A legendary songwriter’s assistant is determined not to make the same mistakes twice. 2,668 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
Throughout dinner I listened to the veteran songwriters discuss their craft. They had both written hit songs for the Troubadours. They described composing straight from the heart and then handing the songs to one of the most famous bands of all time who imbued them with their signature style. The songwriters would struggle when performing their songs in public. They wanted to perform their music as they had written them but the audience, naturally, would want to hear the songs as they had come to know them through the Troubadours.
I was fascinated by the conversation, feeling like a fly on the wall of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, when a distracting image crossed into my peripheral vision. Reflected in an oversized mirror on the wall across from our restaurant table was my ex-boyfriend Leo Sing, hand-in-hand with his new working actress girlfriend. They were walking toward a table.
Gaping, I watched them join Leo’s agent, his manager and his assistant — his usual entourage.
Leo was a half-baked film and TV screenwriter who had used his exotic looks, charmed breeding and Cambridge elitism to finagle his way into the entertainment biz. He surrounded himself with power players and fit right in very successfully — even though, in my humble opinion, his talent was somewhat lacking .
Our first date had started and ended at Leo’s gorgeous home way up in the Hollywood Hills after an evening of fine wining, dining and martinis. Leo had laid eyes on me at a party six months prior and decided without reservation that I was the next Monopoly property he would acquire. When he invited me to go out with him, it hadn’t occurred to me that a lady deserved to be fetched from her apartment as opposed to be beckoned to a gentleman’s home. When I saw Leo’s house and his view of the twinkling city lights, it became clear that he was making sure I knew how lavishly he lived. After dinner, Leo chivalrously held my hair away from my face while I puked in his porcelain toilet. He carried me to his bed, coaxed my knees apart and proceeded to have sex with me although I had protested. I slurred “no” repeatedly while slipping in and out of blackout. I was even wearing my “there-is-no-way-I’m-having-sex-tonight underwear” but that hadn’t seemed to bother him. The next morning I was mortified, but I could only blame myself. Of course it had been my fault. I was sloppy. He was fancy.
The young assistant reluctantly grows closer to the veteran songwriter mentoring her. 1,697 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
Unspoken words screamed between us when I picked up Jake curbside at Burbank airport after his trip up north. I had never responded to his evocative email and It hung heavily in the air. We had a quick sushi meal, then he commanded me to drop him at his Hollywood bungalow without saying much at all. There was no communication over the weekend or on Monday. I worried that my lack of openness had pushed Jake away. Did I blow my shot with him? What about my job? It made me want both more.
Tuesday morning I held my breath until around eleven when Jake finally called. I jumped for the ringing phone.
“Hello?” I tried not to sound eager.
“How about you pick me up for lunch and then we get on with what we do?”
“Yes, I’ll be there by noon.” I sighed relief.
We resumed our usual songwriter/assistant deeds as our work week got rolling. There was an acute sexual tension inherent to our escapades. We had a blast running errands and laughing. Halfway through the day, Jake took the wheel and drove my car toward the Los Angeles County Museum Of Art. A new Modigliani exhibit had opened and Jake had added it to our work agenda.
“Now I know one of a songwriter assistant’s duties is to take field trips to museums,” I teased as Jake parked. “I’m learning as we go.”
Rule #2 for showbiz assistants: don’t bed a stranger instead of the man you love. 1,927 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
I walked into my apartment like a zombie.
I knelt on the floor of my bedroom. Stared at the wall. The SoCal summer sun sank outside my window. I watched shadows shift. Jake would not leave my mind or my body. He had taken over.
I had not managed the effort to switch on the light. Now shadows faded into darkness. My thoughts crashed. My power of denial faded. I absolutely loved him and I hated myself for it. I hated him for it, too.
“Why, why, why?” I asked the empty room.
I dropped my head into my hands. The moment solidified. I was head-over-heels in love with Jake Easton — a songwriter older than my father would be had he lived — and my resistance was circling the shower drain as I let the water run. I pulled myself up, out of paralysis, and dressed. I fetched my purse, walked to my car in a daze and drove the two blocks to The Brentwood, my local Regal Beagle.
Rule #1 for showbiz assistants: don’t fall in love with the boss. 1,416 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
Jake Easton caught me in the middle of a mani-pedi at the nail shop. I pulled one hand away from the manicurist to answer the phone.
“Listen, on your way to my house, I need you to stop by Aida Thibiant for me.”
“Aida Thibiant,” he pronounced with an arrogance that sent daggers through me. “It’s a spa in Beverly Hills. I’ve ordered a bunch of skin and hair products that need to be picked up. There’s a sale so I decided to go to town for the best that money can buy. It’s the stuff I used back when I took good care of my skin. Also, I need you to book me a facial and a massage with the receptionist. Her name is Jenny. Make the appointments for Saturday morning. Nine for the massage with Bridget and ten for the facial with Lauren. Do you have a pen? I’ll give you the address.”
This guy annoys the fuck out of me. He’s a 58-year-old legendary songwriter/recording artist who’s written tons of hit songs for notable artists on the seventies Laurel Canyon music scene. As well, Jake has enjoyed a pretty successful acting career over the years. Also, he’s a notorious ladies man/lothario who has been romantically linked to a plethora of beautiful iconic female singers. By contrast, I’m thirty years younger than Jake and hired to transcribe his lyric journals for an upcoming album, but also to perform unclear personal assistant tasks. I’m a struggling actress/writer and still hopeful that working for Jake will be my ticket into the Hollywood elite.
“No,” I snapped. “I don’t run around with pen in hand waiting for you to bark orders at me. Sorry.”
She wants to make it in showbiz. But not by temping for the powers-that-be. 3,386 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.
I sit at a desk in a poolside cabana at a fairytale Spanish style estate in Bel Air. Platinum record plaques litter the walls, bragging. This cabana is the home office of the assistant to veteran record producer Matthew Vaughn. I am an undercover rock star (like Hannah Montana, only a little longer in the tooth) or so I’d like to believe, but I’m dripping with passionate stage fright. If only I could get on that stage. I could be somebody. Meanwhile, I’m a temporary assistant to the powers-that-be in the entertainment industry, while I “develop my writing and artistry.” That’s my pitch, but it’s getting old. My life is a dichotomy. A nightmarish fantasy. A fantastic nightmare.
This is the second consecutive Monday I am on this particular assignment — a two-day gig that terminates at 6:30 pm. It’s 11:23 am. I wonder what will come out if I write all day as a way to pass the hours. Oh, the hours. Springtime sun rays filter through lush tree foliage over the Spanish tile pool, through French doors, across the desk and glare off my laptop screen. It’s pretty. This place would be heaven if only it were mine. If only I were more than a temporary assistant living a temporary life.
I have been assisting entertainment types for twelve years now. I’ve also written a novel, multiple TV pilots, a feature, endless songs. I’ve come close to success. I’ve tasted it. But it’s never more than a taste on the tip of my tongue. None of my dreams have come true and the only bankable skill I have developed since college is the skill of assisting the powers-that-be in Hollywood. I know how to get them exactly what they want, no matter how ridiculous or seemingly impossible, on the triple. It’s a skill I’ve honed to near perfection, one many people around the world might think they would kill for. But it isn’t feeding my soul anymore.