“What the bloody hell am I doing here?”
How many times had I asked myself the question ‘what the bloody hell am I doing here?’ God only knows. I will admit though, these days I don’t need to ask that question as much and in the same context as I used to. Going from operations to administration and then onto training over a 12 year period means that I have somewhat of a luxury ride now. Monday to Friday hours, holidays with the kids and only occasional weekend interruptions when courses are on or we are undertaking professional development with our trainers / clients etc. My venture into the world of close personal protection has been an eventful one; nothing spectacular or heroic, but a learning curve nonetheless.
My overall experience in a multitude of security activities over 12 years has led my career path to where it is today. I give lectures, write training materials, design e-learning content and a whole host of training / educational tasks related to delivering training for the purposes of being issued a security licence in New South Wales, Australia. Twelve years ago you probably wouldn’t have bet two bob on my making it through in one piece, let alone to where I am today. It all started in 1995 and I had just lost my job. So with what little money I had and what the government gives out (i.e. the dole) I had a little breather in the preparation of my finding a new job and getting back on with my life. I applied for roughly 300 jobs of varying types; delivery driver, office clerk, sales rep, hell I even applied to sell bloody cars! No takers what so bloody ever. Not a single call back.
Arseholes don’t even understand common decency. I decided to try an advert for security officer training. I rocked up all keen as mustard ready to be the best I could be (sound familiar anyone?) I was dismayed to find it was paperwork and an exam over two days. Pretty much if you were blind or a complete stargazer you might fail, everyone passed! I had a serious looking certificate that I took to the cop shop and fill out some forms and viola, I am licensed to work in security in Australia!!. Apparently because of the way things used to be done, I had a choice of activities / licence categories I could apply for – Static Guard / Armed Guard, Bodyguard and Bouncer.
I figured what the hell, I’ll tick all the boxes. And that was that. I was licensed after just two days textbook training, no practical, no experience and yet I could legally offer my services to provide the licensed activities listed above! Luckily for me (and no doubt the rest of the free world) I wasn’t satisfied with just two days theory and began a quest to find mentors in the business to teach me the business and how these activities should really be done.
My search wasn’t always successful, being a rabbit in the headlights and all, I was taken for a ride by some bastards, but overall I met and learnt from some very switchedon people, many whom I am honoured to have met, let alone worked with. I ended up doing everything a boy could wish for; working with ‘Stars’, doing all sorts of covert stuff, getting mentored by the best of the best and loving it. However, there have been many occasions where I thought I was centre stage in a Frank Spencer movie and managed to still walk away as the ‘herOne big adventure took me to the dizzy heights of stardom and the biggest of them all – Tom Cruise. It was during the filming of Mission Impossible 2 in Sydney that I had one of the funniest ‘cockups’ in my career which actually turned out brilliantly (actually there were several ‘cock-ups’ along the way and not all turned out too brilliantly, come to think of it). I received a call from a guy I knew who told
me to get my sorry ass down to Sydney for some high paying work on a movie set doing crowd control. So I grabbed another mate and we ended up working on the peripheral of a shoot in the Rocks precinct.
We were miles away from anything ‘Hollywood’ and an incident happened that would change that for the rest of the time we worked on the job.
During the filming, Tom and Nicole were apparently splitting up or something, don’t quote me – I ain’t a columnist. Anyway, word came down ‘No Paparazzi’ so, me and my mate were at our assigned posts and we hear the head bodyguard screaming on the radio about a Pap’ photographer with a telephoto lens, taking shots from the hill just above us. The guard assigned there was saying that there was nothing he could do as it was public space. The head bodyguard was seething. My mate was tall – about 6’7’ or more and we headed up to where this bloke with the camera was. My mate walked in front of
the camera, around it, underneath it – it was hilarious. This little photographer would have sure as shit pissed his pants because he took off at a great rate of knots. Victory was ours.
Shortly after that the ‘bosses’ started to migrate towards me and my mate, to see who we were and what our story was. We then started to get the cushier jobs; better hours which meant overtime rates because it was obvious we could do the job effectively and legally. This was most important in the film people’s minds, with publicity and all. My first cluster happened out the front of a government building they were filming in. They had a movie prop in the form of a sculpture out the front of this pretend bad-guy building. It was fenced off and my job was to look after it. One morning a police security officer (PSO) from the government building came wondering down and wanted to walk past me and have a look at this ‘sculpture’.
‘Excuse me Officer, I can’t allow past this point’ I said. ‘You What ?’ She growled. ‘I am sorry but I cannot allow past this point’ I replied. I have never seen such a shade of purple and red before, and the steam out of the ears was breathtaking. ‘Do you know who I am?’ She screamed. ‘Yes, it says on your patch that you are a police security officer’ I replied without emotion.
Out of nowhere came the Set Manager. ‘What seems to be the problem here?’ She asked sweetly. By now I was very lucky because in another second I reckon this PSO was probably going to shoot me or eat me whole; one or the other. ‘I am sorry’ the Set Manager cooed, ‘but he is following very strict instructions.’
The PSO mumbled something or other under her breath as she wandered off, escorted by the Set Manager to the Café cart that had just appeared. This thing was a fucking cake shop on a trolley with everything you could wish for. But we weren’t allowed to touch it as security was not catered for. Later that night, the feeling of Us vs. Them (us being security and them being the Filmies) was to be broken down after an incident involving myself and a Filmie. Filmies are the people wearing tool bags and carrying gaffer tape running around madly making Hollywood happen, so to speak. In this particular incident, a Filmie was struggling to push a trolley full of stuff up a steep street, and I saw him and gave him a hand. Apparently the guards up until this point wouldn’t help lift a finger, so this guy was very grateful. He made introductions to the people I needed to know. By now, I was getting to know who’s who as far as the Filmies went: food, water, coffee, toilets, I went straight to the top of each chain and got permission for security to have access rights to catering and the like. In exchange, we made arrangements for lines of communication to be set up to assist the caterers and the other site suppliers with access issues and deliveries.
By now, I had gone from a guard standing next to a generator five miles from the action, to a ‘get things done guy’ who started to know people. I still got rotated through shitty locations and posts, mainly because none of the others could do the job properly and the job still had to be done. One night I was standing at a shitty position doing access control. It was cold, exposed, I had been dealing with bloody tourists all day with cameras asking ‘Where Tom Clooooze?’ And I was tired and feeling a tad flat.
Out of the blue the head bodyguard comes down and says to me ‘Tom is driving himself to the set and will be coming through here shortly. Don’t cause him any grief, just let him through without any fuss or hoo-ha; understand?’ ‘Righto, no problem’ I said.
One of the Filmies comes rushing past, has ID badge out. Give him a wave. Couple of lost tourists ask me what’s going on and I tell them to move over the road to the viewing area. Another Filmie comes past. Give him a wave.
I then notice this guy at the bottom of the hill walking up towards me and he is wearing a baseball cap which is covering his face somewhat. As per au natural, alarm bells start going off in my head because he is exhibiting signs of being some dodgy bastard out to knock something off or steal anything not nailed down. To make matters worse he is sticking to the shadows. Now, taking into effect my briefing just earlier; I am seeing dodgy bastard and he ain’t getting past. This dodgy looking bloke finally makes it up to the checkpoint and starts to try to go past. I ask him where he thinks he’s going and he tells me he’s going onto the film set. I stand in front of him. ‘Excuse me Sir; do you have your Photo ID handy by any chance?’ I asked. ‘They didn’t give me one’ was his reply. People will try anything to get into anywhere, so I ain’t buying this guy’s story for a second.
‘Well mate, you’ll have to move over there to the visitors viewing gallery, thanks.’ The guy looks at me as if to make a point, so I have the hands up pointing in the direction of the viewing gallery and am just about to say: ‘what part of the words ‘fuck off over there’ don’t you understand?’ And the guy tilts his face which allows the light to shine on it and fuck me, it’s Tom Cruise. Mega fucking Star, known the world over and here’s me giving him fucking stick and attitude because he doesn’t have a photo ID badge. In my defence, I will say he is considerably shorter in the flesh than his publicity photo eludes.
About twenty minutes later the head bodyguard comes down to my position. ‘Was it you?’ He asked. Considering I am the only fucker at this post I couldn’t lie; ‘Um, Yes, It was me.’ I had visions of receiving my DTUM (Don’t Turn Up Monday) notice. The head bodyguard is pissing himself laughing. Now I am thinking he is some sort of sadistic prick getting his kicks over sacking me.
‘What’s so funny?’ I ask. ‘Well, Tom appreciates the fact that with almost 50 Grand US a day being spent on this film, that security is so tight even he can’t get in without photo ID.’ By now I am waiting for the punch line and it doesn’t seem to be coming.
‘We’ll talk some more tomorrow, but well done.’ Say What? Well done? It turns out that Tom was happy not to be recognised and had a chuckle over it, apparently. That led me
from doing the menial jobs to being now being responsible for co-ordinating set lock-downs during filming. I would rush around with two headsets on separate channels and another mike pinned to my jacket lapel on another channel. The two headsets were tuned to security and the Filmies, the lapel one was for my ‘Response Squad’. They would deal with shit as and if it happened during lockdown. Now I am talking to the film directors (John Woo and co.) and just loving every minute of it. But at the same time I always ensured that the guards got fed, rotated and looked after as best as could be expected on such a job.
Long hours, on your feet; it can be very boring, yet you still must do your job. I got some job offers at the end of the film which I was very grateful but declined because of the distance I would need to travel daily to work, but boy did I have fun! That was one job that will stay with me for the rest of my life. One final story to put another grin on your dial.
I once did a CPP job for a gay businessman. Now, I don’t really care which side of the
bed your slippers are on; just don’t think you can put them under mine! We go to this nightclub. He has money, lots of money. My brief is simple; if he picks someone up, we are to go back to the hotel (ps – I had a separate room!) and I was to make sure what he picked up didn’t roll him for his wallet when he left. Anyway, we are in this nightclub and there is very little smoke around, as most are gay / bi / and are all health freaks of some kind, and Mr. Client decides that he is going to light up his pipe tobacco. The stuff stank, and I smoke! So, he’s in the middle of the dance floor trying to be 20 something in a 50 something body, and starts puffing and putting this rancid tobacco stench every where. I knew it wasn’t going to end pretty and sure enough this massive cross-dresser walks up to the client and knocks the pipe flying. The Client grabs me and says ‘What are you going to do about that?’ He stank of alcohol and tobacco.
‘We’re leaving’ I said. ‘Why?’ ‘Because you’ve made a lot of people unhappy, and there is only one of me.’ With that he sheepishly walked outside, hailed a cab and handed me a wad of notes. ‘I won’t need you any further tonight; I am going home to grow up.’ With that, his cab took off and I never saw him again. I reckon I spent at least the following twenty minutes pissing myself laughing.
By: Damian Buckwell
Damien is based in Wangi Wangi, New South Wales. He has been a part of the Intercept Team since mid 2004 providing a complete range of training services for the security industry. He is currently studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Security, Terrorism & Counter Terrorism.