My Photo
Location: Northern California

Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Book Review: You'll Never Nanny in This Town Again

You'll Never Nanny in This Town Again: The True Adventures of a Hollywood Nanny
By Suzanne Hansen (Crown Publishers, 2005)

With the exception of my recent afternoon get together with Andrew Shue, I don't get out much. As a suburban housewife with two toddlers, I've traded in late nights with hot dates for book readings with hot coffee. I get a kick out of dressing up and driving into The City for book readings. And by dressing up, I mean that I put on shoes that aren't caked with playground sand and I pass a tube of lipstick across my lips.

Me and my lipsticked lips and my clean shoes pranced into Books, Inc. a couple of weeks ago. The place was quiet except for the sound of tumbleweeds making their way across the fiction section. "Is there a book signing here tonight?" I asked the cute bookstore girl with the granny glasses and Audrey Hepburn haircut. "Yes, Suzanne Hansen is here signing copies of her book." And she pointed to the back of the store where twelve empty chairs were lined up in three rows. Another intimate evening with the author, I thought to myself as I made my way to the back of the store.

Don't get me wrong. If I had read Hansen's book before the reading, I would have enjoyed an intimate evening with her. Plus she's cute so I would have done the clean shoes and lipstick thing, too. But the problem with an intimate evening with an author when you haven't read her book is that you have no idea what to say to her. I was hoping the other person at the reading--the one Hansen kept calling "Mom"--would have a question or two for her and I could linger unnoticed in the back row.

Hansen's written a book called You'll Never Nanny in This Town Again: The True Adventures of a Hollywood Nanny and I am a huge fan of both nannies and Hollywood celebrity types. Without reading a word of her book, I guessed it was a soft core rant about the hard core life of an underappreciated Hollywood nanny. And wouldn't you know it, I was right.

Hansen grew up in a small Oregon town and decided against going to college after high shool. Instead, she graduated from a nanny prep school and moved to Los Angeles at the tender age of nineteen to become a nanny to the stars. She worked for powerhouse agent Michael Ovitz as well as for Debra Winger and for the family of Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman.

In You'll Never Nanny, Hansen doesn't portray the life of a Hollywood nanny as glamorous. While working for the Ovitzs, she put up with mom and dad Ovitz, two dysfunctional over-emotional egomaniacs, as well as with their three children, who were particularly bratty because they had never had consistent loving care. Instead, they were used to fighting, parental neglect, and material wealth in unhealthy doses. Coming from a loving supportive family life herself, Hansen could never quite grasp why the Ovitzs and their friends even had children in the first place.

"What I couldn't have known was that many wealthy folks are never without hired help for their kids. They arrange their lives so there is a paid caregiver available to them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It had simply never occurred to me that there were people who really didn't want to spend as much time as possible with their children."

Besides being emotionally distant from their children, both Michael Ovitz and his wife also were emotionally abusive to the people who worked for them. They took Hansen for granted and never understood that her salary wasn't generous if they took into account the fact that she basically was on call 24/7, including waking up two to three times a night to feed the youngest of the three Ovitz children.

"I would soon find out that LA is one big ladder. Nannies are the people who sit on the bottom rung, entertaining the kids, while the parents climb."

In order to keep the content current, Hansen's careful in this book not to talk about the era during which she worked in Hollywood, but I'm guessing it was about fifteen years ago. She worked for recognizable celebrities, but I would have enjoyed reading about more recently-made stars. Fortunately for her, she must not have been required to sign a confidentiality agreement, which most nannies and other household help are required to sign today. That's why she can write a book which puts Ovitz and his wife in an unfavorable light and why it's highly unlikely I will ever read a book that reveals what's really going on in the Cruz-Holmes household. Oh well.

I was surprised that so few people were at Hansen's book signing, and I'm sorry that I wasn't better prepared to enjoy the intimate Q & A. We chatted a bit, mostly about selfish Hollywood types who never give their hardworking household help any credit when they're interviewed in People magazine. Her insider perspective was interesting, but now I wish that I had asked her about the process of getting her book published.

At her signing, Hansen casually mentioned that she and her sister had self-published the book. When I got home, I noticed that the book I bought is published by Crown but carries two copyright dates, therefore,she seems to have successfully self-published a book which then was picked up by a major publishing house. That's quite an accomplishment and one I would have liked to hear more about.

If you have a subscription to People or Us magazine or if you habitually pick the longest line in the supermarket so that you can casually glance at Star magazine, check out this book. It's got the big names, it's got the juicy gossip, and it's got a happy ending. It's Hollywood all the way, baby.


Technorati tags: ,