Sunday, September 16, 2012

"To Hug or Not to Hug?" - that is the question!

(This post by Tom Taylor)

Politicians have been hugging babies for over a hundred years. At a ropeline in 1996, President Bill Clinton was photographed hugging Monica Lewinsky. It was something Clinton would later regret doing as the photographs and video were played again and again.

During a campaign stop on September 9, 2012, Big Apple Pizza owner Scott Van Nuzer bear-hugged and hoisted President Barack Obama off the ground, sparking a discussion amongst security professionals: “Was this a scripted stunt or an unexpected event? Where was the Secret Service? What happens when someone tries to hug and hoist your client?” The hug didn’t so much raise eyebrows, as did the hoist.

The fact is, public figures hug people all the time and it’s almost always okay. Having protected at-risk public figures for over 35 years, I’ve found the general rule to be: “If the protectee wants to hug someone, I won’t stop him/her. If someone wants to hug the protectee, I will prevent it until the protectee lets me know it’s okay.” Every public figure I’ve protected has hugged someone in my presence and I allowed it, because they initiated the embrace.

Those same public figures have been approached by unknown people in unsolicited encounters and I have prevented those “hug requests/attempts” because it was inappropriate and unwelcome. Hoisting the protectee takes it to another level, putting the protectee in a helpless and uncomfortable situation. It is a basic protective goal to prevent embarrassing situations for the protectee. But what if the hug is a prelude to an assault?An excuse to draw the protectee into a vulnerable position.

In 2008, a man convinced rock singer Marilyn Manson that he wanted to shake Manson’s hand. Manson was clearly uncomfortable and his security team kept the man at bay. When Manson relented and shook the man’s hand, the man then asked him for a hug. Manson reluctantly agreed to hug him. When they embraced, the man ripped Manson’s wig off (an assault), and his security team evacuated him away from the crowd.

The video of this incident can be seen at: It was certainly an embarrassing encounter for Manson, and one his protectors attempted to prevent.

In 1989, Alfred Adcock lunged through a barricade and attempted to hug Princess Diana as she was greeting people. Security agents grabbed Adcock and held him back. He received a caution from police over that incident. He had carried out a number of similar assaults on women, including two international athletes and two female members of staff at Durham prison.

Thousands of people saw Adcock grab Olympic sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner on the track at Gateshead International Athletics Stadium. Race officials quickly intervened and Adcock was ushered off the track. Later, he admitted to indecently assaulting marathon runner Veronique Marot at the start of a race. Adcock entered that race as a runner and grabbed the French runner by the shoulder and put his hand on her breast. Adcock died in April 2004.

Protectors should develop a good relationship with their protectee and learn their preferences. Do they give autographs or pose for photos with fans? How do they handle direct contact with fans? Here are several points protectors should remember in these situations:

·     If the protectee will be shaking hands with people, always offer them an anti-bacterial solution to clean their hands when they return to the car or arrive in the green room. I’ve never had a client that didn’t appreciate that.

·     Maneuver to create a barrier between the protectee and unwanted approachers and try to keep the protectee moving while in public areas.

·     Use Verbal Judo skills to maintain control of situations. The rule is “Let the person say what he wants, as long as he does what you say.”

·     If you are telling a fan to stay back and holding out your arm as a barrier, but he is ignoring your presence and commands, then HE is elevating the situation to the next level. Know and practice low key tactics to control aggressors, cut through lines of people blocking your path, and breaking handholds on the client. Assume whatever tactic you use will be videotaped and put on the Internet within minutes. If properly handled, that same videotape can illustrate to a jury in civil or criminal court that you and the protectee were being assaulted and you only used minimal force to resolve the situation.

·     Always approach these situations as if there is a “No Hugging or Hoisting” sign hanging around the protectee’s neck. And the protectee is the only one allowed to say otherwise.


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