By Ed Meckle, retired LAPD
…….Or how I met the king of Cambodia, almost
It is about 1960 and I am a policeman working Metro, the division that seems to do a little of everything (stakeouts / plain clothes patrol / crowd control, etc.). This day with 6-7 others, I have been assigned uniformed security for the King of Cambodia.
He is in L.A. for 3-4 days for “trade meetings.” He and his entourage have taken over the top two floors of a hotel near the airport (LAX).
Now this is my first experience with royalty and I am discovering they are much like rock stars of a later era. When I say entourage, I mean entourage. There are chancellors and councilors and ministers, all of whom require an assistant. Each assistant is required to have at least two or more assistants. And everyone is important.
There are also ten or twelve very hot-looking ladies who seem to move as a herd or flock. I can only assume they are secretaries or researchers or whatever.
Last, is their own security detail, who seem equally divided between very short muscle-bound natives in ill-fitting suits who scowl a lot and some truly tough looking European types who I am guessing are mercenaries.
They also have what I can assume is State Department security when they leave the hotel. When they move, we stay put. Fine with me. We are “in house” only.
We have been briefed by our own supervisor and a government functionary. We have a suite to ourselves, and are told we can order our meals from room service (be still my heart). But, don’t get greedy and no booze.
One of the guys on the detail is a friend and former Marine Bob Steele. He had served at the US embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, many years prior and had actually met the king on several occasions. The king is Norodom Sihanouk, or as Bob referred to him, “Snookie,” a beloved and revered figure in his country.
It was what would be called a “cushy” detail: boring but good chow. We did two, 2 hour shifts at a desk outside his suite with absolutely nothing to do. The balance of off time, we watched TV, ate, or napped.
One interesting side note: a passing patrol sergeant saw our black and white in the parking lot and assumed one of his units was up to some hanky-panky. He obtained the key from the desk and since the group was out, there was no one at our desk to stop him. He made a grand entrance and demanded, “Who are you?”
I was seated on the couch in my underwear, (naturally, eating) and watching TV. I replied “Metro special detail. Who are you?”
Now, I am sure he was mentally picturing my trial board and sentence to a Turkish prison as a result of his great work. “Uh, I was just driving by and thought I’d check to see if you needed anything.”
“Thanks, Sarge. We’re good.”
Despite the lack of English speakers when they left, there was a lot of bowing and smiling and each of us was presented with a gift: A fancy comb and equally fancy letter opener made of ivory inlaid with filigreed silver. I still have both.
I later found out “Snookie” had been deposed in 1955.
Oh, by the way. I never did see the king.
Thonie Hevron’s newest book, With Malice Aforethought, has just been released! It’s available in eBook format only for $4.99 on Amazon. Check back on Just the Facts, Ma’am for the release date of the print copy!