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Where magic-wand makers go to find work

By Jon Hornsby / June 3, 1983



Los Angeles

Wanted: a bird bather; a balloon painter; a child ''schlepper''; a shell sorter; a magic-wand maker; and a tap-dancing cupcake. This is a partial list of jobs available through an employment agency here that is bucking all the trends - especially the job shortage.

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It's hard to decide what is more unorthodox about the Job Factory, its specialty of odd jobs, or the fact that, while unemployment hovers around 10 percent, it is one of the few agencies around with more jobs than applicants.

Though most of the agency's jobs are conventional and permanent, such as secretary or computer operator, it is mainly known for its ''nontraditional employment.''

Co-owners Nancy Marks and Ava Minsky say they don't know exactly how they came to acquire this specialty. According to Miss Marks, ''It just sort of happened.'' When the Job Factory began 13 years ago, it catered primarily to students who wanted part-time and temporary work. Then the agency began helping the large portion of unemployed actors and musicians in town, and knowledge of its operation spread in those circles.

Before they knew it, the owners were getting calls from employers who needed people to dress up as cupcakes and tap-dance for commercials, Supermen and Easter Bunnies to appear at birthday parties, and even ''hot-tub tenders'' to work at exclusive health spas.

They now receive 30 new listings a day, Miss Minsky says. At last count, they had 270 applicants for 300 positions, including salesman, manicurist, receptionist, dog-groomer, artist to silkscreen T-shirts, camp counselor, waiter , truck driver, and singing telegram deliverer.

Unlike most employment agencies, the Job Factory does not charge employers a fee to place listings. The costs are borne by the applicants. They pay $25 to subscribe to the service for three months, or $50 for a year. Applicants receive daily listings of new jobs and can choose what they want to apply for. How do they feel about dishing out a subscription fee?

''It definitely beats looking in the want ads,'' says Keith Rosary, who found a job as an undercover security man at an exclusive nightclub. ''When I came here from Cape Cod, I filled out so many applications, it was ridiculous. At the Job Factory, I found this job in a week.''

The agency does not perform skills testing, reference checking, and matching of applicants to jobs as do most traditional agencies. But employers don't seem to mind. They can't beat the price, and many say they would rather rely on their own screening of applicants.

Besides, where else can you place a listing for ''angels'' to fasten multicolored ribbons to ceramic magic wands? Or where can you find a child ''schlepper'' to take your youngster to baseball practice when you're at work?

Some have found fulfilling careers merely by perusing the lists to see what appeals to them. Stacey Binn, a radio anchorwoman for a traffic reporting service, said she had no career direction before she found a job of monitoring traffic from a helicopter. Others shop around for temporary work while they look for something more permanent. Before television script writer Peter Elliot got his first big writing break, he walked dogs, cleaned pools, chauffeured clients for a public-relations firm, and watched over gift tables at weddings.

Even the co-owners have snatched up a couple of fun assignments. When Faye Dunaway, appearing as Eva Peron, signed a marriage register in a television movie, the hands in the scene were Miss Minsky's. Miss Marks had her feet filmed in a beach scene for an Ohio bank's television commercial. Both have served soft drinks at parties dressed as Easter Bunnies.

Occasionally the agency has given away free listings at specially publicized job bonanza days. The first of these, over a year ago, attracted 1,000 job seekers. Some 800 came to the second one, last June, and in September 300 showed up. ''Maybe people started giving up hope because of the recession,'' Miss Marks explains. ''There's obviously no reason they should.''