HOLLYWOOD -- An elite tutoring service has sprung up and the founder's e-mail is being discretely passed from celebrity assistant to assistant.
The service, run by a former nanny to an A-list celebrity, is one that is seemingly very simple: it helps kids who come from wealthy, famous families learn about the real world and how to live in it. The founder of the service, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that she started it after her former celebrity boss commented on how difficult it was to raise children who had famous parents and let them have a "normal" childhood.
The then-nanny offered to have the children stay at her house for a couple of weeks as a kind of "real world boot camp" and teach them about how the other 99.99 percent of the population lives. The visit was such a success that her services have been in high demand ever since, with wealthy parents putting down $10,000 deposits to reserve weeklong slots for their children.
Among the first things that she does is to teach the children how to act normally in public. "Sunglasses are neither necessary nor a good disguise when it's overcast and 50 degrees," she tells them.
In fact, one child was so used to wearing sunglasses outside that he marveled at how coloful everything was without them. "It's more dazzling than mommy's jewelry collection," he said.
The other advice she imparts is to not run, cover their face or scowl when they saw someone with a camera, especially if they are not with their famously recognizable parent. "It's even possible that they want you to take their picture for them," she says.
She also teaches them to pose for pictures naturally, with their arms straight and at their sides. Many of the young girls, for instance, have taken up their moms' habit of putting their hand on their hip -- "to hide arm flab" -- or turning away from the camera and looking backwards over their shoulder.
For interacting with their peers, she gives advice such as not assuming that others will automatically know that "Uncle Steven" or "Uncle Jack" refer to Steven Spielberg and Jack Nicholson. Other no-nos include referring to "the Cape," "Martha's," "the City," or even Scientology.
Part of the boot camp includes a trip to a soup kitchen -- since many of her charges didn't know that they operated on days besides Thanksgiving or Christmas. They also practice going to the airport and taking a commercial flight in economy class, which entails waiting in the long security line.
Among the other concepts that have surprised her charges are the concept of hand-me-downs and dogs so big that they do not fit in a handbag.
The program has been so successful that the founder is currently seeking other middle class families with whom she can place celebrity children. One of the parents of her celebrity charges, a well known reality television producer, suggested that she make a reality TV show out of it, but she declined, saying that such cameras would detract from the mission of her program.