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BOOK REVIEW: Suzanne Hansen's You'll Never Nanny In This Town Again!

Do you know where your rich, spoiled brats are?
by Charles Tatum

Suzanne Hansen is a lot like those of us who had no idea what they wanted to do when they graduated from high school. Soon, she would find herself in a multi-million dollar home, rubbing shoulders with Hollywood power elite...and being an eighteen year old parent to three children. "You'll Never Nanny In This Town Again!" is an alternately funny and sad look at Hansen's nanny career in Hollywood, and it might make you a better parent for it.

Hansen divides her book into three different types of writing, all of which work. She has the main parts of the book, explaining what is happening and what she is going through. She also includes funny fantasies, written in screenplay format. If she worries someone is talking about her, or how someone may react to something she has done, she imagines these complete with characters' actions and dialogue- something that fits into the Hollywood lifestyle. Finally, we get different type in the form of excerpts from her journals. She does not use these entries to swoon over the latest celebrity encounter she has had, but worries about how the family she is a part of is accepting her and how mad she gets with other nanny friends for things she is also guilty of doing.

Hansen's writing style is breezy and light from the beginning. She describes being from a small Oregon town, attending a nanny institute in the Northwest, and finally going to Los Angeles to interview for positions there. Eventually she is hired by mega-agent Steven Swartz and his wife Julia (not the family's real names) and cares for their three children- five year old Joshua, three year old Amanda, and infant Brandon. She also meets the rest of the household staff, who would become her support system over the following year.

Hansen makes mistakes right away with her new family and freely admits them. She should have signed a contract, and should have received more specific information on how far she could discipline the kids. She has no real set hours, is terrified to take time off, and often hides in her room on the weekends. She is dragged on family vacations, but only as the help. Hansen is mystified (as is the reader) at how the Swartzes can spend thousands of dollars for their own self-gratification, but seem overcome with guilt at extravagance, refusing miniscule charges incurred by others. The "expensive" three dollar a minute phone call to the kids while on a multi-thousand dollar vacation away from them is one telling story.

Hansen has a great way of letting the reader draw their own conclusions about life in Hollywood without turning this into a dirt slinging tell-all. She has other nanny friends there, and many of their misadventures are downright hilarious. One nanny accidentally vacuums up a pile of cocaine. Hansen tells another to turn down a job offer from some actor who claims to have made a movie called "The Untouchables." Who ever heard of this Costner guy anyway? Hansen is not star struck but still speaks kindly of the celebrities she met who seemed like normal people. The Swartz's neighbors include O.J. and Nicole Simpson. Tom Cruise and Bill Murray come off as very nice. One of her friends works for the downright saintly Sally Field (causing understandable jealousy on Hansen's part). The last third of the book talks about her getting blacklisted by the Swartzes after she left, but still getting wonderful employers like Debra Winger, and Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman. Things do work out in a Hollywood ending, although this one is bittersweet. No one prepared Hansen for the pain of leaving the trio of Swartz children she raised, and eventually learned to love.

The Steven and Julia Swartz in the book have millions of dollars. Hansen accidentally sets off the Picasso alarm, one of many measures surrounding Swartz's unparalleled modern art collection. Steven muses aloud whether his infant son Brandon even knows Steven is Brandon's father. Julia has no clue about how to take Brandon for a night of mommying, having to be led by the hand just to give him basic needs. On the other hand, I see my two sons everyday, driving them to and from school and daycare, and I take them on overnights when I have a morning off from work the next day. Steven Swartz is a powerful Hollywood agent. I help unload trucks and put boxes on the shelves at Target. Swartz has a fleet of vehicles, my '86 Cavalier is sitting in my ex-wife's apartment parking place, where the voltage light came on and it started losing power. Swartz has a gigantic mansion, I have a one bedroom apartment. After reading Hansen's excellent book, I feel luckier than Steven Swartz will ever be.

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originally posted: 09/23/03 05:56:30
last updated: 02/04/04 08:34:29
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