THE HOUSE DICKS

CHICAGO / FEBRUARY 1978

Robert B. Gore is the former chief deputy sheriff of Cook County. With his hair silvering at the age of 44, he seems more like a hotel executive than a hotel house dick. He dresses conservatively, favoring buttondown collars, and peers out at the world through spectacles that change tint according to the amount of light. His look of suspicion seldom varies.

Directly in front of him in the security office, just off the main lobby of the Hyatt Regency Chicago, sits a battery of 16 nine-inch TV monitors. These relay pictures from television cameras that constantly survey potential trouble spots in the posh hotel.

Those two flamboyantly dressed young women getting out of a taxi in the car lobby--are they prostitutes? Prostitutes can't be kept out of a convention hotel, but Gore wants them watched. "Ninety percent of all whores are thieves, and I don't want our guests robbed," he says.

That furtive-looking man showing up on the two cameras that watch over the gift shop--is he about to put a box of candy under his raincoat? The other night Gore had a man arrested in the shop after he spotted him on TV slipping a $1.39 inhaler into his pocket. No big deal, but Gore wants the word out that the hotel is no soft touch. Anyway. the, man was carrying a five-inch knife.

That waiter in street clothes who is carrying a package out the plaza exit--hotel employees must punch out at the security-desk time clock--is he stealing hotel property? At 2:20 a.m. a few days earlier, a busboy from Mrs. O'Leary's restaurant was caught leaving with four 14-ounce bags of coffee. The busboy was fired on the spot after signing a confession: "I hereby accept this statement and my termination from the hotel."

The cameras do the work of a whole corps of security men. Late at night, when there is little activity, the TV screens can be set to sound an alarm if there is the slightest movement in the empty accounting office, with its safes, or in any of the other monitored offices and corridors. And by pressing a button, the security man on duty can proide instant video replay of whatever triggered the alarm.

Gore can also touch a button and transfer the lobby picture to a larger, 17-inch screen. Tonight, he pans the camera, zooming in close enough to read the small headlines on one guest's newspaper. He points the camera upward, focusing on drinkers sitting in the Midway Bar. "See that guy wearing a cowboy hat?" asks Gore. "He's got on a $350 watch and a $400 ring. He's a mark just waiting to be fleeced by a con man, a whore, or a pickpocket. We'll watch him."

To do his job, Gore must be suspicious. When the hotel's 971 rooms are full and the ballroom is occupied, more than 3,000 guests wander around, in addition to 600 employes. Thousands of dollars change hands here daily, and the guests have valuable property stashed in their rooms. A hotel where a deluxe room goes for $65 a night is a magnet for thieves.

Keeping a hotel secure, like flying a military jet, is chancy business--thousands of hours of sheer boredom suddenly punctuated by seconds of shear terror. A realist, Gore can't put out of his mind the murderer who earlier this decade wandered into the Palmer House and raped a woman, then cut her throat. Or the men who were strangled in their rooms, one at the Pick Congress, one at the Sherman House. Or the bandit at the Conrad Hilton who robbed a University of Illinois professor and raped his wife. Or the disappearance of actress Lauren Bacall's $5,000 mink coat from her suite in the Ambassador East. Or the theft, one night in 1976, of $32,000 in jewels and money from two suites at the Continental Plaza, or the earlier robbery there of $13,000 from the cashier's cage by two men wearing convention badges. Or the reported theft last July of $300,000 in jewels from a suite in the RitzCarlton (three hotel employees passed a lie-detector test, but the victims refused to submit to one).

Perhaps Gore and the Hyatt Regency Chicago have so far been merely lucky. More likely, they have made their own luck by organizing an efficient security force. And by being suspicious.

Fifteen of the Hyatt Regency's 23 full- and part-time security officers are college graduates. Terrence Stoke, 22, is the four p.m. to midnight supervisor. By day, he is a senior in economics at the Illinois Institute of Technology; perhaps that's why the modest supervisor's pay of four dollars an hour is attractive to him. Stoke weighs only 135, but is lethal. "I carry the same gun as James Bond--a Walther PPK/S automatic," he says, laughing. "I also have a brown belt in karate." Occasionally, he uses his athletic skills. Last summer, he and Bob Gore, who is also a karate and a judo master, arrested a woman who had propositioned them in the lobby. She broke away and whipped out a revolver. They quickly disarmed her.

It is not uncommon for Gore, Stoke, and the other security men to offer themselves as bait for prostitutes. "When we see a girl leave the bar with a man and then return alone a half hour later, I'll assign someone to sit beside her in the hope that she'll hit on them," says Gore. "My man will be wearing a convention badge and drinking ginger ale with some coloring. Once in a while a woman is interested in love for the fun of it--and then my man has to back out as gracefully as possible. If the girl says, 'Let's go to your room and have a drink,' my man will say, 'I don't want to insult you, but will this cost me anything? I only have $20.' The girl will usually say, 'It's more like $50.' To cinch the case, my man will ask what she is willing to do for the $50. That's not entrapment."

When they're in the hotel, most of the security men have the same powers as regular city policemen--each carries a silver badge that identifies him as a "Chicago special police patrolman." They also carry guns, something that most Chicago hotel security men no longer do, unless they're moonlighting policemen. To carry a gun, a security guard is required by state law to take a 30-hour course. The Hyatt Regency Chicago is the only private organization licensed to train its own security men, and it does so in a 40-hour course that covers criminal law, human relations, the Heimlich maneuver to clear the throat of a person choking on food, and the resuscitation of a heart-attack victim.

The patrol with Stoke in the early evening begins on the 36th floor. We make our way down 17 floors in 40 minutes. Stoke moves briskly. He pushes each room's door as he passes to make sure that it's locked. In the fire corridors, he unscrews the brass covers of the standpipe connections and riffles through the accordion-pleated fire hoses.

"We regularly find room keys hidden here by prostitutes who steal them from their tricks," Stoke explains. "Since they can be arrested for possession of the keys, they hide them until they can return a few days later to rob a room." Stoke sometimes finds a wallet temporarily stashed here by a prostitute. In the Incident Report Log, a beige, three-ring notebook, I had read today about the discovery of a wallet in a 26th-floor stairwell that contained the identity cards of a man from Port Arthur, Texas. The wallet and its contents, two $20 bills, will be mailed to him. The man had been registered in the hotel several days earlier but hadn't reported the loss, perhaps because the wallet had been stolen by a prostitute.

Every now and then, Stoke stops to speak into the walkie-talkie that he carries inside a yellow plastic bag. He announces that the handle of a 28th-floor fire-extinguisher cabinet is broken, that an electric-light outlet on the 26th is damaged, and that the 23rd-floor linen closet is unlocked, leaving the vacuum cleaner inside vulnerable. The engineering and housekeeping departments will be notified immediately, he says.

Besides that, the security-office radio log will show that a vigorous patrol was being maintained, and that is also important, because hotel managers are increasingly sensitive about their responsibility to safeguard guests. Last year, singer Connie Francis received a record $1,475,000 settlement from Howard Johnson's Motor Lodges after she was brutally raped in a lodge in Westbury, New York. Her lawyers had accused the hotel of failing to provide a safe room.

As he makes his rounds, Stoke is alert for anything out of the ordinary. The other night a security man heard a television set in 3404, a room that his computer printout indicated was unoccupied. A man inside the room was taken down to the front desk. He claimed to have registered at seven p.m., paying cash in advance, but he had no receipt or luggage. He said that he was a Los Angeles advertising executive. But earlier he had walked out on a $7.50 check in one of the hotel bars. He was charged with criminal trespass and theft of services.

There is no telling what a routine patrol will uncover. Bob Gore and one of his men were walking through the hotel garage one Sunday when they saw a strange sight: a man in his underwear running with a loaded shotgun in his hand. They handcuffed him.

"Man, you got the wrong man," he protested. "There's some people up on 23 with shotguns and they're going to kill everyone up there!"

It seems that a South Side narcotics gang was throwing a wild party in one of the suites--drinks were being dipped up from the bathtub. A rival gang had checked into a nearby room, and the man in his underwear had spied two men with shotguns trying to kick in the door of the suite. Not bothering to dress, he hat ducked out a side door, hurried down to the garage in his shorts, and had gotten a shotgun from the trunk of his car. Gore had spotted him returning.

Gore radioed for city police to meet him as he hurried up to the 23rd floor with the man's shotgun in his hands. "Freeze, police!" he shouted at the men in the hallway, pointing the gun at them. They dropped their shotguns. The arriving police arrested 13 men and confiscated a hand grenade and a dozen guns. "Those guys in the hall weren't kidding," says Gore. "We may have averted a Valentine's Day Massacre."

As I finish the room patrol with Terry Stoke, he spots a door open on the 19th floor. A maid is working inside, turning down the bed sheets. In violation of security regulations, she has left her passkey in the door. It will open any room on the floor. Quietly, Stoke pulls the key out of the door and starts to walk away with it to teach the maid a lesson. She hears him. "Gimme my key back," she demands. He hands it back, for she has already learned her lesson. "I'm sorry," she says.

Another lesson is administered in the empty grand ballroom, where, in the wake of an afternoon function, Gore spies an unattended IBM Selectric typewriter worth $780. He scoops it up and lugs it to the security office. Someone will soon report it stolen.

The tour with Stoke completed, we return to the security office, where another new security invention is in action. A hotel garage employee, one of three men on duty when ten dollars in change was allegedly taken from the glove compartment of a parked car. is being given a new kind of lie-detector test.

Barry Levy, a stylishly dressed man of 28 who is deputy director of hotel security, has opened two thick dispatch cases. One contains an $800 high-fidelity Uher tape recorder and the other a $3,900 electronic device called a "psychological stress evaluator." The inventors of the PSE, several former army officers, claim that under the stress of lying, frequency modulation disappears from a person's voice. That effect is supposed to show up on the PSE's moving strip of graph paper as a straight line instead of a wavy one.*

The hotel employee, a slight black man a with a thin mustache, listens apprehensively as Levy asks his questions.

Q. Is your true name John D. Soandso [deliberately giving the wrong middle initial; this is a control question]?

Q. Are we in the Hyatt Regency Chicago [another control question]?

Q. Do you intend to deceive or lie to me about the garage investigation?

Q. Do you suspect other Hyatt employees of stealing?

Q. Are you wearing a Hyatt uniform [control question]?

Q. On September 26th did you steal approximately ten dollars in change from a 1977 red Oldsmobile?

Q. Did you ever not issue a garage ticket and keep the money for yourself?

After the questions are answered, Levy feeds the various yeses and noes on the recording tape into the PSE. A pen jiggles the responses on the graph paper. Levy looks at the employee and tells him that he can go.

"This guy is completely clean," he says.

It is not hotel policy, says Gore, to confront an employee who shows up as guilty. "Our employees understand that we won't terminate them just on the results of the machine," he says. "What we do is set them up a few weeks later. In the case of the garage attendants, I may have a friend park his car here, leaving behind a wallet concealed in the dash compartment or hidden deep within the seat cushions. In other words, a car hiker would really have to look hard for the wallet.

"In the case of a maid whose name has come up several times in connection with money or valuables missing from a guest's room, we'd have a man check into one of her rooms with a convincing assortment of luggage. Inside the pocket of a coat hanging in the closet or inside a closed suitcase, he'd leave a wallet with perhaps $100 in it. We don't feel we're tempting anyone if they go to such lengths. On each bill, using an ultraviolet crayon, we'd write Hyatt Security, the date, and the officer's name.

"We'd have a security man actually sleep on the bed; a maid can tell by the tight wrinkles where there's been a warm body. Then we'd hide in a room across the hall until the maid made up the room. When she left we'd check to see if the money was still there. If it wasn't, we'd search the maid and her locker.

If she had the money but claimed it was her own, we'd show her how the bills light up under ultraviolet light. We'd ask if her name was Hyatt Security."

Gore says that so far the hotel has caught only two maids. "The word is out that we don't tolerate stealing--we prosecute, we don't just fire employees. About the only thieving we see now is extremely minor, like someone trying to walk out the employees' entrance carrying a little bottle of Tabasco sauce. We just take it away from them and say, 'Hey, you know you're not supposed to be doing that.'"

Last week, says Gore, a maid was changing a pillow case when $850 fell out of it. "She left it lying on the floor until a security officer could come up and count it," he says. "A guest had forgotten he had hidden it there and had gone down to breakfast."

More benign, but still nuisances, are people like Roger L. Crouse, who was arrested in the hotel two years ago for impersonating a Secret Service agent. Last October sixth at 2:45 a.m., he was found asleep in the lobby. Beside him, in a plastic shopping bag, were his belongings--dirty clothes and an electric hair clipper. When the security men awakened him, he wanted to fight. Since Vice President Walter Mondale was expected to stay in the hotel that weekend, the Secret Service was notified and Crouse was arrested. But on the morning of Mondale's stay, Crouse showed up, again claiming that he was a Secret Service agent. Again he was arrested.

Gore has also had problems with con men. "Last year, we got a report of three men wearing-convention badges who would go up to a busy floor and start shooting dice in a hallway," he says. "Pretty soon the passing conventioneers would throw their money in and the con men would switch to hot dice. I went up to the floor and put my foot on the money, dice, and a hand and arrested the con men. After returning the money to our guests I called the V.C.D. [Police Vice Control Division], who told me the crapshooters were well known to them and were wanted for attempted murder in Kansas City."

Bomb threats are more serious. In the three and a half years since the Hyatt opened, there have been 15 such threats. All have been taken seriously. "This is an age of terrorism." Gore says. When a bomb threat comes into the switchboard, the operators try to keep the caller on the phone while they fill out a bomb-threat check list. They note the caller's voice characteristics and their own reactions. Then they try to switch the call to an "assistant manager", actually a security man in his office.

Although telephoned warnings of real bombs hidden in public places usually come only seconds before the bombs go off, Gore says his staff will always make a thorough search. "There's no point in searching individual rooms; a bomber wants to do as much damage as possible," he says. "Our department heads are trained in seminars on how to conduct a search of the lobby, restaurants, and corridors. If we see a suspicious object, like an abandoned suitcase, we arrange heavy couches around it in a square to absorb the shrapnel. In the restaurants we flip tables on their sides in a rectangle around the object and cover the square with an upended table. We don't touch the object; we leave that for the bomb squad."

Drunks, rather than terrorists, are a more pervasive problem. A call comes into the security office at 10:55 p.m. from the bartender in Mrs. O'Leary's, and we hustle up there with a large security officer. A slim blond woman and her husband have been having a loud disagreement, but the security man's presence dampens the dispute.

Gore's men prefer to use intimidation rather than physical force. Two nights earlier, a half-dozen accountants, who had been drinking for six hours after a reception in the hotel, became unruly in the Wild Onion, the hotel's nightclub. When the manager presented them with their check and asked them to leave, they became threatening. The midnight shift had just showed up, so Barry Levy, the assistant director of security, had plenty of manpower. Seven security men and two hotel assistant managers formed a ring around the table and stood there staring straight ahead. "No fooling, men, I'm calling for a wagon and you're going to spend the night in the slammer," Levy said quietly. "Have you men ever spent a night in jail?" The accountants paid up and left.

Around midnight I make the rounds with Keith Bass, 28, a muscular man in a brown turtleneck sweater who used to be with the Federal Protective Service. As we are walking through Mrs. O'Leary's, still crowded at 1:02 a.m., we hear the sp-rrrr-t of a shorting electrical extension cord.

Ignoring the shooting sparks, Bass kicks the cord out of the wall outlet and, seizing a chemical fire extinguisher, lets go at the outlet box. Pshooooh! The restaurant clouds with the chemical dust.

"Do you need the Fire Department?" the security supervisor asks over the radio.

"Negative," Bass replies. "But we need three porters to clean up the mess." The chemical dust has formed a film over the restaurant tables and permeated his clothing. Coughing, Bass asks the bartender for a glass of water to rinse out his mouth.

A few minutes later, I am standing near the front desk in the lobby with the night security supervisor, Glenn Redding, 43, a large man who was once a Chicago policeman. A young woman with scraggly brown hair and dirty blue jeans rushes up and asks how to get to the Wild Onion. Edwin Krystof, the night manager, gives the directions and then looks at Redding and smiles. "Better keep an eye on her," he says.

"No kidding," says Redding.

We walk into the bar, which is about to close, and I sit next to the woman. Redding sits down at my right. The hotel's assistant food and beverage manager, a jazzily dressed young man named Carlos, who has a Latin accent, sits at the woman's left.

Carlos slips a note to Redding: "Do you want me to see if she'll hit on me?" it asks. Redding nods. Carlos starts talking to the woman, who has ordered a pink lady, thick with egg white and sweet cream, which she doesn't bother to drink. The woman asks Carlos to dance. He declines. She asks me to dance. I decline. (I tell her that I never learned, which is pretty much the truth.)

The nightclub manager, a pretty blond woman, whispers to Redding that she has a problem. One of the customers, a good-looking man in his early 30s in a blue blazer who is sitting alone, wants to take her home at two a.m., when the room closes. "I've got a boyfriend and I'm not interested," she whispers. "This man has had quite a bit to drink and I'm afraid he may be difficult. Could you stand by?" Redding nods.

The man in the blazer takes the woman in blue jeans out onto the dance floor, where a juke box is playing. "Quick!" hisses Carlos. "Someone get me a room key." one of the security men walks over with the key to 3502. When the song ends, the woman sits down again beside Carlos. They talk together for a moment, then ask the bartender to pour their untouched drinks into plastic glasses so that they can take them along. Seconds later, they are in the elevator on their way up to 3502.

Quickly, Redding and I follow in one elevator and Keith Bass in another. We get off on the 34th floor and walk up. We pull the fire-corridor door slightly open so that we can see. Bass bustles up breathlessly. "That john in the blue blazer is following Carlos and the whore!" he blurts out. We all step into the corridor, where the drama is unfolding. The "john" has decided that he wants to take the woman away from Carlos.

"Aw right, stop that!" Redding bellows. "You're all under arrest, the woman for prostitution, and you men for patronizing a prostitute."

We all enter an elevator. The "john," at first pugnacious, is now completely deflated. In the lobby, Redding gets tough with him. "Listen," he says, tapping the man's shoulder lightly but menacingly, "that was my old lady, the manager of the Wild Onion, that you were giving such a hard time. Don't ever do that again." The man promises he won't and says he didn't realize that the other woman was a prostitute. "Please let me go," he begs. Redding releases him, and the man scurries out the Stetson Drive door.

Carlos, meanwhile, has had his hands handcuffed behind him because, in playing his role to the hilt, he had pretended to take a swing at a third security man, Ralph Olive, 25, a moonlighting policeman from Willow Springs. Carlos is a good actor; he weighs no more than 135 pounds and Olive weighs 273, but the little man put up such a good fight that the leather on 0live's right shoe split. Carlos is taken out to the "holding tank," actually an adjoining kitchen.

The accused prostitute looks haggard. "Please, can I offer my defense now?" she begs. "I never said I wanted to go up to the room with him; I just thought we'd have a drink together."

We all sit down, and Redding questions her as he fills out the arrest forms. She says she is 26, but somebody points out that if she was born in 1948, as she claims, she's really 29. She looks 40, a pathetic woman with only $17 in her purse, the change from the $20 bill she gave the bartender for her pink lady. "I admit I went up to a room with two men earlier at the Holiday Inn, but I didn't do anything with them--I talked my way out of it," she says. "I'm a waitress and a dancer at the --------. I'm not a prostitute."

Olive asks her to stand up so that he can take three color Polaroid photos of her for the office mug book. She stands stiffly, her arms at her sides, as Olive takes two pictures. At his request, she smiles for the third photo.

"Can I see them?" she asks as the images emerge. She likes the one with the smile the best, she says. Redding hands her a piece of I paper to sign:

NOTICE
You are hereby notified that, as you are not a registered guest of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, your presence at or in the hotel is not desired. This is a notification to you, that the next time you are seen in the hotel or any of its outlets, you will be arrested on view and charged under Chapter 38- Article 21-3 Criminal Trespass to Land.

The woman signs eagerly. "Now are you going to 86 me?" she asks, using barroom slang for being barred from a place forever.

Redding doesn't reply. He asks her to sign another form, drawn up by the hotel lawyers, that releases the hotel and its employyees from any liability. At 3:16 a.m.two young plainclothes policemen from the First District Tactical Team arrive in an unrnarked car to take the woman to jail.

"I thought you were going to 86 me," she laments to Redding as they lead her away.

Redding shakes his head. "I don't know what the hell 86 means," he says

The rest of the night goes quickly.

4:15 a.m. Bass radios that a pair of shoes has been left out for shining in front of suite 3524. It is not likely that the shoes will be stolen from this penthouse floor, which requires a special elevator key, but Bass is leaving nothing to chance.

At 4:23 a.m. we get a radio complaint of noise coming from room 1710. Joined by Ralph Olive, we knock on the door and are invited inside by a portly man wearing only his shorts and T-shirt. The Late Show is blaring on the TV. "Sir, could you hold the noise down a bit?" Olive asks. "It's four twentyfour in the morning."

"Four twenty-four?" the man looks surprised. "Hey, I'd better go to bed. Can you put in a call for eight o'clock for me?"

"Put in your own call," says Olive. Bass and I return to our rounds on the 34th floor, where we find a key in the door of room 3429. Bass takes the key out of the lock and radios the security-desk officer who, in turn, telephones the room. We hear the telephone ringing. The desk man tells the occupant that a security man is outside the door with his key and asks if everything is all right. The man says all is wonderful and, a moment later, cautiously opens the door, with the chain on, and holds his hand out. "I appreciate it," he says, thick-tongued, as Bass hands him the key.

On the 32nd floor we come upon the worst crime of the night. Some drunk has pulled a fire extinguisher off its wall bracket and thrown it on a room-service table in the hallway. A length of firehose has been pulled out of its cabinet and unfurled. A drinking glass has been smashed.

Bass calls for the night manager to come up and take notice of the damage. Edwin Kristof says he'll call engineering right away to clean up. "Listen," he tells Bass, "we're lucky that this guy didn't turn the water on. Then we really would have had a mess." If the man had turned on the hose, however, he might have received an unpleasant surprise. He would have activated a waterflow alarm that automatically notifies the Fire Department. And then, worse, the drunk would have had Redding, Bass, and Olive on his case.


* The American Civil Libertia Union is dubious about the device, declaring it even more controversial than the traditional polygraph which at least measures several physiological functions and requires a state license to operate and up to six months of training Using the PSE requires no license and the training period is usually no longer than a week. Insurance companies are said to be phoning accident victims. asking them what damage they suffered and, without telling the claimants, running their answers through the PSE.