Is Celebrity Personal Security Out of Control?

Has celebrity security gone wild?

Last week Lady Gaga’s bodyguards got rough with a man who tried to take the singer’s picture at a party at the Top of the Standard hotel in New York City. According to the New York Post, the overprotective muscle men started roughing up the amateur paparazzo, tossed his phone and aggressively dragged him away from their client, just for taking a cell phone snap of someone who is trailed by photographers 24 hours a day.

Gaga had been throwing an after-party for the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards gala, during which she was serenaded by soul singer Patti LaBelle.

The two probably had a lot to talk about, as LaBelle is facing a lawsuit after her security guards allegedly roughed up 23-year-old former West Point cadet Richard King at the Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas.

King alleges that after he got too close to LaBelle’s luggage her goon squad threw him into a cement pillar and punched him repeatedly. Kings attorney John Raley also claims that the famous singer gave the order for her guards to attack the young man.

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Personal security experts tell that a lack of any standards for celebrity bodyguards often leads to the hiring of inappropriate -- and sometimes dangerous -- protectors.

“More often than not celebrity bodyguards don’t possess any government level training, and what you get is a bunch of thugs, untrained, poorly equipped unprofessional people who get the gig because of relationships harvested with managers, publicists and assistants," said Aaron Cohen, the founder of IMS Security in Beverly Hills. "That’s when these kinds of dangerous incidents happen."

Another problem is that the behavior of a celebrity can bleed into that of a famous client’s staff.

“There seems to be a sense of entitlement when it comes to protecting celebrities,” Cohen said.

So who's responsible when security oversteps its bounds?

“It’s the celebrity's manager who lays down the law. They’re the ones who say they don’t want anyone within two feet of their client. Legally, we can’t stop anyone from getting within two feet of a celebrity like Lady Gaga. But if you’re the security firm and you’re getting paid to do that you do, they want to keep that contract and keep that business and get paid,” says Tommy Werther owner of Sector Mike Security and retired NYPD detective. “You just try to give them whatever they want. They don’t want anyone within two feet or they don’t want cell phone photos, you make that happen.”

And there's is big money in making sure celebrities have their breathing room. Booking three security agents for a day typically costs a star around $4,000, according to Cohen, and the rates for extras like drivers and advance security go up from there.

Celebrity defenders argue that the increase in the amount of paparazzi in the past few years necessitates increased security for celebrities.

But cameras aren't exactly weapons.

“The truth is that in Hollywood there is rarely a need for violent force," Cohen said. "We’re not in Iraq, we’re not in Afghanistan, and during the day-to-day, excessive force does not need to be used.”