Hey, working world, it's Administrative Professionals Day, the day we set aside to recognize the people who keep the offices of America from descending into total chaos.
This day has been around since 1952, back when it was called National Secretaries Day. The event was renamed Professional Secretaries Day in 1981, and in 2000 it became Administrative Professionals Day, a broader title to reflect the ever-expanding nature of the job.
Today, in honor of assistants, coordinators and admins of all kinds, we offer a tribute to secretaries in pop culture -- the women and men who have made the offices of entertainment hum with their savvy competence, sharp wit or unforgettable style.
Position: Secretary/assistant to interior designer Grace Adler on Will & Grace
Played by: Megan Mullally
Top skills: Talents include drinking lunch, condescension, losing touch with reality. The alcohol-swilling ("Martini, honey, and don't waste any space with those olives!"), pill-popping Karen is a multimillionaire and has a staff of servants of her own. She doesn't deposit the checks from Grace because she doesn't need them -- but, in return, she doesn't do any actual work.
Finest moment: Her dismissive remarks -- "Lord, you are just as simple as that blouse you're wearing" -- make Karen nobody's assistant.
Trivia: Will & Grace ended in 2006. But the Karen Walker character is coming back -- to the stage this time: Mullally said this spring that she's writing and composing a Broadway musical based on Karen and her antics.
(now Joan Harris)
Position: Ad-agency office manager on the AMC drama Mad Men
Played by: Christina Hendricks
Top skills: Unflappable. Cool and efficient, smart and discreet. She floats through chaos without letting it touch her -- and when, say, a John Deere mower runs over a man's foot at a party, she is at the ready with a tourniquet.
Finest moment: Early in the series, Joan offers a characteristically blunt description of her role: "He may act like he wants a secretary, but most of the time they're looking for something between a mother and a waitress."
Trivia: Joan has inspired a Web site called "What Would Joan Holloway Do?" -- a collection of quotes and imagined advice from Joan's sexy '60s persona.
Position: Secretary to President Jed Bartlet on The West Wing
Played by: Kathryn Joosten
Top skills: Deadpan delivery, mothering behavior, monitoring of the president's diet. ("Once again," she told him in the first season, "you display an immaturity about vegetables that I think is not at all presidential.")
Finest moment: Mrs. Landingham had known the president since he was a boy and wasn't intimidated, often keeping him in line -- and on schedule -- with this type of exchange:
"You needed to be in the car 10 minutes ago, Mr. President."
"Do you see me walking out the door?"
"No, I see you standing and arguing with a senior citizen."
Trivia: The character was killed in a car accident in the second season of The West Wing, and the role of the president's secretary was filled by no less a talent than Lily Tomlin, who finished out the series.
Position: Secretary to M, head of the British Secret Service in the James Bond movies
Played by: Several actresses -- but most memorably by Lois Maxwell, who appeared in 14 James Bond movies over two decades.
Top skills: Witty repartee with 007.
Finest moment: Her flirtatious remarks reliably upped the tension with James Bond. "What do you know about gold, Moneypenny?" Bond asked her in Goldfinger. "Oh," she replied, "the only gold I know about is the kind you wear. You know, on the third finger of your left hand?"
Her coy, clever lines were delivered with just the right mix of dignity and desire. "Flattery will get you nowhere," Miss Moneypenny told James Bond in Dr. No. "But don't stop trying."
Trivia: The 2006 version of Casino Royale is the first James Bond film not to feature Miss Moneypenny.
Carol Kester Bondurant
Position: Receptionist for psychologist Bob Hartley (and for Jerry Robinson, the orthodontist who shares his office floor) on The Bob Newhart Show
Played by: Marcia Wallace
Top skills: Top-notch typist. Resounding laugh. Excels at clever banter with doctors and patients. Relentless hunter of men. Big hair.
Finest moment: Carol's jokes -- often at the expense of her notoriously deadpan boss -- make the office crackle.
Trivia: In 1994, Wallace returned to her role as Carol (and got an Emmy nomination) for a one-episode appearance on Murphy Brown as the only competent secretary who ever worked for Candice Bergen's title character.
Position: Secretary to defense attorney Perry Mason in the TV series, 1957-66
Played by: Barbara Hale
Top skills: Loyal, capable, poised and ever-present.
Finest moment: Hale has described Della Street as "informed, and very observant of everything that went on" -- which made her valuable for far more than typing. "Della was quietly overpowering," Hale says. "She knew when to speak and when to keep her mouth closed."
Trivia: Officially, the relationship between Della Street and Perry Mason was strictly professional. But Barbara Hale's on-screen chemistry with the boss has, decades after the series' end, inspired a treasure trove of Perry Mason fan fiction online.
Position: Personal assistant to Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghy on NBC's 30 Rock
Played by: Maulik Pancholy
Top skills: Loyal. Obsequious. Worships the boss to a creepy degree. Frequent wearer of a Bluetooth ear clip.
Finest moment: Jonathan, like any weirdly obsessed secretary, is protective of his boss. When Tina Fey's Liz Lemon dared to think she might exchange gifts with Jack, Jonathan intervened: "Unbelievable. Do you think you really belong on Mr. Donaghy's personal gift list?... He's the best gift giver in the world. I tried once -- I bought him a $95 bottle of olive oil. In return, he got my sister out of a North Korean jail. "
Trivia: The show hasn't bothered to give Jonathan a last name yet.
ALYSON WARD, 817-390-7988