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Office Aces | WENDY SCHNEE

'I Have to Keep That Confidential'

April 22, 1998|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They're managers, technicians, associates, coordinators, executive assistants--a reflection of their growing responsibilities.

They're the glue that keeps it together.

They hear it all.

They know it all.

They guard it all.

And, today, their bosses will salute them in the annual celebration known as Professional Secretaries Day, an idea originated in 1952 with Mary Barrett, president of the National Secretaries Assn., founded a decade earlier.

Today, the group is called Professional Secretaries International--the Assn. for Office Professionals. And the Kansas City, Mo.-based group is working harder than ever to change the public and workplace perception of secretaries.

No longer are the 3.4 million secretaries known merely for "taking a letter" or identified by the "S" word in a job title. Sure, they file, answer phones and occasionally make coffee. But take a closer look. They're also supervising, training, managing--and likely to be more Internet savvy than anyone in the office.

All this and they never get sick.

Here are three worthy of the title of Secretarius Honorarius.

Call her the Ultimate Queen of Discretion.

Wendy Schnee won't mind. As the executive assistant to Alberto del Hoyo, general manager of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Schnee--with her BHH-crested note pad and pen at the ready--is counted on to keep secrets.

Pssst. Come closer.

This girlfriend has the goods on just about anyone who's anyone in Hollywood. Random House, are you reading this?

For instance, before a celeb, head of state, rocker, politico, Oscar winner or royal family member checks in, Schnee--an elegant, soft-spoken woman who wears Gucci to the office--is among the first to get a call.

After all, she is the BHH's First Secretary.

"They really want to be private," she says.

Schnee, who has been at the hotel for four years (and proudly says she was recruited from the Regent Beverly Wilshire), recalls when a studio executive called ahead and gave her a list of his party's special requests: specific foods, linens, pillows, colors, china, crystal, magazines, flowers--and other confidential matters too private to utter.

No request is too small for Schnee and her assistant, Gillian Wah. Even whole rooms of furniture are switched out at a moment's notice.

"His request was five pages long--things they would like to have in their suite upon their arrival," she says.

Who was he? we casually ask.

She laughs.

"Now, now," she says. "I have to keep that very confidential. That's our No. 1 priority: confidentiality. I don't even share this information with my husband."

As the executive assistant, Schnee is the eyes and ears of the BHH. And though her job includes coordinating del Hoyo's day, meetings, business trips and whatever comes up in between, it's her unofficial role as the Bev's ambassador of goodwill that she enjoys most.

She often strolls through the lobby greeting guests, chatting them up poolside or at the Polo Lounge. Celebrities use aliases when they check in, she says, "so I have to play along. It's almost as if we are acting in a little movie." At night she often attends charity balls on the hotel's behalf, going from a business suit to a Gucci gown in the comfort of the executive washroom.

She makes sure that one particular guest always has a vase filled with Ecstasy Roses--bred for and named by that guest--a lavender rose with a cream base that is flown in from South America when she's in town.

Recently, with the boss' approval, Schnee's secretarial duties were put on hold so she could be a personal assistant to a "famous ambassador" staying at the BHH.

For several weeks, Schnee was out and about all over L.A., meeting and speaking with board chairmen and keeping the ambassador's life organized.

These days, she checks in with a royal family that has occupied an entire floor of rooms since October. Back then, she got a 5:30 a.m. call at her home about their 11 a.m. check-in (normal check-in is 3) and hustled into action, taking care of the usual unusual requests.

Are they from Monaco? we ask. Is it the King of Big Screen? Queen Latifah?

Schnee isn't spilling, so we change the subject.

Is George Michael staying there? we wonder.

"We couldn't comment on that."

Right. We know. L.A. Confidential.

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