He has traveled the world protecting royalty originating from several different countries and continents. Robert Rangel, as he reveals in his book, The Organ Grinder’s Monkey, has handled security for the aristocracy and the rich and richer, reveals some of his adventures to Lance Avery Morgan.
I spent six years of my life working security for some of the wealthiest and most powerful families on the planet. What was it like? Traumatic would be a gross understatement. I had to move mountains for these people without any acknowledgement or praise. had to look the other way as they acted irresponsibly. I had to stand in a hallway for twenty-one hours a day, for four days straight, with no chair, no food, nor rest breaks. While all this is going on, my colleagues plotted to backstab me and take my job.
Even when everything was going right, it was just a matter of time before the next crisis would emerge. For instance, I get a phone call, “Customs confiscated three million dollars from the princess.” Why? Because the princesses assistants failed to declare the money when they entered the United States. All the royals routinely travelled with millions of dollars in cash. The law is anytime you enter the United States with over ten thousand dollars cash you must declare it. The result? Customs found the money and confiscated it. So your boss from Brunei tells you, “Go get the money. The princess needs it. Oh and by the way don’t ask the Bruneian Embassy for help. Don’t tell anyone. Make sure you get the money back without any official government help.” Why? “We can’t let the prince know that my assistant made a mistake.” Why? “Because the Asian mind says, “If your assistant is incompetent, then the person who hired him must be incompetent, too.” By the way, I was also hired by the same guy, which means if the prince found out, I would be viewed as incompetent also. Everyone in the line of the incompetent boss is incompetent. So everyone hides what happened lest the prince find out.
Solving this problem is easy, you hop on a plane, call the Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve of the United States, (yes you read that right), meet with officials, negotiate, sweat bullets and hot chili peppers for hours on end, and fix the problem. You get the money back.
One problem solved, but the next is just around the corner.
Get us rooms at the Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Glancing at your watch you see it is noon. Two days before New Years Eve. Is there any consideration that it cannot be done? No. But, lucky you. You have a friend who works in rooming at Caesar’s Palace. God only knows how, but she gets a presidential suite, two two-bedroom suites and ten regular rooms for New Year’s Eve. Deal done right? It is nothing short of a miracle that she pulled if off. Then another assistant, who is jealous of you, tells you he is getting better rooms, and to cancel the ones you arranged.
You can’t believe this is happening. You complain to the princess’s assistant, but he tells you if the other assistant can get better rooms, cancel yours. So you cancel the rooms. Now you’ve trampled on a friendship twice. Guess what, both assistants call you at midnight in a panic, “We can’t get any rooms. Get the rooms you cancelled back.” Of course it’s too late. Those rooms are gone. But you do it again. A second time. You get more rooms. The prince never knows what you did because then his assistant would look incompetent. So no one acknowledges that you pulled off two miracles in twenty-four hours. Never a thanks, or a glance your way.
The job was more stress than I ever could have imagined. Few people in this world could handle that kind of pressure. In fact, it nearly killed me. After six years, it became too much. I headed home and left the wild world of royalty behind forever.
Lance Avery Morgan: Robert, tell me about the trust factor that has to be in place between the client and you.
Robert Rangel: If there is a viable threat the client must trust their security. It is important to note that not all security personnel are created equal. Some have only sat through an eight-hour course in executive protection. Some are ex military with various types of training. Some are ex cops, or even ex secret service. It is really good for the client to know what he wants and needs before hiring security. The clients should then hire those who can provide the level of security they need. Only by carefully screening who they hire will the client be able comfortable with the abilities of the security team.
Most often security is hired and shows up with little consideration by the client as to what the “plan is if something should go wrong.” This is really unacceptable. If the client and the security have a longstanding relationship this should not be an issue. The problem is that oftentimes the client feels that since he or she is footing the bill they should make all the decisions and if something goes wrong security should be able to fix it. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Most dangerous situations should be able to be avoided with pre planning, which equates to open communication and trust.
LAM: How do you see that the very rich being different with their security expectations versus the royals?
RR: The wealthy expect their security to provide any and all services. For example, “The light bulb is out, can you change it?” Or, “Can you walk the dogs?”
It’s hard to provide security when you are unplugging sinks or clipping roses for the dining room table. If you call a plumber for the wealthy they will ask you how much it cost and why did you agree to pay so much.
The royals have the same problems as the very wealthy, but do not expect you to perform the tasks yourself. They would like you to call the plumber and get it done. If you go to dinner and they want to get into a certain restaurant, they expect you to handle it. They don’t care that you just tipped the manager $500 dollars to do it. They don’t even ask how you did it.
LAM: What are a few pieces of advice for the rich and royals when seeking security detail?
RR: A great security team should possess great public relation skills.
A great security team should have an itinerary of the day’s events and be given freedom within the time frames necessary to plan the movements of the client smoothly. In this manner security can plan exigent an alternative plans should something go wrong. By doing this the security detail will know where they are at all times and can keep tabs on which are the nearby hospitals or police stations, or great restaurants etc.
Drivers should not be limo drivers but should be security. But if the client want to be dropped off, (and not walk from the parking area to their destination), they should have another security, (front passenger), that can stay with them at all times. It is impossible to drop the client off, then park the car, and provide protection for the client at the same time.
Above all, the security team should be cautious and calm.
Robert Rangel is a native of Los Angeles. He had his own business at eighteen. Seeking adventure, and a strong desire to help his fellowman, he sold his business at 25 and joined the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
Thirteen years later, after numerous on duty injuries, (mostly bullets), he medically retired as a detective. The royals stopped traveling and Rangel found himself in a new career outside of banks with the sole purpose of stopping armed bank robberies, (more bullets). He is currently a civilian investigator for a major police department conducting pre-hire peace officer background investigations, (not so many bullets).