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Did Kanye West really buy armored cars for his family? Why? — Code K., Honolulu
Put it this way: Even if the reports aren't true, and West isn't dropping $2 million for a pair of Prombron Iron Diamonds by Dartz Motorz, and even if the rapper did not buy the RPG-proof cars because he was inspired by President Obama's Limo One, it may not be the most unusual measure a star has taken to feel safe.
It is on the extreme side of the spectrum, however.
"Of all of the people I work with, none of them have an armored vehicle," Bill Kirkpatrick, founder of the personal security outfit 360 Group International, tells me. "I know of one other colleague who uses armored cars for his clients."
Instead, the most desperate measures a star tends to take, at least, in the relatively safe United States, are the hiding kind, not the parading-around-in-a-car-that-doubles-as-a-tank-kind. Around here, it's privacy, not safety, that stars still seem to value more.
"We had a florist delivering flowers for an event and we put a client in that car," Kirkpatrick says by way of example. "The paparazzi didn't follow. It worked."
Another popular measure of the moment: Simply muzzling the little people. Security consultant Elijah Shaw of Icon Consulting Group tells me that stars are increasingly asking that hotel and restaurant staffs sign nondisclosure forms before stars will agree to grace them with their visits.
I also have it on good authority that one A-list star who recently shot a film in the Southwest demanded a replacement for one of the cars he had rented while working there; the vehicle was intended to be used as a decoy, to fool paparazzi, and it needed to more closely match another car the actor was driving at the time.
In fact, some security experts doubt that West really needs that level of bullet-proofing, no matter how famous he and his reality-TV baby mama are. As Oded Krashinsky of Advanced Security Concepts points out, folks who need armored cars probably need other elements of security as well — elements that, as far as we know, Kanye hasn't bothered with.
"If Kanye West is buying an armored car, I'd have to assume that someone is threatening his life, trying to shoot him," Krashinsky tells me. "Buying an armored car only to drive that car or and get out and walk to a restaurant by yourself or with one inexperienced bodyguard — then what's the point?"
That said, don't be surprised if you start to see more Kanye types tooling around in cars built to withstand IEDs.
"There are a few more makers of bullet-proof or bullet-resistant cars in the U.S. now," Shaw says. "They were all operating in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East, and now that our involvement there is winding down, they're starting to aggressively market toward affluent individuals ... including celebrities."
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