The Interviews + Guest Posts

What’s it really like being a celebrity bodyguard?

8 Comments 01 June 2012

Isn't she fabulous! Catherine Zeta Jones with bodyguard Thomas Fitzsimmons.

Forget Hollywood–well, I mean the fiction (where does one draw that line?), I mean forget the movie, The Bodyguard, I’m talking real life. It can’t be all glamorous parties right? It’s not about being a beefy gym-going guy who looks good in a suit, is it?

What does it take to be a celebrity bodyguard?

  • You must have to be pretty mellow to deal with all the personalities and the craziness celebrities get themselves into, but you also must have to be pretty alert at all times to deal with the crazies that are attracted to celebrities.
  • You have to be fairly intimidating to put off all but the most crazy, yet stylish enough to fit in with the group you’re working with.
  • You’ll need to be intelligent enough to be one step ahead of the threats, to work out at a glance where the exits are and if they’re safe, to know immediately if you’ll need to change the plans and to work out immediately what new plans you’ll need to change to, and to easily identify which situations and locations pose unique threats. Phew!
  • You’ll also have to be skilled in fighting and in controlling dangerous people who may be carrying weapons.

Does that fit anyone you know? I don’t think I know anyone who fits all those requirements. Oh, yeah. I know one, Thomas Fitzsimmons. And not only is he all of that, he’s also a fantastic writer, author of the best selling Confessions of a Catholic Cop (check out my interview with Thomas earlier in the year) and Confessions of a Suicidal Policewoman. Click on their titles so you can see all the praise and reviews, including:

“Fitzsimmons is a worthy successor to Ed McBain, the king of gritty crime fiction. Under his pen the city sizzles like a drop of rich, red blood on a baking sidewalk.” Stephen Coonts – New York Times Bestselling Author

Click here for more comments and information and to get your own copies: Confessions of a Catholic Cop and Confessions of a Suicidal Policewoman. Do I have a favourite? Both are great for different reasons. Let me know what you’re opinion is!

Thomas is busy writing his third book in the Confessions trilogy. The first two, drawn from his experiences in the New York Police Department, are gritty, honest stories that hold even more for me knowing the author’s background. I look forward to the third, which will be drawn on his experiences as a celebrity bodyguard. Thomas very kindly took time out from work and writing to answer some questions I thought my readers might be curious about–what’s it really like being a bodyguard to a celebrity?

Q. How did you get your first bodyguard job?

A. Back in the late 80s, a retired Secret Service agent-friend asked me to bodyguard one of his clients; the beautiful Academy Award winning actress Geena Davis who was in town promoting the film “Cutthroat Island.” During the next few days I experienced my first press junket, (a freakin’ menagerie), half-a-dozen talk show appearances, and a truly glamorous, star-studded red carpet event. Then there was the film’s premiere, followed by the after party—the after party is where thing got frightening.

A photographer from the New York Post warned me about a wild-eyed, redheaded male Caucasian who was loitering outside the Cutthroat Island party venue, claiming to have a personal relationship with Geena. I didn’t know it at the time, but wackos are not uncommon wherever celebrities congregate. But this particular 5’11”, 220 pounder was insisting that he was a former lover of Geena’s, which alarmed the veteran entertainment reporters and paparazzi. Which alarmed me.

When we arrived at the premiere after party, “Red” made an attempt to attract Geena’s attention, calling out her name from behind police barricades, appearing fully confident that she’d respond. Of course she didn’t. Which apparently infuriated the guy. Because on the way out, Red leapt over the barricade and lurched toward Geena—of course I was ready for him. As event security ushered Geena out of danger and into the limo, I took Red to the ground, wrestled a box cutter from his right hand, and left him in the hands of a uniformed cop.

Q. Have you ever worked as a bodyguard to other famous or not famous people?

A. As luck would have it, I’ve only body-guarded actors and actresses. Wait, there was one billionaire corporate raider back in the 90s that I body-guarded for about three months. I forgot about the little shit and his wife, because I want to. (See the character, Don Langlois in “Confessions of a Suicidal Policewoman”. Yup, Don and his spouse are based in fact.)

Q. Would you die to protect your client?

A. I wouldn’t die for the billionaire corporate raider. Him I’d use as a shield when the shooting started. My steady clients I’d die protecting. Partly because it’s the job, partly because they are wonderful people. And I know they think of me as being: Trustworthy. Loyal. Helpful. Friendly. Courteous. Kind. Cheerful. Thrifty. Brave. Clean. Reverent. And the client is always right. :)

Q. Any scary moments or close calls?

A. Remember the Sy Spector character in the movie, The Bodyguard? Spector’s naïve focus on garnering PR for his client, Rachel Marron (Whitney Huston) without considering her safety had consequences. Bottom line: Sy was brave with his client’s life much to the chagrin of Marron’s bodyguard, Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner). Well, those clueless managers and PR people really exist. They have been the direct cause of most of my close calls.

An example: One manager fought me on security for a client who was appearing on national talk show. Said that security made the client look like a diva. At the end of the show, the client stepped out of the ABC building “alone” and was rushed, jostled and nearly trampled by about 50 frantic fans—thank God there were no box-cutter wielding crazies in the crowd. If I’d had my men in place, this would have been a non-event. As it was I was forced to slightly injure several gushing fans in order to extract the client—who was understandably shaken up.

Q. What do your duties include besides hanging close to the client?

A. Advance work takes up much of any bodyguard’s time. That is visiting restaurants, entertainment venue, sporting event etc. that the clients will attend ahead of time. I liaison with “event security” when possible. I decide if there are any security concerns; I check for obstructed emergency exits, choose the client’s seating and select our travel route to and from the venue.

Q. Are there people you wouldn’t work for? If so, why?

A. There are plenty of celebrities I won’t work for. Some (I won’t name names) are simply too difficult. Some are into drugs. I won’t work for musicians of any kind. And these days I’d prefer adults to young stars. Young stars tend to stay out all night and sometimes look for trouble when they are under the influence and have “muscle” to protect them.

Q. Did becoming a bodyguard change your relationship with your significant other?

A. Some women have a problem with my job. They see photos of me with a starlet, and their imaginations get the best of them—they watch too many soap operas. One day I was escorting an actress—who was wearing six-inch stiletto heals—and had to hold her around the waist as we crossed a slippery floor. A woman I was dating at the time was standing across the room watching. She later accused me of having an affair with the client. Which prompted me to end our dating relationship.

Q. Do you have to have a license to be a bodyguard?

A. Yes. You must hold a state license and be bonded. You must be a US citizen. You must take a test, then be fingerprinted and endure an in-depth background investigation, followed by a face-to-face interview. Law enforcement experience is a big plus.

Believe it or not, some celebrities hire unlicensed bodyguards, bring them in from abroad. Not only can unlicensed bodyguards be arrested, and fined for working without a license, but also if they take physical action protecting their client, the client will bear the bunt of the civil law suit that is sure to follow.

Q. Do you carry a weapon?

A. No comment.


Thank you for your time, Thomas!

Thomas will be extra busy this summer working with Gwyneth Paltrow and is looking for one, possibly two PR or marketing interns for the summer to work on exploring further possibilities for promoting his books. This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in working in the self-publishing market, where I think a huge undeveloped landscape is waiting for bright sparks to begin to shape it! This is an excellent opportunity to beef up your CV/Resume. Leave a comment below if you’re interested, or email me theamericanresident AT yahoo DOT co DOT uk and I will pass on your message to Thomas.

Your Comments

8 Comments so far

  1. Tony Iwanczuk says:

    Hey Tommie, Great interview looking forward to your new book

  2. Dennis Daniel says:

    Great interview!

  3. EmmaK says:

    Wow, fascinating interview and these books look fascinating. I will check them out.

  4. Great interview, wonder what it was like guarding Catherine Zeta Jones?

  5. Johnathon says:

    I do armed body guard work. Any idiot can cause harm. You need more than what was talked about.

  6. TJ says:

    Great interview!

  7. Celebrity needs bodyguard. The post about celebrity bodyguard job. Helpful and important post.

  8. Peggy says:

    Awesome Tom!

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