IamA Bodyguard (1983-2008) to Hollywood and recording studios. AMA!
My primary referral source, Cherokee Studios, North Hollywood: http://i.imgur.com/Keako9S.jpg
The Cherokee conference room: http://i.imgur.com/NG5udXt.jpg
The Cherokee Studio C: http://i.imgur.com/fXj7NNf.jpg
John Carpenter mixing a movie soundtrack with Bruce Robb (Producer) at Cherokee: http://i.imgur.com/Sx0jNuB.jpg
My Expired Bodyguard License: http://i.imgur.com/XyxPK0F.jpg
My verification: http://i.imgur.com/OoB6gmz.jpg
I was a licensed California bodyguard who wore a suit most of the time and carried concealed firearms and/or other weapons all of the time. VIP protection can be a boring business, but any particular VIP can be surprising. My best memories are with those who liked me and kept requesting me. My worst memories are of those who were totally reckless. I have guarded dozens of Hollywood VIPs, only some of which have seen their names in lights. Most of them were corporate and studio executives (most boring but best paying), but also some recording artists (more fun but less discreet) and movie stars (often outlandish and unreasonable).
People have conceptions of the VIP protection and preservation business. I was asked to hold this AMA to take questions about the business, so here I am. AMA!
Edit: Thanks for participating.
Hillary Clinton. Never guarded her, just knew a former federal employee assigned to her detail, and he would know.
What I saw was more people saying they were gay/lesbian or bisexual just to get approval of others in the industry, but were really not like that at all out of the public eye.
Who was the highest profile VIP that you have taken care of? Were there a lot of illegal activity you witnessed? Can you give an example not naming any names? Thanks for doing an AMA!
Who was the highest profile VIP that you have taken care of? MJ. Nice man. Very generous.
Were there a lot of illegal activity you witnessed? Too much to remember.
Can you give an example not naming any names? Mostly drugs. Some alcohol-related violence. Some prostitution. Orgies are not illegal, right?
Thanks for doing an AMA! Hey, I appreciate being invited.
Are there any names of big timers we might know?
Ah, so you want names. OK.
MJ, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Madonna, Huey Lewis, John Carpenter, Tom Selleck. I guarded these folks when they went to and from studios, events and home. I was not a full-time bodyguard to any of the above.
Edit: Sorry, I should not have abbreviated Michael Jackson's name.
MJ as in jackson or jordan? Which of these folks was the nicest to you? What was Eminem like and what was Madonna like? Do they mostly ignore you in that situation, or do they chat it up? Seems like an interesting line of work
I never guarded Michael Jordan, but I did work for the Lakers on and off for several years when another MJ (Magic) was still playing. I had no issues with any of those, but the nicest of those was Michael Jackson. Magic was a close second. Eminem was on the edge most of the time. Madonna was a very sensual person in conversation; I enjoyed that. Most VIPs just want to be left alone when not dealing with the public. Contrary to what I expected, most of them were (are) introverts, perhaps from the conditioning of their work. No, they didn't ignore me. It's more uncomfortable to try to ignore someone with you all the time than to just engage them in whatever else they were doing.
I enjoyed it. A few nuts in the mix but mostly good people with extraordinary talent in some area. Lots of personal issues, though.
What do you mean "sensual in conversation?
having seen her interviews, probably really flirty.
How were rod Stewart and Huey Lewis? Did you ever ask for an autograph?
After guarding them, an autograph felt kind of cliche, and I really didn't want one. Guarding them kind of trumped any photo I would have put on my wall.
I did get several for friends, though.
When guarding a client, if the situation arose, would you stand in front of a bullet to protect them (like Secret Service)?
That's part of the training, but the larger role is keeping the VIP away from situations where that is a risk.
I worked executive protection for some time, and one of the most poignant things I ever learned was from a senior agent who told me "If you ever have to draw your weapon or resort to physical force, you have already failed at your job and are now trying to play catch-up."
Correct. Nobody in VIP work wants confrontation.
What's the most scandalous thing you've witnessed a celebrity do that you're allowed to tell us?
I rewrote my paragragh-long answer to your question several times, and can now summarize it succinctly: Rich, spoiled people acting like children. Most clients did not behave this way but some did. The most outlandish behavior was a certain actress of some fame in 1989 got drunk at a private party and felt the need to have sex with everyone there because the dress she just bought made her feel unattractive. Well, she accomplished her mission. When I carried her to her car at 2am, she was passed out, was coated with bodily fluids from at least twelve men and about as many women (including two other names you would recognize), and had both crapped and vomited all over herself. She says she remembers none of it. I believe her.
Maybe not scandalous, but the most disgusting display of status and sick power I had seen up until that time.
Sounds like something Courtney love would do
For some reason my first thought was Kirstie Alley.
Nobody guessed it. Not that I would admit it even if they did...
Did she crap and vomit over herself during or after the party?
I wondee how many people still brag to their friends about that night.
After she passed out, the party was pretty much over. She WAS the party.
How much were you money making?
Six figures after the first year. Net.
Did you get to know secret life of the celebrities you were guarding? Don't need names, just a real story would suffice.
Also were there any life threatening incidents to you while on duty?
Yeah, I don't want my phone ringing, so I won't give names when giving details. Most clients were really cool to me, so I have no axe to grind against them.
I was not with most clients in their bedrooms but there were a few whose handlers (agents) required me to keep them in sight 24/7 (yeah including the bathroom). Their personal life was pretty much open to me. Again, I would not call most of my clients "celebrities", but several were, and still are.
Life threatening? Again, drugs and alcohol. In general people with money and power are bored easily and are looking for the next thing to get high with, whether it's an activity, a person or a chemical. I never had a client taken to the hospital for injuries from the public, but several from injuries to themselves. Yet again, D&A.
Did the job ever get you laid? Not necessarily with a client, but perhaps with a groupie or other person attracted to power or your proximity to it?
Lots of opportunity. Guarding a male VIP was better for this because the fans were mostly women.
No comment on relations with any one VIP. Suffice to say that people (women in specific) become more attracted to those who protect them.
Intimacy is not a good practice with those you protect, as your focus is distracted. Intimacy (off-duty) with the associates/fans of a VIP are another matter entirely. :)
Intimacy is not a good practice with those you protect, as your focus is distracted. Intimacy (off-duty) with the associates/fans of a VIP are another matter entirely. :)
Read this in Brock's voice (from Venture Bros)
Never read it, but thanks.
What's the worst injury you've sustained while working?
I got shot in the left thigh once by a gang banger. Got stabbed in the right thigh twice. The left thigh healed quickly. The right thigh did not (staph infection picked up at the hospital). Was out for a month. I hated being immobile. Gained 30 pounds while healing.
You have health insurance right? Do you get a "bonus" of some sort when you take hits like that or are those sort of attacks expected as part of the job?
There were no such bonuses in my contracts, but the VIP usually offered (and I usually accepted) to pay for my down-time and whatever expenses not covered by the normal health insurance I obtained on my own. One VIP was especially grateful and bought me a condo. That was for my right thigh injury.
That's nice of them! Are you still living in that condo?
No, I sold it at the peak of the market in 2005. Lucky.
What's the closest encounter to life threatening danger a client had while you were protecting them?
Bodyguards without government sponsorship/employment are not allowed to carry firearms or other weapons aboard commercial aircraft.
I accompanied a VIP from LAX-JFK and a passenger recognized them. Still parked at the gate, they attacked the VIP and I needed to subdue that person until police arrived. The person was trying to stab the VIP with knitting needles she pulled from her carry-on bag. This was pre-9/11. I don't know if passengers could even get those on a plane anymore. I was in the aisle seat and was stabbed several times, and the VIP was in the window seat.
The VIP was not injured but she was indeed shaken up, and would not let go of my arm until we landed. She was quiet the whole trip, and never even thanked me.
Holy shit dude! On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most pain in your life, how much did getting stabbed by knitting needles rank? I can only imagine it must have been insanely painful considering I doubt the tip of those things is knife sharp.
Considering the assailant failed to stab deep, but more at an angle, none of the stab wounds were deep enough to damage organs or major muscles. Most of my injuries were needle scrapes and not deep wounds. I think the scrapes hurt worse than the stabs. I'd give the scrapes a 5 out of 10.
Can you name some of the nicest people you've guarded and what you're experiences were with them?
Michael Jackson and Magic Johnson. Both very kind and generous guys. Both very aware that I was there to protect them and did not get in my way. Neither one was stuck up with me. Neither one was a tight wad.
I assisted Magic's personal bodyguard when they would travel for playoff games. Man, talk about women everywhere. That man loved to party. He spread his love everywhere, and did a lot of good for many people. If Magic met someone with a need, he would meet it or call someone who could.
Michael Jackson was on the other end of the publicity scale, and liked to be alone or with quiet people. I never saw him boisterous or out-of-control. He loved kids and I never saw anything improper with them around. He was really hurt by the court case though, and became more reclusive, even from those who knew him. Michael loved to buy things for people.
What would you say is the easiest way to get into being a bodyguard?
And to expand on the questions from /u/that_jake_guy, what do you think are the best personal traits for someone in that profession.
A career bodyguard (definition is arguable) possesses both:
- A natural inclination toward peace and patience, and
- A natural facial and physical presence that instills fear.
Unlike Kevin Costner, most guards I know are not Ken dolls.
What I did was make myself visible to concert venues for security work, then passed around my card to everyone I met. A singing group picked me up for some work and I asked them to also tell everyone they knew about me. They did.
I know there are schools for it, but I have never been to them, so I cannot say good, bad or anything about them.
Unless you are very high up in VIP work and are guarding government or diplomatic people, word-of-mouth will best serve to open doors for you. Then, it's up to you to live up to what others have said about you. If you work through an agency, expect to have your background scrutinized.
You can always go the mentor route... call all the bodyguards you can find and offer to follow them around and learn from them. Ask a hundred, you're bound to get one to say OK. This is a good way to see all sides of the business, and decide if the profession is what you thought it was.
Get some street-level defense training. I am huge, so learning how to use my weight against an assailant (Hap-kido) has been invaluable.
I got a PM asking for my favorite and least favorite moments in the bodyguard business.
Most favorite: Saving the life of a young mother, pregnant with her second child, who was shot at in LA by someone who didn't like her last movie.
Least favorite: Being sued by the assailant whose character-assassinating attorneys turned my life inside out and backwards, because I subdued him and broke him arm in doing so, after I had saved the life of that young mother, pregnant with her second child.
Were there ever situations where you wanted to hurt the person you were supposed to be protecting?
Slap them around, yes. Hurt them, no. Bodyguards with little tolerance should get a real job.
How did you get into this field anyways?
I am big, tall and ugly. Perfect for the job.
Actually, I have a stone face and was told early on that I scared people without trying. I played football and looked menacing to those who didn't know me. So, I worked security for a few concerts and was asked to protect one member of the group Air Supply for an evening after a concert. I liked it, they liked me, so I hired on and followed them on a tour. I did not like touring as I am a home body, so after a year on the road, the group visited a recording studio in Hollywood. It was there I met agents for Michael Jackson and a few other people. We exchanged cards and I got asked to guard VIPs from then on. Repeat business was frequent but I never wanted to be THAT close to any one VIP by working for them exclusively. I then got into surveillance and helped several friends launch their private investigation businesses.
I no longer bodyguard. I am a PI now.
Is a PI firm a lucrative business? It sounds extremely interesting but intimidating given how difficult finding clients must be.
It hasn't been. But it's a lot of fun. Still earning six figures net, but barely. The difference is, I work alone almost all of the time. I suppose some bodyguard clients have rubbed off on me (in one sense or another) in that I am more of a loner now than when I was younger.
Word of mouth is king to start and build your reputation. Like guarding, the PI business is 90% referral; who so-and-so liked and who didn't fall asleep; who was on time and who was consistently watching.
The primary intimidation of the PI business is the same as any other business... the hardest parts are getting enough clients to feed yourself, and then managing a successful business so that all the little things don't keep you away from what you do best. Ask any business owner.
Hi, about a response you wrote: about Hillary Clinton, you said she is in the closet, do you think she is bisexual? And what made your friend think that? As a gay female who looks up to her, this interests me greatly, haha. Thanks!>>
I have no first-hand knowledge of this, just the word of several people, including the one I referenced, who saw things with their own two eyes, and who themselves have no reason for, or history of, political involvement, deception or exaggeration. According to them, each of whom I would trust with my own life (including one woman), Hillary is neither straight nor bisexual, bull full-blown lesbian, at least between 2000 and 2015, when I asked them. I judge their words to be as good as gold. Thanks for the PM.
So you said you hated to guard the reckless. Who was the most reckless, and what was an example of their reckless shit?
Examples? Getting wasted and inviting night club guests to plow her over the bar. Taking selfies while leaning over a Peninsula Beverly Hills railing. Driving a car with me in the passenger seat... at 170mph... on the 101.
If I should stay, would I only be in your way?
Your name is Andy, so I would have to reply "yes."
Did Whitney Houston secretly fall in love with you, and you two started a cheesy romance?
You have to ask Kevin Costner.
Where you ever scared? I ask because I know your job is to protect others but I don't want to assume that it meant you were never scared about ending up in a situation and not knowing how to handle it.
Every scenario is identified at each location and set of variables to consider. Scenarios are evaluated and planned for, with contingencies and unknowns also planned for. Without getting technical, if something happens that truly scares a bodyguard, that means they weren't adequately prepared. Nobody can foresee every possible event, let alone prepare for them all, but the likely threats are known and met with a set of planned responses, long before the day arrives.
Falling back to self-control, then, courage is doing the right thing (in this case, my job) in the face of fear. Nobody can stop the fear from challenging the courage. The question is which will prevail. Bodyguards and other forms of VIP protection/preservation are trained to practice their responses to threats, so that reactions out of fear are eliminated.
You say you had to carry a concealed weapon, were there any times where you actually had to draw your weapon, and why?
It is generally inadvisable to threaten lethal force without the readiness and rock-solid reasons to use it. On rare instances, I brandished to an individual if I was reasonably confident that doing so would make them easier to deal with on a subdued basis. But no, I never had to pull one in a group or in public while guarding a VIP. Life is easier without lawsuits.
Did ever a celebrity had personal conversation with you?
Are celebrities jealous of other celebrities?
Any funny incident you want to share?
- All the time. If you mean confiding in me, only when they were drunk, high or scared.
- Extremely jealous. To the point of bitterness and malice. Especially the girls and gay men.
- Too many to narrow down. I can tell you that the biggest practical jokers (with a big name) that I witnessed were Robin Williams, Phyllis Diller and Johnny Carson. Wonderful people. I just wanted to be around them because they made others happy. Was quite sorry about Robin's death recently.
Are there many women in the body guard business? I would think in certain circumstances they would be required, but maybe not
Women have advantages in VIP work. I have worked with several girls in this line, and they all excelled in the roles of infiltration, distraction and information. Infiltration, because they mix into a scene undetected and unexpected in that role. Distraction, because they have the gift of beauty and can lure attention away from people and things. Information, because their gift of gab attracts conversation from others who would not open up to male bodyguards.
But female protection roles? No. I saw one try the role, full of herself, all about political-correctness for her gender. She got seriously hurt. She simply was not built for the role of deterrance. I don't like recalling that night. She no longer works in the industry.
Who are you protecting them against? What kind of assailants have you experienced?
Threats changed with each location and set of people. Sometimes, the largest part of my job was to protect them from doing stupid things or from hurting themselves. Most of the time, though, serving as a general deterrent was the primary role for me... sending a message loud and clear that this big, tall and ugly dude was watching me, and I should just mind my manners until he and his group leaves.
The other (slower) part of the job is babysitting and just... plain... waiting. On the clock, yes, but time crawled when my eyes watched something that never moved.
Assailants have been mostly drunk or strung out, and generally out-of-control. Those are easy to deal with, because they are easy to spot and plan for.
Someone sent me a PM asking about realism in "The Bodyguard" with Costner and Houston. Not much. It's Hollywood, folks. A lot of drama packed into two hours. Regarding assailants, the difficult ones are those unseen and unknown. In that movie, Costner worked alone. In reality, Houston's character and whole family would have been guarded by multiple guards anytime in public. I can confirm realism of one line from the movie with my own paraphrase: "If someone is willing to trade their life for the life of their target, nobody will stop them."
Roughly how tall are you? Do you think you were made more of a target by your size? Was there another bodyguard that was the rockstar of your profession? What was the most difficult time you had that wasn't a physical altercation?
Four inches shy of seven feet. I was only targeted by those who assumed I would be slow because of my size. They were corrected when they saw that equal speed plus superior inertia can be overpowering.
The role of deterrence is huge in the job. There are crazies everywhere, and there's only one of you there.
Steven Seagal and Laurence Tureaud were both bodyguards before they were actors. I have had conversations with both, but their interest in talking about those years dissipated with time. Sorry, I do not look to any one bodyguard as a rockstar. There are none on my wall.
Have you been to the Playboy Mansion?
Never. Have you? Would be interesting to know...
Most heterosexual (and probably more than a few homosexual men) man's fantasy is to attend a party at the mansion. Just hearing stories about some of what would be considered tame by comparison events would make it worthwhile.
Somebody must know.
How much coke did you see, use and buy?
Except for one night of insanity at age 16, I have never had anything to do with any illegal substance. I saw tons of it, in every form ever referred to by users. I got some on me, several times at parties. I saw other bodyguards shooting up, sniffing, etc. but I never did. I would have been worthless to my client if I had. That reputation got me some nice gigs. It also got me canned by a few folks that thought I should have demonstrated more "tolerance" by participation. In any safety-sensitive profession, tolerance equals compromise.
Have you ever met Suge Knight?
If you're still there: Whats it like being a PI?
It's fun. I thought (and was told) that it would be boring. But it suits me fine. I am conditioned to the waiting and babysitting, and I love gadgets. I like the look on a wife's face when her suspicious husband plays the DVD I made of her affair. I like helping a couple find out that they can adopt that child without fear that extended family would be unsupportive. I like catching an employee re-roof his house while on workers compensation for a broken leg. I like watching people who have no clue I am being paid to watch them do what they think nobody else can see. I like being able to tell a worried wife that no, her husband REALLY WAS just working late away from the office.
I like to help people FIND OUT.
What's it like? I like it better than being a bodyguard.
who's in the closet?
View HistoryShare Link