Los Angeles, CA

Dating on the job, when the boyfriend becomes the boss

Pam Suchman

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Showmances are ubiquitous in Hollywood. During a film shoot, you’re isolated with a small group of people over a condensed period. There’s little time to see anyone outside of work, let alone date or pay your bills. The job becomes an alternate reality. A bubble.

But what if your significant other is inside the bubble and no one knows? Is it anyone’s business who you sleep with at night?

I’d just met my boyfriend, Andreas, when he got offered a huge job as the production manager on a multi-million dollar Shall-Not-Be-Named Telephone Company commercial.

“It’s a three-month gig,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll have time to see you. Unless you want to work on it with me?”

The role of production coordinator wasn’t new to me, but it had been several years since I’d done the job. “I’ll cover you,” he said, “until you find your feet again.”

We’d be shooting fifteen different spots featuring a shepherd with a hundred live sheep trailing behind him at multiple locations. The idea was that even a shepherd in the middle of nowhere could access anything in the world — a bookstore, a restaurant — through his cell phone.

It wasn’t my first commercial job, but it was the biggest by a long shot. First, I’d have to pass muster with the Executive Producer. Usually, production coordinators are hired by the production manager (my boyfriend). However, this particular commercial would be directed by a man with a reputation for chaos and vitriol. The producer needed to suss out every single crew member to make sure none of us would crack on the job.

“The director’s a yeller, he makes people cry. Think you can handle it?” asked the producer.

I’d just spent two years working for a director who threw pencils across the room because they weren’t sharp enough and expected me to cut his filet mignon into tiny bites for him.

“Yep.”

After ten years in the entertainment business, I knew better than to take juvenile behavior personally — or seriously. Much like my mother did with us kids, I’d calmly step over my director’s flailing tantrums and continue about my business.

“You’re hired,” said the producer.

I’d be reporting to Andreas. The Executive Producer did not know about our relationship. No one knew. We’d agreed not to tell anyone we were a couple so I wouldn’t be seen as a nepotistic hire. My work should be judged on its own merit.

Truth was, it was a completely nepotistic hire, and I was in way over my head. A screaming director would be the least of it. I’d be coordinating a thousand extras and a hundred live sheep for shoots all over Los Angeles and in the countryside of Petaluma where a real, actual shepherd would pretend to use a cell phone to make dinner reservations. In reality, none of the crew had cell service up there. To make production calls, we shlepped to a nearby barn to use a landline.

To make matters worse, a writers’ strike started on day one of our shoot. Which meant we’d have to shoulder our way through a line of picketers to get to work. Bi-planes flew overhead with banners reading, “Go home scabs!” Our teamster, unsure which side he was supposed to take, threw us the keys to the motorhome to avoid culpability. Then, the caterer called to say he wouldn’t cross the picket line.

Did I mention, I had a thousand mouths to feed?

The first night of the shoot, in bed with my boyfriend, I had a nervous breakdown. “I can’t do this. It’s too much.”

Andreas’ eyes pleaded with mine, “Please, Pam. Pull it together. I need you.”

We’d booked ourselves into adjacent rooms to keep up our charade. The travel coordinator was the only person who knew our secret. At night, we’d slip into one room or the other and collapse into bed together.

I cried and shook in his arms until we finally fell asleep. The next morning brought new strength and possibility. I felt like Holly Hunter in Broadcast News. After shaking off my nerves in a stream of tears, I was ready to jump back into the fray.

Andreas’ job was to make sure every detail of production — crew, equipment, locations, insurance, travel — got handled without a hitch. My job was to check off the finer details of his to-do list with a never-ending list of my own. We successfully separated our personal relationship from our work relationship, except for the occasional post-it notes he’d leave on my computer: two stick-figures holding hands, hearts above their heads. It melted my heart and softened the blow of my crushing pile of work.

Then things got complicated. The teamster confessed to Andreas that he had feelings for me. The producer made suggestive comments and rubbed my shoulders as he walked by my desk. Andreas and I shot each other looks and carried on with our tasks.

We worked around the clock, seven days a week for three months. We hardly slept, let alone had sex.

Meanwhile, the teamster continued to confide in my boyfriend about his crush until Andreas finally told him the truth.

“I didn’t want him to feel like a jerk when he found out,” he explained.

After three months, which felt like three years, we successfully wrapped the biggest job of our lives. Then we boarded the next flight to Athens, dropped our bags at Andreas’ father’s house and took a ferry to a nearby Greek island — where we slept for a week.

Andreas and I hadn’t been dating long before the job started. Now it was just me and him, day after day, naked on a beach in Greece getting to know each other. Sounds like paradise, and for a while, it was. We motorcycled through the chaotic streets of Athens to meet friends for drinks and joined a traditional wedding procession in Skyros. We hiked into the hills of Nisyros to a house resembling ancient ruins which Andreas said he’d bought and planned to renovate someday.

After a few weeks in Greece, trying to insert myself into his life, I struggled to maintain a sense of self. I couldn’t read a menu or a street sign without his help. I felt lost in a country where only he knew the language.

Our trips to the beach became more frequent. It’s what he wanted to do every single day. I liked the beach, in moderation. Usually, I could be found hiding from the sun under an umbrella. I got sunstroke for the first time on this trip.

A familiar tug began — my will versus his — a wave which crested in many of my relationships over the years. It would eventually drown one of us under the other’s expectations. Strolling through town one day, we stopped at a quaint Greek Orthodox church in the center of a small plaza.

“This is where I want to get married,” he proclaimed.

“Then what are you doing dating a Jewish girl?” I asked.

Andreas liked to joke that we were from similar backgrounds. “Greeks are Jews without money.” He announced that he wanted to live in Greece again, where he’d spent the first fifteen years of his life before his American mother and Greek father divorced. He’d finished high school in the U.S., attended Columbia University and launched an entertainment career in Los Angeles. But his heart was always more Greek than American. When we met, he had been preparing to move.

I wondered if I could make a life in Greece. It sounded exciting, in theory. Back in L.A., I signed up for Greek lessons instead of pursuing my goals in Hollywood. I tried on his last name with my first (way too many syllables). I co-opted his dream and assumed a starring role.

Then I realized — he’d never actually asked me to join him. Neither of us could picture me sweeping a cobblestone porch in Greece, sipping Ouzo and playing wifey. We soon realized that we made better friends and work mates than long-term life mates. I needed to concentrate on building my career and life in Los Angeles, not follow someone else’s path to home and happiness.

The break-up was amicable and within a few months, Andreas called to say he’d booked another commercial. Did we want to get the band back together again?

I thought about it. We were grown-ups. We knew how to compartmentalize our personal lives from our professional responsibilities. Besides, I needed the paycheck.

“Sure,” I answered.

We found ourselves side-by-side in a Hollywood production office producing an M&M’s commercial. One morning, as I drove to work, I noticed a familiar figure in my rearview mirror: Andreas riding his motorcycle behind me, coming to work from a direction that was not his home. That’s odd.

When I asked him about it at work, he evaded the question. Then he got called to set, leaving his laptop on the desk beside me.

“Ding!” sounded his computer. Don’t do it, Pam.

Before I knew it, I was out of my chair. The chat screen was open on his computer. OK, I clicked it open.

“We on for tonight, cutie?”

My stomach sank.

That’s what you get, I told myself. It was none of your business.

I knew I didn’t have the right to feel wounded. This was work, we were no longer together, and his romantic life was none of my concern. After that, I put my blinders in place and finished the job the way we usually did, separating our personal and professional relationships. Six months later, I drove Andreas and his two cats to LAX for a flight to Athens. Where he now lives.

Thanks to social media, I get to watch his life unfold without me from afar. I spy him getting older, raising two beautiful girls, and spending all his spare time at the beach. It makes me smile.

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TV writer, producer and author who writes about relationships, dating, marriage and other misadventures. When I'm not writing, I coach women through questions of stay-or-go in their marriage, relationship regrets and dating dynamics.

Los Angeles, CA
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