True Bodyguard Stories # 11 The Importance of Language

I was raised in a flat in the east end of London and born to a Lebanese mother and father.  I can remember that while growing up my parents refused to speak English in the house and only Arabic, like any youth I rebelled against my parents and  I refused to speak Arabic telling my parents that we lived in England and not Lebanon and therefore we had no need to speak Arabic any longer.  I remember my father telling me that it was important that I remembered how to speak Arabic and that one day it would help me.

When I first started working in the field of Executive Protection, one of my first jobs was to provide protection to an American woman who had fled an abusive relationship with her 4 year old son from her husband who was a Saudi Arabian national.  We had been hired by the woman’s father to insure that she and his grandson were able to get back to the United States safely.  I was working on a team of all Brits like myself who were former Para’s and SBS.

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True Bodyguard Stories # 10 The Briefcase

Weeks prior to one of the nation’s most popular sporting events, I receive a call requesting my services to work a protection detail for a new client. After an initial telephone interview, I agree to meet with him in person to discuss the particulars of the assignment and to review the contract. I can tell this man is serious about finding the right person for the job; I live several hours away, and he offers to pay for my time, gas and to put me up in a hotel if I so desire. I drive to his home and we engage in a four-hour long interview.

It is lengthy because he is a very industrious businessman whose telephone never stops ringing, and he takes all the calls. He offers me the contract, which includes traveling by car 300 miles to the sporting event. Just before I leave he says “I’ve never done anything like this before; trusting someone like this. We will have a large sum of money with us for the duration of the trip, and I want to feel safe at all times. Your number one priority will be to protect my assets. Protect my assets at all times!” I reassure him that he, and his assets, are in good hands, and leave. A few days later, I pick up my client at his home to drive to the event. We pack up the car’s trunk with our luggage, and he places a briefcase on the backseat. Just before we’re to arrive at our destination, he gives me directions to stop at a local bank where he has wired cash to himself. [Read more…]

True Bodyguard Stories # 9 Playing With The Paparazzi

When you work for an extremely popular mega-star, one of the major responsibilities is dealing with the paparazzi. They can be like sharks with cameras, and navigating rough waters with a famous celebrity can be tricky and sometimes downright dangerous.

I worked for a major recording celebrity in the 1980s who didn’t like having his picture taken. He was always asking us to try and confiscate the film. One time, as my client was getting into his limousine, a photog jumped into the car with him to snap a close shot. The client went crazy, and the head of security asked us to handle the situation. I was young, but I knew that if I laid my hands on this photographer, or his camera equipment,  it could mean big trouble since the law would be on his side. The other two bodyguards in the entourage jumped into action–forcefully ejecting the guy from the car and grabbing his camera and film.

Of course, the photog called the police and one bodyguard was arrested for battery and the other for robbery. They spent the night in jail.

Since our client was so adamant about not letting people take his picture, it was always a big pain dealing with the paparazzi. He’d order us to confiscate the film from the camera (that was back before digital) but we’d all learned our lesson, and it wasn’t worth jail or the consequential smear on our records to steal property from other people just because he was camera-shy! It got so we’d keep rolls of film in our pockets, just so he’d think we’d done his bidding. We’d race off after a guy, and a couple minutes later, return. He’d ask to see the evidence, and we’d reach into a pocket and pull out one of our decoys.

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True Bodyguard Stories #8 When In France

This story is a reminder of how working an Executive Protection detail requires the ability to make split-second decisions based on the best information available at the time.

In 2004, I was working overseas in the South of France, working with a television production team. My protectee was an American actress, and my contract and arrangement with the show’s Producer was that my energy and focus should be strictly on keeping her safe.

We were all at the airport in Nice, France, waiting for our luggage and equipment. Everybody was dead tired because the night before, the entire cast and crew had attended a VIP party to celebrate and promote the show. It had been a long day, followed by an even longer night, and everybody was over-tired, some a little hung over, and all of us desperately needed some sleep. My protectee had invited some friends to the party, and they were along with us at the airport, when one of her male friends lights up a cigarette–ignoring the “No Smoking” signs.

A local French man with a chip on his shoulder when it comes to Americans, starts yelling at him, insisting in broken English that he put out his cigarette. Clearly, the guy was breaking the rules. And they start getting into it, yelling and wildly gesturing. I was annoyed, but what was I supposed to do–my responsibility was to look after the star of the show–not her friends. Well, her friend is not only breaking the rules, but he starts acting like an “Ugly American,” and things start to escalate.

The French man is yelling loudly and then starts the shoving. My protectee turns to me and implores “Don, DO something!”

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True Bodyguard Stories #7 Nobody’s Thug

Nobody’s Thug

Back in the mid-90s, I was working with a partner in Los Angeles. We got the call to work a detail for a wealthy V.I.P. who needed two bodyguards for a night out at one of the swankiest nightclubs in the city. My partner and I were responsible for driving this gentleman and his entourage of 15 people to the venue, and the job was fairly routine, as these jobs go; escorting his guests to the restroom, getting the server when the cocktails were running low, keeping his area of the V.I.P. room secure.

Everything changed when a friend of mine showed up. She and I had met at the gym, and both knew some of the same people in the acting world. It just so happened her photo spread had just appeared, and she was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month. She came by to say hello, and immediately after she walks away, my client asks “who was that?” He was rather forceful guy, clearly accustomed to getting what he wanted. “I want to meet her,” he insisted. So, I thought to be polite, I’d make an introduction. I brought her around to his table, and of course she was her usual nice, friendly self and she’d become something of a celebrity so she was obliging a fan.

After a few minutes of chatting, and a glass of champagne, she excused herself and returned to her friends. My client walked up to me and said “I want her.” He seemed to mistake her charm and politeness for interest in him. I explained that she was there with her boyfriend, a New York actor of some note, but that didn’t dissuade this guy. “How much do I have to pay you to kick his ass?” I was taken aback. I’d never had a client make such a ridiculous request.

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