I used to be a Hollywood personal assistant — and the job isn't nearly as glamorous as you might think

via ShutterstockBecause of my dreams of moving up to greater heights in ‘the biz,’ I put up with it.
  • Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff used to work as a personal assistant to Hollywood’s rich and famous.
  • He put up with the idiosyncrasies of his bosses to move up in the business.
  • In this particular instance, that meant dealing with his boss’s drama, even in the middle of family emergencies.
  • His boss, the actress, will be referred to as EFA (extremely famous actress.)

The following is excerpted from “Where’s My F*cking Latte? (and Other Stories About being an Assistant in Hollywood© 2007 by Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff.

I was the fifth assistant my boss the EFA (extremely famous actress) ever had. The very first one she hired must have been some kind of saint/miracle worker because everything I ever did was held up to comparison. To make things worse, my boss was still close to the first assistant, now a successful talent manager, who called on occasion and spoke very condescendingly to me about how things should be done.

Because of my dreams of moving up to greater heights in “the biz,” I put up with it. It’s called, “paying your dues.”

Last year, I was woken up at four a.m. by a phone call letting me know my grandfather had suddenly passed away. I say suddenly because although he was seventy, he’d been in great health. He ate right, played tennis three times a week on two reconstructed knees, and was known to go dancing on Saturday nights. I was devastated. My grandfather practically raised me. He was the one who encouraged me to go to Hollywood after college to live my dreams when everyone else back home told me I’d be better off staying in Michigan and finding a husband. As soon as I got off the phone with my aunt, I sat bawling my eyes out until I could gather myself enough to call and book a plane ticket home.

I was at LAX by six and had checked my bags when it dawned on me that I had to let my boss know what had happened. I knew I couldn’t call her at home at this hour so, as best as I could, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I left a message on the office voicemail.

Because of the stopover in Phoenix, my plane didn’t land until close to two p.m. L.A. time. When I couldn’t find my aunt at the airport, I turned my phone on to call her. My message indicator told me I had voicemail. Thinking it was my family, I checked it. It was my boss.

“Where the hell are you?” she was asking me. “I’m in the car on my way to a meeting in Santa Monica and I can’t remember the address.”

Suddenly, I realised she probably never went into the office. She never got my message. I was about to call her when my aunt showed up. As soon as I saw her, she threw her arms around me and we both cried like babies right there in the airport.

Once we got in the car, my aunt began talking about everything. About how she’d just seen my grandfather yesterday and he looked fit as a fiddle. About how he just died in his sleep, peacefully. Suddenly, I remembered I was going to call my boss. I dialed her cell phone and because of spotty reception, I was cut off twice before I could get the chance to tell her what had happened.

Bill Pugliano/Getty‘I’m in Michigan,’ I told her. There was silence on the other end.

“Sweetie, that’s terrible,” my boss said.

“I’m in Michigan,” I told her. There was silence on the other end. I thought we’d been cut off again.

“Hello?” I asked.

“I’m here.” I could tell my boss was annoyed. “You should have told me you were going to be out of the office.”

I explained to her that I’d left a message on the office voicemail.

“But I never check that,” she said. “That’s what I have you for.” After a long sigh: “I wonder what other messages are on there that I missed today?”

I could see my aunt was giving me looks from behind the wheel. I wasn’t sure if she could hear my boss’ voice coming from the earpiece.

“I’ll check them and let you know,” I told my boss.

I dialed the office voicemail and after my message there were three others. One was from my boss’ agent. He was trying to set up a lunch for him and her to get together. My boss didn’t take too kindly to the fact she’d missed this call. I told her I was pretty sure he meant lunch a couple of weeks from now. She made me call him back in L.A. He was out so I gave the assistant my cell phone number. When I called my boss back to say I’d left word, she asked when I’d be returning to my job. I told her I wasn’t sure. I’d just gotten here and didn’t even know when the funeral was. When I said that out loud, I burst into tears. My boss told me not to worry.

When I got to my aunt’s house, the rest of my family was already there. I’d no sooner dumped my bags, when they started barraging me with questions about my boss. An older cousin of mine, who had always been a big tabloid reader, began hounding me about every single rumour she’d read to the point that I had to keep ducking her. One of my best friends from high school, who now taught special education kids in our hometown, found out I was home and came over. We sat in my aunt’s backyard, smoking cigarettes and crying our eyes out. I asked a thousand questions about her job since I didn’t feel like thinking about anything having to do with my life. Sometime around the third cigarette, she asked:

“So, what’s she really like?”

I thought about it for a second. “Horrible,” I told her.

“You really should move home,” she said. Even though I couldn’t stand my boss, the thought of moving back here made me shiver.

My aunt was serving up a dinner she cooked for everybody when my boss’ agent called. The reception was awful. He said to tell my boss he wanted to do lunch a week from today. I told him I was out of town, but I’d relay the message. He hung up without saying goodbye. I called my boss and thankfully got her cell phone’s voicemail. I told her about lunch. After that I decided to turn off my phone.

The next morning, I had to go to the funeral home with my aunt to deliver a suit for my grandfather. On the way, I made the mistake of turning on my phone. I had two messages. The first one was from my boss. She was frantic about something.

I called her at home. She was in tears. Her indoor cat had gotten out somehow and was now missing. Along with the housekeeper, she had mounted a search around her neighbourhood to no avail.

“She’s only a baby. She can’t protect herself out there.”

KittenJames Wragg/FlickrHer indoor cat had gotten out somehow and was now missing.

Being that the cat had scratched the hell out of my arms on more than one occasion, I was hoping my boss was wrong. “I wish you were here to help,” my boss said. “When are you coming back?”

I told her my grandfather’s funeral was tomorrow, and that I had a flight booked for Sunday, two days after that.

Silence on the other end.

“Don’t worry,” my boss said. “Everything will be ok.”

When I hung up, I wasn’t sure if she was directing that comment to me or to her, though I had a feeling it was the latter.

The day of my grandfather’s funeral, I was a wreck. During the service, I cried so hard my eyes hurt. Here was the man who encouraged every dream I’d ever had, and I never got a chance to say goodbye to him, or tell him one last time how much I loved him. I was so wrecked I don’t even remember the graveside service at all.

Everyone went back to my aunt’s house afterwards and, because I’d asked her to tell everyone not to bombard me with questions about my famous boss, most people gave me my space. An uncle of mine began telling funny stories about my grandfather, keeping everyone in stitches. Nearly everyone there told me that he’d never die if I kept him in my heart.

Shortly after people began leaving late that afternoon, I answered my aunt’s ringing phone to find my boss on the other end. She’d called directory assistance to track me down.

“Your cell phone was off,” she said.

I told her my grandfather’s funeral had been that morning.

“Well, at least that’s behind you,” she said. She broke down and told me a neighbour had found what was left of her cat. The poor thing had apparently been attacked by a coyote. My boss began bawling.

“I can’t handle death,” she said. “I don’t know how you do it.”

via Shutterstock‘Can you change your flight?’ she begged.

She said there was going to be a memorial service at her house on Sunday and asked if I could be there. I told her my plane was coming into LAX late that night.

Silence on the other end.

“Can you change your flight?” she begged. “I’m going to have a lot of people here.” Her “memorial” was going to be at one, which meant I’d either have to take the red-eye or fly out the next day. Usually, I’m quick on my feet, but I wasn’t in mental shape to talk my way out of it this time.

“It’d cost me a lot to change my flight,” I told my boss.

“That’s ok,” she said. “I’ll pay for it.”

I realised I’d screwed up. I scrambled for an excuse and told her I’d have to check with my aunt because I wasn’t sure if I was needed to go over my grandfather’s estate.

“He couldn’t have had that much,” my boss said. She was right, but I was getting annoyed and I wanted to get off the phone. I told her I’d call her back.

I stormed into the kitchen where I found my aunt going over some of my grandfather’s personal papers. I told her I didn’t think I could go back to my job. My boss was probably one of the most awful people I’d ever met.

Man stressed staircaseFlickr / aaayyymm eeelectriikAuthor not pictured.

“People like that are very lost,” my aunt said. “That’s why they crave so much validation.” In the case of my boss, I couldn’t have summed it up better in one sentence if I’d taken a year to think about it. I told my aunt about what my boss wanted me to do. I said I wasn’t going to do it.

“Maybe she really needs you there,” my Aunt said.

No more than five minutes had passed since I’d spoken with my boss when the phone rang again. I picked it up to find my boss’ former first assistant on the line.

“I’m helping out while you’re gone,” she explained in a passive-aggressive way that was supposed to make me feel guilty. “I booked your plane flight.”

I told her I was still talking to my aunt about whether or not I should stay until Sunday.

“I’ll wait,” the first assistant said.

I covered the phone with my hand. My aunt, who’d heard my end of the conversation and understood what was going on, nodded to me and waved her hand as if to say, “it’s ok, go.” I told the former first assistant that I’d be on the Saturday flight.

In the morning, my aunt took me to the airport. She hugged me and told me it meant everything to her that I’d been home. I cried and promised to see her again at Thanksgiving. When I hugged her goodbye, I couldn’t let her go for several minutes.

7 elevenTim Boyle/GettyBack to work.

I slept nearly the entire flight back to L.A., got my car from long-term parking and made it to my apartment feeling exhausted. I dropped my suitcase on my bed and noticed I had several messages on my answering machine. Two were from my boss, looking for me on the day I left. One, which made me cry, was from a close friend who’d heard the news and was sending her condolences. One was from my aunt telling me again that she loved me and missed me already. The last message was from my boss’ former first assistant.

“(EFA’s name deleted) wants you to get to her house by noon to help set up. And also could you pick up six bags of ice, paper towels and cups?”

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