First Jobs of Famous People: Gerard Depardieu

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Gerard Depardieu is a little nutsy. After all, isn’t he the dude that was so outraged by the idea of paying taxes to his native France that he fled to Russia, and who claims to subsist on 14 bottles of wine a day? (Yes and yes.)

Well, according to Vanity Fair, he has written a memoir — sadly not yet available in English — in which he is candid about his days as a young grave-robbing, car-stealing, john-robbing thug:

In addition to stealing a car in his teen years—for which he went to prison—the actor claims that he also helped a man rob graves, digging up newly buried bodies and stealing jewelry and shoes from them. “At 20, the thug in me was alive and kicking,” he continues. Still working as a male escort, he writes, “I would rip some of [my clients] off. I would beat up some bloke and leave with all his money.”

It is precisely this hardened side of Depardieu that the actor says attracted Russian president Vladimir Putin, whom he now claims as a friend. “We could have both become hoodlums. . . . I think he immediately liked my hooligan side . . . the fact that I had occasionally been picked up off the pavement dead drunk.” Depardieu writes that his luck did not change in France until a gay theater talent spotter offered to pay for Depardieu to study drama.

Grave robbing can be a semi-noble pursuit: medical students used to have to sneak out to cemeteries at night to exhume bodies for research. It’s certainly one of the more challenging and unusual first jobs I can imagine. And in ineffable ways it probably prepares one well for being BFFs later on with one of the world’s most repellent plutocrats.

Josh Michtom’s First Job: Helping Teach Argentinians English

The joy of a given job often comes down not to the salary but the intangibles: coworkers, setting, commute, and the like. This is doubly so in our teenage years.

What Did Your First Job Pay Then and What Does It Pay Now?

What did your first job pay? What does it pay now? Here are some of the many fascinating answers we’ve received, with more to come.  

Fran: I graduated USC school of journalism in 1963 and got a job on a daily paper called the San Gabriel Valley Daily Tribune. It is still in existence in L.A. county. I was fully trained to write about everything from fires to sports. However it was the olden days and my job was on the Women’s Page. I earned $60 a week gross and lived at home to pay off my car. I spent an entire summer writing about brides and their veils of illusion. That was enough.

I took the civil service exam for L.A. county and became a social worker visiting seniors who received old age assistance. At least it was equal pay for equal work and I started at $369 per month, advancing to $389 per month by June 1964 when I got married. We were able to live on that salary as my husband was a medical student. I have no idea what these salaries might be today but I am sure journalists still don’t earn much. [Editor's note: The inflation calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says $389 in 1974 money is $1,877 today.] I eventually used my journalism at a social worker three salary to recruit foster homes for child welfare services until I quit when Joey was born in 1968.

Veda:

My first temporary non-babysitting job was while I was an undergraduate at McGill. In 1963, through the university employment office, I got a job putting an eyebrow pencil and a clear plastic eyebrow template into cellophane bags, placing a foldover label at the top, and stapling them shut. I was paid by the piece, and I don’t remember how much, but given the times, it could not have been more than a couple of cents per bag. I performed my duties in the empty basement of my employer’s brother’s shoe store. It was in the days before iPods or even Walkmen, so it was BORING. When the entire job was finished, I went into tutoring, which was a distinct improvement.

My first full-time job was in 1967 at the IBM Datacenter in Montreal, as a junior programmer.  Even though I had had a full summer of training (by IBM), I was singularly mediocre. Nonetheless, I persisted, as the pay (beginning at $3,900 and reaching $4,100 per annum by the time I left a year later), and the benefits were far better than for other jobs I could have gotten at the time. As I recall, a job at a major bank as a management trainee paid probably $500-600 less, and a job with the Canadian government–probably in the frozen wastelands of Northern Quebec–paid about the same as the banks. I don’t know what my IBM job would pay nowadays, but I would think it would be at least 10 times what I was getting in 1967-68. BTW, as a woman, I was paid less than my equally feckless male counterparts.

How a Young, Recent College Grad Does Money

Alice: I am 20. I'm a creative writer (copywriter) for two medium-market radio stations owned by the same company.

A Summer Interning at a Center for Performing Arts

I worked at the Center for Performing Arts in my hometown of Rhinebeck, New York for two summers. It’s now a big red barn, set off Route 308, that we pass on the way home from the train station, but that first summer, it was a big white tent. We were loosely interested in musical theater then, only because there was little else to do, and it was the thing that everyone else was doing, so the job was perfect. That summer, we put on an especially inspired performance of Bells Are Ringing. On closing night, Natalie Merchant was in the audience, and if you watch the performance, immortalized forever on an aging VHS in Sonia’s parent’s house, you can hear her whooping cheers over the earnest applause of our parents.

Officially, we were interns, hired with the express purpose of giving us something to do for the summer, and to also maybe get some insight on how to run a performing arts space. Really, we answered the phones, set aside reserved tickets and worked the concession stands. The first summer, we spent a lot of time lying about the office and eating ice cream. I’m not entirely sure how helpful we were, but it was exciting enough. For nerdy musical theater kids who didn’t know any better, it was a sweet gig.

‘The president brought you a rose on your birthday’: 1st Jobs, Starring Nicole & Parents

The Billfold is proud to present an ongoing feature about First Jobs, primarily focused on what they paid then and for comparison’s sake what they pay now, but also everything about them from the hilarious to the terrible. Today’s subject: our very own Nicole Dieker and her parents.

Nicole Dieker: I did all kinds of babysitting, church organist-ing, and retail working jobs in high school and college, but my first “real” job as an adult was working as a telemarketer. I’ve told this story on The Billfold before. When I got the job in 2004, it paid $9 an hour plus commission, which averaged out to about $11 an hour. I suspect it pays much the same today. (Editor’s note: The average median income of a telemarketer in 2014 is $34,000/year, or just over $16/hour.)

Jane Hu’s First Jobs: Newsie; Hawker of Fish & Chips

Your first job: Paper girl, age 9 -- because what else can you trust a 9-year-old to do?

College Grads Have Job Expectations

Self-described "workforce solutions" company Adecco surveyed a bunch of 22 to 26-year-olds graduating with four-year degrees this year about their job expectations.

My First Job, Or How Not to Deal With A Boss Who Masturbates at Work

I continued to engage in this magical thinking for another two weeks, but it became increasingly difficult. He’d often emerge from his office tucking his shirt into his pants, his belt unbuckled, a behavior I could not, no matter how hard I tried, rationalize.

My 1st Job: Magazines in the ’60s

It was a dream of mine back then to make $10,000 a year, something I did not achieve until after I married; my husband, also in publishing, had just hit $12,000 a year then: 1970.

WWYD — Applying to a New Job From a Job You Still Kinda Like

So I am two years into my first real, official, post-college big kid job. I like the job, and have learned a lot from it, but advancement potential is limited so the search has begun for job number 2. I am casually looking, seeing what is out there and only really applying to potential perfect/dream job. The problem is that a lot of these places require references, and my references that apply to relevant job experience are all at my current job. I don’t know what to do! I know using references without informing them is obviously not a great call, but it is awkward to inform supervisors and coworkers that I am using them as a reference … and am therefore thinking about leaving. If I was seriously looking, with a distinct timeline and real reason beyond “I’m ready to move on! Kind of. Eventually.” I might be more comfortable doing it. To be honest, more money would keep me here longer, though I have asked for a raise and been denied due to vague “financial issues.” (The raise request was legitimate — I permanently took on a departing coworkers duties in addition to my own, and my supervisor advocated for me. Some shady HR business went down involving fudging my job duties to prevent me from getting a title change or raise — not great). I don’t want threatening to leave to be seen as a ploy to get more money, and I don’t think of it that way! I just need a change.

To complicate things further, there have been several dramatic departures from my place of employment (6 people, a quarter of our staff) in the past few months. Everyone is stretched thin, and if I was to leave, that would stretch everyone further. I doubt that any of my references would sabotage me, but I’m sure that they aren’t in the mood to provide me with a glowing reference. And if I do stay, it is awkward for people to know that I might not want to be there. The departures also makes a raise seem more likely — fewer staff to pay and we are all doing more work for at least 6 months until the jobs are filled. What do I do? Ask for another raise first? Do I apply to the jobs and tell them to contact me for references, so I’ll know if they are serious or not? Do I just use my previous references-from college and nannying jobs? Or should I just bite the bullet and tell my references that I am casually looking? Help!

Dear Casually Looking,

First of all, you’ve done a lot of things right, so CONGRATULATIONS and take a deep breath. You’ve gotten a job out of college. Yay! You’ve stayed in it about two years. Amazing! Two years for a Millennial is like five for a member of Generation X. You’ve taken on more work and asked for a raise when you felt you deserved it. That is some pro-level stuff. Now, you’re looking to move on, in part because your legitimate request for a raise was declined. That’s fair and — considering the fact that it seems like your place of employment is in a state of disarray — even wise. But who do you list as a reference?