Thomas Fitzsimmons is an author, veteran, model, former police officer, & former actor. I mean, he’s all the things. He also happened to be my mom’s fiance & I’ve known him since I was very little.
He is smart, kind, compelling, an amazing writer & I couldn’t be happier that he’s on the blog today. I wanted to pick his brain about what it’s like to be a celebrity bodyguard & how it all works.
Thomas was on The Skinny Confidential HIM & HER podcast where he told us all about Donald Trump & Studio 54 back in the day. Currently, he’s Catherine Zeta-Jones & Michael Douglas’s body guard.
In this post he’s gonna tell us all about the life of a celebrity body guard, how he got into the industry, & his advice for anyone looking to become a bodyguard.
Let’s welcome Thomas to The Skinny Confidential.
The Life of a Celebrity Bodyguard
♡ Introduce yourself to the audience.
Thomas Fitzsimmons: Hi. I’m Thomas Fitzsimmons. A born & raised New Yorker of Irish descent – Virginia, County Cavan. I’m a U.S. Navy veteran & former New York City police officer, soap opera/TV commercial/film actor, Ford model & Private detective/bodyguard.
I’m the author of three Michael Beckett novels, a short story collection, a memoir & three screenplays. I’ve sold stories to New York Magazine, Esquire magazine & to Douglas Wick, an American film producer whose work includes Gladiator, Stuart Little, & Memoirs of a Geisha. I’m a recognized security expert &I’ve appeared on Good Morning America & other network TV shows.
♡ Tell us about your journey as a police officer & a bodyguard.
TF: Like many police officers, I became disenchanted with the “job” due to the lack of support from politicians who, when push came to shove, chose to glorify the rights of violent career criminals & vilify cops. A few months before leaving the NYPD, I was “discovered” by Eileen Ford of the world-famous Ford Model Agency which led to a successful 10-year modeling/acting career.
Word that I had a law enforcement background spread in the fashion & entertainment industry. Suddenly people were seeking me out, asking my advice on how to deal with stalkers, bullies, drug dealers who’d taken over a residential building, embezzlers, sexual predators, etc. I would refer most of those individuals to various law enforcement agencies & act as liaison when necessary. And I would sometimes become personally involved for those whose problems were beyond the scope of law enforcement.
I assembled an elite group of “Rockers” – guns for hire – to deal with the thugs that the police could not or would not touch. We were “Equalizers” long before Denzel Washington or Queen Latifah. My security business grew from there & before I knew it, I was a PI/bodyguard full time.
One of my novels, Confessions of a Suicidal Policewoman, – billed as fiction for obvious reasons – deals with that time of my life.
♡ You’ve worked with the top of the top. What’s something that celebs look for in a bodyguard?
TF: Different celebrities look for different qualities. Proficiency with weapons & hand-to-hand combat is a given. However, a bodyguard who keeps his/her mouth shut – speaks to the client only when spoken to – is universally sought. “Friendly not familiar” is a bodyguard’s mantra.
Celebrities aren’t hiring us as friends, or companions. They don’t give a rat’s ass how we feel, or what our opinions are about anything. They wish us to do the job, get them to & from without incident. My teams – all armed – appear to the outside world as businesspeople who blend in anywhere. Rappers, on the other hand, hire larger-than-life bodyguards meant to intimidate & draw attention. When deciding whether to take on a new client, I conduct a risk assessment. Then I’ll advise them on the level of security I think necessary. I may recommend only an armed driver, or an entire team for high-risk individuals. Regardless, I hand pick each & every operative.
♡ Can you tell us a juicy story?
TF: No. We sign ironclad NDAs – non-disclosure agreements. However, one incident that’s not off-limits: While Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Tony Award & Screen Actors Guild Award-winning actress, Catherine Zeta-Jones was starring in “A Little Night Music” on Broadway, Academy Award-winning actor Jon Voight kept stopping by the Walter Kerr theater saying, “Tell Catherine I just want to say hello.”
One look in the actor’s eyes told me different; he was smitten. Not surprising since Cath is one of the most beautiful women in the world. But she was usually busy rehearsing & had never met Voight so she demurred. Since he knew that I understood his intentions, Voight was gracious when I delivered regrets. Not that he gave up. He showed up at the theater five times. Five times I turned him away. About a year later, Cath & husband Michael Douglas were seated at a table at a Robin Hood Foundation fundraiser. Who was sitting next to Cath, a big smile on his face? Voight & I locked eyes. He smiled at me & gave me a thumbs up. I smiled & thumbed back.
♡ Have you ever been in a dangerous situation & how have you handled it?
TF: As they say in the entertainment industry, “The secret to a successful production is pre-production.” In the world of bodyguards, the key to avoiding dangerous situations is “advance work.” That’s where we scrutinize a high-risk celeb’s life & then plan their every move. Consider any credible threats, known enemies. Things like crowd control, traffic routes, egression to & from an interview, red carpet appearance, or dinner in a restaurant. Although the unexpected can & will happen.
One evening I was bodyguarding Academy Award, Golden Globe, & Primetime Emmy Award-winning actress, Gina Davis, at a film premiere. A paparazzi, usually a celeb’s enemy, warned me about a highly agitated, disheveled guy lurking in a crowd of fans, mumbling Gina’s name. I assigned two men to the guy who, when Gina & I exited the theater heading to our limo, cleaved through the crowd, pulled a screwdriver, & lunged in our direction. My guys took him down. Hard. Disarmed & restrained him & turned him over to the cops. To this day Gina had no idea what happened.
♡ What’s the interview like to get hired as a celebrity bodyguard? Walk us through the process.
TF: I only hire former law enforcement & military people who are experienced in personal protection – usually bodyguarding politicians or high-level military officials – & come recommended. I look for someone who strikes me as a team player, looks comfortable in conservative business attire, &, most importantly, is utterly unimpressed with the glamour & trappings of celebrity. Garrulous, conspicuous people need not apply.
♡ You’ve written a lot of books which is very impressive! What are some tools & tactics you use to write a book?
TF: If you’re going to be a writer, you have to be a reader first. I don’t use tools or tricks when authoring a book. I come up with an idea, sit down & write. And I don’t outline or plan ahead in any way – for me, it’s easier to write an entire book than attempt to outline one.
Discipline is the key. “There ain’t nothing to it, but to do it.” I don’t think about who my audience is, or if a book is commercial & will sell. I write & read for enjoyment. Although I must admit that If people like what I write I’m thrilled.
♡ What happens when the celebrity that you’re working with is hard to keep track of? (Partying, going out with friends, etc.)
TF: I always “keep eyes” on my clients so keeping track is not an issue. Whether using a lavatory or going outside for a smoke, me, or one of my people are with them. My steady clients are all mature, established & not into partying. Their idea of a wild night out is an after-dinner nightcap at the ultra-sophisticated Bemelmans piano bar at the Carlyle Hotel.
♡ What are your tips for someone who wants to get into the industry?
TF: Like any well-paying business, it’s competitive. Almost every retired law enforcement person tries their hand at the industry. If I were starting over again, I’d acquire as much hands-on experience as possible in a police department or the military. Then, depending on what kind of bodyguard work you’re suited for – are you a Mister T or Kevin Costner? – I’d find work with an appropriate agency. Learn the ins & outs. Make your own contacts. Keep your f**king mouth shut. Ears open.
♡ Where can everyone find you? Pimp yourself out!
Regarding my security business: I no longer solicit new clients. However, I do place bodyguards, & armed chauffeurs, & headhunt the very best in the business. To be frank, I’ve discovered that the vast majority of people that wish to hire an armed chauffeur/bodyguard can’t afford it or they are looking to employ someone on the cheap. As in any business, you get what you pay for.
Serious inquiries only, please. firstname.lastname@example.org
+ scope this post from author, Zara Barrie.
++ check out these 5 tips from Jamie O’Banion on balancing work & family.