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City of Angles

The List--Where Hollywood Dreams Begin

April 22, 2001|ANN O'NEILL

Good-looking 20-something crack addicts needed for Fox reality series "Peer Pressure Island." Chance to work with kids; please bring self-background check and packed bag to interview. Fax resume, head shots and forearm shots to Bethany.

--From a spoof of the United Talent Agency's jobs list

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The United Talent Agency's jobs list is such a big secret that the agency won't even confirm or deny it exists. But it's an open secret, and we have a copy in our hot little hands.

Most postings on the agency's list are for secretaries, gofers and messengers. At $500 a week, the pay surely stinks. Still, the weekly jobs sheet is among the most coveted documents in wannabe Hollywood. If you're lucky enough to have it, everybody wants to be your friend.

Who knows--you could wind up working for Madonna or Demi Moore or Mimi Rogers, all of whom have used the agency's list, sources say. And in Hollywood, where fame and fortune can be either a heartbeat or a lifetime away, access to the big names is everything.

Having the list shows you're in the loop. You belong. "The fact that you get the list means you're an insider, not some yahoo getting off the bus from Oklahoma," said one list addict.

"The list is an underground sort of thing. It's a little bit more of an insider track," agreed Swanna MacNair, 25. She works for a production company executive, a job she found through the list. Now, she's using it to advertise for someone who can work both as a production assistant and play one on a show about production assistants. "It's a tough market," MacNair said. "We've seen about 90 candidates so far, and we're still getting tons of resumes."

Producer's assistant Juvey Eday, 28, found his job through the list. Like MacNair, he has remained loyal. "It's the first place we put an ad for a job," he said.

"I love it. It's great," cooed Alex Newman, a 29-year-old casting assistant for the Warner Bros. television show "Murphy's Dozen." "It's a security blanket. It tells you what is out there."

UTA's jobs sheet, with about 250 listings each week, is so hotly sought that the agency's list master asked us not to identify him. He already gets 15 unsolicited calls and 30 e-mails a day from desperate job seekers and can't deal with more. He distributes the list, which is free, to about 100 agents' assistants at the talent agency. But via fax machines, e-mail and word of mouth, it reaches many more. A friend tells a friend who tells a friend.

Some recent postings:

* Assistant for Beverly Hills Socialite/Charity founder needed. Candidate must be able to multitask effectively. $500/week.

* Wife of music executive seeks full-time personal assistant/runner. Candidate must be female and energetic . . . . Must have reliable car and knowledge of the Los Angeles area. Nonsmoker.

* Legal assistant in business and legal affairs--music company. Requires: organization; motivated . . . No wimps please.

Not exactly your dream job. But, MacNair points out, you have to consider the big picture: "A lot of these jobs are like boot camp, and if you can't take it, you'll probably move home in six months. If you survive and still like it, Hollywood is a place where you can do anything."

The list has become such a cultural fixture that it has inspired a parody that's making the rounds of Hollywood's sub-economy of drivers, receptionists, secretaries and MAWs (models/actors/waiters). The spoofer, who goes by his e-mail handle, Luckless23, calls the job seekers "industry slaves" and thinks employers take advantage of the young and star-struck.

"Hollywood big shots know that everyone would kill their mother to get a job," he said. "They know the job is horrible but that no matter how little they pay, the draw of the entertainment industry is so strong."

As for a job leading to a big break? Dream on, says Luckless. " 'Interns wanted at an entertainment law firm.' What are you hoping? That Marlon Brando will come into the law firm for a divorce and you just happen to give him your manuscript?"

Possessing the list offers no guarantees. A friend at Miramax slipped it to Rebecca Penrose, 30, shortly after she touched down from Ohio three years ago. "I sent out resume after resume after resume," Penrose said. "I got three calls back. And I was looking for very low-level jobs. Anything to get the foot in the door."

After six months, she gave up. "Regardless of what they tell you the job is, it's not the job," said Penrose, who finally found work at an Internet company. "Even if it says that you're going to be someone's executive assistant, all of a sudden you're taking their dog to the vet. One day I just woke up and thought, 'Why should I be someone's assistant? I'm too smart.' "

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