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Glamour, gossip, good times: a page in life of a media escort


Kathi Kamen Goldmark listened to her mother nine years ago and where did it get her?

Singing in a rock band with novelist Stephen King, dining with humor writer Dave Barry, hunting for parking places with actress Shirley MacLaine, grabbing a snack with comedian Yakov Smirnoff, receiving flowers from romance writer Jackie Collins and sitting in companionable silence with author Norman Mailer, whom she describes as "shy."

The relentless round of glamour, gossip and good times doesn't interfere with her work -- it is her work. And lest it sound too good to be true, her career as a media escort includes a fair share of the boring, bizarre and tedious as well.

Media escorts, people hired by publishers to take visiting authors smoothly through their scheduled interviews, appearances and book-signings, toil in the epitome of hyphenated careers. Just put them down as companion-chauffeur, cook-juggler-maid, interviewer-mediator, mind reader-personal shopper, accountant-valet-gofer-tour guide, and you've covered just some of the bases.

They greet authors at the airport by holding up a copy of their current book. They drive them to their hotel, get them settled, take them to lunch or dinner and pick up the tab.

Whenever an author develops a yearning -- shoe shopping, an ice cream cone, a look at a local landmark or a visit to a friend in town --the escort makes it happen.

Media escorts earn $125 to $200 per day. Those with large-volume businesses hire drivers, who they pay about $100 per day. Publishing companies pick up the tab for expenses, overtime and mileage.

The money may sound good, but it's not a job for everyone.

"I once had to iron little clothes for a kitty-cat fashion show," Ms. Goldmark said. "I once got a call at 1 a.m. from an author who had checked into the St. Francis Hotel [in Los Angeles] and there wasn't a bed in his room. I called the manager and screamed until they got the man a bed."

Karen Hebert, a media escort who subcontracts to other drivers, is "very tough on the people who work for me. They must be well-mannered, know the city and have nice cars."

And the golden rule?

"I tell them they will say yes to anything as long as it's not illegal or immoral," Ms. Hebert said.

She practices what she preaches. Ms. Hebert once scrambled eggs for Shelley Winters.

"An assistant greeted me at the door," Ms. Hebert said. "There was also this woman in a housecoat, whom I didn't recognize until a voice said, 'Don't mind me, I just live here.' "

It was Ms. Winters. Ms. Hebert then did as she was asked and cooked breakfast for the actress.

"On a typical day, I look around at what I'm doing and I'm amazed," Ms. Hebert said. "This is work?"

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