Saturday, 1 October 2011

And.... diva power!

Power is... knowing they can't start without you...
I have been working in the media on and off for over ten years now (spending my "off" periods discovering the delights of bar work, travel and social services) so I've come across my fair share of divas. As a rule, the bigger the star, the nicer they are – it's only the starlet whose first film has gone to her head who is ever any trouble. (And extras, because they are nearly always a little bit mental.)

However, I have now twice been an assistant for a middle-aged woman who appears on a popular TV show, and I can honestly say she is the most bizarre "personality" I have come across. And because I am not going to mention any names, I shall feel free to vent here:  

The first time I was assigned the job of "looking after" the lady in question (let's call her "Mrs Nutsy) the whole crew laughed and regaled me with stories of her last assistant, who had been fired and never seen again. After surviving our first week together, I reflected that, while she had her difficult moments, she was alright really, and I felt quite proud that I had conquered the beast. However, because of "how well" we'd got along last year, this summer I was assigned her case again. (In case you're wondering, we were working for an annual event – no names!) My job basically involved keeping an eye on her, getting her food, and making sure she was in front of the camera at the appropriate time. 

The fun started on the first day when she was half an hour late (in TV, that is a lifetime....) and made the whole green room come to a standstill while trying to decide what to wear. She ranted “SOMEBODY must have some tights!” (Why? You don't!)  then complained that the bosses didn't give her enough work. I wonder why?

Dogged by insecurities, she would ask me asinine questions; “Do I look all old and wrinkled?” Er, yes, actually, you do. And you have NO STYLE! (Working for Mrs Nutsy, I realised that you don't have to be a diva of Mariah proportions to be surrounded with yes men. She got constant compliments on some of her most hideous choices of clothing. I’m sure everybody wasn’t blind.)

When somebody had a birthday, there were cupcakes for everyone. We had the following exchange: 

Mrs Nutsy: "Have one of these cakes!” 

Me: “Ooh, I’m full already thanks. I had jelly and cream for my pudding.”

Mrs Nutsy: "Where’s MY pudding?"

Me: "Oh, sorry, I didn't think you wanted any. I'll get you some." *Goes and asks for jelly and cream at the canteen, which had long closed.*

Upon my return –

Mrs Nutsy: "Oh, I can't have cream."

Me: *Mind boggles* 

Mrs Nutsy: "I thought you said ice cream!"

Me: *Boggles some more* (Isn't it... sort of the same ingredients?)

Later, I ate the last cupcake (at the pleading of the cupcake-bringer who didn't want the last on to get left forever and then thrown away). Mrs Nutsy: "Have you just had that cake? I wanted that one!”

Is it bad that I count my eating of the cake she wanted as the highlight of my week?
I freaking love cupcakes, anyway. Just in case you 
were wondering what to get me for my birthday

I started to think of her like toddler, and tried to adjust my behaviour accordingly. (This came after the memorable occasion when she waited for me to say "Ok, they're ready for you" before announcing that she needed "a wee".)

We were always on an extremely tight schedule, so when we ran late one morning, I made sure that I regularly reminded her “So Mrs Nutsy, you know we’ll really have to rush through lunch, because you’re going live at two o’clock,” and she was all "Yes, that’s fine. I don’t know what everyone’s making such a fuss about.” 

So I got her lunch, ate mine, and left her chatting. Quarter to 2, I went to check on her; “Are you getting ready?” Yes. 

At five to two, when she was called, she said “I CAN’T GO! I HAVEN'T HAD MY LUNCH!” It was actually as if I’d never had the previous conversation with her. Bonkers.

On the plus side, she is so notorious that if I could get her to the right place 50% of the time people will still applaud me for dong a great job.

I have honestly never met anybody with so little concept of time / schedules / doing your job properly. In the middle of filming, she said she’d go to the loo. I had long given up escorting her there and back as this seemed to make her drag her feet even more, but I wasn't surprised when she still took ages. When she returned, she excused herself with “I just had to go and see who won the X award.” Er, we’re all waiting to start FILMING. Do you have any concept of that? WHO DOES THIS?

She constantly whinged about how "TV company which shall remain nameless" don't want her. She just couldn't see the connection between her lack of professionalism and shortage of work.

The funny thing is, she's often held up as an example of how television bosses get rid of older female presenters in favour of nubile young fillies. Fans say "Why can't Mrs Nutsy have the job? It's ageist, I tells ya!' Little do they know what chaos her presence causes backstage. Two sides to every story, after all....

When the job was over and I thought I was free of that croaky voice (I heard one member of the public point her out "Look, there's that woman who always sounds as if she's got something stuck in her throat," which was cruel but accurate) she called me and all but accused me of stealing an award she had apparently brought in to show everyone.

Mrs Nutsy: “Do you remember me showing you?” 

Me: "Er, no, but go on."

Mrs Nutsy:  “Well I did actually.” 

(No she didn't)

After a fruitless few minutes in which I channeled mother energy and asked "Hmm, did you check the car? Maybe it could be stuck in one of your shoes?" Knowing that she had bundled everything up crazily on the last day and couldn't find her arse with both hands at the best of times.

It soon became clear that this was more than just a courtesy call, as she said, in menacing tones, “Well, I’ll have to get the police involved.” 

Me, sympathetically: "Yes, of course!" 

Mrs Nutsy, threateningly:“So, if they call, you’ll know what it’s about.” 

Me, brightly: "Yes, I will. Hope you find it! Byeee!"

Ye gads. How RUDE! 

More recently, I worked as production designer on a film, where an actress in the cast agreed to let us use her flat as a location. Knowing the director liked the plain white walls, she swiftly wallpapered with a swirling design. Hmm, that was a strange thing to do...Oh well, at least we've still got those blinds we needed... Oh, wait. Guess what had desperately needed to be taken down for cleaning? 

Some people really take the passive out of passive aggressive, don’t they?

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