Think about the time and energy it takes you to plan your Saturday night. Le stress, am I right? Now think about planning an entire security detail for The Real Housewives of New York’s vacation in Morocco. Where the hell do you even start? Just ask celebrity protector Kent Moyer.
Moyer got his start as a bodyguard at the Playboy Mansion in 1994, a gig he refers to as a “dream job.” He worked for Playboy for six years before founding the World Protection Group in 2001, which executes high-profile security details for everything from award show red carpets to the Super Bowl. Moyer knows the ins and outs of celebrity security, and the work that’s required. “What I realized is that 90 percent of the people who get into this business are what I classify as bodyguards,” he told us. “They’re not people who have formal training. They may be big guys, but they’re untrained thugs.”
Find out what he had to say about training members of his team and the dangers that come with working with celebrities.
What are some of the most elaborate or ridiculous requests you’ve received from clients?
[Working on] private jets, private helicopters, 200-foot yachts, red carpets, and at the awards shows. We have a lot of billionaire clients, but we’ve also protected a lot of dignitaries for foreign countries. The Chinese typically like to have white motorcycles, and we typically like to have what we call “low-profile details.” The Secret Service is more high-profile because they have the resources and the facilities and they have someone with law enforcements in their protection details. But when you’re doing a two-person detail in a high-risk area, you want to fly below the radar.
What’s the largest number of people you’ve had to work with at once?
We just did a major sporting event in Mexico City and we had seven protection details going on at one time. That included executives and people that were involved in this event, famous people, and it was done in a foreign country.
Do you ever run into trouble when a client has a huge entourage with them?
Yes, all the time. You never know whether the entourage has been arrested or if they’re carrying weapons. When the entourage is going to start trouble that’s going to affect the client. It’s no secret that a lot of the music people run into those problems — you can go on YouTube and there’s a treasure trove of case studies where guys were in bar fights and alleged shootings. We use those in our training to show that this is not the type of security that we provide, and this is why clients have problems.
What’s the scariest moment you’ve had so far?
Operating in Mexico. We were doing an operation detail there, taking a client to a manufacturing plant and en route to that location was a police station. The cartels shot that police station up and there were about a thousand rounds damaged to the police station. We notified our client immediately and we ended up staying at the hotel and they worked out the hotel room for that day. The amazing thing was that we had intelligence so fast.
What sort of planning do you have to do when your client travels internationally?
We do a lot of detail in Mexico. We use armored vehicles there, as well as Colombia and Brazil. We have an intelligence system [that tracks] vulnerability and risk assessments. We have over several hundred advances in our database so that any time we’re doing a protection detail, we’ve already done a lot of the work ahead of time. It’s the preparatory work that’s gonna keep you alive and not get you injured versus just going down there in a car without knowing what the threats and risks are in that area.
What do you do when your client receives threats on social media?
It’s a security nightmare when you have a client that isn’t using social media in a responsible way. There are clients we’ve had in the past who continue to tweet that they’re gonna be in some restaurant on this boulevard for lunch today. That triggers the paparazzi and anybody tracking the individual celebrity to show up there. Technology-wise, we encourage our clients to use encrypted emails so you don’t have hacking problems.
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What other types of security protection is your company capable of?
If you said to me, “Hey, I need you to get the pin number on a Serbian passport,” we can do that for you. The uniqueness about us as a company is that we’re very fast at delivering things to our clients. A client will say, “Hey, we want you to fly down to Mexico City and set up a VIP suite for the client at the Four Seasons Hotel.” We’re doing it for them. If they want us to arrange for a private jet, we can do that for them. Behind the stage, we’re creating a James Bond-type of security program for the client that nobody knows about. We’re doing everything we can to maintain a level of privacy with minimal resources.
What is bodyguard boot camp like?
It’s fun. I put together a school that would be the most practical and most realistic for the industry. The training is based on the Secret Service ways of protection, so it’s cover and evacuate. Anytime an attack occurs, we’re evacuating to a car or a safe room, because if a guy pulls his gun out and starts shooting, you’re already behind. It isn’t about using a gun in this work. It’s about time, speed, and distance, and getting out of there so you can avoid your client being injured or killed.
What’s it like managing your employees and clients at the same time?
It’s a great thing to see the company grow, but the company has grown based on quality. A long number of years ago, I recognized that I have to have some sort of formal business school training. There’s nobody in the history of this country that has done that. I graduated from Wharton, and I’m the first security officer to do so. I gotta be able to justify to my clients that this is why there’s a difference between us and other companies, because we do formally train people and we have our own school and we’re a work force with formal training in the field. We don’t just hire you because you worked for Madonna or Britney Spears for the past two years. When applicants reveal who they work for, that’s a violation of the confidentiality of the client. Even if they don’t sign a confidentiality agreement, it’s in the industry. We get paid not to talk about it.
Do you ever see yourself in paparazzi photos?
There may have been a royal family member we were protecting. My sister said I was in a CNN picture, but I never saw it and I’m glad I didn’t. The goal is anytime they’re taking pictures or taking video footage of the client, you’re not to be in the picture. We want agents that are smart enough to go off to the side.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images, Kent Moyer]