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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

You might have wanted to be Jill Brennan on Wednesday. There she was, winning a dinner for four from a local restaurant, plus $250 in cash.

But you wouldn’t have wanted to go through what made her a winner.

Brennan, a former secretary, wrote an essay about workplace life that was judged to be the most humorous in a “bad boss” contest staged by the restaurant in honor of Professional Secretaries Day.

These days, Brennan sells acupressure massage devices in Los Angeles, where she moved in January to become--you guessed it--an actress.

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Her essay, which beat dozens of others in the Carney’s restaurant contest, described an incident that occurred during her last job, as secretary to a female marketing executive at the World Trade Center in New York.

The gender of that boss is crucial, since only a female boss could ask a female secretary to fork over her pantyhose so the boss could look her best at a lunch meeting with a handsome client.

Brennan, 32, told it this way: A few minutes before the appointment, her boss noticed she had a run in her hosiery and sent Brennan to the building’s gift shop to purchase another pair.

She was very clear about the kind to buy: reinforced-nylon support hose. “She had some thighs going,” Brennan quipped.

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When Brennan returned with a package of regular hosiery, the only kind the store carried, her boss was livid, Brennan said.

She asked Brennan if she was wearing support hose. When Brennan said she was, her boss asked to “borrow” them.

“I was too shocked to say no,” said Brennan, a Texas native. “The worse part of it was that I wasn’t wearing any briefs that day.”

The incident was the last in a long line of what Brennan described as abusive demands by her boss, including requiring Brennan to pick up her dry cleaning, buy her diet pills and schedule her colon hydrotherapy appointments.

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“One day I just couldn’t take it anymore,” she said. “I told her it had been the most humiliating time of my life and up and walked out.”

“I will never be a secretary again because of that woman.”

Bill Wolfe, who owns Carney’s with his father, John Sr., and brother, John Jr., said the restaurant promotion was intended to recognize that “Secretaries are some of the hardest-working and least appreciated people I know.

“Conducting this search allows them to express their frustration and possibly be rewarded for some of the grief and injustice they have to deal with at work,” he said.

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Doug Hauck, one of three other finalists in the contest, told of a boss with a peculiar request: He wanted his toupee washed, dried and styled after he soiled it with spaghetti sauce.

At the time, Hauck, 34, said he was working for a Los Angeles hair-replacement company. His boss, he said, was both the owner of the company and a client--a man who wore a toupee with great sensitivity about his baldness.

One day as they were preparing for an important client meeting, the boss dropped a spoon into a bowl of spaghetti, splashing marinara sauce onto his face and hair. He took off the hairpiece and handed to Hauck.

“I washed it in the bathroom sink, while he hid in a stall, bald,” said Hauck, who said he was interrupted several times by employees entering to use the restroom.

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When he was done, he used the hand dryer to style it and then taped it back on his boss’ head.

“It looked better than it usually did,” Hauck said.

A short while later he left the firm (on good terms, he stressed) to manage a company that imports hair products from Asia for ethnic markets in the United States.

Another finalist, 19-year-old Mooni Shah, described a summer job he held last year as assistant to a steel warehouse manager in Ontario.

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Shah said his boss pushed him too far when he developed a hankering for a pastrami sandwich.

According to Shah, his boss sent him on a 2 1/2-hour foray to a West Hollywood deli.

When he returned, the boss “was on the phone,” Shah said. “He took the sandwich, put it on his desk and waved me out of the room.”


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