Couple of years ago, on America Has Got Talent, a group of youngsters calling themselves 'Fighting Gravity' wowed the world with their amazing black light act and became an online sensation. Their gravity defying illusions, aided by the use of black lights and phosphorescence effects, keeps only a few performers and props visible, while the rest of the team are shrouded in darkness. The celebrity business is a lot like that. While the star performers soak in all the attention, there are a whole bunch of people who hide in the shadows, working hard at keeping these celebrities in the spotlight. Welcome to the world of celebrity managers and assistants.
Not that it is a world populated with faceless and unsung people, with their stories untold. There are many who have made their claim to fame (and infamy) in the business of keeping the stars afloat and burning. The stories of the lives of personal assistants to celebrities seemingly keep the gossip pages filled it seems. From being an accomplice to their bosses in theft (LiLo, will she ever learn?), to being accused of thieving from their employers (U2's Adam Clayton the latest victim), and being the perennial source of juicy celebrity scandals, the PA's of celebrities are never far from the limelight.
But it is not them that we are concerned about here. Celebrity management is serious business with serious money involved, which means that there are very serious people involved as well. The entertainment business has its fair share of talented people, managers, assistants and agents who are capable of transforming a talented nobody into a somebody (or keep a talentless somebody in business even).
We have had our share of pop-culture manifestations of "behind the scenes" look into celebrity life. Be it the dud film 'America's Sweethearts' or the more successful TV series 'Entourage', we have been so obsessed with celebrity life that we are seeing celebrities being paid to "act like celebrities". Go figure. But the crucial role that agents and managers play in the lives of the stars cannot be underestimated, as in depicted in these shows. Incidentally, one of the most popular character in 'Entourage', the agent Ari Gold, was actually based partly on the real-life Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel.
Of all the craziest, wildest celebrities out there in real life though, Ozzy Osbourne has to be the luckiest. The woman he ended up spending his life with also turned out to be the best manager he could ever hope for. After falling out with Black Sabbath, he very nearly died from alcohol and drug abuse, before his girlfriend and future manager Sharon Arden pulled him out of the downward spiral. As his manager, Sharon Osbourne had a pivotal role to play in Ozzy's eventual success as a solo artist. She is often credited with bringing Ozzy into mainstream celebrity status with the hit MTV reality show 'The Osbournes.'
Not every celebrity gets to marry a good manager or agent. But a good manager might even lead you to your future wife, as it was in the case of singer Peter Andre, whose manager Claire Powell was responsible for getting him out of the wilderness back into the limelight in a UK reality show, where he met his future wife, the model Katie Price.
The Tom Cruise hit 'Jerry Maguire' hits quite close to home about the reality of the agent business, albeit with some generous dollops of sentimentality. Though the movie was about sports, it is still applicable to the entertainment business as well. From spotting a would-be celebrity to reviving the career of a has-been, they are the real movers and shakers behind the beautiful faces and voices that dominate the stage.
While the high powered agents and managers like Ari Emanuel, Jim Wiatt and Richard Lovett run the show in tinsel town for their celebrity clients, there are legions of other people out there taking care of other needs of the stars. While there are many specialized positions like PR agents, fitness trainers, beauty experts, more often than not, none hold a position more important than that of the personal assistant to a star.
While in popular perception, this is often seen as a hellish job, quite akin to babysitting needy, spoilt A-listers, quite often this is not the case. But there are enough people out there like Naomi Campbell and others who give credence to that perception. Films like 'The Devil Wears Prada' have also shown the 'evil celebrity boss' dishing out unrealistic chores to hapless assistants in a humorous way. Incidentally, the film was loosely adapted from a book written by a former assistant of Anna Wintour, long time editor of the Vogue Magazine.
But in reality, in the lonely world of a celebrity, these assistants often give them a touch with reality, and often develop close bonds that develop over extended periods of time. When Bruce Springsteen's long time assistant Terry died in 2007, he wrote a song in honor of his departed friend. Hence, even though celebrity-assistant relationship is a much maligned one in the public imagination, many people do not understand the significance that such professional relationships have in the life of the celebrities.
But then, in the end, who can blame them? The very nature of the business is to show these people in such larger than life figures that it is often inconceivable to imagine them as vulnerable human beings. It is indeed ironic that an industry that aspires to show the best of human spirit and inspire people seems to have a dehumanizing effect as well.