The New Status Accessory

I once met a man who employed not one but two personal assistants, who worked in his house near Rittenhouse Square, taking care of the various duties that everyone in the world would love never to do again. The assistants picked up his dry cleaning and delivered his bills to his accountant. They made travel arrangements, had the cars serviced, and took the dog to the vet. They Googled the women he was interested in dating. They called to cancel on the women he was not interested in dating. When I learned that among the assistants’ duties was making sure there was always freshly cut mango in his refrigerator, I realized that while I once imagined that a weekly massage would define living hedonistically, I had it wrong. Having a personal assistant who Googles and chops fruit for you is the ultimate luxury.

Personal assistants — attractive, sometimes gay, always with impeccable phone manners — are now manning the phones, kitchens and cars of well-off households in Philly and the ’burbs, supplementing the full-time nanny, who barely registers on the status Richter scale these days. The assistants tend to pop up alongside couples who travel frequently, don’t want or have time to be bogged down schlepping groceries, and don’t mind having a jealous world know that they do almost no errands at all.

It seems that the trend winged in from Los Angeles, where assistants are even more prevalent than full-time stylists and hairdressers. Jessica Simpson’s best friend CaCee Cobb, a fellow blond Texan, is her personal assistant, and when Newlyweds was still on, their exploits were fantastic! The two girls drove around in Jessica’s Mercedes, went out to lunch, and even had their eyes Lasiked together. It wasn’t clear what CaCee Cobb did in terms of actual work, but she was fabulous to shop with.

One friend had a personal assistant work for her for several years who became a male CaCee: He picked the kids up at school, and made them chicken fingers for dinner. He ferried the dry cleaning, ordered the flowers, and made travel arrangements. “He did everything,” says his lucky employer. “He picked up clothes at Saks, did grocery runs, maintained the house and dealt with repairmen. He drove the kids and the nanny to the doctor and tennis lessons and squash.”

At the end of the day, à la CaCee, he’d hang out and have cocktails and chitchat. Then, he left after three years to work for a super-rich family who lived in an apartment one block away. My friend, who was emotionally bruised for several months after their breakup, has moved on, too: She has a new male assistant who works 20 hours a week, which is a bit of a letdown after her full-time P.A., but still works.

A personal assistant received the ultimate glam-job imprimatur recently: a Tell-All Memoir titled Chore Whore. Its author worked for celebs including Jennifer Aniston and Tom Cruise; over the years, she was asked to ride around and buy extra-large condoms, find vintage toilet seats, and snare the ultimate present for Steven Spielberg’s birthday. Who knows? Maybe in Philadelphia, there are dozens of personal assistants scurrying around right now to unearth the perfect birthday present for Brian Roberts.