Immigrant nannies in Hollywood

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LISA MULLINS: I'm Lisa Mullins and this is The World. California is taking a big hit in this Recession. Jobs are disappearing all across the state. Revenues are down and the state government could soon run out of money. This is affecting everybody in California. This week, we've been reporting on how the Recession is affecting the state's immigrant workers. Today, The World's Jason Margolis focuses on nannies to the stars in Hollywood.

JASON MARGOLIS: You've probably heard of some of Lori's clients. That's why she asked me not to use her real name or the names of her employers. She does tell me top nannies like her get paid pretty well. A year ago, Lori made about...

LORI: 2250.

MARGOLIS: That's $2,250 weekly after taxes. Yearly, it adds up to almost $120,000 in take-home pay. Her salary today?

LORI: I don't want to even go there. God, almost half.

MARGOLIS: Not only is Lori paid less, the jobs she's offered aren't as good.

LORI: Kids run out of control, meaning that the discipline doesn't exist. Say names, screaming, and ignoring everything you're saying, it's chasing them everywhere and then on the table there's no table manners and then you think, "My God..."

MARGOLIS: Like most nannies in L.A., Lori is foreign born. She immigrated here from Guatemala in 1980.

RECEPTIONIST: Elizabeth Rose, how can I help you?

MARGOLIS: At one nanny agency on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood glossy photos mat the walls. They're signed by megastars like Steven Spielberg, Pamela Anderson, and Magic Johnson. Julie Swales runs the Child Care Division for the Elizabeth Rose Agency. She won't dish about her clients other than Tom Cruise. Swales raves about what a wonderful person he is. It's Swales' job to match Tom, Steven, and Magic with the right nanny.

JULIE SWALES: Well, the first thing I'm going to do is ask them what their Mary Poppins looks like to them because she can look very different to lots of different people.

MARGOLIS: Swales says there's a reason why most of her girls, as she calls them, are foreign born.

SWALES: Americans don't tend to raise child care providers. If you were to have a daughter, you're not going to say, "Hey, why don't you be a nanny when you grow up?" You know, that doesn't come under the umbrella of the American Dream for most parents for the children's career. So, yes, we have to rely on people from Britain, Australia, New Zealand, all over Europe and South America.

MARGOLIS: In Hollywood, it's tough times for nannies because these are tough times for Hollywood.

EDIE LANDAU: Productions are being cancelled and show are being cancelled.

MARGOLIS: Edie Landau operates the Nannies Unlimited Agency from her small office in Beverly Hills.

LANDAU: There is a new awareness of the dollar in this town. People who used to have three nannies, are now cutting down to two nannies. People who used to have a weekday nanny and a weekend nanny, are saying to themselves, "You know, we can save $30, $40, $50,000 a year by getting rid of the weekend nanny."

MARGOLIS: Landau says only the best nannies get hired today. They need the best resume, education, and personality and the right look. That means if you're six feet tall, blonde, and thin, don't bother looking for nanny jobs.

LANDAU: Now I'll just tell you an aside, I was recently at my kids' house and I was meeting a friend to give her something and my friend said to me, "Who is that young, beautiful girl?" And I said, "Oh, that's John and Julie's nanny." She said to me, "Is Julie crazy? Crazy?"

MARGOLIS: Landau advises her nannies, "Play down your looks, tie your hair back, don't wear heavy makeup, and for God's sakes...

LANDAU: No cleavage certainly. Certainly no cleavage. I mean, no nanny with cleavage is going to get hired, in my opinion.

MARGOLIS: Okay, we're getting a little sidetracked now, but hey this is Hollywood. Let's get back on topic. It's tough out there for nannies, most nannies are immigrants. Remember Lori?

LORI: It has been challenging to find the jobs that I used to just find within a week. They now get several offers and a week is now a month or two months and then yet they expect you to work for much less.

MARGOLIS: But this isn't a story just about nannies. It's also about kids and families. Julie Swales says the readjustment in L.A.'s nanny scene isn't all bad.

SWALES: You know, there was a time when people would pay a lot of money, you know, to make sure that they really didn't notice that they'd had a child. And I think those days are over, and I think that that's a good sign for families and for children.

MARGOLIS: Many smaller nanny agencies in L.A. are slowing down or going out of business. That's fine with Swales. She says it's raising the bar for child care. People aren't becoming nannies just because it's a good pay check. Lori, the nanny for Guatemala, agrees that's a good thing. And she's banking on demand for her services to go back up when the Recession is over. For The World, I'm Jason Margolis, Hollywood, California.