It’s only a week old, but the Tampax Story is already the stuff of urban legend among assistants.
“I worked for a woman who actually said to me, ‘Remind me to put in a Tampax after the meeting.’ And I did,” reads a post on Hollywoodmomentum.com, a website for that much beleaguered breed known as the assistant.
The story later resurfaced on Defamer.com, which spurred a follow-up post about a studio exec who made her minion send birth control to her at Sundance.
Such entertaining excesses can be stranger than fiction in assistant lit, the literary genre penned by underlings who manage to profit from their pain. In the past month, “Girl in Development” by Jordan Roter plus Mimi Hare and Clare Naylor’s new roman a clef “The First Assistant” — a sequel to their debut, “The Second Assistant” — have hit shelves. Both books feature petulant, abusive bosses.
Some people behaved so badly in real life, says Naylor, the stories “would have been implausible” in fiction. Either way, wittily dissected bad bosses sell. The first printing for “The First Assistant” is a healthy 50,000 copies, reflecting Viking Penguin’s high hopes for the book.
Bestseller “The Devil Wears Prada” is considered the apotheosis of assistant lit; the film adaptation opens today. A sample complaint from author Lauren Weisberger, who drew from her stint as an assistant to Vogue editor Anna Wintour: “For one, it involved being in early – in the 7:30 range – which I found unbearable,” she told the Daily News.
Poor Weisberger. Here in Hollywood, assistants can’t even vent about long hours. Many have to sign confidentiality agreements with their employers. And even if they don’t, future ambitions can be enough incentive to keep their yaps shut.
“The good stories are so specific that people don’t want to tell them in public too much because they’re easily traceable,” says Defamer editor Mark Lisanti.
So are entertainment industry bosses behaving better, knowing that their tantrum du jour may be tomorrow’s Web post read around the world? Generally speaking, no.
“People in Hollywood see people at the top levels who’ve achieved amazing success and they’ve behaved as enfants terribles,” says veteran publicist Howard Bragman of Fifteen Minutes PR. “They are awful role models. People still yell. People still throw things. They still make sexist, insulting remarks.”
But, if a tree acts like a jerk and nobody hears about it. . .