A new assistant to a famous actress gets hired only to find out the reality of working in showbiz. 2,354 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
“First off, you’re not going to meet the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl, so let’s just get that little fantasy out of your head right now.”
Clutching her resume, Ally Larson nods.
Nicole sternly continues. “The job is to be my assistant. You assist me. I assist the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl. You get it?”
Again, Ally obediently nods although she really didn’t need the stalker chat. She has no burning desire to meet an actress who’s not Katherine Heigl.
“Seriously, you can forget that fantasy you probably have that you and the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl will be drinking Cosmos while she solves the problems of your love life,” Nicole scoffs.
Cosmos? Ally thinks everything about that screams 2008. Well, aside from the problematic love life. That is still very much a thing with 2016 Ally.
“Whatever,” Ally replies in keeping with the “I love 2008“ theme. “I honestly didn’t come here with any expectations.”
It’s true. Ally wonders if it’s worth confessing that she’s not even a Katherine Heigl fan. In fact, she’d never seen a Katherine Heigl movie with the exception of Knocked Up. Ally opts against it. Because she is sitting opposite a woman who’s devoted her life to an actress who’s not Katherine Heigl. No reason to make Nicole feel like she has wasted her life on the wrong thing. (Even though, let’s face it, she has.) It’d be like telling John Hinckley Jr. that Jodie Foster is a lesbian.
Nicole stares at Ally. “Robert recommended you very highly.”
Robert was a friend of an old boyfriend. The ex who took Ally to see Knocked Up, as a matter of fact. Robert keeps in touch with Ally via Facebook, which probably tells you something about Robert. Of course, Ally was quick to accept Robert’s help in setting up this job interview when she wanted to get into entertainment. So that probably tells you something about her.
“Robert’s nice,” Ally parcels out. She’d gotten enough lay of the interview to realize the job isn’t as competitive as she’d feared and, despite Nicole’s bluster, it clearly is Ally’s to lose. So why say something that could potentially blow it? Her interview strategy is defensive.
“He’s really nice,” Ally ventures. Can’t argue with that.
“How do you know each other, Annie?”
Annie? Nicole couldn’t even get her name right. Okay, maybe Ally isn’t doing as well as she thinks.
“It’s Ally.” She pauses to give Nicole the verbal real estate for an apology that’s not forthcoming. So Ally continues. “Mutual friends.”
Nicole gives the slightest of nods before narrowing her eyes and leaning forward. “Robert groped me a couple years ago. He ever mention that?”
Ally is horrified. Her recommendation is coming from a guy who’d molested the interviewer. Perfect. “God, no. I’m sorry.”
Nicole chuckles and waves it off. “He was drunk at a party.”
Ally takes a sip of water to allow Nicole to pivot to a new topic, but Nicole is as persistent as Robert after a few drinks, apparently.
“So, did he ever grope you?”
“Uh, no,” Ally says, spilling a little water in her rush to stop that rumor from even starting.
“Hmm,” Nicole says, studying Ally. Nicole even leans over a bit to get a glance of Ally’s ass. “Guess you’re not his type,” Nicole snorts.
Job or no, now Ally is pissed. The fact that Nicole could honestly sit there thinking she’s more gropeable than Ally is unfathomable. Ally might not be hot but she certainly is very pretty. And Nicole has eight years on her, easy. Eight hard years. Like, eight Courtney Love years.
Ally takes a breath. Not worth it. Not worth it.
“So the job…” Ally says pleasantly.
“Yes,” Nicole remembers, rearranging two pieces of paper on her desk for absolutely no reason. “I can describe what a typical day is like, but there aren’t any around here.”
Nicole laughs a bit too much at this, Ally a bit too little. Ally hates the way people always go to great lengths to insist their jobs are so hard. Everybody’s job is crazy in their own minds. Ally thinks even the guy working in that deserted candle store in the mall probably comes home at night and tells his wife, “You wouldn’t believe the fucking day I had!”
Nicole shakes her head, reliving the craziness of her life and marveling at how she miraculously pulls it off. “Every day there’s some sort of new drama.”
“Keeps it interesting,” Ally remarks.
Nicole leans forward with a glare that’s make you think Ally was clubbing a seal. “What the fuck did you just say?”
“‘Keeps it interesting.’”
Nicole just keeps staring. So Ally explains her comment.
“The fact that no day is typical… That must keep it interesting.”
“Oh,” Nicole says, slowly leaning back in her chair. She studies Ally.
“So, okay, a little bit about me,” Ally offers. “I spent four years as a paralegal. I liked it but didn’t love it. I just had the realization that it wasn’t for me, you know? There was no one incident. No great epiphany telling me to leave. It was just something that built up over time. So I decided a few months ago that I wanted to shift gears, and I thought going into the entertainment industry would certainly be more interesting.”
“Do you do that a lot, Ally?”
“Just start talking about yourself for no reason.”
“No. I just thought you might…”
“Because it’s all about the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl here. I don’t need a prima donna constantly unloading her personal shit.”
“I simply thought, because it’s a job interview, you might–”
“Let’s just chalk it up to a rookie mistake. You’re still learning the culture.”
“I don’t know that I’d qualify it as a ‘mis’–”
“As I said, Robert spoke very highly of you. Still a little confused why he didn’t want to fuck you, but…” Nicole lets her thought trail off.
Ally lassoes it and drags it back down. “I was with my boyfriend.”
“I was with my boyfriend when I met Robert. That’s probably why he didn’t grope me. No. In fact, I’m positive that’s why he didn’t grope me. If I’d been at the party alone, I’m confident he definitely would’ve grabbed my ass. Maybe even my breasts.”
Nicole rockets forward in her seat. “Ohhhh. I see. So I’m just more available than you are?”
“No,” Ally backpedals, “I didn’t–”
“What, you’re like this unattainable princess in the tower, and I’m what, the town slut?!”
“No. That’s not what I meant.”
“We could call Robert right now,” Nicole says, picking up the phone. “See who’s hotter.”
“No. We don’t have to do that.”
“What scenario do you want to give him? The three of us are on a plane that’s crashing. He’s only got time to bone one of us?”
“It really doesn’t–”
“Or how about North Korea launches a warhead. Californians have twenty minutes to live. You and I are both tied naked to our respective beds. Which one does he want to screw? That sound fair?”
“Please stop.” Ally swallows. “You’re probably right. He just wasn’t interested in groping me, I guess.”
“He definitely wasn’t interested in groping me.”
Nicole nods and puts down the phone.
“Can you start this afternoon?”
And that, kids, is how Ally got her first job in showbiz. Two minutes later, Nicole leads Ally into a small office where a man sits working on a laptop.
“You’ll be sharing an office with Matt.”
Looking at his facial hair and plaid shirt, the only question Ally has is whether Matt was a member of Death Cab for Cutie or a member of a Death Cab for Cutie cover band.
“Hi, I’m Ally.”
Matt takes her hand and exhibits a surprisingly strong shake. Not quite Death Grip from Cutie, but solid.
“So what do you do, Matt?” Ally asks, genuinely curious for the first time all day.
“I handle ‘Foreign Policy.’”
Ally laughs and sighs with relief that at least she’s sharing an office with someone who has a goofy sense of humor.
Matt mumbles, “I’m actually serious. It’s an important job.”
“Hold on, you handle Foreign Policy… for an actress who’s not Katherine Heigl?”
“Yeah, it’s insane. I know.”
“What do you do as the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl’s Foreign Policy advisor?”
“For example, say the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl is going to be at a dinner with George Clooney,” Matt explains.
“Clooney wishes,” Nicole mutters.
Matt lets it slide and proceeds. “Clooney’s very passionate about Darfur. So I write a paper to get the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl up to speed on how things are in Darfur.”
“And how are things in Darfur?”
“Morale’s almost as low as it is around here,” Matt jokes.
Ally chuckles. Nicole sits stone-faced. “That’s not true. Morale’s very good around here,” Nicole interjects. “Tell her, Matt.”
Matt turns to Ally and dutifully says, “Morale is very high around here.”
Nicole smiles and starts for the door, “Okay, so I’ll let you get settled.” She stops suddenly, however, and spins around. “Oh Ally, please tell me you remembered to order the case of Diet Cherry Coke yesterday.”
“The case of Diet Cherry Coke. Tell me you ordered it.”
Ally stares blankly. Nicole takes a menacing step towards her. “Ally, joke’s over. Tell me you ordered it yesterday.”
“But I just started today.”
“Jesus, how did you let this happen?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Ally says, acid churning in her stomach as if she really was drinking a Diet Cherry Coke.
“Oh, Christ! This is a major fuck-up! You should’ve had this done yesterday.”
“I only started 15 minutes ago,” Ally pleads.
Nicole imitates her in a whiny voice, “‘Oh, I only started 15 minutes ago. How could it be my fault?’ That is just classic Ally. Always ready with an excuse.”
Ally looks to Matt. “How is there a ‘classic Ally’ already?”
Nicole takes a deep breath. “The first of every month, a case of Diet Cherry Coke needs to be delivered to the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl’s mansion.”
Matt jumps in, “By the way, Ally, the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl lives in a mansion, not a house.” He then gives a small eye roll meant just for Ally.
“Yes thanks, Matt. Very important,” Nicole says. “In Style once wrote that she lived in a ‘house’ and it was a fucking shitstorm. She lives in a mansion. A MANSION!”
“Mansion. Got it,” Ally replies.
“As far as the soda, fix this!” And with that Nicole was gone.
Ally slowly turns to Matt. “Please tell me what’s going on?”
“The actress who’s not Katherine Heigl mentioned Diet Cherry Coke in an interview once, so Coca-Cola sent her a free case of it. Somehow she got the impression they were going to send her a free case every month. For life. So we send her a case on the first day of each month, so the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl thinks the Diet Cherry Coke people still love her.”
“Okay, I’m on it,” Ally says, reaching for her car keys.
“Also, she hates Diet Cherry Coke,” Matt adds.
“Yeah. So on the second day of each month you need to send a messenger to the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl’s…”
“Mansion!” Ally chimes in quickly, as if she’s a contestant on Jeopardy!
“Very good. So you have the messenger bring it back here.”
“And what do I do with it?”
“Yeah, otherwise it really piles up.”
“Why don’t we just send the same case every month to save money?”
“The actress who’s not Katherine Heigl is a little OCD when it comes to checking expiration dates, so that won’t work.”
“She checks the expiration date of the soda she doesn’t drink?”
Matt nods. “And she’s also obsessed with not wasting liquid while California’s in a drought.”
“Does she understand California’s not in a Diet Cherry Coke drought? It’s water.”
“I know, but during a time of drought she’s adamant that this soda actually be consumed. Nicole’s going to want to see you drinking it, so she can report back to the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl that it is in fact being drunk.”
“Yeah, that’s not too crazy,” Ally scoffs.
Yup, Ally happens to call the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl “crazy” at the exact moment Nicole storms back into the room. “Normally, I’d fire you for that, but I can’t afford to today. We’re in triage! Shit has gone down!”
“What happened?” Matt asks.
“Nothing regarding Foreign Policy, thankfully. Ally, the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl stopped for gas yesterday at the Shell 24 on Wilshire. She ran into a musician who’s not Sammy Hagar.”
“He wouldn’t shut up.”
“So you need to call over and find out if that was a one-time thing or if the musician who’s not Sammy Hagar goes to that Shell regularly.”
“The actress who’s not Katherine Heigl is not going to go back there if it means another awkward conversation.” Here Nicole leans in close to Ally as if relaying some truly sensitive intel, “The actress who’s not Katherine Heigl hates feeling awkward.”
Nicole walks out again. Ally whips out her cell, calls the Shell station and asks if the musician who’s not Sammy Hagar regularly stops there for gas. The man who answers the phone says, “No.”
Ally passes that information along to Nicole who passes it along to the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl who continues to get her gas there. Thus, it’s an unpleasant surprise for the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl eight months later when she again bumps into the musician who’s not Sammy Hagar one morning at the Shell 24 on Wilshire.
The actress who’s not Katherine Heigl again has to exchange small talk pleasantries for a few minutes with the musician who’s not the former Van Halen front man. She is not happy.
And that, kids, is how Ally lost her first job in showbiz.
This short story first posted here on January 18, 2016.