Spend any significant amount of time providing protection for entertainers involved with stage performances, and you will likely encounter one of this segment of the industry’s biggest headaches, the stage crasher.
The motivation for these individuals comes in various forms, some are “super fans” who see getting on the stage with the celebrity as the ultimate form of expression of their loyalty and support. They often refer to it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and despite common sense, the threat of ejection, arrest, or sometimes worse, they still needed to make the attempt.
For others, it’s a method of self-expression or protest. Showing the world, and the entertainer, that there are more serious issues occurring in society. Their intent is to use the platform provided by the event, and the eyes glued to it, to help spread whatever the message they are trying to get out into the atmosphere.
Then there is the prankster or anarchist. These are individuals who crash the stage as a way to show that life doesn’t have to be as serious as people make it out to be. They find humor in creating chaos and revel in the responses, even if it’s at someone else’s expense (or budget). In the new media age, this is even more prevalent as these provocateurs have been able to translate the pranks and the notoriety that comes along with them, into revenue streams in the form of viewership via social media. They try to make their way to stage in an attempt to “go viral,” hoping to multiply 15 minutes of fame exponentially, by having others share photos or videos of the disruption with their networks.
And lastly, and most seriously, is the stage crasher that attempts to gain access with the intent to harm the entertainer. These individuals have their own subset of rational for doing so, ranging from mental disturbances, to real, or perceived, slights from the artist in question. Over my career, I’ve seen crashers take the form of opening acts, who have felt their set was cut too short by the entertainer currently on stage, to jealous boyfriends, who in a fit of anger try to jump onto the platform for no other reason than their significant other was enjoying the performance way too much for their linking.
No matter the intent, if the security measures put in place prior to reaching the stage fail, it then falls onto the individual assigned to body protection to deal with it. I call this the “moment of truth,” because multiple variables come into play at this point, and the response of the Protector, can be the difference between a momentary nuisance, prolonged embarrassment, and in some cases, injury of the performer. There is a mantra that many of us have drilled in our head, protect the individual, protect the brand, so now faced with this moment of truth, our response must be measured, if not we may end up doing more harm than good.
Compounding this difficult position is the fact that the response cannot be one-size-fits-all, meaning that how we would deal with a star struck teenage girl should not be the same manner as we would with a mentally deranged stalker. The problem being that, there is an extremely narrow window to try and ascertain intent and make that distinction. Most of the time, this ability is honed from years of experience and an understanding of behavioural profiling and physical “tells.” However, even if you don’t have that, if you are in that role, you still are forced to deal with the situation at hand. Further complicating the situation, are the factors of time, distance and placement.
TIME: How long it takes for the threat to get from their entry point onto the stage to the Protectee. How long it takes for you to get to A. The Protectee or B. The Threat
DISTANCE: How far away are all parties in relation to each other.
PLACEMENT: While we would love to be Arm’s Length Away from the Protectee at all times, by its very nature, that simply isn’t’ possible for stage performances. As such, we as Protectors must make a decision on where we will post for the duration of the performance. While there is no absolute to this, as venues containing the stage can have multitudes of configurations, some good rules of thumb can apply.
For example, a choice must be made to be in the “pit” (the ground level white space area that traditionally separates the fans from the front most part of the stage) or in the “wings,” (positions located Stage Left and Stage Right, one of which usually, but not always, serves as the entry or exit point for the artist.) I myself opt for either Stage Left or Stage Right, usually narrowing it down to whichever area I want the entertainer to exit off stage from at the conclusion, therefore, all they have to do is look to me and walk in that direction.
So with time, distance, placement and intent all coming to a head in the moment of truth we know we need to do something and do something quickly, but what? And what might be the ramifications? We will explore that and more in Part II.
Keeping Your Edge – Measured Responses in Tour Security (Part I)
By: Elijah Shaw
Elijah Shaw is the National Director of the North American Bodyguard Association and the CEO of ICON Global, and International Executive Protection Consulting Firm. Elijah, who has been featured in Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, and Portfolio, runs the ICON Academy, an EP Training Program specializing in Celebrity & VIP Protection. He also currently sits on the Board of Directors of Executive Security International (ESI), the United States oldest Executive Protection Training School.