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When Your Boss Is a Star

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The salary, the perks, the hazards, the payoffs -- eight inside takes on the personal assistant business.

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Back in 2001, Lucas Crosby (real name withheld), now a film editor in LA, spent two and half weeks as the personal assistant for actor Ben Stiller. In his opinion, it was "two and half weeks too long."

"I'd moved out to LA and needed a job," says Crosby, who had just graduated from Harvard at the time. A friend in the movie business mentioned that Stiller, who was in post-production with Zoolander at the time, needed an assistant. She also warned Crosby that Stiller was known to be a difficult personality. Crosby figured he could handle it. "I was wrong," he says.

The first time he met the actor, Crosby found Stiller "really cool and charming," but it didn't take long for the mood to change.

"On my first day, Ben was off doing something else so I was asked to learn his likes and dislikes ... [In my training] they told me Ben loves a very specific type of Nestea iced tea. It had to be unsweetened, and I was to sweeten it with 1.5 packets of Splenda inside 16 ounces of unsweetened iced tea," says Crosby. "I also had to carry around a blow-dryer and hair product. He was constantly checking out his hair."

During a meeting at the Zoolander sound stage one day, Stiller asked Crosby for the iced tea. "I had some already made. When I brought it in a paper cup, he said: 'Can I get a glass for that?' Then he said: 'Can you fill that glass with more ice please?' and then: 'Can you pour it for me?'

"Finally he went to take a sip and said, 'What the hell is this?' "

So I said, 'What is what?' "

" 'What is this wetness on the outside of the glass?' " he asked.

"I said, 'Condensation?' "

" 'Well wipe it off,' said Stiller.

"So I wiped it off," says Crosby. "I was worried I'd have to wipe it off between sips because it kept coming back, since it was condensation.

"I lied in bed that night with this condensation problem. I couldn't sleep," he remembers.

The next day, Crosby found a fix. He went to Starbucks (SBUX) and picked up 100 cardboard cup holders, stuffing them in the bag with the blow-dryer.

"I'd put the cardboard thing on the cup to hide condensation," he says. "I learned later that his condensation thing was to avoid getting his hands wet. He worries that his hand will be wet and if someone comes in and shakes his hand, they will think he has a sweaty hand."

THE SALARY: As Stiller's assistant, Crosby earned $650 a week with the promise of $1,000 a week plus health insurance after three months. He ended up working 80 hours with no overtime pay.
THE PERKS: "I wasn't there long enough to enjoy the perks, but I got Radiohead tickets. I could tell I could have used his name to get into places and get tickets," says Crosby. He also met Vince Vaughn and Drew Barrymore, stars he describes as "very nice," adding, "Their assistants seemed to have a really easy time."
LESSONS LEARNED: To be a celebrity assistant, "You have to have a thick skin," says Crosby. "It might be useful to have a background in psychology. There is a great deal of psychosis involved."

One other tip for would-be assistants: Learn how to say "No" while saying "Yes", says Crosby. "No one ever says 'No' to [celebrities].You have to get the point across with out actually saying 'No'."
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