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The First Jobs of 3 Famous Couples
From a soda jerk and circus roadie to an ice cream scooper and secretary; three celebrity couples share their memorable first-job stories.


REUTERS/Phil McCarten
Actor Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker arrive at the 2015 BET Awards in Los Angeles, California June 28, 2015.


So when they put me on skates, I was not long for that world. I was scattering stuff all over the parking lot.”
NEW YORK - (REUTERS) - Before they found fame, or found each other, what did celebrity couples like Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw do in their first jobs?

In the latest in Reuters' monthly 'First Jobs' series, we talked to couples who work as TV personalities, actors, models or authors about their first gigs and found their starts were often humble.

Dr. Phil & Robin McGraw

Dr. Phil: Back in Oklahoma City, I had several jobs at one time, when I was around 13 years old. I had a paper route, worked at an A&W root beer stand, and at also a local chain called Pizza Planet. It was my stomach that encouraged me to do all that: We need money, and it was not for playing around. It was for paying utilities and stuff like that.

Soon after I got hired at the A&W was when they put us on skates. I was not a bad athlete, but I have the worst balance. So when they put me on skates, I was not long for that world. I was scattering stuff all over the parking lot. I think there are still some hamburgers rolling around.

This was around 1963, and we didn't even get minimum wage—it was 75 cents plus tips. You can always tell if someone's been really poor. They know that if you don't work and get paid that day, you don't eat.

Robin: My first job was at a place called the Red Top Drive-In, in Wichita Falls, Texas. This was in 1970, and it was located in the parking lot of a Gibson's, which is a large department store in Texas.

Three of my girlfriends and I got jobs there, and we had an absolute ball. This was after school and on weekends. We were in charge of taking care of the drive-up window and filling counter orders for burgers and sodas.

Once our boss said he had to go run some errands, and left us in charge. The minute he left we all started playing around, spraying soda at each other from those nozzles. We didn't do anything he told us to do.

Of course, our boss didn't really leave on an errand—he hid and watched the whole thing. So I got fired that day. I learned an important lesson: Do the right thing, even when you think no one is looking.

“He left me on the payroll even after I stopped working for him. My dad told me to send it back to the U.S. Treasury, and I did.”

Maury Povich & Connie Chung

Maury: I was a soda jerk in Silver Spring, Maryland, at a place called Falkland Drugstore. It was a full-service place, where I made ice-cream sodas, sandwiches and grilled hot dogs.

It was all very Norman Rockwell, and probably right when Rockwell was at his peak, back in 1952. I know exactly how much I made: 75 cents an hour, plus tips. I guarantee I spent it all on baseball cards.

I can still make a mean chocolate soda and root-beer float. The best thing about it was that as a soda jerk, you had to show people geniality across the counter and make people feel comfortable with you. That set me up well for the future.

Connie: My first real job was working as a secretary at the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, for whatever the minimum wage was back in 1968. I worked in a tiny little office with a man who was probably 102, where the door made a terrible sound when it slammed. Finally I asked him if that noise ever bothered him, and he said, 'What?'

Then, between my junior and senior years in college, I worked on Capitol Hill for a sleazy Congressman who left before they caught him doing unsavory things, including towards me. He left me on the payroll even after I stopped working for him. My dad told me to send it back to the U.S. Treasury, and I did.

But once someone asked me the most painful job I ever had, and I answered, 'Co-anchoring with Dan Rather'. You can print that, by the way.

“There was a monkey on a chain, my three-year-old brother ran right up to it, and it bit him on the eye.”

Boris Kodjoe & Nicole Ari Parker

Boris: Believe it or not, my first job was for a traveling circus in the middle of Germany's Black Forest. I was seven years old, and I was the curtain puller. When new acts came into the arena, the curtains had to be pulled back, and I was one of the two guys who did it.

It was a really tiny circus owned by some Hungarian family. The most exciting animal they had was a donkey. The clown was also the lion tamer, and the 'lions' were more like German shepherds. They paid me a turkey sandwich and a Coca-Cola, and that was enough for me. I was a celebrity for about a week.

The most vivid memory I have was when I was giving my family a tour of the circus. There was a monkey on a chain, my three-year-old brother ran right up to it, and it bit him on the eye. After that he had to wear an eye patch.

Nicole: My dad drove me from Baltimore to go to New York University when I was only 17 years old. As soon as he dropped me off in the dorms, I immediately went downstairs and applied at a Ben & Jerry's ice-cream shop.

It was my first real paycheck with taxes being taken out, so I felt like an official grown-up. At that time Ben & Jerry's used to make all their cookies fresh, and they would come out of the oven nice and warm, so I remember having a whole lot of chocolate chip cookie dinners.

They had just built new dorms for NYU, so most of our clientele was students who had the munchies. What was great about Ben & Jerry's, but hard on employees, was that they sold 'hand-packed pints.' So if you bought a pint of Cherry Garcia from me, I had to put it together scoop by scoop and pack it all down. That was intense.

Editing by Andrew Hay


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