In a word . . . bodyguard

 

Went to see that film Love & Mercy recently. It’s a biopic (biographical picture) and the subject is genius singer-song writer Brian Wilson, the main man behind that Californian rock group The Beach Boys.

Until I saw the film I was reserved about the opinion that describes them as one of the most influential rock bands of all time, even of the 1960s. Not anymore. They were formed in 1961. In 1966, Wilson masterminded their album Pet Sounds, regarded as one of the greatest ever. It is said to have even been a major influence on The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album of 1967, itself seen as one of the most innovative and creative ever.

After 1966, Brian Wilson’s mental health deteriorated and he was on a downward spiral for years. The film portrays his life in two parts: the younger Wilson played by Paul Dano and the middle-aged Wilson played by John Cusack.

When we meet the middle-aged Wilson, he is effectively a prisoner of his psychotherapist Dr Eugene Landy, portrayed with delicious menace by Paul Giamatti who introduces himself as “Brian’s brother by another father.”

Wilson describes Landy as his bodyguard, then ponders on the meaning of the word which he finds strange. It is too, in the context, as Landy is more captor than bodyguard.

The word itself is self-explanatory. It originated in 1735 and refers to a retinue, or escort, which accompanies an individual or group for his/her/their protection from bodily harm. The word itself comes from a combination of . . . body and guard!

We associate bodyguards with protecting celebrities or leading politicians, particularly US presidents. Their day-to-day life, however, is fairly mundane. It generally involves planning routes, searching rooms and buildings in advance of their client visiting, researching the background of people who will be in contact with the client, searching vehicles and escorting the client on his/her activities.

It is an action described as “the security detail” when accompanying a head of state. I saw such this up close and personal over a three-week period when reporting last November on President Michael D Higgins’s visits to Ethiopia, Malawi and South Africa. The gardaí concerned, men and women, were unobtrusive, professional, courteous, friendly. Lots of grace, whatever the pressure. They presented such a very positive image of the Garda and Ireland.

inaword@irishtimes.com

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