A Hollywood Assistant Dishes on the Groveling, Posturing and Ego-Saving Fibs Involved in Booking a Power Lunch
A former aide to a top TV exec reveals the high-pressure (but low-level) negotiations ("only suggesting places that were equidistant from [two power players'] respective offices") and manipulations of planning an industry pow-wow: "If I hit a total roadblock with a restaurant … I'd sometimes say the place was closed for a private event and pray that my boss didn't hear someone else had dined there that same day."
Scheduling a lunch for the high-powered TV-exec boss I worked for about two years ago, I'd have to work closely with the assistant to whomever my boss was meeting — we'd make sure to avoid bruised egos by only suggesting places that were equidistant from their respective offices. After a while you get a feel for who wants what and who has more power. If my boss was doing someone a favor, I'd make arrangements purely on my boss' terms.
When hard-to-book places were requested — both Mozzas were always impossible, and getting a table at BLD at that time was, shockingly, always a nightmare — I often had to work the phone and really charm the manager or hostess of the venue. I'd have to do the same to score a prime table, which was just as important.
The nightmare was having your boss shown up in any way — as in, he or she is having lunch with a subordinate while a colleague is dining with talent or a high-level exec at the next table. My boss had an outward-facing position that dealt with talent and events, so I'd use that and try to sell the restaurant on why it would behoove them to provide a great table.
For places that didn't need any help in maintaining their power status, like Cecconi's or Chateau Marmont, I would sometimes call the day of the lunch — an hour before my boss wanted to dine — and pretend I had made a reservation weeks before, doing my best to convince the restaurant it was their fault and force them to squeeze my boss in. If I hit a total roadblock with the restaurant and didn't want to hurt my boss' ego, I'd sometimes say the place was closed for a private event and pray that my boss didn't hear someone else had dined there that same day.
It's all a keep-up-with-the-Joneses mentality: Execs always want to be at the hot new restaurant or be seen with the right people. It's up to the assistant to really know how far their boss' own contacts can get them. L.A. eateries probably know more about the Hollywood hierarchy than most industry veterans.
This story first appeared in the May 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.