Bette Davis was one of the most legendary Hollywood stars of all time, and this week, her former personal assistant is speaking out to reveal some new details about the iconic actress.
Kathryn Sermak, who was Davis’ last personal assistant, told Closer Weekly that the Oscar-winning star believed she had a sixth sense about people.
“Her mother was psychic and Miss D. always went with her hunches. She had radar,” said Sermak, who said she was hired by Davis at the age of 23 in 1979 after a quick meeting.
“You can tell a worthwhile person by the firmness of their handshake,” she recalled Davis once telling her. “As you will be representing me, I would like yours to be a bit firmer.”
Sermak worked for Davis in the final decade of the star’s life before she died in 1989 at the age of 81. While the actress was known for being a serious person, Sermak said she had a hilarious sense of humor as well.
“She loved to play practical jokes,” she said.
While Sermak was at Davis’ beck and call 24 hours seven days a week as her assistant, she said the star was also very generous.
“If we were going on a film set, the job was seven days a week. But when it was over, she’d give you a paid vacation anywhere you wanted for as much as six weeks,” Sermak recalled.
Sermak also addressed Davis’ famous feud with the legendary actress Joan Crawford.
“Everybody always tries to make a big to-do about her and Joan Crawford. But Miss D. would always say that Joan was very professional,” she explained, adding that both Davis and Crawford were in on the joke.
“They took a gamble [on Baby Jane],” Sermak said. “They created the hype and it paid off! It revived both their careers and they were thrilled.”
Davis was a heavy smoker throughout her life, and she underwent a mastectomy to treat breast cancer in 1983 and suffered a series of strokes soon after that. Despite her health struggles, she was determined to keep working.
“When Miss D decides something, she stops at nothing,” said Sermak. “If you tell her to do exercises, she will do them. We worked on them and eventually, her speech came back fairly quickly. She had [the stroke in] July and we were home at Thanksgiving.”
Davis did keep working, as she starred in the movie The Whales of August in 1987. She died two years later, and while Sermak has been a personal assistant to many other stars since then, she’s never forgotten Davis.
“I went to college for four years,” she said, “ but I learned so much more from Miss D.”