LOS ANGELES — Heather Howard knows a thing or two about stars behaving badly. As a personal assistant to Hollywood’s A-list for over 20 years, she’s witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly, and lived to tell all in her first novel, “Chore Whore: Adventures of a Celebrity Personal Assistant,” published this month by HarperCollins.
For anyone who’s ever perused the tabloid headlines and wondered how much of the sensational celebrity gossip is true, Howard simply says this: “They’re pretty on it. When I stand in lines and read those, I go, ‘Yeah, I was there for that…That’s true…That one happened.’”
Of course, being a novel, each character is fictional, but over breakfast one recent morning at the aptly named Newsroom Cafe, Howard claims 90 percent of it is factual, including trips to buy guns for clients and even being asked to watch their threesomes. While she’s refused to name names throughout her two decades as a celebrity assistant, it’s safe to say that the novel means her career is now in flux.
“I don’t think my current job and the book are going to go down the same road together, so I’m planning to wrap up the personal assisting,” she notes. “As soon as I gave notice to some clients, the bargaining began, and they talked me into staying a few extra days. But I didn’t mention the book to most of them.”
Howard, 42, literally stumbled upon her first job while she was a student at UCLA working part-time as a housekeeper. “I was emptying the garbage and a UCLA Bruin [the school paper] fell out and there was an ad that said, ‘TV star looking for personal assistant.’ Apart from wanting to earn money, I wanted to know who it was.”
One job led to another and Howard’s reputation for being able to find the perfect birthday present for Steven Spielberg and whip up the perfect vegan dinner party garnered her an A-list clientele. Indeed, she juggled myriad heavy hitters at one time. She once turned down a job offer from Jennifer Aniston out of allegiance to one movie star whom she’d been with for 12 years. But she found that loyalty isn’t exactly reciprocal in Hollywood: After once losing 60 percent of her income when said movie star ceased to give her any work, the former English Lit major began to consider the idea of a book.
This story first appeared in the April 19, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“The voice inside started saying, ‘Is that what you want to do with your education? Use a toothbrush to scrape the dog poop off the bottom of peoples’ shoes and shop for edible underwear? If the National Enquirer is so interested, why wouldn’t people be interested in a book about this job?’” she says. While Howard will miss the frequent runs to Hermès, Armani and Harry Winston for her clients, she’s looking forward to a chore-free life, apart from catering to the whims of her 10-year-old son. “What I’m doing right now, sitting here having breakfast, never used to happen. I’m finally ready for some me time.”