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This Is What It's Like To Be A South Florida Bodyguard

Anton Kalaydjian says there's no place like Miami to get your chops as a bodyguard.

The next time you see a celebrity, a public figure, someone important, look carefully at the person standing next to them. It's likely someone you couldn't miss considering their size, yet they're almost invisible - until danger comes up. These are the bodyguards. And the life of bodyguards is highlighted in a new Netflix documentary, "Bodyguards, Secret Lives From The Watchtower."

One of the groups highlighted in the film is Guardian Professional Securities owned and operated by Anton Kalaydjian. From his offices in Hollywood, he shared with us how he got into the business, why Miami is the toughest town to be a bodyguard in and why women are great bodyguards — but won't ever get a fair shake.

I went to school to be a stockbroker and I became a broker, but on the weekends I would bounce. And the stockbroker career was my bread and butter. But I was also working for a company that had a lot of nightclubs and they would take me from nightclub to nightclub to just clean it up. And my boss at the time [for the bouncing job] started to consider me to be a bodyguard. And I decided to give it a shot. I started doing local clients and local executives from Boca to Miami's South Beach. You know, guys with money that want to show off like they got a bodyguard.

After that, I got my licenses and went to the classes for bodyguarding. It wasn’t too long after that I got the chance to bodyguard for 50 Cent. I went to my stockbroker boss and asked if I could go on this tour. Broker money was up and down and this bodyguarding was consistent money. He let me go ahead and do the tour for like two or three months. And it was during that tour that I got shot in the leg. That’s when 50 Cent came to me and said, "I heard what you did and when you heal up I want you to come back for good." So then I had a decision to make.

What was it like trying to make that decision?

It was 51 to 49. But I didn’t want the violence to stop me. I can't live with myself if I did that. I've never been that type of guy. And this was my opportunity to see the world, make consistent money and make a career out of this. I can always go back to being a broker. I could be 60 years old and be a broker. I've only got a small window to do this. So let me go attack this, make this my own, make this my career.

Credit http://www.guardiansworld.com
Anton Kalaydjian founded Guardian after protecting some big name artists including; rapper 50 Cent and Justin Bieber, right.

How would you describe what it means to be a bodyguard?

You've got to be a smart guy. You have to have common sense and book smarts, and common sense even more so. If you don't have that then you're going to get yourself in situations that you're going to regret and you might put your client in jeopardy. Another thing you have to have is heart. You can't be nervous. You can't be scared. You can't have any fear in you. Then after all that you need hunger. You would need to be hungry for this because it will test you. It will make you want to quit a million times and if you're not hungry for it then you're just wasting your time. You'll fizzle out.

You've been shot. What do you tell guys about the danger?

I've had guards where I visited their parents. And these are grown men who are 30 years old. I’d go and talk their wife. And I would tell them all, "This is what they want to get into." Blue-collar guys, cops, ex-military guys, security officers, guys that don't have eight-year degrees, we're not going to make a hundred grand a year. Let's just be honest. But in this career, in this industry, you can, and that number means something to these guys. But it's my job to bring them back down to Earth and say, "Hey, you can get killed. You know, I've lost four friends doing this." Like I said, I've been shot before and I've been stabbed before and I've got to bring them back down to Earth and that's my job to show them the potential danger. 

Is that important when you're considering hiring someone to be a bodyguard that they be former military or law enforcement?

I wouldn't say it's important. It does help, though. You get a guy who's former military or a guy who was a former cop and these guys pretty much understand the meaning of teamwork and they understand the potential dangers and they understand what it means to rely on each other and what it means to be by yourself. They understand discipline and they understand hunger and they're not going to cry after standing for 12 hours at a time and they're not going to complain about not eating or not sleeping. They're kind of built for training anyway. So it helps, but it's not a huge deal. We don't hire bodyguards. I don't want those guys because they're set in their ways. I want guys that are just hungry, that have heart, that have the brains, and are going to do it the way we do it.

Credit http://www.guardiansworld.com
Protecting Lady Gaga.

Is there something unique about being a bodyguard in South Florida?

South Florida is a party town. This is where all the celebrities want to come and hang out. And when it's 30 degrees everywhere else, it’s 80 degrees here. This is also the place that attracts a lot of higher-end executives and artists, too. This city doesn't sleep. You've got places open for 24 hours. If you can handle this kind of nightlife you can handle anywhere. London's is a cakewalk. L.A. closes at 2 a.m. New York is easy. If you could handle Miami's nightlife then you could pretty much handle anything. And that's the glamorous side. That’s not even the gritty side of this place. I believe that we're fortunate that I got to be here because I'd have to believe if it was Omaha, Nebraska, it would be a hell of a lot different than it is for us now.

In the Netflix documentary, they did show female bodyguards. But is this mostly a male business?

It is heavily dominated by males; that’s just the way it is. There are a lot of highly qualified, expert females out there. Unfortunately, I don't think they get a fair shot. I'm not going to be politically correct, ever. Most artists and most clients want a bigger dude that looks the part. But then again, on the other side of the coin, there are female artists that only want female [bodyguards] around. There are intimate moments that they don't want a bodyguard to see. They might do a quick change backstage and they feel more safe or comfortable being around another female. There might be circumstances that are more private that we men may not understand as much as a female would. But I would say the industry is dominated by males, because a high percentage of clients want somebody that they feel comfortable with knowing if it goes down — this guy can handle it. I've worked with some bigtime, professional females for A-list clients, and they've got the brains and the know-how to operate. I just think they won’t get a fair shot.

Like police officers or people in the military, this is a stress-filled job where you can struggle with PTSDs. Is there any industry standard or is there just a way you handle that?

There’s no industry standard. But I think that that's the next step. I think that's the evolution of this industry. I've had a bodyguard go astray or their mind went somewhere else. And it's sad. The most important thing is getting them to their families. In the documentary, I mentioned how I was a robot. I would be out there for over a year straight and just live a robotic life. There was no female interaction; you don't eat or you don't sleep when you want. And that can take a toll on your mind. And then you try to go back to the real world and you kind of can't separate because you're so used to being a machine. How do I help them deal with PTSD? I get them home to their families and get a beer in their hand and their feet in the sand that's all.

You’re around a client sometimes 24/7. How do you keep a healthy separation and yet stay close enough so that they feel safe?

  Our Chief of Operations; Josh P. on #bodyguard detail in #balharbour Although his bodyguard days are over and now he is on to world #eventsecurity dominance with #umf ...we figured we would show an UN-bearded Josh doing what he did as a youth to get him to where he is...#cpo work. This man puts the "professional" in #guardianprofessionalsecurity #guardianvseverybody #guardiansecurity #lockitdown #ciara A post shared by Guardian Professional Security (@guardiansecurity) on Aug 3, 2016 at 12:09am PDT

That's probably the hardest thing to do. I tell my guys if you're going to ever remember anything I teach you, remember this. The No. 1 kiss of death is you never get comfortable when you’re with a client. If you get too comfortable, you become a buddy-guard. That's when your guard goes down because they see you as their buddy. Then again, you don't want to be so much of a robot that they feel like you’re not a human. I'm big on illustrations and I’ll tell my guys it's like a campfire. You want to be close enough to that fire that you're staying warm, but you want to be far enough that you're not catching on fire and burning yourself. And that's that gray area you got to dance in between. And the minute you get outside, you freeze to death. The minute you get too close, you catch on fire. If you can perfect that and never get comfortable you can last as long as I have.

How does insurance work in your industry?

Insurance sucks, man. I pay $100,000 a year in general liability insurance. Problem is, there’s no union for bodyguards. Firemen have unions, cameramen have unions in Hollywood and even plumbers got a union. I pay for all my men's health insurance. I pay 75 percent of their health and I pay 100 percent of their life and I pay 100 percent of their general liability. So even though the insurance costs me six figures a year it's worth it to me because now this is a career and it's not just a gig. You add a matching 401(k), you add the benefits that include paid vacations, incentive bonuses and things like that. When you do that, then guys look at this as a career. And by the way, that's the No. 1 question most often with clients. They ask, "Are you insured and can you carry a firearm?"

Do you pick your clients or do they pick you?

In the beginning we didn't have a choice. It didn’t matter because I needed to get my face out there. But then you kill it. You dominate it. And now my reputation speaks for itself. Now the fish are jumping in the boat. I would say probably 90 to 95 percent of our clients are word-of-mouth. I never go knocking on doors.

Credit http://www.guardiansworld.com/
Bodyguarding is, in part, intimidation.

Luis Hernandez is an award-winning journalist and host whose career spans three decades in cities across the U.S. He’s the host of WLRN’s newest daily talk show, Sundial (Mon-Thu), and the news anchor every afternoon during All Things Considered.
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