Once upon a time in Hollywood there were no nondisclosure contracts issued between the powerful and the peons who worked for them. The most powerful man in Hollywood, Michael Ovitz before his plummet from grace, hired Suzanne Hansen a self described small town Oregon girl to nanny for his children. She had a certificate stating she graduated from some rinky dink program in Oregon and Ovitz was one of the richest men in L.A., who not surprisingly, hired Hansen to take care of his children for a fraction a well seasoned nanny would have cost him.
You see, Ovitz was a big fan of the great deal. He was also an agent and owner of CAA (Creative Artist Agency) which perfected the idea of 'packaging' in the entertainment biz which meant that one agency would represent not only the lead actors of a movie, but also the director, and the writers. The result was that the agency could then demand that a studio producing said film cut them in on the profit. I bet you are wondering if Ovitz, whose brain child was the before mentioned packaging concept, made some enemies? The answer would be yes.
So getting back to the nanny, Ovitz hired a nineteen year old to take primary care of his infant son and partial care of the two older children (both being no older than kindergarten). Yes, there was a Mrs. Ovitz, and yes, she didn't have anything that required much of her time besides whatever she chose to occupy it, so of course one of the wealthiest families in America at the time hire a girl who just breezed into California. I'm going to cast some aspersions. I don't think people should bargain hunt when hiring a nanny. Yes, you might save a few bucks on someone who isn't wise to the worth of a devoted childcare giver, but the downside is that karma can be a bitch.
As time passed Ovitz ended up being one of the most unloved men in Hollywood, especially following being fired as the president of the Walt Disney Company after sixteen months (resulting in a huge lawsuit over his severance package - 38 million plus an estimated 100 million in Disney stock) to then speaking about being on the hit list of the supposed gay Hollywood mafia of, which David Geffen is supposed to be the head of. The interesting aspect about this book is that Hansen did not sign a nondisclosure contract, which made it possible to extract sweet revenge some fifteen to twenty years later ('You'll Never Nanny' was originally published in 2003) on Ovitz for her ill treatment.
As far as revelations are made, there isn't anything really shocking except a glance at the life of a very powerful mogul from the mid to late 1980's sans a cell phone we now think of as indispensable for any business mover and shaker. Seriously, the cutting edge technology when Hansen was a nanny was the car phone...which now is such a quaint concept one can almost image spying one in a museum exhibit.
I'm sure the Ovitzs felt violated when this book was first published, but besides the revelation that they weren't really an 'Ozzie and Harriet' loving family and that Mrs. Ovitz didn't know the schedule of her infant sons bottle feedings, there isn't much in this book to be shocked over. If the Ovitz parents were guilty of anything it is the same sin numerous other parental couples make about their children - assuming that someone they hire and don't pay well is going to have a major investment in the lives of their charges. Basically it is the proverbial sword that cuts both ways, if the primary caregiver is someone that the children attach themselves too than the parents tend to become jealous and thus severe the relationship, if the primary caregiver doesn't give a flip about the children then you have the same level of care that the average single mother of twenty children has when living in government housing. If this book serves any social purpose it should be to remind the wealthy that you get what you pay for. Don't spend thousands of dollars on clothes and then spend a pittance on those people hired to nurture your children into caring adults. Another helpful hint, don't schedule time to bond with your children, if you find bonding is something you schedule, guess what? You probably aren't bonding. I don't know when the disconnect to what otherwise is obvious happened, but now that the economy is in the crapper, perhaps correcting this sort of mindset might be a silver lining. That's it, I'm off my soap box for the moment.
Besides the Ovitz family, Hansen worked for Debra Winger and Rhea Perlman and Danny Devito all of whom she seemed to enjoy a good relationship and who paid her well with scheduled time off; something she didn't have with the Ovitz family. Also in the book she does add little tidbits such as the time Jack Lemmon bought her and Debra Winger a hummus sandwich when he passed them by as they were sitting in a park. Hansen admits that after her experience with the Ovitz family she tried not to bond with the children as she had with the Ovitz children - of whom she changes their names in 'You'll Never Nanny.'
To be honest, I don't think this book would have even been published if Michael Ovitz hadn't such the reputation for being an a$$hole who then whines when he is given the sort of short shift treatment he gave others. God knows this book wasn't published because Hansen was a wit or because her anecdotes are to die for. I mean, most of her experiences at best make for interesting dinner party discussion, past that they really don't add up to much.
Overall, if you are looking for something to read while getting some summer rays, there is a lot more interesting things to out there than 'You'll Never Nanny in This Town Again.' I guess I should have been tipped off about the quality of this book when Hansen could only play off the now deceased Julia Phillips tell all, 'You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again' published in 1991, which was about the final inning when 'Nanny' would have been relevant.
I don't regret reading 'You'll Never Nanny in This Town Again' because I have always been interested in Michael Ovitz. Even now when his reign as the most powerful man in Hollywood is as ancient as anything directed by D.W. Griffith, yet it is hard to look up information about him. His Wikipedia entry is so pathetic that it even mentions this book. Thus, unless you want a fix on any residue Ovitz fascination, read 'Nanny Diaries' instead.
The original title of this article was 'This Book Would Have Been Scandalous If It Was Published Twenty Years Ago ~ A Book Review of ‘You’ll Never Nanny in This Town Again’ by Suzanne Hansen'
Westerfield © 2009