The Celebrity PA (CPA) is the latest “must-have” job in the secretarial world, with many enjoying at least a few of the perks of an A-list lifestyle. The CPA, according to www.fabjob.com, is in fact “a dream job”. “You get to hang out with famous, talented people,” claims its guide on becoming an assistant to the stars. “In addition, you may go behind the scenes at film shoots, and if your celebrity can’t attend the sold-out sports event, concert or movie premiere, guess what? You do!” Depending on the status of celebrity, huge salaries, generous living expenses, are not unheard of. Oprah Winfrey is reputed to have offered her PA, Beverly Coleman, $1m to remain in her job, while newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell left his secretary, Jean Baddeley, a $150,000 legacy.
Some celebrity bosses are known for being charitable in other ways. Nick Moran, star of ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’, is a case in point. Kerri Davenport-Burton is a public school drop-out who reaped the rewards of an adolescence spent chatting to media types in London’s clubs. Having clinched the job as Moran’s PA through word-of-mouth a few years ago, she has been an invaluable aide ever since. Before you decide to swap your current perks of private healthcare and a pension plan for a more glamorous set by putting pen to paper for Robbie Williams, Brad Pitt or Madonna, beware that the life of a CPA can come at a high price.
Kerri Campos, who started her career some years ago with Glenn Frey, the Eagles guitarist, was asked at her interview if she had a boyfriend, a child or a houseplant she ever needed to get back to. “I said no and he said, ‘that’s great. I don’t want somebody I have to plan my life around’.” Another potential downside to the job is that there are some employers who create tantrums and crises at the mere thought of having to overcome pretty ordinary daily obstacles on their own. “There was one guy who travelled to London and called his assistant who was still in New York at four in the morning her time,” says Kramen. “The toilet paper was running out in his bathroom and he asked would she please deal with it.” Verbal abuse may also be on the cards. Not so long ago, ‘Vanity Fair’ claimed that Harvey Weinstein, head of Miramax Films, once punished an assistant by having him stand before him and repeat over and over again the mantra, “I am a dildo, Harvey. I am a dildo, Harvey.”
Naomi Campbell famously had run-ins with two of her PAs. Vanessa Frisbee accused her of throwing her against a lift door, but was then herself arrested over blackmail allegations, which were later dropped. Another assistant, Georgina Golanis, sued Naomi for beating her with a telephone, punching her and slamming her against a wall. Campbell got an “absolute discharge” which, her lawyer, said was “a finding of guilt with no conviction”. Linda Brumfield, one-time PA to Liza Minnelli, reports a lasting image of her boss freaking out that her trousers were wrinkled. Brumfield got the iron out and Minnelli apparently gasped, “Where did you learn to do that?” Perhaps most important of all key attributes for the CPA is the ability to keep a secret at all costs. Brumfield says that she was fired for repeating an important conversation she had with her boss to the household boy. Angie Peppiatt also paid a high price for refusing to keep a secret for her boss — disgraced British Tory peer Jeffrey Archer. In his famous 2001 trial, she found herself having to face a courtroom of people to explain that she had been asked to create false entries in a blank diary to cover his tracks.
Braden Kuhlman, worked for Sharon Stone, and now assists Dennis Hopper, says: “You do everything from sending the children to summer camp to picking up the dry cleaning. But you also field calls, and that dynamic is really fun.” British celebrities are reportedly more likely than their American counterparts to break the stereotypes. PAs from stars ranging from Boy George to top chef London Marco Pierre White, claim their bosses are generous and more than reasonable. The bad news, then, is that a growing number — including Ewan McGregor, Eddie Irvine and Victoria Beckham — are increasingly opting in favour of employing members of their family.