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Oscars 1993: Security

Jerry Moon, head of security, keeps filmdom’s favored feeling safe and sound at the Academy Awards

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A hired assassin with a laser-scope rifle prowls backstage at the Oscars, stalking his star target and waiting for the moment when his bullet will create the maximum on-camera chaos. Are these climactic scenes from The Bodyguard any more realistic than the rest of the movie (which shows the Oscar ceremony beginning after dark, for heaven’s sake)?

”The chances of a person of that type getting as far as he does in the film are almost nil,” says Jerry Moon, the 6’3”, 255-pound head of security for the Academy Awards. Still, he admits he worries about the hit movie’s influence on deranged fans. ”Many things can touch off fantasies to commit horrible acts,” he says.

Moon, 65, who took over Oscar security in 1970 after retiring from dual careers as a Los Angeles police detective and pro wrestler (he was known as the Masked Marvel), has a tough match on his hands this year. In addition to The Bodyguard, the recent bombing of New York’s World Trade Center has Hollywood on edge. On awards night, Moon will coordinate a crew of 500 security personnel, mostly off-duty cops, on-duty members of the LAPD, L.A. County sheriff’s deputies, and personal bodyguards. Guests may have to pass through metal detectors and electronic frisks, though plans are not solid yet. (Usually celebrities are exempt, but Moon says he is considering having them go through that procedure as well.) Moon’s men are given a ”terrorist profile” much like the one used by the Israeli Secret Service, and they carry photos of known obsessed fans.

”Every year it gets worse,” says Moon, whose biggest security lapse to date was the streaker who ran behind an admirably unflustered David Niven in 1974. ”Our challenge used to be people crashing the Oscars. Now we’re concerned with people who might want to blow the place up.”

Through intelligence sources he has cultivated since leaving the LAPD, Moon keeps tabs on groups that might cause trouble. This year, he says, he’ll be paying close attention to the IRA — which might have a problem with the way it’s portrayed in The Crying Game — and gay protest groups. Last year, says Moon, the Academy received warnings from someone who threatened to inject Basic Instinct‘s Sharon Stone with a syringe filled with AIDS-infected blood. ”The same threat was directed toward Gil Cates, the producer of the show,” says Moon. ”We provided personal security for both of them.”

Stone hired her own security as well. However, private bodyguards do not have access to their clients at all times. ”The personal security people know that once they hit my environment there are certain ground rules to follow,” says Moon. Bodyguards are not allowed in the theater during the show unless their clients arrange to get seats for them.

But outside specialists feel comfortable with the trade-off. ”Moon runs a professional show,” says security expert Gavin de Becker, who protects such stars as Madonna, Michael J. Fox, and Cher. ”They’re not a bunch of college football players trying to make an extra buck, like at most Hollywood events.”