Shortly after college, Lauren Weisberger landed a job as the assistant to Vogue editor Anna Wintour. She worked for approximately 11 months, and then wrote a novel about a girl who after college lands a job as the assistant to a similarly British, infamously cutthroat editor-in-chief of a major fashion magazine, who also has a passion for tennis, two children, and marital issues that end in divorce.
"The Devil Wears Prada" created a monsoon-size stir. After all, a young upstart was giving one of the most formidable figures in one of the most formidable industries a vicious dressing down. But Wintour took the roman a clef fairly well (other than allegedly redecorating her office, which bore an uncomfortable resemblance to Miranda Priestly's), and even attended a pre-screening of the movie in New York.
"Anything that makes fashion entertaining and glamorous and interesting is wonderful for our industry," she told Barbara Walters. "So, I was 100 percent behind it."
The book and movie may have even helped Wintour, upping her name recognition and mystique. And it certainly helped Weisberger, launching the 26-year-old's career as a novelist. According to EW.com, Weisberger is currently working on a sequel to her book. "Revenge Wears Prada" is due out next year.
Andrew Young was so devoted to his boss, presidential wannabe John Edwards, that he claimed paternity of Edwards' love child during the 2008 campaign. The former aide admitted in Edwards' recent trial that he fell in love with the man, and Politico reported staffers as claiming that that the bromance burned so deep that Young was "intensely 'jealous" of others who got close to the former senator.
But things turned sour when Edwards tried to keep the paternity lie going for years longer than he'd promised. In early 2010, Young published a tell-all book -- an ugly, uncensored portrait of the man who could have been the Democratic nominee for president. Edwards slept with videographer Reille Hunter in his wife's bed, Young claims, made a sex tape with Hunter, called her a "crazy slut," and pressured her to abort their child. A month before it hit bookshelves, Edwards admitted that he fathered Hunter's child.
"He was the man who promised me a bright future," Young told Oprah, "and then abandoned me to national disgrace."
Scott Rudin, legendary producer of "The Truman Show," "The Hours," "Zoolander," "Closer" and many others, is also famed for the abuse that he heaps on his revolving entourage of assistants. WSJ reported that he had as many as 250 lackeys between 2000 and 2005. One was allegedly fired for bringing Rudin a bad breakfast muffin.
Many ex-assistants of the power producer have shared their experience with the press, and Rudin doesn't deny his unforgiving management style, describing it as "a cross between Attila the Hun and Miss Jean Brodie." If anything, the stories have helped whip up a mythology around the man, and turned the $75,000 to $150,000 year gig as his 24/7 peon into a coveted entry point for the aspiring moviemaker.
In 1999, recent college grad Jeff Himmelman got a job as an assistant to Bob Woodward. For three years, Himmelman helped the journalistic luminary research and report in Woodward's Georgetown home, and shared almost daily meals with the bestselling author, reports The New York Times. Woodward later recommended Himmelman to his own mentor, veteran editor of the Washington Post, Ben Bradlee.
So the two were "repulsed," according to Post columnist Richard Cohen, when Himmelman published a biography of Bradlee earlier this year that suggested Woodward had embellished some of the details in his famed Watergate reporting. The allegation gave fuel to critics, who have long accused Woodward of misrepresenting facts for the sake of a gripping story.
Himmelman later claimed in the Daily Beast that Woodward, "the champion of free speech," had directly pleaded with him not to publish the evidence. Woodward compared the deception of his old protege to that of Richard Nixon's, and Politico referred to the expose as "Woodward-gate."
Courtney Love already had a reputation as an unstable character (sometimes hip-subversive unstable, sometimes scary-destructive unstable), before a disgruntled ex-assistant decided to sue her this summer.
Jessica Labrie's employment arrangement was unorthodox; she allegedly signed on to be Love's assistant and "forensic research aide" in exchange for $30 an hour, a "full ride" scholarship to Yale University, and the opportunity to work on the set of an upcoming Nirvana biopic, reports the Los Angeles Times.
In her lawsuit, Labrie claims that the ex-frontwoman of Hole refused to pay her overtime and basic wages, stiffed her on the whole Yale thing, and asked her to do illegal tasks, like sending fake legal correspondence and hiring a computer hacker.
Love's publicist denied the charges, and TMZ claimed that Labrie was shopping around a tell-all book on Love earlier this year that would offer "an unprecedented glimpse into the daily life of the chaotic widow of Kurt Cobain..." tentatively titled "Get Me a Xanax."
Christian Bale has a reputation for being an unusual human. Losing 63 pounds for a role, on a diet of coffee, cigarettes and apples, was one clue, as was his rant on the set of "Terminator Salvation." But a tell-all book from his former assistant, Harrison Cheung, published earlier this year, reported a handful of other amusing and semi-sinister eccentricities.
Bale would allegedly lecture fangirls who bothered him until they cried, and when a fan letter reached his home, he faxed Cheung saying the person should be "eliminated." "A screwdriver thrust thru the eyeball into the brain prevents any screaming," he added. And when Bale's "American Psycho" role momentarily went to Leonardo DiCaprio, he supposedly demonstrated once again his knack for the macabre one-liner, saying, "Losing this role is like having a pencil shoved through my brain."
"It only took me five years of therapy to get past my Bale years," Cheung wrote. "My therapist would describe my condition as post-traumatic stress disorder."
Perhaps the most famous expose from an ex-assistant in recent history came from someone who never intended to give an expose at all.
The Senate hearings were over, and Clarence Thomas was a hair's breadth from the Supreme Court, when suddenly a report found its way to the press. It was on an FBI interview with Anita Hill, who 10 years before, when she was fresh out of law school, had worked as Thomas' assistant at two federal agencies. She claimed that the Supreme Court nominee had sexually harassed her throughout her tenure.
The hearings were reopened, and Hill gave damaging testimony. Thomas, she said, would talk to her about his sexual proclivities, graphically describe sex acts, such as bestiality and rape scenes that he'd seen in porn films, and pressure her to go out with him. Many of Thomas' supporters gave Hill a good verbal battering, and Thomas was confirmed regardless. But sexual harassment had never received such a spotlight before, and many credit Hill with exposing it as a pervasive problem in American workplaces, and empowering women to finally speak out.
Last month, Lady Gaga took the stand for a six-hour deposition, hoping to defend herself against the accusations of her former assistant. Jennifer O'Neill claims that the "Monster" songstress owed her nearly $380,000 for more than 7,000 hours of overtime during her 13-month employment.
According to the lawsuit, O'Neill's responsibilities included keeping up Gaga's schedule, ordering her meals, ensuring that her outfits were on hand and "the promptness of a towel following a shower," and "serving as a personal alarm clock." She was on-duty 24 hours a day, the suit claims, often given no time for breaks or meals or even sleep. For her trouble, she was compensated $75,000 a year. A rep from the Gaga camp denied the allegations.
But O'Neill's predecessor, Angela Ciemny, had already offered a glimpse behind Gaga's poker face in 2010, when she told a Gaga biographer that she would sleep and even take showers with the superstar, who didn't like being alone.
Lesleye Headland claimed that her play "Assistance" was an exploration of the executive assistant psyche: the obsequiousness, the stamina, the masochism. But given Headland's own yearlong stint as a flunkey to Harvey Weinstein, many speculated that the fictional Daniel Weisinger was a proxy for the bullish studio exec.
Headland told EW.com that her experience with Weinstein was "educational," "cool" and "pretty boring." Even if it was a straight portrayal, though, Weinstein may not have minded. He reportedly responded well to the caustic character of Harvey Weingard that he inspired on the HBO series "Entourage." Sure enough, Weinstein didn't seem to hold a grudge against Headland, and bought her debut movie, "Bachelorette," at Sundance earlier this year.