Back in the 1980s, most bodyguard “training” consisted of stints in the military. (ESI is the oldest intelligence-based protection services training program in the world, and was founded only 28 years ago.) I was one of the lucky few who fell into this line of work thanks to friendships and “right time, right place” circumstances.
I had to do most of my learning on-the-job. When I started out in this business, I was pretty much the baggage wrangler, and moved my way up through the ranks. Along my move up, I became involved in conducting advance detail duties. One of the most important things I learned is that executive protection work is based on a strong foundation of advance work. The advance team serves as the “eyes and ears” for the detail. Advance work means using a checklist to prepare for all types of scenarios.
At that time (before any formal training on advance workÂ was in place) it was really something that came out of developing common sense, using imagination to help visualize “worse-case-scenarios” and paying attention to intuition. I actually rather enjoyed doing advance work, because truthfully–it was time to myself when I wasn’t at the beck and call of the protectee I was protecting. It was breathing room, and a chance to look around whatever city we might be in! This is a true story about the importance of conducting thorough advance work.
My protectee was a major super star in the mid 1980s. He had a penchant for visiting nightclubs after his concerts, and it was my duty to look the place over and arrange for special seating and take note as to the layout, exits, and in-house security procedures. In this story, the club of the hour was in West Hollywood, located in the Beverly Center.
I did a walk-through with one of the club bouncers to locate back exits, restrooms, and to generally assess the safest place for my protectee to be seated. I observed that there were no metal-detectors and that these bouncers didn’t conduct any sort of pat-downs. Needless to say, this had me somewhat worried–don’t forget, this was California in the ’80s, when drive-by shootings and acts of gang violence in seemed an everyday occurrence.
Later that evening, we are all at the club–my principal is seated at his table–and his long-time friend who was a hugely popular comedian and actor shows up, and decides to sit at the adjoining table. He has his cadre of burly bodyguards on hand, as well.
The club is thumping and jumping, and everyone is having a great time when we hear a series of gunshots ring out! I look up, and see all five of the comedian’s bodyguards dive to cover their protectee, all of them in a huddle. My guys and I circle our protectee, and because I had done my advance work, hustle him out through the back kitchen exit. I had purposefully seated him near this exit, which could not be seen from inside the club. We were out and in the cars in less than a few minutes, heading down the road.
My protectee called up his comedian buddy the next day, to see how he had fared in the melee–which was how we all learned the details of what occurred after our hasty exit. Turns out, his bodyguards tried to hurry him out the front entrance, where they’d come in, which moved them all towards the shooter–who fired 2 more rounds!
There had already been mass panic–now it was complete insanity, with hundreds of people rushing to get out and away from the shooter. The comedian’s guards once again threw themselves over their protectee, and damn-near suffocated him. They were stuck in all that hysteria and chaos for 45 minutes!
The comedian asked my employer “how’d you get out of there so fast?” andÂ my guy said “Didn’t your people check out the club before you got there?”Â Apparently they hadn’t. When the comedian realized that his bodyguards didn’t have the foresight to do any advance work, he fired every one of them.