Sunday, February 24, 2013

Celebrity Security and Special Problems

Three men wearing tough guy black suits, but are they trained or just security theater? 
Los Angeles, CA—As the Oscar Awards are presented the serious side of celebrity security is an important area of concern.  Today many entertainers and security professionals are discussing the dark side of the entertainment business.
As a private investigator I've had to deal with numerous stalking cases involving celebrities in film, television and TV news.  I generally stick to threat assessment, background investigations, management and actual prophylactic contact with the offenders.   Except in special cases I leave the muscle work to others.  
Celebrities are generally admired but sometimes for the wrong reasons by their fans.  When an actor makes the choice to expose their images and personal history for the general public it can pay handsomely.  It also sometimes comes with a price that can be painfully expensive and sometimes frightening. 
The vast majority of fans are sincere and adoring.  Unfortunately there are delusional people who have been medicated rather than institutionalized.  They for the most part simply be a nuisance but in rare extremes mirror the likes of Mark Chapman, John Hinckley, Jr. or others.  Care must be taken to deal with the delusional.
Unarmed and untrained security workers are virtually worthless and can increase rather than decrease any threats.   They can also bring about unnecessary difficult publicity and lawsuits should they mishandle the celebrity’s fans.  Unfortunately the pretenders are the makeup of the lion’s share of the commercial security workers.  You don’t want or need simply a warm body in a security costume or tough guy black suit.
Usually it’s best to hire off duty trained, sworn and armed off duty police officers if possible.  Contacting the local police agencies is the easiest way to accomplish this.  They can provide officer’s seeking to earn extra money. 
Retired cops who are also licensed to perform security functions can be fine too.  Celebrities need to work out graceful and effective escape plans with their security people should something go wrong.  The best muscle the celebrity bodyguard can use is often his tongue to deescalate problems through skillful diplomacy. 
Court restraining orders are difficult because they are limited to jurisdictional geography and require repetitive incidents by stalkers and such.   If there are repeated incidents in the same location it’s a good idea to get them served upon the offender.  The orders are helpful with getting police and prosecutors to take the nefarious conduct seriously.  You must always remember the restraining orders are made of simple paper and no substitution for real security.
As for fan interaction with celebrities it’s a necessary part of promotion.   There are a lot of nice people that pay their hard earned money to see their favorite celebrity doing what they do best.  There are the over-zealous fans that need to be watched but not confused with stalkers.  This is where security diplomacy and the bodyguard’s training should come in to play.  An offended over-zealous fan could become a problem and sometimes an unnecessary distraction for a celebrity. 
If an over-zealous fan or stalker somehow personally contacts a celebrity, the worst possible thing would be to show fear.  That would transfer control away from the celebrity.  The celebrity should remain friendly but firm in communicating that a relationship with the fan is impossible.  That should come with a kindly thank you for their patronage of the celebrity’s work product. 
Troubling incidents are thankfully very rare but reasonable security steps can go a long way to make the experience of public events enjoyable. 
When moving around in public in everyday life celebrities should maintain a low profile.  They will be recognized and often approached by strangers.  For the most part this reality and can be enjoyable.
European celebrities are generally precluded from firearms for self-defense.  That was no help when a man invaded the late Beetle, George Harrison’s home stabbing him with a knife.  
American celebrities can and should have personal defense firearms and the training to use them effectively.  Professional training with firearms is something every actor needs in order to better play the characters when the script calls for them to handle guns.
Using a gun in self-defense in the vast majority of cases simply causes criminals to run away without a shot ever being fired.   It’s the rare case when firing a gun at a criminal becomes necessary.



Anonymous said...

Excellent column Paul! Everything you stated was right on target and key to celeb security. Most of these mopes in black suits are in fact worthless unless you use them for a shield only and even then they don't provide much and run like hell when the poop hits the fan. Celebs would be wise to take your advice re; "real cops" who know how to handle any situation without a law suit on the Celeb. Retired cops would be fine too. I know of your past work and I would not hesitate to hire you if I were a Celeb. Good writing too!

Anonymous said...

Paul, One deadly example of having untrained security personnel happened in L.A., back in August of 1968. I'm sure you know what I speak of. Rosie Greer protecting Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

Anonymous said...

Like this anti-gun hypocrite: