It must be very difficult to walk in the shadows of a group that is so admired, loved, so adored. Was there ever a time when you felt about The Temptations, “I wish that could’ve been me”, or were you happy to be in the shadow, so to speak?
The best way that I can answer you on that, is, being a martial artist, you focus on different things and you make commitments. That’s the martial artist. Being a bodyguard, you train. You have determination and training. You train for something you hope may never happen. That means that everybody has a job. The entertainer, the principals’ job, as I say, is to shine. The bodyguard’s job is to protect “the shining”. And it doesn’t matter at what price. That is the difference between a good and a bad bodyguard. And I’ve always thought of myself as being a good bodyguard.
When we were kids, I saw their popularity. They were the most popular teenagers I have ever known. As a child, with no goals at that time, yeah, I was envious. I thought Otis was the greatest grass roots person I had ever met. But, I never thought that as an adult. Otis is a man’s man. I love gadgets. And the one thing Otis always had was gadgets. He has cool stuff and cool things. I was in a position to see his “gadgets”, his “toys”. To be in a position to be around someone that loves gadgets as much as I do, that was one of the fun parts about the job. But, in my heart, I’ve always considered myself as being one of Otis’ best friends.
Melvin Franklin was the one I always wanted to be. When guys in the neighborhood listened to the music and they wanted to be Paul or Eddie. I wanted to be Melvin. I loved to imitate his gestures and his voice.
Elbridge Bryant, “Al”, meant a lot to me as a child. He took me to many of the early shows. Because I had been around The Temptations so much as a young man, prior to their becoming The Temptations, I felt a bond with them. When I grew up and learned my security skills, I really felt obligated to protect them and I knew that there was something that I could do, and I wanted to do that.
Working in an environment where you’re obviously expected to be “the great protector”, were you personally always on edge for something dreadful to happen?
Bodyguards are visionaries. Most people see a common vision, an enjoyable vision. Bodyguards have to envision what they hope may never happen. To be able to neutralize a negative act, you’ve got to be able to see the other side of it. So most security people are not on edge, but they are aware.
Your physical appearance is obviously unnerving, your large size, the body art, the gold jewelry…is this part of the job?
No. The gold jewelry and the markings, that’s part of the individual. That’s me. As a child, I came from a poor family. I never could afford good jewelry. I wore silver all the time. Then, when I had the opportunity to wear fine jewelry, it was on. I’ve always worn jewelry.
Now, the body art—I’m a warrior. Body markings, body paint is like what a Native American wears to war. In Africa, they deal in keloids, African scarring. In Polynesia, the warriors tattoo their bodies, so it is nothing more than me wearing a story on my arms. My body markings have a story to them. Body art, nor jewelry, does not deter, they don’t kick butt. It is my large size and my bald head, coupled with my intense look, my skills and my determination that will stop what is going to happen.
Did you enjoy the music? The music that The Temptations made? The Motown sound?
From before Day One. Because I used to hear them rehearse on Sundays at Al’s house, when I was a kid, long before they were The Temptations. Because I knew them, and they had become The Temptations, when I was in the service, I wrote some of the sweetest love letters in the world to their music. There are different songs that they sing, like everybody else, I knew where I was and what I was doing. Anytime I heard the Temptations sing anything, it was a message from home. That was Motown—that was home to me. I could visualize the people, the parties, the streets of Detroit. The summers in Detroit–The summers in Detroit used to be “The Bomb”.
In karate, I’ve always trained to their music, because of the rhythm. They have “Tae Bo”…but before there was “Tae Bo” there was “Temp Bo”. I used to take The Temptations music to class and train my students to the rhythm. I still, to this day, use their music at my school, Dragon’s Eight.
More questions and answers to come.