And, as reported by the tabloids, Ashton Kutcher signed on last fall as Harvard-Westlake’s assistant freshman football coach. Paparazzi arrived in droves. “I’d never heard of the man until someone said, ‘We hired this guy because he was a friend of our coach,’” Tom says, insisting he’s out of the pop culture loop.
The Center, meanwhile, is often jokingly referred to as the Center for Early Entertainment. But Deedie claims to be equally difficult to impress. Asked whether Apple Martin, the daughter of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, would be a shoo-in, Deedie laughs heartily: “No! None of it is automatic!”
Famous parents, Deedie says, are admitted into the community only if they’re “hands-on.” She will not deal with their assistants. “It’s one of my pet peeves,” she says. “If you’re a good parent, you should be the one finding out about the school.” A certain kind of celebrity can even be a demerit. A couple of years ago, paparazzi followed a couple through the gate. “It’s not the real reason we didn’t take them,” says Deedie, “but we did feel it would be disruptive.”
Predictably, parents with such vast resources come up with outlandish ways to make their children’s applications to the Center stand out. Recently Deedie received a movie treatment from a gay couple about their surrogacy. “I kept it in my pile of outrageous things,” she says, “but I actually liked it.”
“Deedie sees much more [Hollywood posturing] than I do,” Tom says. No one has ever sent him a mock script. “I’ve never met the parent of an eight-year-old that wasn’t going to be president of the United States,” he adds, explaining that by the time kids appear on his doorstep, their parents’ fantasies about them have faded somewhat. “It’s like buying a racehorse: In the beginning, you imagine it will be in the Kentucky Derby. [When kids are applying to the Center], the parents think their kid can do anything. By the time they’re applying to seventh grade, there’s a track record.” When it comes to Harvard-Westlake admissions, most parents know that no amount of sweet-talking or aggression can erase a less-than-stellar academic record.
In any case, like his wife, Tom has no interest in glamorous offerings or quid pro quos, even if two of the Hudnuts’ three children—Sarah, 35, an actress married to a movie producer, and Spencer, 32, a screenwriter who recently received an M.F.A. in producing—could benefit from them. “I’ve never played that card,” says Tom, reclining in his preppy academic’s office smack in the middle of Hollywood. “I am very New England Protestant when it comes to that kind of thing.”