colleague, she said: "It won't affect the timing of the movie!" The next thing she said was: "Nobody knows. I hope my assistant isn't listening!" Too late now.
She eventually told the movie star who owned the company, saying she planned to work right up until the birth and return "immediately thereafter."
"Does she think a baby is something you pop out and stick on a shelf next to your Oscar?" I said to Jackie. "Not that she has one."
A bit later, I e-mailed my resignation so she couldn't call and scream.
"You committed to working here for a year," Nancy wrote back, adding that she would sue to keep me in the job. I didn't care.
That Friday, I left half an hour early (7 rather than 7:30) to head out of town.
"Why are you not at your desk?" she yelled when she called at 7. "You didn't ask permission to leave. You absolutely cannot do this again."
I'm already gone, I wanted to say. Now I'll dish for a book deal: "The Devil Wears a Headset."