Thursday, January 31, 2008

This One's For Rich

I feel weird sometimes talking frankly about my jobs, not because I'm giving away state secrets or anything, but because the world is a small space and you never know when I might be asking one of you to help me get a job and you'll know what a fraud I am! I promised Rich I'd tell this story, though, and since my confidentiality agreement has run out, I can.

I used to work for a guy who was so rich that he had 3 assistants. I was number 3, number 1 had been with him for ages and number 2 decided to leave at the same time that we were also searching for a butler to head up the homefront for the big guy. Without warning I was sent in to pre-interview candidates. I had never interviewed anyone for anything in my whole life. Telling number 1 that was simply not the right thing to do. She wasn't one for hearing excuses, you were just supposed to get the job done. Questions were acceptable but since I'd never done this before I didn't even know what to ask so in I went. After my first few she got the picture of what basics I needed to know and I figured out what to ask so that I could do the grunt work of checking that there were no unexplained gaps in employment and that the resume made sense in a general way and that the candidate could answer questions intelligently about the information.

That was all just for my Technical Merit scores. For my Artistic Impression scores I had to form an opinion. Luckily, being a writer and an actor, watching people and learning how they tick from relatively limited observation is practically in my DNA. I could always tell whether someone was going to work in the position and why. My whys weren't practical necessarily, usually it was a feeling based on people they resembled. The interview process went on for a long time and we even hired 2 different people who stayed on for short periods. Every time someone left it was clear that it was for the exact reasons I'd said we shouldn't hire them. The butler I vouched for remains on the job, as is the woman who took over my position. They're good eggs. I can't be much more specific than that.

Anyway, at the time of this story we're mid-interview process overall. We're tired, I'm getting resumes every day but also needing to pick up the slack on the job front so I'm not really reading them until I'm walking down the hall to pick the candidate up from reception. One day I pick up a tall, blonde woman named Sidney Biddle Barrows and I hit the interview room with her. We've just begun to speak when there's a knock on the door. It's number 1. This never happened. If she needed me she would have sent for me, not come herself. I went out to find that the receptionist recognized this woman's name and her face and employed Google judiciously while she was waiting for me to pick her up. The second I had her out of auditory range he was gleefully dialing up to number 1.

If you've clicked that link or were paying attention in the 80s (clearly I was not since her name rang not a bell with me) you know that Ms. Biddle Barrows was the Mayflower Madam (check out the price on the used copies). She was the original Heidi Fleiss and, from what I understand, she didn't waste her time with celebs, she went straight to the lower profile big money kinds of guys. Number 1 had been poring over her resume and had found some discrepancies and creative formatting that Google confirmed were covering for the period she spent in jail. Everything is highlighted for me and I'm sent off with the directive to give her a proper interview, because we can't legally dismiss her out of hand, but to make it clear that we won't be hiring her for some legitimate reason because we simply can't have her working with the big guy and all his sensitive information. This is a common thing for me to be asked in these jobs. "Ewe, that's a nasty interpersonal problem, we hate people and their problems, let's send Kizz, she's an actor." And I am, so I go and I try to do it well.

I actually spent a fair bit of time with this woman. By the time I got back I'm sure she knew that the jig was up but we were both committed to the farce by this point so on we went. Part of me wanted to get her to just tell me the truth because I would have found that impressive. The only thing I had to really work with as a legit reason for not hiring her was the missing and scrambled dates on her resume so I did ask, "There seems to be some time missing here, what were you doing then?" And here's where she lost me. She leapt out of her chair and her voice raised an octave as she said, "Is there? Where?" and sat on the desk and made me point it out to her. I don't remember her response but the leaping and the freaking were enough for me. I wish I could remember the title she used for herself during the years she was pimping for high rollers because it was really beautiful and understated, true but not blatant, but that confidentiality agreement took way too long to run out.

We ended up talking mostly about what she was doing at the time. She worked as an office manager on a trading floor in a boutique firm and she hated it, you could tell. Having just experienced the interview process with her, though, I knew that there was no way out of it. She wasn't getting any more book royalties since her name isn't high recognition (just high enough to keep her out of jobs), her madam money was gone, she had to work and yet no one could, in good conscience, hire her at a higher level position and we didn't even get far enough for me to wonder how she worked out the whole felon thing legally. In this kind of job they do background checks, it wasn't like it was going to be kept a secret. It was one of the most interesting and most horrifying interviews I ever conducted and I still wonder where she is now.


  1. I enjoyed that story very much.
    I slightly recognized the name...but now as the Mayflower Madame, but rather from the Biddle connection to the wealthy Phillie family from the musical movie "The Happiest Millionaiere."
    Yep, total dork.

  2. You know, even though I have no personal stake in it whatsoever, I do wonder what happens to these people who kind of fall out of the VERY bright lights they find themselves in for short times. I don't care enough to expend the energy to look them up but, you know, what's Monica Lewinski up to these days, for example, or Gary Hart?

  3. Kind of like going back to a two-some after having experienced the gang bang.
    I am certain that was interesting. Bet she was all straight vanilla now but get a few cocktails in her and she would be entertaining for hours.
    She should do that. Hire herself out as a spare girlfriend for parties.
    Hope she is doing well where ever she is.

  4. Gert, I think hiring herself out as a girlfriend was what got her in trouble the first time. :)