Scott Barbour has worked and overseen security at luxury hotels in Hollywood for 25 years. He’s seen plenty of NBA players, boy bands and actors. Here he opens up about life behind the cameras and doors of top hotels.
1. What’s your typical day like?
There really is no typical day in hotel security. We are the law enforcement, fire and EMS for the hotel. We respond to emergency situations daily. At one hotel I worked at, we had a great rooftop venue for weddings and parties. Along with the hotel guests, we also had to protect the 300 to 500 additional guests attending events. The London West Hollywood Hotel also hosted several VIP Events, such as the NBA All Star week, several MTV events and wrap parties for television shows. We had to keep the celebrities and guests safe while keeping the public and paparazzi away. We had One Direction stay at the hotel for a week. We had several hundred teenage girls standing around the hotel trying to gain access to the guest floors. It reminded me of my days at the L’Ermitage Beverly Hills Hotel in 1998 when ‘N Sync, the Backstreet Boys and the rap artists started getting big. The reason that I enjoy working in hotel security is that you never know what your day will bring.
2. There’s been a lot of talk lately about people wanting work/life balance. Does your job provide that?
Work balance? What is that? A typical work day for me runs about 10 to 11 hours a shift. Driving back and forth to my home take another two hours out of my day. The rest of the time I spend with my beautiful wife. We are able to see each other almost every day. When events are happening at night, my hours extend to perhaps 15 or 16 a shift. I do not take long vacations. I am never farther than an hour’s drive to the hotel. California has earthquakes and although I would love to take a cruise somewhere or go to Las Vegas, I personally feel that if an emergency happens, I must be able to respond immediately.
3. What’s the craziest/most unexpected thing that’s ever happened to you while on the job?
After working for the police department, driving an ambulance and working in hotel security, you can imagine that I have seen and done a thing or two. But top of my list is a story from my hotel industry days. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I had been promoted to Security Supervisor two days earlier, so I was totally responsible for the safety of our hotel guests. The hotel had 30 stories with an independent restaurant on the first floor. I got a radio call from the dispatcher. He said that the restaurant just reported that someone had just jumped off of the restaurant roof. As I am going to the scene, I am going over situations in my mind. Since he jumped off of the restaurant roof, he may have a sprained ankle or some cuts. Should I get one of my officers to respond with the first aid kit? When I got to the restaurant, they showed me the direction that they heard the noise come from. I went out onto the courtyard with the ivy hill. There in front of me lay an obviously deceased male. After securing the scene and having the police and fire take over, I had to determine who he was and what happened. It turned out that he jumped from the 26th floor balcony and hit the restaurant roof before landing in the ivy. He had just broken up and took his own life. There were suicide notes and photos spread throughout the guest room. It was so sad. I will never forget that.
4. What makes for a really good day on the job?
Just about every day is a great day in the hotel business. Hotel employees are the most well behaved, willing to help and friendly people that I have ever met. We are constantly going out of our way to give our guests first class treatment. That treatment goes toward employees as well. I come from a luxury hotel background. Just walking through the beautiful property rather than in some concrete warehouse is relaxing. We also get complimentary meals every day.
I worked for a large convention hotel that held luncheons and dinner events daily. After serving the guests, the extra prime rib dinners, the salmon plates and 10 different desserts were brought down to the employee cafeteria. Those were great. Then there are the great flower arrangements. We had an average of 60 to 70 tables for most banquet events. Each table had it’s own beautiful flower decorations. The guests were allowed to take home the arrangements, but they were so huge that most guests left them behind. I surprised my wife one morning with 20 flower arrangements decorating our living room. Ahh, those were the days.
5. What’s your annual salary? Do you get benefits?
The typical salary for a hotel security director is approximately $40,000 per year. Depending on the hotel, salaries can go up to $50,000 a year. That is for a typical security director. I opened two five-star hotels and have been a security director for three hotels. Opening a hotel, especially a first-class operation takes a lot of work. I wrote all of the security procedures manuals, the hotel’s emergency procedures manuals and hired new staff. My salary started at $65,000, and I ended with a salary of approximately $70,000. We got some benefits. We received sick and vacation pay, discounts at sister hotels, and I was part of a bonus plan.
6. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made while working?
My biggest mistake was thinking that if you did your job well, took care of your team, gave your best every day and stayed out of trouble, you would be able to keep your job. My position at the London Hotel in West Hollywood was “eliminated” three days prior to my five-year anniversary. I got a call to go to Human Resources. When I got there, I was simply told that my position was eliminated today and to pack up my things immediately. My benefit package would have gotten much better after the five-year mark. I climbed the ladder twice to get to the position that I attained. I do not want to climb that ladder again, but it looks like that is exactly what I will need to do.