That's Really a Job?! From Lost-Pet Detective to Gwyneth Paltrow's Book Buyer, the Oddest Hollywood Careers

11:00 AM PST 05/27/2014 by Laurie Pike
Brigitte Sire

There's a niche career to cater to every conceivable A-list need or wish in Hollywood, where people get paid to lead a book-club meetings or shop for quality produce.

This story first appeared in the May 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The Lost-Pet Detective

If not for Sarah Sypniewski, Benderspink's Chris Bender wouldn't have enjoyed the New York premiere of 2013's We're the Millers, which he produced. "Our 7-year-old Tibetan terrier, Rosie, went missing the night before in L.A.," says Bender. "My wife, Kristi, and I figured the premiere would be ruined by us feeling like we had lost a child." Bender stumbled upon Sypniewski's NinjaDog Concepts (ninjadogconcepts.com, $350 to $500 a day). Sypniewski recommended a color flier with an unspecified reward, leaving out some identifying details for positive ID once the dog was found, and using a robocall service that can issue an alert to people in a designated zip code. The next day, Rosie was located thanks to the flier. Bender was luckier than the Oscar-winning actor whose dog was on the lam for a year before he was found 200 miles away. In addition to using a pro animal roper, Sypniewski has mobilized as many as 30 volunteers to comb a neighborhood.

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The Home-Library Curator

Thatcher Wine's clients tend to be people who have a second or third home and want help creating a personal library, not just for books, but also for custom-designed covers in leather, cloth or paper. Take the director who wanted 250 books for the collection on his yacht. He sent a paint sample and the font in which he wanted the titles re-covered. Or the producer who hired Wine to secure 5,000 volumes -- in five languages -- for his getaway in Italy. "They know what they want," says Wine of his clients. "And they have imagination." He comes Goop-approved as well: He and Gwyneth Paltrow have known each other since they grew up in New York, and Wine has picked titles for her homes in New York, Los Angeles and London. His company, Juniper Books (juniperbooks.com), also sells book sets that can be custom printed with jackets that, when lined up, spell out a name or display an image (from around $280).

The Gift Consultant

Simone LeBlanc's eponymous business (simoneleblanc.com) finds presents that help agents keep talent feeling special. Think a wood game set from England or a connoisseur's coffeemaker from Japan, sumptuously gift-wrapped. One present, a $10,000 poker chip, required flying security guards to Las Vegas to retrieve it. At least half of her clients are execs and talent looking for everything from a $150 one-off to 400 holiday baskets from a studio to clients. Says LeBlanc, a former stylist, "People need to give gifts that stay in clients' minds."

The Book-Club Leader

Bookworm Julie Goler never imagined she could get paid to read novels and talk about them over a glass of wine. A Beverly Hills High School English teacher, she moonlights as a book-club facilitator (juliesbookgroups.com). If it seems unclear why such a person, at $450 a pop, is needed for a group of friends discussing the astrological components of The Luminaries, just imagine all the clubs that devolve into chatter about kids and office gossip. "I make sure everyone's involved and engaged," says Goler, who suggests books, preps questions, reads up on writer bios and arranges author visits. About a fourth of Goler's members are in the industry (including ICM Partners' Joanne Wiles, divorce attorney Laura Wasser and Leap Year screenwriter Deborah Kaplan); they're the ones who ask if a book has been optioned and speculate on the perfect cast. Says Trisha Cardoso, executive vp corporate communications at Showtime and a member of one group, "She has an unbelievable knack for finding personal ways into a book."

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The Produce Gatherers

"I'm the omnivore with no dilemma," says Lynn Hirshfield, senior vp publishing and strategic partnerships at Participant Media. Actually, there had been a dilemma. Hirshfield had worked on the film and book Food, Inc. but didn't cook much herself. Produce Project changed all that. "They helped me walk the walk," says Hirshfield, who now fires up her roaster each week after getting a basket of its organic, locally sourced, sustainably farmed comestibles at the peak of freshness. Founders Sarah Delevan and Shaheda Sadhal select the creme de la creme of the Central Valley and offer it up in tidy baskets (ranging in price from $25 to $65) along with recipes, delivered at a mere $5 a pop. They also visit each farm they buy from to make sure the animals graze in pastures and are fed organic fare and that vegetables really are organic. Says Delevan, "We love seeing ladybugs on a farm; they eat the insects you don't want around."

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