Even with the boom in the local film industry, brushes with fame don’t happen very often in our neck of the woods.
For one Merrimack Valley native, however, being part of the celebrity scene has become a way of life. Paul Petzy grew up in Lawrence and knew early on that he would explore a career in fashion. His first jobs were at McCartneys and Kaps, classically chic clothing stores formerly located in Lawrence. As his passion for fashion developed, Petzy moved to Manhattan in 1990.
There, he landed a position as personal assistant to Allure magazine’s creative director and fashion legend Polly Mellen. He learned quickly that “no” is never an answer, and that organizational skills are critical. “To be a good personal assistant you have to be very organized,” Petzy said. “If you’re not, it’s pointless.”
The outrageous portrayals of both celebrities and their assistants that you may see on television are hardly the norm, especially when you show and demand respect as Petzy did. “When you’re a personal assistant, I think everyone has the misconception that you have to do everything for these people; this isn’t true,” he said. “A lot of them are very self-sufficient and don’t want you to do a lot of things for them.”
Petzy went on to take a job in Los Angeles, where he was personal assistant to celebrity stylist L’Wren Scott, who, incidentally, is the longtime girlfriend of Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. In L.A., Petzy worked with big name stars such as Ricky Martin, Elizabeth Taylor, Val Kilmer and Renee Zellweger.
Believing that these celebrities are “regular” people who are simply doing their jobs has enabled Petzy to avoid feeling star-struck and to be good at what he does.
Petzy recalls awaiting a styling appointment with Tina Turner. A woman he didn’t recognize entered and introduced herself as Anna Mae Bullock. It took Petzy a moment to realize that the woman in front of him was, in fact, Turner.
She wore gray slacks, a navy blazer, comfortable flat loafers and conservative pearl earrings. As her street clothes were changed, Petzy witnessed Anna Mae become Tina Turner garment by garment. “The persona came out, and it was an unbelievable transformation.” Petzy said. “Everything from her body language to her movements changed.”
Back in New York City, Petzy was connected with supermodel Gisele Bundchen to assist her as she moved to a new home.
An independent woman, Gisele was looking to avoid the spotlight, do her job and go home at the end of a long day. She and Tom Brady spent much of their time in New York trying to live as a “normal couple.” There were times when they were successful, and others when fans and paparazzi made it impossible.
Being chased down by paparazzi isn’t unusual for a celebrity, and Petzy remembers an occasion when he helped Gisele dodge the chaos. “The press was everywhere, and I had to drive like a lunatic through the streets of New York City to avoid the cars that were chasing us,” Petzy said. “It got to the point where she [Gisele] jumped out and ducked into a restaurant, and I just took off.” It sounds like a scene from a movie; thrilling or even frightening, but Petzy says that for most celebrities, it is really just annoying.
Other memorable moments stand out for Petzy, such as having a machine gun pulled on him while walking the streets of El Salvador during a photo shoot, being in Russia during the White Nights, and chatting with Ricky Martin about Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
He considers himself lucky to have had these many unique experiences. Today, Petzy is a freelance fashion stylist who has built an impressive body of work. His website, www.PaulPetzy.com, shows his range of talent.
Have you heard?
Olympia Dukakis has expressed interest in playing the role of Josephine in the Lawrence-based, independent film “Millies,” currently in development (www.MilliesMovie.com). The Kevin James film “Here Comes The Boom” is being cast locally, and filming is to take place in Quincy. Nick Paleologos, the former director of the Massachusetts Film Office, has a Twitter account and blog he’s using to share insights about the local film industry. Check them out at www.twitter.com/NickPaleologos and www.NickPaleologos.blogspot.com.