The compulsively readable and sinfully gossipy tale of five Hollywood personal assistants who band together to turn the tables on their celebrity employers—written by a former personal assistant to a star.
In this wicked, laugh-out-loud debut novel, five miserable souls struggle to make their mark on Hollywood, the city of the soulless.
Rachel, a starry-eyed and clueless Texas transplant accepts a position as assistant to an aging television diva. Michaela has spent years on the casting couch, and the last pilot she almost got, a decade ago, went to that little nobody, Lisa Kudrow. Jeb has been fired from more assistant jobs than he cares to count, and he currently teeters on the edge of insanity under one of the sleaziest agents in Hollywood. Griffin assists a crass A-list manager who has a tanning bed in his office. Kecia, a no-nonsense Pisces pining for love and Krispy Kremes, works for a hot teen heartthrob who is always looking for the next good party—until his ex-con brother shows up at the front door.
Once a week, the assistants meet to commiserate. When the system spits them out, they must learn to succeed through sheer determination, hard-won industry savvy, and luck.
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About the Author
Robin Lynn Williams managed to survive twelve months as a personal assistant to several Hollywood luminaries. When not in therapy or suffering reoccurring nightmares, she enjoys not having a pager, cell phone, or Blackberry attached to her. She is an English/Creative Writing graduate from UCLA and her work has appeared in Biography and the New York Times Syndicate. She lives in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
I feel like I'm in an Old Navy commercial. You know, the ones where there's a bunch of hip minors dressed in similar outfits, dancing around merrily -- as if their lives actually had meaning? Except here, nobody's dressed alike, nobody's dancing, and I'm the oldest one in the room -- by more than a decade.
Everyone in the waiting area turns around and gawks. I raise my hand. "Right here."
Standing up always presents a challenge because the black slim skirt I'm wearing is very short and very tight, so tight I have to sit on the edge of my seat with my knees pressed firmly together to avoid giving away the goods. You see, the skirt is about the size of a washcloth, and it gives the illusion that I'm taller. At a whopping five-two, I need all the help I can get.
I extend my hand to the casting assistant. Stunned by my professionalism, a strange look appears on her pockmarked face. It's obvious that no one ever wants to shake her hand. After all, she is just the assistant. She offers her hand anyway and shakes mine limply. She definitely has to work on the handshake.
What's even more disturbing than the limp handshake, however, is that the assistant looks sixteen. In fact, everyone at this casting call seems extremely juvenile. They belong in a tenth-grade geometry class if anywhere, certainly not here, competing with me.
I can't help shuddering when I think of my own age, but then I quickly put it out of my mind. Bad vibes. I won't let anything distract me. This audition for Coral Gables (or The CG, for those of us in the know) is way too important. I hand the assistant my head shot and résumé.
"Follow me," she instructs, leading me into a barren windowless office that's ablaze in fluorescent light. Great. I can't begin to tell you how horribly pale and decrepit I look under this light. The few tiny lines on my face -- and I stress few -- probably look like they were drawn with a Sharpie fine-point. To make matters worse, one of the bulbs is flickering like a strobe.
A woman and two men sit behind a conference table. In the middle of the room, a young tan guy with highlighted curly hair sits in a chair, flipping through slides. Directly facing him is an empty chair. I study it, trying to figure out how I'm going to ease in and out of it in my tight skirt.
"This is Michaela Marsh," the assistant announces as she hands over my headshot.
"Hello, Michaela," the panel murmur in unison, glancing at the photo. When they look up at me, I smile a perfect I'm-not-desperate smile. And I'm not desperate. Not even a teensy bit. I have classic Southern Californian looks: tan, with blue eyes and shoulder-length blonde hair. Traveling southward, I have perky breasts and a flawless, rock-hard body. I'm basically a midget Tai Bo Barbie. It's definitely too much perfection for one person. Too bad I'm completely man-made. Only the best for daddy's little girl.
The woman clears her throat. "My name's Erin Malone. I'm casting this pilot. On my right is Jason Carr, the executive producer of The CG, and on my left is Bill Bond, head writer."
Both men nod their heads and smile. I smile more broadly -- a perfect, toothpaste-commercial smile filled with white, bonded teeth. And it has the added benefit of stretching my skin just enough to hide the few lines in my face. I had to practice in the mirror for several days to get it just right.
"This is Brandon East, who plays Rico, the lead of this show," Erin continues.
Brandon's legs are stretched out in front of him and he looks bored, stoned, or both. He gives me a nonchalant "Hey."
I hold that winning smile, trying to convey that I'm perfect for the show, which is about a bunch of twentysomething students at the University of Miami. But I'm also nervous, admittedly. I met this same casting director many years ago, at the early auditions for -- gulp! -- Beverly Hills 90210. Will she remember me? Suddenly I feel like Grandma Walton.
"Which part are you reading?" Erin asks. She looks like a Jenny Craig client who cheats. "Celeste or Simone?"
"Either one," I say with a confident smile. "I've memorized both roles."
Impressed, Jason Carr and Bill Bond nod their heads, then the three of them huddle together to discuss the situation. I stand there politely with my hands at my sides and right foot turned outward. This is the classic beauty contestant stance. I learned it when I Jon Beneted my way through the Miss Southern California pageant. Please don't get me wrong. I believe, as strongly as the next educated person, that pageants are unnecessary, demeaning, and extremely cheesy. And I'm almost sure Michelle Pfeiffer felt exactly the same way. But look what pageants did for her.
Every few seconds, the threesome look at me in wide-eyed wonderment, then return to their discussion. Now I'm really freaked. They're trying to decide if they've seen me before. That could be because I'm a working actress, as opposed to nonworking, thank you very much. My credits include guest shots as Jerry's girlfriend on Seinfeld, a district attorney on Law & Order, Hooker #3 on NYPD Blue, and a host of commercials -- including Denny's, Pizza Hut, Miller Lite, and Playtex. I hate to rendezvous in the Land of Negativity, but there should be something else on my résumé that's not. It's too painful. I costarred in a little TV pilot once. I had been in countless pilots already, but NBC actually picked this one up for thirteen episodes, and everyone knew it was special. Here's the part that sucks, though. Two weeks before the season premiere, the producers told me they were going in a different direction -- which in L.A.-speak means, Bend over, this is going to hurt. They said they envisioned another "look" for the character. They wanted someone taller, with longer hair. So I had to call everybody I've ever known and tell them I wasn't playing Phoebe on a new show called Friends. A week later I was on Prozac ...The Assistants
A Novel. Copyright © by Robin Williams. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was my surprise hit of last summer's reading. This read like a fun Hollywood movie that I would go see. I loved it.
It is almost impossible to put down this show-biz tale, told from a slightly different angle. Here the long-suffering assistants to demanding Hollywood phonies tell their tales of abuse and redemption. Desperate to please and willing to put up with almost any mistreatment in order to further their own careers, the five assistants here finally reach the breaking point and begin to turn their lives around in ways both poignant and hilarious. The book makes the interesting point that sometimes the harassed victims become just as bad as their abusers if they themselves manage to achieve success!
Rachel leaves her hometown of Sugarland, Texas; to follow her dreams of becoming a Hollywood screenwriter; she settles on working as a personal assistant to sitcom star and Betty Ford Clinic failed ¿alumni¿ Victoria Rush. Michaela, an almost thirty over the hill wannabe, mentors the transplanted Texan though her expertise centers on sharing a couch with her agent that has led to nowhere but his couch. Assistant Jeb has been fired more often than a federal whistleblower, but now works for off the wall agent Randall Blume. Kecia toils for black teen heartthrob Travis Trask. To keep his job, Griffin pretends to be gay because he works for heterosexual phobic Johnny Treadway; that fails to stop his boss from pooping on him especially when he cannot get Travis to star in a werewolf version of Catcher in the Rye because the homeboy prefers basketball to baseball.......................... Once a week, the abused assistants meet to share their misery. Still each hopes to make it vowing to be kind to newcomers if they do (none of them think in terms of when anymore). Everyday they pray that Hollywood never grinds them into mush....................................... Though this Hollywood exposé starts slowly to introduce the ensemble, once the players appear, the story line moves rather quickly through the gyrations of humiliation that the quintet suffer at the hands of their superiors who forget they once wore these moccasins. The plot combines humor and angst as it lays bare how ugly those in power can be towards those beneath them. Fans of Hollywood tales who gives Robin Lynn Williams¿ novel a chance to accelerate will appreciate this fine depiction of Hollywood at its worst........................... Harriet Klausner
Hilarious is obvious, I just laughed out loud reading this book! It's shocking because I just cannot believe that people actually live like this! I really couldn't put this book down, from the sublime to the ridiculous, every turn of the page was exciting! And the best part - you were really rooting for the assistants and the end doesn't disappoint! The Assistants is a great read!
Have you ever had a boss you couldn't stand? Have you ever wondered why you ACTUALLY performed some of the tasks your boss requested? Have you wanted to tell your boss just how you felt? For those of us who are or who have ever been assistants, this book will be more than enjoyable & entertaining. You will laugh-out-loud while at times sympathizing with the assistants and at other times feeling shocked by them. I became engrossed with wanting to know how each assistant's life would unfold. And, because The Assistants is written in such a contemporary fashion, you will enjoy all the clever anecdotes the author conveys. I found The Assistants to be highly enjoyable, funny, clever, racy and lively! A Must Read!!
Have you every laughed so much you assume things can¿t possibly get any funnier, but they do? Well, The Assistants is able to achieve this rare phenomenon. The novel had me completely intrigued and captivated up until the very last sentence with its brilliant and witty writing. I found myself genuinely caring for the five main characters and their tumultuous relationships with their eccentric bosses. I was able to identify with every distinct assistant on some level. Robin Lynn Williams allowed me to have a glimpse of the complex and insane, yet unique, individuals that frolic throughout Hollywood. The characters are so vivid and memorable that when the fun is officially over, I wish I could spend more time with The Assistants.
For those who are intrigued by the stars of glitz and glamour world of Hollywood, The Assistant is indeed the novel for you. Ms. Williams delivers a revealing story of the young assistants who cater to the rich, spoiled, delusional stars who are their bosses. Although the assistants work hard and are often humiliated on their jobs by the unappreciated idols and icons, their experiences enable them to define what is really important in life and to maintain their morals. This is a page-turne and a perfect escape for a day off or a weekend read. Anyone who begins reading it will find it hard to let go of the lives of the assistants whose lives are surrounded by sexual scandals, chaos, drama and humor.