Freelance profile

Patricia Danaher

Based in Los Angeles, I write on a wide variety of subjects including television, film, politics, culture and travel for newspapers, magazines, radio, tv and the internet. I also produce and develop television documentaries. I was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2004-5, where I also taught journalism. I have broad experience and contacts in radio, print and tv internationally. I speak Spanish. My first novel, Beyond Belief, will be published in the US in the Spring,

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Street: 901 S Sycamore Ave
Town: Los Angeles, California
Postcode: 90036
Country: United States
Telephone: 001 310 3099354
Fax: 001 310 3880541
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ReporterRates: Reporter
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  • Film and theatre
  • Arts/entertainment
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Major clients:

  • The Sunday Times
  • The Daily Mail
  • Independent Newspapers
  • News International
  • RTE Radio

Profile last updated: 2014-01-24 23:20:50

Extra information:

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Patricia Danaher reports from LA

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WHO wields the most power in Hollywood is a source of perennial speculation to those in the business and something of a spectator sport to many others. The obvious titans have always been the big agents, the studio moguls and a handful of stars but a new power shift has been taking place in the past few years, as the old truism about 'the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world' gets a radical makeover. Meet the Celebrity Nanny, the newest power player to enter the Hollywood scene, held in enormous regard and awe by many cash-rich but time-poor players in the film industry.

All new parents suffer the jitters when it comes to handling their bundles of joy but, if you are a celebrity in Los Angeles, the chances are pretty high that you will have your own personal and expensive childcare expert on your speed-dial, otherwise known as a 'celebrity baby guru', to help out.

They command fierce power and respect (not to mention moolah) among this nervous elite, providing training in all sorts of areas from learning to ride a bike, to delousing hair, to childproofing homes and nutrition, among myriad other functions.

Conan O'Brien has one, as does Ben Stiller.

Jude Law slept with his. Robin Williams married his. The singer Carnie Wilson swears by hers, as does Christine Taylor.

"If you're a parent in this business, you probably have Jackie, Stella, Jade, Angela and Betsey in your Rolodex", said Samantha Todd, a film producer and mother of three.

These consultants are like stars themselves and can easily be identified just by their first names. Celebrity nanny Jackie Rosenberg is the closest thing to a celeb in the nanny world, recognised everywhere and constantly approached in public. She founded the elite Babies First Class and when she tells celeb parents what to do with their children, they listen.

That is, if they can get an audience with her.

"People call me the minute they leave the doctor's office and say, 'Don't tell my mother I'm pregnant, but I wanted to get on your list', " said Rosenburg. She says clients are very unlikely to get on her list unless they call to reserve a place during the first trimester of their pregnancy. Not only do her clients swear by her for her basic potty and sleep training, but her influence stretches far in that child's further education too.

If she makes a recommendation about a client's child to the right kindergarten, not only can this have a huge influence on the popularity of the school but it can also shape acceptance to subsequent schools and even colleges later on. Her influence is such that it is not uncommon even for powerful movie moguls to try to call in favours from friends, in order to secure a place for their babies in one of her groups.

"We are willing to be bossed around by people like Jackie because their advice is validated by everyone we know, " said a senior agent at Creative Artists Agency, who spoke anonymously for fear of pissing off Rosenberg.

"You desperately want these experts to like you because if they don't it's like being publicly labelled a bad mother."

Sucking up to the help? Whatever next?

There was a time when the rich Hollywoodites, and others it has to be said, farmed out nearly every aspect of child rearing, letting the nannies struggle with fussy eaters and toilet training. This, of course, had other consequences, particularly when the nannies wrote tell-all books exposing intimate family details.

Susan Hansen's book You'll Never Nanny In this Town Again became a huge bestseller last year, when she wrote about her experience as a nanny for uber agent Michael Ovitz and how he threatened to blackball her if she ever left (hence the title).

But these days, even busy parents with high-profile jobs are getting extra points for being involved in things like 'sleep training' their toddlers, according to Jade Walburger, the founder of Sleepy Planet in Los Angeles.

"I had a client who was shooting a video with Puffy. I'm on the phone with her and I hear her say: 'Puffy, I can't shoot your video this weekend, I'm sleep-training the twins.' And the astonishing thing was this: there was no hissy fit from him, no tantrums, no 'whaddyamean?' . . . he completely respected her decision, " said Jade Walburger.

The fact that Sean Combs thought getting bumped for a sleep training session for small babies was actually an impressive decision by this client would not have been the case five years ago, she says. This big change in attitude socially has of course even further enhanced the status of these consultants.

Her clients include some of the big names in television and entertainment, such as Ben Stiller and Conan O'Brien. "We never had the experience of feeling we're just the hired help, " she said. Given the power and influence they now wield, and how small a pond it is in which they all swim, this is probably a wise attitude on the part of these famous clients.

Walburger's business partner is a former entertainment executive. Martha Sporak, who joined her friend in business four years ago, said she enjoys more prestige now than when she was in the entertainment business.

Of her previous incarnation as a literary assistant at CAA she says, "I was a peon.

Now all these people who were in the CAA rolodex and were impossible to reach when I worked there, I can just pick up the phone to them and they'll take my call straight away, " she said.

Quite the sea change, by any standards, and probably the clearest barometer of this shift in power and priorities.

Like the celebrities they influence, each baby consultant also has a public reputation.

Rosenberg, the undisputed queen of the celebrity nannies, is considered to be "authoritative, but borderline controlling" . . . she won't, for example, allow mobile phones or other nannies into her groups. Not unlike the little ones for whom she charges a fortune to train, the paying members of the group (ie the parents) have to wear socks at all times and are told where to sit at her meetings. One woman who defied the sock rule and arrived in flipflops is now an ex-client and belongs in an ad hoc group of defectors known as The Quitters.

Jade Walburger is said to have a softer approach but her influence is still so great that many parents won't make a move without first consulting her. And she charges them plenty for their indecision . . . her groups cost $500 per head for a series of three 90-minute weekly sessions.

Being Hollywood, it was of course only a matter of time before art imitated life and someone decided to write one of these baby consultants into a TV show or a movie. (The Nanny Diaries, which deals with similar, though less precious, territory in Manhattan, was adapted from the novel and released last year, starring Scarlett Johansson. ) People have tried all sorts of stunts to get their foot in the door in Hollywood for years.

Being an indispensable child rearer is certainly one way to get the attention of a studio executive, if your word on everything to do with the rearing and survival of the celebrity child is gold.

Having said that, skill alone won't catapult a complete unknown into this new limelight.

"We're a tough audience, " said Roger Morton, a former executive producer on The Late Show with David Letterman, who's been a client of Martha Sporak.

"We watch people auditioning all day, so you've gotta put on a good show to keep our attention, " he said.

He considers child rearing to be not unlike running a hit TV show . . . it's a collaborative process and he says he "enjoys having a baby production team".

Stella Braun is another celebrity child expert who hosts a range of baby seminars with titles like 'Affluenza: The Perils of Overprivilege'. She says that, contrary to the gushing dependence of many celebrities on this handful of experts, not everyone is able to adjust to the power role reversal.

"There are people who think they are too famous or important to talk to me, " she said.

She won't be persuaded to name names, but offers this anecdote to illustrate the power struggle that can go on, even when the busy executives are forking over large amounts of money in order to be told what to do with their child.

"The head of a big agency came to me because his child was having separation issues.

I said, 'You need to drive your child to school everyday for three weeks'. And he said, 'Don't be silly, I can't'. I said 'Okay, don't. If you can't help your child for three weeks, don't do it'. I think he was sort of stunned, " she said. But he did and came back to her a month later with humble thanks, saying this piece of bonding had really improved the situation.

There is another kind of baby consultant whom stars swear by, while also treating her services as a sort of dirty little secret. Angela Goldreyer does house-calls for lice and, while she is well-known by many in the know, celebrities don't exactly drop her name the way they do their other consultants. Neither do they run up to her in the supermarket or at the restaurant. She has euphemistically called her business Hair Whisperer, because "it was really hard to find a name that didn't use the word lice", she said.

So while there might be less stigma in Hollywood to having a child you rarely see or for whom you've hired a 'sleep trainer' or a professional potty trainer, the issue of head lice somehow remains a source of more acute social embarrassment.

While the tasks and life of a nanny are often far from enviable, those who can manage it will at least live interesting peripheral lives. Many celebrities will often have three nannies per child, one for weekdays, one for weeknights and another for weekends.


>> Bruce Willis and Demi Moore at one point had four nannies for their three children.

>> Noel Gallagher and Patsy Kensit were known to provide flats and sports cars for their nannies.

>> Madonna recently got a court order preventing her nanny from writing a tell-all book.

>> Tom Cruise is reported to have such iron-clad confidentiality agreements with his nannies that they are not even allowed to say who they actually work for.

>> Britney Spears' nanny witnessed the singer in all sorts of states and, like so many other people, ran to tell the tabloids.

>> When Susan Hansen left Michael Ovitz after being told she would never nanny in Hollywood again, she quickly got a job with Danny deVito and Rhea Pearlman. She described them as welcoming and with a relaxed attitude to parenting before they, too, ran her ragged, working her round the clock

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Patricia Danaher in Beverly Hills © Patricia Danaher Patricia Danaher in Beverly Hills
I live and work in Beverly Hills, where many icons from the worlds of fashion and film work and shop.