KNOCK, KNOCK, WHO’S THERE?
Part One by Fiona
Assistants: the Gatekeepers
One of the most difficult positions that a celebrity personal assistant will get put in (and there are many) is when you are called upon to act as the gatekeeper for your boss. You get to be the messenger of bad news. You know that old saying, “don’t kill the messenger?” Well, from Day One as a celebrity personal assistant, you will be the person with the bull’s-eye on the back of your head. It’s not paranoia on your part. You really will be the bearer of bad news who gets all the blame, from all sides. That’s because, when someone wants to see your boss, who gets to break the news that your boss does not want to see them? You, of course.
You’ll be that terrible person who runs interference between your celebrity employer and the insistent writers, producers, directors, studio heads, and/or wannabe new best friends that call night and day to schedule a meeting, pitch a project or generally ingratiate himself or herself into your employer’s heart. It doesn’t matter that you’re just doing your job. Duh! You’re an obstacle, plain in simple, standing in their way.
Now, while you are professionally and diplomatically making plausible excuses why anyone requesting an audience with you boss won’t be able to speak to/see in person/or get a commitment from him/her today, your boss will be hiding under his or her desk, pretending to be unavailable. I have personally blown off countless studio big shots, actors, actresses, and various people of wealth, power and position, at the request of my employer. I have cancelled appointments at the last minute and made excuses for her when she’s stood people up. They are invariably disappointed, angry, despondent, or insulted that a mere peon like me is standing in the way of “face time” with her. They make it abundantly clear that they resent, maybe even hate me. They blame me for keeping them at bay, like it’s my choice! Although my boss is really the “bad guy” in the situation, I am the only one it is safe to pin it on. And that’s fine.
Being the gatekeeper will not make you popular…
There are people who will see you as the roadblock to fulfilling their dreams. They may try to inflict payback on you at a later date (it’s happened to me) but your role as gatekeeper is a key position in the daily life of your celebrity employer. It’s what you’re getting paid a decent wage for. If everyone who wanted an audience with your boss was granted one he/she would never get anything done! How would your boss learn lines read scripts for possible upcoming projects or otherwise do the things necessary as a performer if he or she was constantly greeting well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) visitors?
BARBARIANS AT THE GATE
Case in point: I have seen perfectly respectable people try to crash the gate. The following scenario happened during a rough period of my employer’s personal life. Just as she was trying to settle things with her STBX (our code for “soon-to-be-ex”) a producer who wanted her to do press for the film she’d done for him showed up unannounced at our office and insisted that he see the boss RIGHT NOW. He stormed the gates with his Mercedes SUV and stalked angrily over to my office insisting that I get my boss to take a meeting RIGHT NOW. He planted himself squarely in my office and no amount of polite persuasion could convince him to leave and return at a more convenient time for my boss. Knowing the events that were transpiring in my employer’s life at that very moment I knew she was too busy with that personal business to care about a public appearance. She was not going to react favorably to this unannounced entrance let alone grant the producer his request in that moment. The simple fact was that by ambushing her the producer hoped to catch her off guard before she could turn down his press request. I knew his chances for a positive response at this sensitive time were greatly diminished by the ungracious way he approached my boss.
After sending a quick email to my boss about the unexpected visitor she asked me to discreetly sneak out of my office and meet her in the kitchen. She pleaded with me to get rid of the producer immediately. She was totally baffled as to why someone would barge onto her property without being asked first or at least giving advance notice. The last person in the world she wanted to see at that moment was a producer. To make a long story short at a later date my boss was eventually ready to sit down with the producer and talk about the public appearance. She even agreed to do it. But she never forgot the tactless way in which she was approached and did not appreciate being forced into it at gunpoint. It’s unlikely that she will want to ever work with that producer again.
The point I want to make is that regardless of what other people may want or even need from your boss your first priority is to protect the interests of your employer in any way necessary. That may range from screening calls to physically preventing an unannounced business associate from bullying their way through the door. In this blog the uninvited “guest” although annoying was not a threat. Sometimes the intruder may not be so harmless.
In my next blog I will cover what happens when a stalker shows up on your celebrity employer’s doorstep. Until then this Fiona wishing you good luck in the wild and wonderful world of celebrity personal assisting. Ciao!