HELLO AMERICA!—One of my favorite bodyguards of the stars is Keith Graham. After talking with him I found that he is a star in his own right. I believe you will agree with me.
MSJ: What are some of the major challenges confronting someone with this kind of responsibility having to do with the entertainment industry?
KG: Most challenges come with dealing with the public. Very few people know how to do customer service properly or talk to anybody with any dignity or respect. So you have to figure out a way to make sure that people see your line of thought and will cooperate with what you want them to do. If that works out, most of the time things will run smoothly. However, a lot of challenges come with people’s security on the whole. There are those who always want to do what they want to do i.e., getting an autograph or picture and not respecting the entourage or the artist themselves.
Plus you always have the challenge of picking out the people who might want to do harm to the security staff and/or artist, so you have to be vigilant and keep a sharp eye out so as to pull these people out of the area so no harm comes to staff, client or customer.
MSJ: What attracted you in becoming a celebrity bodyguard? Were you a former police officer or what?
KG: No I have never served in the military nor have I been a police officer, though I have been through two police academies. I went to school for psychology and criminal justice, took numerous courses in law-enforcement as well as working alongside law-enforcement for a lot of years. Actually, there was no real attraction to being a bodyguard at first when I was a young boy. I met Larry Graham from Graham central station and we became quick friends being that we have the same great name.
He took me under his wing, invited me over to his house; we had many dinners, lunches and he decided to put me on as a part-time employee. I had to roll up chords, clean Instruments and as I got older going through school I was always a super big guy. So, the role of security just came about as a priority because of all the travel we were doing involving shows and events! But as I got older, I found that I was really good at. I excelled at meeting lots of different artists and working with lots of different radio stations and record companies and things just progressed from there.
MSJ: In your opinion what is the biggest difference between a seasoned professional performer and that of a new artist having to face their fans in the public?
KG: A true professional performer is someone who has done it for a long time. One who knows how to really get to the audience and give their consumers what they deserve. They know how to treat people on the road as well as in their own communities. As for the new artists, they really don’t know how to hold onto their money. They don’t seem to be too concerned about their fans in a lot of respects because they’re really busy. They don’t take the time to understand that it doesn’t last that long, so they need to really take the time and enjoy what they’ve accomplished. Let’s face it, if you’re new, and really want to last in the business, concentrate on that instead of the crap which might turn your head.
MSJ: Which group of musicians or celebrities gave you more worry and concerned based on their public notoriety or popularity? And how did you handle it as a security responsibility?
KG: First off, any rap group is a security risk! NWA probably was the one that gave me the most worrisome issues because of the music and the police and everything we are encountering throughout the industry. However, as a security professional, it’s your responsibility to be strategic and to make sure that all hands are on deck; you use whomever and whatever tools are available regardless of whether it’s people in the hotels security staff or at the venues event areas. One has to be vigilant and make sure that everything runs smoothly for the artist so they can get to where they have to go without being harassed or facing any kind of jeopardy.
MSJ: What were some of your exciting moments or experiences as a celebrity bodyguard?
KG: So many of them to count, really but I guess being with James Brown, for 20 years can really add up to a lot of experiences. However, working with such artists such as Paula Abdul, Expose, Club Nouveau, Bobby Brown, MC Hammer and so many others was very exciting. I remember the New Edition, I was hired by MCA RECORDS To facilitate security for the in-store autographs and pictures for the guys New record release on the West Coast. We were in Berkeley and it was raining, the place where we were supposed to have the event wasn’t supposed to announce we were scheduled to be there but it leaked out and 5000 people showed up at the small store.
However, when we pulled up to the back of the place and got out, it was very muddy with a bad walkway. When we got into the place, the fans outside were very impatient and insisted to get in quickly. They wanted their pictures and autographs! They pounded on the doors almost breaking the windows. The manager decided it wasn’t something to be tolerated and suddenly cancelled the event. Instead of waiting for us to get out first he went outside and announced that it was canceled.
Of course, the fans were incensed and it nearly caused a riot. We had to run for our lives! In doing so Bobby Brown slipped. I had to throw all the guys in the limo and we had to blaze on out! I believe as a bodyguard, you earn a lot of respect from those you’re responsible for. They learn to respect you because they realize that their lives are in your hands. And that, in itself, makes you very important.
MSJ: What have you learned most about yourself having this kind of protective responsibility?
KG: That I’m very good at what I do! You really have to be skilled in speech and you have to have an authority that rises above most people’s expectations, even your own sometimes. I’ve made mistakes but overall, I feel I’m very respected in the industry. I have worked hard with a lot of pro high-profile artists and companies through the years. To know they trust me in making sure things go smoothly involving their safety means everything at the end of the day.
MSJ: When you’re alone and possibly look into the mirror, what do you see? And how does it make you feel?
KG: Well, it’s really easy to look in the mirror and see someone that is caring, considerate, and kind who does everything to satisfy a client. They become “family” and it’s very gratifying. I was very moved when James Brown said that he always regarded to me as one of his sons. We always used to joke that I was the white sheep of the family, and most of the people that I work with and I still see, look to me to help them in any situation. They trust me and know I’ll get the job done. And in the immortal words of James Brown I FEEL GOOD.