The True Confessions of Guy Fieri’s Personal Assistant
It’s funny, how it all started. I had just moved to Los Angeles and needed a job. Microwavable meals were losing their luster, the rent was hanging over my head, and with every passing day I became more desperate. I didn’t know my life was about to change forever.
I was walking down the boardwalk on Venice Beach. Among the firebreathers, stoners, and surfers I saw it. Duct taped to the side of an abandoned funhouse, a neon photocopied job listing, the type with the phone numbers you can tear off at the bottom. Written in a child-like scrawl it said: Seeking Personal Assistant For A-List Celebrity Chef Guy Fieri. Very good job. Pays real money, DOA. Did he mean DOE? Either way I was in no position to say no. I took one of the tabs and called the number right there, wondering if this was a joke or an art piece or —
“SUP!” The voice on the other line was unmistakable. His frat boy accent was made hoarse by what I imagined was an Entenmann’s donut stuck in his throat.
“Hello, I think you posted an ad for — ”
“Is this about the Camaro?”
“Uh, no, this is about the assistant job.”
There was a brief silence, as if he was trying to remember that he had even posted it.
“Alright! Duder, meet me at my house in an hour.”
“Where do you live?”
“It’s on the ad, I drew a map.”
And it was, and he had, and it also confirmed my suspicion that he had made the ad himself.
As I drove into the Valley, heavy grey clouds formed, blocking the sun. I gripped the steering wheel. I was afraid, but I didn’t know what I was afraid of, exactly. The wind picked up, blowing the palm trees back and forth against the bleak landscape of strip malls and apartment complexes.
I pulled up to a Craftsman-style house and double-checked the address. This was it. The house was in bad shape — its white paint was peeling and the front porch looked sunken in. A Confederate flag was used in lieu of curtains and a purple Camaro sat on cinderblocks in the driveway. This was Guy Fieri’s house and it was one of the saddest things I’d ever seen.
Before I could knock on the door, he opened it. Standing there in cargo shorts and an Ed Hardy shirt was Mr. Fieri himself. His skin was leathery, like someone that had spent too much time drinking and tanning in Vegas. There was so much gel in his frost-tipped hair, the spikes looked like they could be snapped off and used as spears. His goatee was perfectly manscaped, no trace of stubble.
“SUP!” he said, extending both his hands for a double high-five. “Boom boom boom!”
I walked into his living room, the floorboards creaking beneath me. One wall was full of VHS tapes and PlayStation 2 games. Another wall was covered in Nicolas Cage posters. He seemed to have a particular affection for Ghost Rider, as there were three different posters for that one, including a “rare Japanese print.” There was that leg lamp from A Christmas Story, probably bought at the mall, and it cast an eerie glow in an otherwise dark room. I sat down on a stained, army green couch that had springs coming up through the cushions. On the coffee table (a plank of wood held up by bricks) was a Frisbee used as a dish, containing what appeared to be Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Plastic McDonald’s cups, from when they do the Monopoly giveaway, held Rolling Rock beer.
I sat awkwardly, waiting for the interview to begin.
“Do you know how to play guitar?” he asked, miming air guitar.
“No, I don’t, but I was in the marching band in high school.”
He laughed as though I had said something truly humorous.
“Nerd alert! HAHA. Just joshin’ ya! ‘Kay, nerd, what do you know about pyrotechnics?”
“Not much, but I learn pretty quickly.”
“HAHA. Cool. So like, here’s what I need, ‘kay? Alright? I need someone that can like, go to UFC fights with me, eat disco fries, wear matching visors — well not, not matching but like, they go together — and maybe sometimes we could ride motorcycles.”
“You’re going to pay someone to do that?”
“Yeah. I haven’t spent any of the money I made on TV, I’m saving that for a Ferrari. I wanna Ferrari so when I do valet I can say ‘Fieri Ferrari.’ Totally worth it for a great joke. I’m gonna put flames on it and maybe a hot tub in the back, you know, for babes — no offense — and a sick, tricked out, suped up stereo system so when I drive down Santa Monica Boulevard blasting Bachman-Turner Overdrive, B-TO, you know, ‘Taking Care of Business,’ TCB?, everyone will be like, WOW that’s Fieri’s Ferrari! HAHA.”
Guy Fieri was an idiot. It’s not as though I realized it just then, I had always thought he was an idiot but now it was fully confirmed. And yet, in spite of his stupidity or maybe because of it, I wanted to help him. Here was a rich, sad stupid man with a very loose grip on reality, and all he wanted was a friend, a companion.
“So you’re down, right?”
Rain hit the windows and dripped down from ceiling. I looked at him sitting there, a manic manchild, a pseudo-celebrity, the kind of guy that probably came from a small town where he was cool and now was a little fish in the big pond of Los Angeles. His eyes were big and hopeful, like a Golden Retriever when they see a snack.
“Yeah, yeah I’m down.”
I sealed my fate. For a hot $11/hour, I was Guy Fieri’s new best friend. I spent the next three years of my life wearing Tap-Out shirts, playing mini golf and letting him win, drinking Bud Lite with Lime and Lime-A-Rita’s, playing poker and letting him win, developing a pallet for fast food French Fries (“Fieri’s Fries! HAHA!” he’d say, making the fries into walrus teeth), and working, every Sunday, on the purple Camaro in the front yard.
He never got that Ferrari. I don’t know if it was because of money, or that he just wanted something to dream about. A week before he found out about his heart condition, I finally watched Ghost Rider. It was one of the worst films ever made. But watching Guy watch Ghost Rider was incredible. He lit up the way he did when he found a new sour cream he liked — his whole being seemed to glow. Watching Nic Cage films was, for him, a spiritual experience. Nic Cage was who Guy wanted to be, but could never be. Nic Cage represented an ideal, something to believe in, surrender to.
I think about him from time to time, maybe when I drive by Buffalo Wild Wings or Journey comes on the radio. I think about that first day, and what his life must have been like before he hired me to be his friend. I remember the last question he asked me, right after we watched Ghost Rider.
“Do you think that’d be a cool t-shirt? A flaming skeleton on a motorcycle? I think I could have designed some really sick t-shirts. Like maybe it could change color or something or had blinking lights or...”
I do think that would’ve been a cool t-shirt, Guy. And yes, you could have designed some really sick t-shirts. But instead you changed the world.
He paid me $11/hour. But honestly, in the end, I would have done it for $10.