Bazzel Baz… a modern day action man, former Marine, a former CIA officer, actor and founder of the Association of the Recovery of Children. Baz discusses his deep Christian faith, addresses the gun issues affecting America, his time as part of Reddington’s elite security force on The Blacklist TV show and the work he does in rescuing children.
PC: I read that your father ‘Sharky’ was a Green Beret but before that there was a lot of history of your family being in the military.
BB: All my uncles served in the military, actually on both sides of my family. My grandfather came to the United States in 1914: he was a young boy who was inducted into the underground in Beirut, Lebanon fighting against the Ottoman Empire. It’s interesting how he got here in that, on a given night (I believe though the story is handed down) he and other resistance fighters were successful in blowing up a bridge but he got gunned down – he got hit like seven times, mostly in his legs. I remember seeing the scars when I was a young boy. Eventually he was captured. Sometime later he and about four other prisoners were put on a train headed to a prison camp in Turkey. They were able to cut loose and jump the train – he was the only one that survived that jump. He was only 14 years old. That’s really young to be fighting a war. He made his way back to Bethmary in the Chouf Mountains and was able to connect with his uncle and they ended up boarding a ship that was bound for France of all places.
In some weird set of circumstances that ship was detoured because of German U–boats (and again I’m getting this story second hand). That ship ended up, believe it or not through whatever mysterious circumstances again, rerouting and they ended up getting on a third ship setting a course to America. I think that the requirement in those days were that you spoke a little bit of English before Customs would let you into the country. His uncle had a newspaper on him, likely the New York Times, and there was an article in there about the Yankees winning the pennant so he would read that to my grandfather over and over on the journey, to make him memorise it because my grandfather at that time didn’t speak English. When they got off the boat (I think it was Ellis Island) my grandfather and his uncle stood before the customs agent [who] said to his uncle, ‘Okay, can you speak English?’ His uncle was scared – he couldn’t open his mouth – my grandfather just stepped up to the plate and said something like, ‘Today the Yankees won with a 5-1 score blah blah blah.’
My grandfather lost track of his uncle whilst they were in New York and somehow my grandfather ended up in, I think it was, Ohio, Cincinnati; he was still a very young boy. A young boy with no money and starving on the streets. One day he went into a bakery, stole a loaf of bread and the baker caught him. The baker made him sweep the floor and not only sweep the floor but sift the flour from the dirt that was on the floor, because I guess things were tight in those days and every ounce of flower counted. The next day my grandfather just showed up and started sweeping the floor and so the baker gave him another loaf of bread. I think this went on for a couple of weeks and then one early morning, at about 4 a.m. when the baker was coming to work, he saw my grandfather sleeping in the alley, snow-covered, he brought him in and fixed him a place to sleep in the storeroom. He gave him his first job. Some time passed before my grandfather decided to leave that job and found himself as a ‘bag boy’ in a gang: he was the young one of the group, they gave him the money to hold onto. On a certain day a deal went really really bad and people were killed. My grandfather was scared of course or apprehensive – I don’t want to use the word scared because he was extremely brave but I think, just knowing that he couldn’t be in the fight, grabbed a gun from a dead body, got in the car and made a run for it. A chase ensued believe it or not all the way from Cincinnati, Ohio to a place called Nine Mile Curve near Georgetown, South Carolina, where he was run off the road and just like in a movie a shootout began (it was wild in those days). There was a police chief, Wagner, from Georgetown, South Carolina that was making his rounds (in those days your rounds included town peace so he was in Georgetown county which included Andrews and Georgetown and a bunch of other small establishments) and Wagner came upon that and realised that something wasn’t right and between he and Police Chief Wagner they ended up killing the bad guys. Wagner took him under his wing and brought him back to Georgetown and got him established.
My grandfather still carried a gun all those years – that was a thing you did back then. He built a house. He opened up a bakery with a gas station at the front of it and then he fell in love with a Native American woman (Waccamaw Tribe) which was my grandmother. She already had a child and my grandfather loved her so much that it didn’t matter to him. Her father was a drunk – who later became a preacher and gave up drinking – and my grandfather, when he saw my grandmother, just went over to her house and got her and brought her back to his place. Police Chief Wagner intervened and said, ‘You can’t do that. You have to marry her here in America,’ so they got married. They had twelve children. They were all that’s good on this earth…the most hardworking honest, brave Americans you could meet and they loved this country. My grandmother was a devout Christian: not just in the sense of being religious but I mean she had a relationship with God, people around her knew she was just an incredibly God-loving woman.
Those were in the days that kids were all growing up during the Great Depression and my grandfather worked three jobs: one of which was working at a paper mill. Of course, as was typical in the United States, UK and other places, when the kids became old enough they worked and all contributed, whether that was growing vegetables and pulling them in a wagon to sell in the neighbourhood, or whatever it may have been.
So I grew up and spent many a night sitting at my grandfather’s feet listening to him tell stories, in broken English, about our family and our history. What is so interesting is that my grandfather, in his broken language, would talk about our ancestry dating back to Noah. I didn’t really get it. I thought, ‘Well, who can remember that far back? Maybe he got the stories mixed up.’ But in later years, when I did my research, the name Baz dates back to the great great grandson of Noah, so when my grandfather would say things like, ‘We are from the family of Noah from the second earth,’ of course what he was talking about was after the great flood and this was considered the second earth. So that type of language is, I realise now, something that could have only been handed down family after family after family. Genetically it started explaining a few things: why there was this incredible spiritual connection to God, why miracles kept happening, why we didn’t have the spirit of fear. Just all the things I started to take a look at: why you are doing what you’re doing and why you know that you’re called to do something that changes the world for the better – it all started adding up. So I naturally followed in my father’s footsteps growing up with two great heroes in my life, my father a military man serving in Korea and Vietnam and, ironically, as I later found out, serving alongside of the CIA in places I would only come to appreciate later in my own career in the CIA.
My mother was a Southern belle, who was beautiful and still is. She has such a youthful spirit and is just the most kind, practical and sensible woman, and then there is my sister like them, who is all that is good on this planet, intelligent and funny. I’ve followed in my father’s footsteps and that’s why I ended up going to The Citadel, the military college of South Carolina which had a great track record, it had depth in all of those things that my family believed in. Then I went into the Marine Corps, the CIA then of course, The Association for the Recovery of Children and then becoming a military contractor to make money to keep the lights on. A little bit long-winded but hopefully it paints the picture for you.
PC: Yes definitely. Given the heroics of your grandfather and father, do you feel any pressure yourself to live up to them, or are you driven by your faith? I don’t know if you feel you have to achieve great things or are you just quite happy they have?
BB: There’s a lot of wisdom in my family: I could write volumes of books. I think my father understood that early in and that’s why he would always tell me, ‘Son, I don’t care what you choose to do in life, just be the best at it. If you want to be a ditch-digger just be the best ditch-digger there is.’ But then he would say, ‘As you get older and you learn more, I want you to stop and think how it would be to own the entire ditch-digging company.’
PC: Think bigger, yes.
BB: My grandfather wanted me to be a doctor. He didn’t want me to be a warrior, and I think that comes from the point of seeing so much destruction or bloodshed that, in my grandfather’s eyes, the doctors were invaluable because they knew how to save lives… put people back together. My father on the other hand knew I was just like him. I went to him after his return of duty from Vietnam and I can see it right now, in our backyard in Colombia, South Carolina… I was 12 years old. I said to him, ‘Dad, I don’t know, there is something in me and I want to go to war. What is that? What drives me to want that?’ My father looks at me and said, ‘You know it doesn’t surprise me: it’s in your blood. You go, and until you go you will never be satisfied but once you go, you’ll never want to go back again.’ He said, ‘I can’t stop you, it’s a lesson you learn by the hand of God, if you survive it.’ It’s not that I wouldn’t go back but it’s not a place for many of us that have been down range, where we salivate at going just to go… we go because we need to protect the innocent ones, to champion the cause of righteousness and, in this case, democracy for people. That’s why we go. Kind of like our motto with ARC ‘If we do not, who will?’ I think that I would die a sad man, and a shameful person, if I knew that there was something that had to be done and I turned a blind eye to it, even if it meant risking my life for somebody who is innocent. There are some that can’t do that, but I’m one of those people that can.
PC: So that was what you got from your father. What lesson did you learn from your mother?
BB: My mom was the pillar of strength for us when it came to our relationship with God. She led by example. My mother wasn’t one of these people that, when I climbed a tree at the age of 3 who would say… ‘Oh my gosh get down! You are going to hurt yourself!’ She was the type of woman that would say, ‘Okay, if you are going to climb the tree remember don’t step on a branch that is any smaller than the circumference of your leg.’ She would teach me; she didn’t install fear in me. I took my first adventure from home when I was 3 years old – I just left. The military police found me like a mile away in some ditch, on the military base where we were living. They asked me, ‘Where do you live?’ I told them my parents’ name and the address where I lived They were able to take me exactly there. There was always something other–worldly driving me, my parents saw that even when I was young. I would dream something and then I’d see it happen like three or four days later – not that I could predict it, it was kind of a déjà vu thing. I would ask my mom, ‘What is this? What is going on?’ She didn’t make a big deal of it, she just said, ‘Some things happen, some people have gifts.’ I think what they were seeing was something that had been handed down through them to me, and it was divinely inspired in my DNA. I say that humbly, not with ego. My mom took advantage of that early on and she led by example when it came to our faith and God, and I don’t mean like what people think God is or only going to church at Christmas or Easter, I’m talking about everyday getting up, studying the Bible to understand the history, the richness of God and all the things that were handed down. She gave me great guidance. She prayed with me a lot. I can tell you about losing direction as a grown man and literally being on my knees with my head in my mom’s lap and her putting her hand on her head and praying for me saying, ‘You know what? God’s always been faithful. He has a plan for you. Just trust him. It’s going to be okay.’ And you know what? It was.
PC: That sounds brilliant that you have that faith but I have to say I’m not religious at all really, and I wanted to ask you how someone with such strong faith feels, when a person says that? Could you ever really be friends with a person who doesn’t believe? Does that not make any difference to you, or would you always feel compelled over time to try and introduce a friend to your faith?
BB: I love all people because God created them. I won’t always agree with them or much of the world that seems to turn morality sideways. I just live by example and if people see something in my life that they want I’m happy for them. I don’t pass judgment on people, it’s not my job, that’s God’s job to do that and that’s the way it’s always been in my family and my life. It’s going to always be that way and, like I said, there is an unreal dynamic in the world and it is stronger than it has ever been before and that is: there are people who love peace and kindness and are not judgemental, they are seeking; and then there are some people that are really rotten and evil; and then there are some who are fence sitters trying to figure out when to good and when to be bad, whenever it best suits them. The world is at a point now where instinctively you can tell the difference and I don’t know if that is a spiritual battle that’s going on in our planet right now or what that is. I have dealt on local levels with people who are in the middle trying to make a decision about their lives, and I’ve dealt with those people who are on the other side, but until someone gives me a reason to not trust them, I treat all people equally.
It’s interesting because here in America one of the things, Paula, that allows me to do that, is the fact that I view people as not only God’s creation but I view them as Americans. As a war fighter for my country that’s what I do: I fight for Americans and the one thing I see that really kind of tweaks me a little bit, gets me frustrated, is when I hear people say, ‘Well I’m an African American or I’m a Chinese American, or a Spanish American’ – I want to tell them, ‘You know what? You separate yourself initially when you say that.’ When you make a statement like that you divide yourself. When we come to this country we are one thing: we are Americans. When I look at Americans, guess what? I don’t see skin colour, I just see Americans who I fight for so when we have divisions in our country it’s not because people are thinking well you are Spanish or Chinese, that’s not what it is. People here divide themselves who make statements like that. Whenever I’m downrange and we are wearing the same uniform you don’t hear that stuff, you don’t see a Marine that’s black, or a Marine that’s Hispanic celebrate their diversity…they celebrate their unity. When I hear (and I have friends from different ethnicities) someone say I’m an African American it’s like you are not African American, give me a break. Tell me exactly where in Africa your ancestors came from. They can’t tell you… If you are Hispanic American it’s like, ‘Wait a minute the last sixteen generations of your family have been here in the United States, you don’t know anymore about Mexico than a hole in the road.’ So if I see that or hear that I think that the best way to look at people in my country is you are just an American. Here’s the interesting thing Paula: if you just claim to be an American in this country you stand on two of the most powerful documents ever printed in history: The Constitution of the United States and The Declaration of Independence and as an American, with those, no one can discriminate against you. What happens is, in our country, people won’t study their history and they don’t understand that if you stand on those documents as an American, that you have all the rights in this country to protect you. I want Americans on my team. I don’t want to have to question your loyalties and I think people’s loyalty is in question. We have lost that loyalty here in our country, and how we get it back is like: quit dividing yourself.
PC: Are your people not being forced to think that way themselves? Are they not discriminated against by fellow Americans, and have to therefore stand up and say what they are – because it’s not a united America, is it?
BB: Well it is to a certain degree but it is united for people like ourselves who are military or who don’t see colour. I tell you who do it here more than anyone, politicians, and people that want to stir up stuff. When I was a young boy growing up in the south, I grew up in a black neighbourhood, with people who could tell you who their great grandparents were in as slaves. But we were friends we didn’t look at colour. Here’s an interesting thing, in America, most people don’t know but one of the wealthiest slave owners in America during that period of time was a black man in Virginia. As published in Wikipedia: “William Ellison Jr., born April Ellison, (c. April 1790 – December 5, 1861) was a cotton gin maker and blacksmith in South Carolina, a Mulatto and former slave who achieved considerable success in business before the American Civil War. He eventually became a major planter and one of the medium property owners, and the wealthiest black property owner in the state. He held 40 slaves at his death and more than 1,000 acres (400 ha) of land. From 1830-1865 he and his sons were the only free blacks in Sumter County, South Carolina to own slaves. The county was largely devoted to cotton plantations and the majority population was slaves.
Ellison and his sons were among a number of successful free people of colour in the antebellum years, but Ellison was particularly outstanding. His master (and likely father) had passed on social capital by apprenticing him to learn a valuable artisan trade as a cotton gin maker, at which Ellison made a success. He took a wife at the age of 21. After buying his own freedom when he was 26, a few years later Ellison purchased his wife and their children, to protect them from sales as slaves. The Act of 1820 made it more difficult for slaveholders to make personal manumissions, but Ellison gained freedom for his sons and a quasi-freedom for his surviving daughter. During the American Civil War, Ellison and his sons supported the Confederate States of America and gave the government substantial donations and aid. A grandson fought informally with the regular Confederate Army and survived the war.” So it wasn’t just a white issue – it was an economic issue – and sadly accepted during those times.
BB: Yes, now that’s ironic, because slavery was a business around the world so it wasn’t that people were picking on black people, it was just that that is where it started, you know, in Africa and the Middle East and it continues today in those countries and we just have to get through that process. I would like to say thank God almighty that we have gotten past that type of institutional thinking, but we’re quickly falling back into it each time we divide ourselves outside of just being an American. I didn’t grow up discriminating against people of any colour. But I will tell you what I do discriminate against: I discriminate against lazy people who don’t want to pick up their share of the load and think that they should be given something. I look at them and say, ‘We work our share of the load in this country. Don’t expect to get anything for free… and don’t keep acting like the victim.
PC: There are many people in the U.K. who rely on benefits; they are almost on a par with the minimum wage so those people don’t want to work when they don’t have to.
What about people who are divided because of their religion? I think your grandfather was Muslim is that correct?
BB: My grandfather was a Muslim who converted to Christianity. My grandmother was a Christian and you would find that to be an odd marriage. My grandmother didn’t force her religious views on my grandfather, she just lived by example. I remember my senior year in college, leaving my grandfather’s house on a Sunday, because I’d gone down from Charleston to Georgetown to be with him, and my grandfather stopped me at the door and he called me by my middle name Hasson, he said, ‘Hasson, you know this thing your grandmother spoke of?’ I didn’t understand what he was saying because my grandmother and passed away when I was four years old. I said, ‘No, I don’t know what you are talking about.’ He then says, ‘This thing that Jesus Christ was the son of God’, I responded, ‘Yes sir.’ And then he looked me square in the eye and said, ‘It’s true,’ and that was that. He turned and walked away.
Since that time and as I had the opportunity in the CIA to study all religions, to travel the world and learn, I did take time to dive into the world of Islam and the Muslim faith, to just seek it out. To find out the truth on it and I boldly say this… it’s misguided. My grandfather said Islam is no different than what communism or socialism is: that it controls the uneducated through a political, economic, religious system and as I studied it more the people that followed Islam were following tradition rather than questioning it. And ironically I can say the same for the Catholic Church to some extent. I often ask Catholics if they are Christians or Catholics and the response I get is, ‘I’m Catholic.’ So where is the part about Jesus Christ in all of this? How many people in the Catholic Church realise you don’t pay penance for forgiveness of sin? It’s not in the Bible, you don’t have to go to a priest to get to God, you can go directly. That is what you get in the Christian faith when it becomes tradition. And it’s interesting seeing the difference. I think my grandfather saw in all of this clearly. Let me put it to you in a different way. If you take Buddha out of Buddhism, Buddhism will still exist. If you take Krishna out of Hinduism, Hinduism will still exist. Take all the great religious leaders out of their religion and it will still exist. But if you take Jesus Christ out of Christianity do you know what you have? Nothing. Because it never was about a religion. It was all about a personal relationship with God through His son Jesus… the very thing God has wanted for mankind since He created us… a personal relationship. Is that too much to ask from mankind?
PC: When you were serving as a Marine and were invited by a CIA agent to visit their headquarters, did that come as a complete surprise or was that something you were half expecting, or was that something you had dreamed of?
BB: You know, Paula, that was a dream come true. My sister reminded me that when I was a little younger maybe 10 or 11 that I always wanted to be a spy. I do remember writing a letter at that age to the CIA, when I didn’t even know at that time that it was called The Central Intelligence Agency – I thought it was Counter Intelligence Agency in Washington D.C and that’s how I addressed it – believe it or not about three months later they wrote me a letter back that basically said ‘when you grow up come and see us.’
So I never thought about it for years. I knew that when I was in the Marine Corps, even though I was assigned an educational counter-terrorism role, I wanted to live closer to the edge; I wanted to do operations that were clandestine and without ever having anybody thank me for it. I wanted to be at the tip of the spear and I just didn’t really know how to get there to be honest with you. I was destined probably, as a Citadel graduate and a Captain in the Marine Corps, to become a General one day and I was okay with that, and I think that when I got asked to join the CIA that I was pleasantly surprised – didn’t see it coming.
PC: What can you tell me about being a CIA operative? Would it shatter the urban myth that it’s like being James Bond? Is it more to do with paperwork and red tape or is it hiding in the dark shadows and tracking and using special gadgets? What is the true picture of being in the CIA?
BB: I met some of the most amazing patriots this country has, some of the most selfless people that did so many incredible, dangerous jobs that have saved this country and other people’s lives and just kind of drifted off into the shadows without a thank you – sometimes without a thank you even in their own ranks. The type of people that get hired, just want to do their job and aren’t looking for that and yet knowing, if you get recognition internally it’s a very cool thing, being recognised by people that [you] think of as family so to speak. But it was a part of my life that sharpened me and trained me and basically fine-tuned all the things that I had grown up with and learned – whether it was in my family or The Citadel or the Marine Corps – and at the same time it tested me to the limits close to death. Not like: if you fail this you can come back tomorrow and try again; it wasn’t like that. Many times you’ve got one shot at something and if you didn’t do it right you didn’t live. It was being a special operations paramilitary case officer, quote ‘spy’. It was probably the most exciting times of my career. I don’t remember ever having to put on a tuxedo like James Bond.
PC: But you would have looked good in one!
BB: Well thank you. I will take that (laughs). I do get to wear one now when I’m at speaking engagements. I remember being mesmerised by the people I met in the CIA that were there: Ron Franklin, former Sergeant Major of Delta Force, Dave, Tim, Richard and John and Steve, these are all first names and Mick, Jim Monroe, Ryan, Rad, Farmer John and the list goes on and on and on, just incredible men and women. They are the Marvel comic heroes basically, without those cool uniforms. So it was very much sometimes like a Jason Bourne movie watered down and on other occasions hot as fire. Very much like what you saw in the movie 13 Hours – where our guys got killed in Benghazi – it was all of those things and sometimes more, and sometimes less. There were politics to be dealt with and sometimes those were horrible and there was bureaucracy that existed as well. I think every organisation probably has that and then there were probably things that took place in the organisation that I’m not aware of, because it was very compartmented. I was there during a time when Bill Casey was the Director of the CIA, Woolsey and Gates… all of these people… I have to say Bill Casey – who was a spy’s spy, who came up through the ranks – was the one person I admired most as far as directors of the CIA and he led by example. He was impressive. During the whole Iran Contra thing I remember Bill Casey getting off a helicopter in a pretty dangerous and unpredictable area of operations, flying there just to have conversations to ground truth. Here is the director of the CIA getting out of a helicopter with 5 bodyguards from a helicopter that could have easily crashed or been shot down. Probably one of the most important men in the United States – outside of the great President of the United States himself – and he’s in polyester pants, white tennis shoes and a Panama shirt and he’s in the field with us. He was a general; he was leading by example. I think what the CIA did for me has put me leaps and bounds ahead of many, many people that never had the opportunity to be a part of that organisation and it is one of the things that has allowed me to function in the shadows to some degree, with my organisation ARC, and use the same tradecraft and have great relationships formed, to be honest with you.
PC: There must be so much you can’t talk about. I read a little spiel that said you can fly a plane, you can operate on a casualty, you can captain a ship. Are these the sort of things you learnt when you were in the CIA?
BB: In the days when I came into special operations, I think there were only 24 of us in the entire world, so often times we went out in pairs or we went alone; you were required to do a lot of different things. If you were in the bush running an operation you had to know how to hook up your own power, how to dig a well – you had to learn a lot of things. I think I took all of that and along the way continued to school myself because it wasn’t long after I got out, that I was asked to be part of a very closed group of men – only twelve that I know existed in the world at that time (I’m sure if it opened up there would be more who would qualify) those twelve were known as ‘life guarantors’. A life guarantor is someone who you trust your life to: a person that you take into the field with you because they know if everything goes upside down, they can get you out no matter if it is acquiring and flying them out, that is after you hotwire a plane and do that, or fix a truck and drive them out, or swim them out, or if they get shot you can fix them up with a little bit of surgery or whatever it may be, you are kind of a Jack of all trades. Even to this day, amongst that very close group, we constantly are practising (we don’t give names) so whether that’s scaling a 15,000 ft mountain and taking another course in snow survival, or another medial emergency course to stay tuned up…you do it.
PC: We think of that in association with the great outdoors but does that apply nowadays to technology? Do you have to learn and keep up with new tech?
BB: Yes you do. Non-stop! And I think it keeps you young and it keeps you alive. One of the things as life guarantors we live by is something actually I introduced to the men around me in the group, that my father taught me, and that was simply to say this isn’t about getting from point A to point B, it’s what do you do in-between those two points, when everything goes upside down, that counts. That’s how a life guarantor leads their life and that’s how you keep people alive. It’s not, ‘Oh I need to get this executive from Bolivia to Miami. It’s like: wait a minute, what are you going to do along the way when everything goes upside down? Do you have a plan for that? And that is the one single thread you see throughout the actions of life guarantors. Who knows, maybe one day we will be qualifying people to be life guarantors. I like being that way and I don’t know it all and there’s so much more to learn but I will tell you, amongst the twelve of us, if I had to have one single army of twelve people to fight my way out of a situation, it would be those life guarantors.
PC: I wanted to ask you about the recent mass shootings where the crux of it seems to be the issues with how semi-automatic weapons are so accessible in America. How do you feel about that statement?
BB: Here’s the thing I’ve learned: I’ve been downrange a little bit and I’ve spent years in other countries, the very first thing the UN wanted to do was take people’s guns away from them for some reason to keep the peace. If you take guns away from people they’ll make bombs; they will make machetes, they will make whatever it is to kill people. Guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people so the problem we have in America is that they are not addressing the cause. They are addressing guns in the media because it’s political and I say shame on them for trying to destroy our Second Amendment rights, by taking advantage of the situation to make it a political issue. What we need to be addressing is this: what is causing people to kill people? That’s the issue. What influences are in our society that are causing kids to be desensitised and not have respect for human life and kill people. I can tell you a few things that might be influencing people to do that… kill video games or what we show on TV. We plant the seeds of destruction among our own people. We teach people to respond with hatred when they want to make a point. Look at all the radical protesters that got paid to tear down our historical monuments. The majority of Americans that are gun carriers are law-abiding citizens and they deserve the right according to our Second Amendment to defend themselves.
PC: Even with a semi-automatic weapon?
BB: Here’s the interesting thing about weapons: we coin this term ‘assault weapons’ because it looks like something the military carries into combat. You know what my assault weapon is when I’m in Mogadishu, Somalia? It’s a shotgun – that’s my assault weapon – and that doesn’t look like those other guns that politicians keep calling “assault weapons”. I will tell you this: I can load and fire as many rounds as I want in a crowd with a shotgun just as I can with most other weapons and do a lot of damage. As a Secret Service Firearms Instructor, I used to put people in a room with three targets in that same room and I’d say, ‘Okay, when the deal goes bad, you are going to pull your Uzi out of your briefcase and you are going to spray the room as you are walking out.’ They would do that and you know what? About 75% of the time they didn’t even hit a target. Here’s what we understand: it’s not the number of rounds going downrange, it’s how accurate those rounds are when being sent down range… precision shooting. Granted, there can be strays and you can get hit by them but most of the time a precision shooter can take an inferior weapon and do just as much damage. If guns are taken away from law abiding citizens then the only guns available will be in the hands of the criminal. History shows that time and time again in our country. We are fooling ourselves if we think we will ever have a handle on drugs, guns, fraud, money laundering, etc. Criminals don’t follow the law and Politicians want us to believe that they will. Seriously? Give me a break. The only way you are going to defend yourself, is by being armed. Let’s say I have a weapon with a high-volume magazine, you still have to aim, that’s number 1 and number 2, let’s say in theory with that magazine I can kill 20 people in a room- in theory – guess what? I can put a bomb in that room and I can kill a hundred people. It will never be about the type of weapon, it will always be about the person behind the weapon.
PC: But surely it must be more difficult to get your hands on a bomb then it is to legally own a semi-automatic weapon?
BB: Just because it looks like something the military carries doesn’t make it a bad weapon… you can still have something that looks like that but is a single fire. I can go in with a single fire weapon and I can kill just as many people or if I get twenty people cornered in a school room I can hack them up with a machete until all twenty are dead. And in regard to addressing your question about how easy it is to get your hands on a bomb… go on line and you’ll learn how easy it is to make one. So we go back to this thing: that’s not the issue. The issue isn’t the instrument: we have to address why so many people want to kill people, now. If we can’t ever address that issue about what we are going to do, you can’t take the freedom away from innocent people to have the right to defend themselves, because in our country (and a lot of countries) the police can never get there in time. The police are reactive, they are not proactive, and so I have a right, no matter where I am in my country, to protect myself and my family. People will say, ‘Well, you’re only going to get attacked in your home.’ That’s not true. I may be on the road with my family and someone tries to do something to me there. In America this issue of gun control revolves around something much bigger, which is political. A government – and a tyrant government – knows that if you can take guns away from people then you can bring military forces in at anytime and that is the one thing our forefathers knew a long time ago. As long as the average person has the right to defend themselves, governmental organised armies have to think twice before they come in to take over a country.
PC: But how much of a likelihood is that though? Here in the U.K the gun laws are very tight.
BB: Well we have a long history of ‘we the people’ here, of the people running our government not the government running us, sadly in other countries they are becoming a place where the government tells the people what to do. You will see in our country a revolution if anybody ever tries to do that: there are enough Americans that understand that and the right to bear arms and defend themselves against enemies foreign or domestic is something that we hold onto.
Our shootings on the school campuses, if we look at a recent case that took place in Florida, the FBI and other law enforcements were given notice about this guy and they chose not to do anything about it. The school wasn’t properly protected. We, protect our banks and our commercial buildings more than we do our schools – that’s wrong! If you go to any bank you will see one or maybe two armed guards, you see surveillance cameras, you see locked doors. I mean: if you go to a commercial building here, you will see not only a gate guard but also roving patrols and armed people. Our children in our country are our most precious assets. When it comes to this issue we’re discussing and the fact that we haven’t got a handle on people killing people, the question is why are we not protecting our children? The only answer is because society thinks more about their money than they do life: so whose fault is it? Is it the gun owners fault? No it’s not. We know it exists; we are going to have to either find the cure for people killing people and stop that influence, and if you are not going to do that, then harden up the target. I know from talking to so many shooters, the only thing they fear is somebody else with a gun because it’s going to foil their plan. That’s it! We don’t live in a perfect world and we need to stop thinking we do. You got to remember, with all due respect, there was a time when King George wanted all the British Army to have American colonists turn in their weapons. We didn’t do it then and we’re not doing it now. (laughs)
PC: Before I talked to you I was very much in the ‘no guns’ camp but if I had a child at school in your country I would want to find the answers on how to protect them best.
BB: If you are female and you get caught with mace in your pocket in the State of California you can get arrested – now you’re just trying to protect yourself – that’s how stupid it’s gotten here. We have cases where convicted criminals actually have more rights than law abiding citizens. I’ve seen cases where people have shot someone coming into their house and the next thing you know, those people are being questioned as to whether they should have used deadly force or not or whether they should have either owned a gun or not. It’s ridiculous! If you enter my house unannounced and I’m not sure what your intent is and I suspect you are a danger to me and my family I’m going to shoot you… centre mass. That’s my house, that’s my property, you broke in. I don’t have time to sit there and figure it out in a conversation: there’s no time to ask “are you here to harm my family, steal or are you just here because you thought it was really cool to break in my door right now.” It doesn’t work that way, it’s not real. So I send a clear message out there… one thing about me, Paula, I’m not wishy washy, I’m not in the grey, everything’s very black and white for me – I just kind of call it like it is and I don’t have to sugar coat it.
PC: What would be your advice, to school administrators? What would you put in place to protect the kids when they are in school buildings? If they asked, ‘What three things can we do Baz?’
BB: There are three things I would do: if the school has the budget I would on an individual school level first hire a tech team, one person, two people. That person’s whole job would be to monitor social media and find people who say things like, ‘Well, I’m going to get a gun and go to that school.’
PC: Yes, the boy responsible for the most recent shooting did post on Instagram his intentions or something.
BB: Yes he did and it was reported. There are three security measures you would do for every single school:
Number 1 – one person monitoring social media to notice anyone targeting that school and report them immediately to the police.
Number 2 – harden up the potential target…the school and its faculty and student body. If schools were gated and authorised personnel only had access by card holders, it would be wise.
Number 3 – I would increase the size of security, depending on the size of the school, and have 3 or 4 armed guards rotating. Those things right there would harden up the target. Now keeping in mind, we are not talking about hiring rent-a-cops – people that are 150lbs overweight, that can’t even run – I’m talking about people that are qualified, who understand that they are there as the last line of defence to save those children, and willing to give their life to do that. We have a lot of military veterans who are more than qualified to handle the job and we should consider vetting them, hiring them and letting them do what they do best… protect lives.
PC: Let’s move now to talking about your role on The Blacklist. Though you were working on TV long before that weren’t you?
BB: I was. I wrote my first screenplay with Michael Greenburg, for Gekko Film Corp which was Michael’s and Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver & Stargate). I was a Harley Davidson model for a little while. It’s been a great career: I got my first writing job under Jerry Bruckheimer on the television show Soldier of Fortune, run by Greg Strangis and Bob McCullough. Bob was a sushi-eating surfer, writer, executive producer and Greg was well known in the industry as well: he was a very sophisticated, well-spoken, cigarette smoking (at that time) executive producer. I remember walking into their office and saying, ‘I would like to be a writer for your show.’ They said, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘Well you have a show about mercenaries, and I’m a former CIA special ops guy, and I know a little bit about that world.’ So they said, ‘Leave us a script, some writing samples,’ and I did. Two weeks later they called me up, whilst I was in Florida with my parents from Christmas, and said, ‘We want to hire you for the show.’ It was a great spot. Then I went on to work as a consultant and co-executive producer on The Agency for CBS and had this wonderful, wonderful experience of becoming friends with Mark Burnett, who did Survivor and now runs MGM Television. I went on to partner up with the great writer Ron Hutchinson from the U.K. on a number of other creative projects that we are now pitching.
With The Blacklist, my dear dear friend Michael Watkins is probably one of the number one directors in television that came out of the business as a cinematographer. He called me up one day and said, ‘Hey! I’d love for you to come here and teach some stuntmen how to act like special ops mercenary guys taking down a warehouse.’ I said, ‘Well how about if I do one thing better? How about I just hire a bunch of former CIA special operative guys, and we just come over there and do it for you? He said, ‘Wow! That would be great!’ So I flew in with those guys and Michael was actually shooting that morning at another location (and I was really honoured) he said, ‘Well just go over and set it up for me.’ So I went in with the locations guy: we took pictures of everything, mapped it all out, what we were going to do for each scene. He [Michael] came back during lunchtime, had all the photos and I said, ‘This is where we would go, here, and this and this and this.’ He just looked at me and said, ‘Okay, let’s shoot it!’ We went over and I think we did 2, 3, maybe 4 takes and then I left. About two weeks later Mike called me up and said, ‘NBC saw you in the editing room and they want to know if you would come back and be the head of Red Reddington’s mercenary team?’
BB: I said…
PC: ‘I suppose.’ (Laughs)
BB: ‘Thanks very much, that would be great!’ He said, ‘I can’t guarantee you what they are going to make you say or not say, but would you be interested?’ That’s how it started and I ended up co-starring on the show for 4 seasons across from James Spader and that entire cast and crew. They were just the most wonderful people. I can’t think of one person on the show that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy working with, and learning from: the cameramen, stunts, transportation… just everybody.
PC: I have interviewed 13 of the cast, guests, writers and crew (not James Spader I might add) they have all been incredibly generous with their time – they are just a fantastic bunch of people. It couldn’t have been coincidence surely, that your character was called Baz you must have written that into your contract or something.
BB: Nooo! You know what, Paula? I was surprised. I think the next time I showed up for a scene and read the script… I just never questioned it; I read it and thought, ‘Wow! Okay, fine. I’m okay with it.’ It was great.
I heard when that show first started (as I heard it) it wasn’t doing too well, that’s when Michael Watkins got called in and Michael put them on the map as one of the top TV shows on the network. I’m going to say this, with all honesty; Michael should have been a General in the Marine Corps. If it were not for Michael Watkins that show would have never gotten to where it is: I saw him interact with every single person there; I saw him rewrite scripts to make them better; I saw him give guidance to writers and producers. I saw him go to bat for people – even when they didn’t even know he went to bat for them; I saw him go make phone calls to the studio to save people’s jobs, to get them more money because their families needed it; I saw him do things when someone would just mention, ‘Well my son is sick and he had to drop out of school’; I watched him, seriously, take those crew members’ lives into his personal hands and try to figure out: how do we get them more hours? How do we work them so they can make more money? Things I don’t think none of the members of the crew ever, ever knew about Michael. He never talked about it. I’m going to tell you something else: I’ve heard it said in Hollywood that when people like Michael are no longer there on the show, the attitudes of the crew and cast can change and they forget how good they had it or they don’t really honour the people that were there with them – it would not surprise me one day, because this is Hollywood, that the very people that Michael went to bat for either speak poorly of him, or ignore him, or don’t go to bat for him in life as well. The reason I say that is because I have been in this industry for about 24 years, and it seems to be a trend sometimes in the industry (with television shows) that once great people have left – the people that really made things happen – others aren’t as generous in their words. I think it’s because deep inside they have animosity or they feel like they’ve been abandoned by the best. It’s kind of like children when their father leaves: no matter what the circumstances are and no matter if the father provided them food, they always say how much they hate him and I think it’s because psychologically they feel lost – it’s just a really weird dynamic. I think people need to know Michael left unblemished. He is one of the best. I would work with him gladly, on anything. If Michael Watkins said, ‘I want you to do this scene and act like a monkey,’ I’d do it without question because I know it would be in my best interests. That is how much I trust him… that is how much the networks should trust him.
PC: I shall have to ask him for an interview. What a guy!
BB: Let me tell you about James Spader: I can tell you there were times when I would be on set and I would have a speaking role, and if my actions needed fine tuning or refining, he would very diplomatically and generously come to me quietly and say, ‘You might want to think about looking in this direction or you might want to deliver that line this way.’ And he didn’t have to do that. I found him to be remarkable, in that he could go home at night and maybe learn twenty pages! Susan [Blommaert] who played Kate (Mr Kaplan) I love her to pieces, she too was so generous and kind, and Hisham, a New York fireman and former Marine. I like him. He had an interesting family history that needs to be written about. He and I used to joke about being together on another show of our own after The Blacklist would end. It would be him and I, almost like the old show Starsky and Hutch minus the cool car. Now how much fun would that be?
PC: Yes that would be good as a spinoff.
BB: Yeah, going after bad guys or something. I always thought I’d have the most fun with that. It would be Baz and Hisham… but everybody, the seasoned actors, were always very kind to me. When you go there like I did and play yourself – and I thank Jon Bokenkamp and the writers for that because they played on my strengths rather than my weaknesses and they allowed me to be a character who was actually just being himself, I was very grateful for that.
PC: Baz was a very popular character because when I asked fans to pose some questions, many of them said, ‘Oh, can you tell Baz we love him, we loved what he did and we appreciate him.’ Someone said, ‘Will you ask him if he’ll marry me?’
BB: I’m a single guy (laughs).
PC: Well there you go, you have ladies waiting for you. So is Baz finished now? Are you not coming back on The Blacklist?
BB: Well I don’t think so. I got shot, but they didn’t say I was killed so if they were to invite me back for a quick scene I wouldn’t turn it down. Michael and I have been pitching a few other shows, it would be great to continue my acting career on anything that I found was good. Hopefully I did the show justice. I don’t think I am cut out to do Shakespeare. If there were other roles that somebody saw from a network or a studio, and thought I could be their guy, I’d love that. It’s been a lot of fun! Features, television or maybe even one of the shows I’ve created would be a dream come true.
PC: How did you feel when you read you were going to be shot by Mr Kaplan?
BB: You know, I’m glad it was Susan: if I had to get shot by anyone, I’m glad it was her. It’s interesting that I got so much grief from every special ops friend that you can think of (including my buddies in MI5 and CIA) everybody around the world was going, ‘You got to be kidding me! I can’t believe you’d walk up to the car like that!’ And I just have to say, ‘Well look, when they are writing your pay cheque, you got to do as they say.’
PC: Yes, it’s not what you would do in real life.
BB: I think it was a rather dignified way to go out. I had a relationship with Mr. Kaplan and probably people in the audience would say, ‘You trusted her,’ so that wasn’t bad. Compared to the way I was going to be taken out of the show – that got rewritten (thank goodness) by Michael Watkins – I’m okay with it… as okay as one can be with getting killed off. I think the funniest thing for Susan (and she and I talked about this) was that she had this big .357 Magnum handgun which she held out the window. Bless her heart, she’s not that big of a person, and we laughed at that. She would say, ‘Why do I have this ‘Dirty Harry’ gun?’
PC: She should have had one of those little spy guns.
BB: I agree. She could hardly hold that monster!
PC: Yeah she was holding it with two hands, ‘Hang on, I will just lift my gun up.’
BB: But you know what? She was being a sweetheart! You know in that part of the scene where she looks at me and says, ‘Baz’? She actually put that in there because she said, ‘You know, as a character I’ve had this long relationship with Baz and it’s been intimate. I think I’m at this point where I really feel bad about what I’m getting ready to do: to shoot someone who I trusted, who’s worked for me and who would die for me. I’m going to take his life because of whatever the extenuating circumstances are.’ So I was really, really grateful that she – as a professional actress – was sensitive enough to the relationship that the characters had built, to help me with that scene because it was that one word that allowed me to reach for the door, distract me enough because, when she said, ‘Baz,’ I trusted her. At the same time I was holding a gun on her – it’s that weird world that the characters lived in which was very much like a pirates’ code so to speak. And I ended up getting the blunt end of the sword. (laugh)
PC: How realistic is the security team that Reddington has? Is it similar to how a security or protection would really operate?
BB: Yes, I had great influence on that. The directors and James Spader would ask me, ‘How should this be done?’ After a while they got so used to me just doing it, they trusted me, because they knew this was the world I came out of. What you saw on there, as far as the way we operated, it was the way we operate in real life – just short of some preliminary trade craft that we just never disclose. I think it was just a given but we didn’t need to take a lot of creative license, we just did that, and the directors and the producers knew that they were dealing with professionals.
PC: I liked the scene where you were underground, Reddington had summoned everyone and they had to drop their phones and weapons into a tray. I think you said to Samar, ‘My kind of lady’ or something.
BB: That was a funny scene the way we did it. I think the only thing we probably wouldn’t have done, technically speaking, is we would have cleaned everybody up outside of the room – but we needed to shoot in the room. Sometimes, you know, you just have to go with it. And for the experts in my field in the real world, hopefully they understand and if they don’t, they need to – that things happen a little different in the make believe world of television. When they say to me, ‘I would never do that!’ And reply, ‘I wouldn’t either and then just laugh.
PC: How do you imagine Baz and Reddington came together in the first place? Do you think Baz was a hired gun, or someone that would have been a friend of Reddington’s, or who had previously worked with Reddington?
BB: I don’t think that back story was ever developed; I would have liked to have seen it. I think, because my character was kind of grey and elusive, they probably left it that way to keep the mystery so the audience would think, ‘Well who is he? Where has he come from?’ Also, if they had written a back story, then they may have had to pay it off somewhere in the show where I had to be more involved. In my own mind’s eye I always thought that whatever relationship Reddington had developed with Dembe way back (whether he has saved him as a little boy in Africa or whatever)) that my character was alongside Reddington at that time, with his mercenary army, and that during some sequence of events (when we were all much younger) that is where that young boy’s life was saved. You know I have a relationship with Dembe on there, one that appears to be very solid, we know each other really well and I think that’s what came after and that would have been up to the studio and the writers: whether they found my character valuable enough to extend that relationship or not. I think there were a few moments where you could tell that Spader, as Reddington, trusted me. We had a relationship, where he would simply go ‘Baz’ and that was it or if I were in the woods with him or whatever, it was as if we had an understanding. The only way you could have that understanding is if we had a long, long relationship, so much to the point that I could read his mind and he mine.
PC: It would be interesting to follow through with a back-story, like they did when they brought William Sadler back as Sam, so you never know. It would be good to explore. I think a lot of fans would like to know.
BB: Yes I’d like a call back.
PC: Do you keep in touch with any of the cast when you have been on a show like that and then you leave? Or do you all just go your separate ways?
BB: Everybody has their own lives and are very busy, especially when they are still shooting – when you are on set you don’t have much time for anything, the day owns you. I think if we’re to run into each other in the future whether on set or in real life we will certainly be happy but I don’t stay in touch with anybody on the show, apart from Michael Watkins, who goes back from time to time to shoot episodes as a director. But I hope all of them know that they are welcome into my world. Like I said, they were all, in their own special way, very kind to me and very generous. The guys who came on board with me, like Thad Turner who was part of my team (you might have seen him from time to time) is a former Navy SEAL (he works with me at ARC) he is just so easy going and just amazing. I was able to bring him on board on the show as well as John Hermes (former CIA) and Pops and Duy and others – all guys I stay in touch with, but that’s because they are real guys and we still run operations together.
PC: I think we should talk about ARC now. You are the founder of ARC: was there a defining moment that prompted you into setting it up?
BB: Do you remember a movie called Blackhawk Down?
PC: Oh yeah!
BB: I was in Somalia in 1993, during the civil war, with two of the first CIA teams that went in prior to that event happening and I had the great pleasure of being attached with Centre Spike and some other CIA entities; I was in a safe house on Ali Madhi’s side of the line. On a given day in the middle of operations we saw a couple of little girls, mixed race, that were dressed in blue jeans and green T-shirts. They looked out of place and they were hiding underneath some debris outside of, I think, an Italian defensive position. We went back to the safe house and I wrestled with the fact that those two little girls were out there and brought it up to the team. The conversation was kind of like, ‘Well, you know that’s collateral damage. You’ve been in war zones before: the CIA is not going to authorize us to bring a couple of kids back to the compound. They’re on their own.’ And the list went on and on and on. I went up to the top of the roof that night and there must have been a billion stars up in the African sky. I had seen so much of the war and so much devastation and so much of everything, that I just went up there and I said, ‘Dear God, why aren’t you doing something about this?’ and I have to tell you Paula, I have only heard the voice of God maybe two or three times audibly, and that time I heard a voice that said, ‘I did. I created you.’ I turned around to see if somebody had said something and there was nobody there and it shook me – it literally shook me – and I went downstairs a little while later. We were having a team briefing on one of the meetings we’d had with an agent. After the briefing the guy that had taken that meeting was leaving the room and he stopped and turned around, and this is the weird thing, he said, ‘By the way, there’s this American lady and she’s opening an orphanage here in a war zone, in Mogadishu.’ How crazy is that?’ We all looked at each other and said, ‘Oh wow! This is where we will take them.’ So the next day we locked and loaded, got in our vehicles and went down to those little girls. We picked them up and took them to that orphanage and I think that American lady was a little scared because we all showed up in civilian attire and weapons (we weren’t in military uniforms). The littlest girl, I think she was probably 10 years old (her sister was probably 16), came out crying and she stopped us and she was saying something. I thought she was saying ‘thank you’ but the translator told us, ‘She wants you to find her mother and little brother.’ They had been separated through all the conflict so we took a Polaroid picture of the little girls. I think the next three days we went out looking for them, and located them, and we were able to reunite them. They were the children of an Italian or American engineer that had abandoned them when the war heated up. I suspect he had two families, one in another country and this one here.
About a month later I left, got back in the United States and just was curious about missing children so I started checking with all my law enforcement friends and FBI and everybody. At that time there were probably 250,000 reported missing in the United States. There were so many missing and law enforcement said, ‘We have jurisdictional issues. We have communication issues. We don’t have a budget.’ So I started going to my law enforcement friends and saying, ‘Hey, do you have a couple of cold cases of kids missing?’ And they’d say, ‘Well, we got this and this,’ and they’d give them to me. I would go to the parents of missing kids and I’d ask, ‘Do you have any ideas where your kids might be, or who they might be with?’ At that time it was not just custodial abductions and there were some very crude investigative methods. I would locate the kids and get law enforcement in or I would get the kid and reunite them with their family. I would just do this out of my pocket, so I started The Association for the Recovery of Children – at that time under the radar, the Agency didn’t know I was doing it in my free time. I just kept doing as much of it as I could and then, when I got out of the Agency in 1996, I was able to move forward and eventually over time create a non-profit organisation. My Special Operations buddies found out what I was doing and said, ‘ Hey look. We’d like to help you.’ I said, ‘I can’t pay you anything.’ They responded with, ‘It’s fine.’ They came on board, and over the course of many many years we kept raising donations, for each specific case; we never had sustainable funding, sometimes we’d pull money out of our own pockets. We never charged anybody, nor do we ever, and we just became successful not only going after non-custodial parental abductions but actually now we are heavily involved in the anti-human trafficking aspects of child exploitation. We currently have technical systems that help us locate children and the perpetrators that are far superior to anything the government has. We actually get in and help law enforcement and the FBI locate people, kids, sometimes within 10 minutes sometimes an hour, sometimes within 24 hours. They are like, ‘How do you do that?’ I think government organisations learn what they learn and are so busy doing so many other things when it comes to crime, that they just don’t have time to keep up with the new technology and the new things that we do. We also have access to 150-plus operators worldwide – who are mostly all former intelligence or special ops for other countries – they won’t give us assistance for any other thing except for finding children (because a lot of them have kids) but they all give us an open door policy when it comes to locating missing and exploited or trafficked children. I think that’s amazing!
PC: Yes fantastic!
BB: So that’s how ARC got started. Now I think our goal is to build an army: where one day ARC is on every continent, rescuing kids and going after bad guys.
PC: Can you foresee that happening in your lifetime?
BB: It can happen. I think if we get a hundred million dollars in sustainable funding and hand control of it over to the right money market type of guy, they can just say, ‘Hey, every month this is how much operational funding you have to go rescue kids.’ I think it will grow. I will tell you why: because our reputation speaks for itself; we have done so much, for so long, for so little that we can do anything with nothing; we have proven ourselves to be honourable and we have a 100% success rate. So we are doing something right and I hope that eventually we will come into contact with the right people that want to know that their money is not being wasted and that the real deal is being done. But would I like to see that in my lifetime? Well God is going to let me live to be 120 – I know that as a fact – I’m 61 now so I think I could be doing this in another 60 years to be honest with you.
There is nowhere we won’t go to save a child. I spent years building armies [when] all of a sudden I realised there’s something bigger than overthrowing small governments (so to speak, just to be tongue and cheek about it) and that is saving the future of our nation and the world. That resides in the protection of our children to provide them the opportunity to grow up to be adults – they are our most important assets. Every nation should think that way, and stop being selfish and greedy, particularly if you are an adult and say, ‘You know what? I need to make this a better place for those who come after me so how do I do that?’ No. 1: children that are being sexually exploited, they are innocent, they have done nothing to deserve that, in fact some children have done nothing to deserve crappy parents. A message needs to be sent out to parents as well ‘get your act together’, ‘If you’re going to have children then love them and raise them and grow them and nurture them, so they become good citizens of the world.’ That’s the message we send and we also send this message: if you are a kid and you are being sexually exploited, and you can reach out to us, we will come save you; we will go no matter where you are – it doesn’t matter how dangerous it is – we will come find you and we will come save you. And to the people that are exploiting children the message is this: if we find you and we will – it’s just a matter of time – we will go to the greatest extent of the law to make sure you are incarcerated and you never see the light of day; and when you die, we will follow you into eternity to make sure we crush your soul.
PC: Does it get to you the ridiculous amounts of money that are paid to actors, to sportsmen and women etc. and you don’t receive any funding? Wouldn’t it be great I’d some of those earning the big money took a cut and gave some to ARC.
BB: It would be wonderful, a miracle and a dream come true. In the meantime, because we know how selfish the world can be, we are not going to wait on that. Even if we have to get one kid at a time, if we have to work hard and if we have to scrounge money to get the team on an airplane to get that kid, that’s our mission. We are going to keep doing that and by God’s grace, one day, people and businesses will understand how important this mission is and who we are, and they [will] want to contribute; then they will become the heroes to these children because it takes money to get on an airplane. I have no problem once kids are saved taking them to that company and introducing them and saying, ‘These are the people that saved you, not us.’
PC: When you do rescue a child, are the parents then afterwards eternally grateful and do they then continue to support you financially, if they can? When it all settles down after a rescue what happens then? Do the parents just go on their way? Do they try and repay you in some way?
BB: We don’t require anything of the parents. We don’t even require a thank you. What we require of them is that they take care of their child and help them get on with their life. Most parents are eternally grateful and if we ever need a testimony from them that’s wonderful if they provide it. A lot of times the kid actually writes us letters saying ‘wow you saved my life, look I’m graduating from high school and it’s because of you.’ Every now and then we get parents that claim they are grateful, they tell us before we engage in the rescue operation, ‘If you save my kid, I don’t have any money to pay for it but I will go fundraise for you,’ and then after we do it, we never hear from them. As much as we should not be, we are okay with that bit of deception. We understand: they are desperate and they are saying what they need to say in order to help their kid. But what they need to know is: they don’t need to say that, we are not going to get their kid for them we are getting the kid because the kid needs saving, and whether we bring them back to a custodial guardian or foster care or a grandparent, we are doing it for the children.
Sometimes we have parents who do some really whacky things: we had a mother who called saying, ‘I wasn’t paying attention to my kid. She’s got snap chat and I was okay with her sending out some sext photos, because on my Facebook page I have sexy photos, as a single mom and I don’t see a problem with that. And then… ‘Oh my gosh my daughters gone! Please help find her.’ If we are blessed to find her before she’s pimped out, I don’t want to even return that child to her mother without saying, ‘What kind of parent are you? You made a mess of things and now you’re asking us to clean up that mess.’ It’s crazy!
PC: You come across as a big, tough guy but do you have any fears like how people are frightened of spiders or scared of heights?
BB: No I don’t. God didn’t give me a spirit of fear. I never have. I’m not a gambler. I’m very much a calculated risk guy. 2+2 always adds up to be 4 as my dad and mom taught me. And if the numbers don’t add up, I generally won’t do it – I will back up and reassess. I don’t have that spirit of fear because for me, what I do in this life, echoes in eternity and I know that death’s been conquered and I know this with all my heart and I know that I live eternally so I don’t fear that. I don’t fear death. I don’t fear spiders – I don’t like some spiders. (laughs) I can be cautious and I’m not stupid: if there are red flags, I will back up. I try to map out the terrain ahead of time and I think that alleviates the conditions that could cause you to be fearful. But I love love love a big challenge! I love charging into the dragon’s den and if I’m going to go there, don’t give me one dragon, give me fifty!
PC: And when you charge in, is it with your muscles or are you suave and polite? Are your guns blazing and does it depend on the situation?
BB: You know there are times to be brazen, but when we are charging in for rescues we are very quiet, we get in, we don’t carry weapons with us, we use a lot of trade craft – we like to leave no footprint at all. We like to sew up all the legal paperwork before we even launch, depending on where we are going, whether it’s another country or, if it’s in the United States, we like to liaise with the right authorities and generally those authorities respect our method of rescue so they will come alongside with us and help keep things quiet. We are not trying to make a big to-do about it – if we were we could have videoed ourselves a hundred times over. People ask us that all the time, ‘Can you show us?’ Well I’m sorry, we don’t, because then it gives away out trade craft.
I get so many people coming to me who want to make a reality show. After Mark Bernett and I did the pilot for Recovery we sat down in the office together, and Mark was really wise about this, we both came to realise that what people would want would be to see all the sexy stuff, and we couldn’t show that, so we realised our operations are not something we could put together on television. So we probably never will.
But there are things true to life where I look at the glass half full rather than half empty and I’ve been so many times downrange that if I’m in a certain condition, I think, ‘Well, it could be worse.’ I’m grateful and thankful and that’s how I kind of look at life. I learned that from my folks and my sister and family, way back to my ancestors: be humble and be grateful. Never squeeze the trigger in anger. Don’t. You will miss your target. It’s not worth it. I like to think people think I’m pretty even-keeled: I don’t like conflict; I’m not argumentative – I don’t think that plays well in a good operational mind.
PC: And when you get to 120 years old and you finally do leave this earth or this soil, how would you like to be remembered ? You know, people will say, ‘Oh Baz! What a guy!’ or…
BB: I think if I’m remembered as a great example of what mankind is supposed to act like: being faithful to God and heeding the call and charging into the battle to save those that otherwise would not be saved. I think if people say, ‘He was a really good man,’ I don’t think you can ask for anymore than that. I don’t want people to remember me as, ‘Well he was the richest guy in the world,’ or that sort of thing. I think that for my spirit to live on in those that go after me, then I think it’s best they remember me as a man that stepped up to the plate, that took on the world and defended the innocent, and was reliable and honest and loyal, and loved God with all his heart. I think that if people would remember me as carrying on the great traditions of my ancestors, that’s a great legacy to have.
PC: It’s like you telling me your grandfather’s stories. Imagine in a hundred years time, the nephews and nieces you have now, having passed on the stories about you to their kids and grandkids. That would be amazing wouldn’t it?
BB: Well it could be. I mean, I think if my life is a story to be told, one that ranks up there with the great legends of the good and that people think, ‘Wow! I wish Baz was here. I wish that I could speak with him. I know he would know what to do.’ That’s what I’ve thought about with the people in my life – my grandfather. It would be funny if my kids (if I ever have kids) go, ‘Wow! If I could be like my dad!’ I always say this: if I could be half the man that my dad is or my grandfather was, half the person that my mom is, I would be the greatest person on this planet’s earth.
PC: You already are half those people though aren’t you?.
BB: That’s kind of you to say but I got to tell you what, I honour my ancestors because they were amazing people, amazing people. And, Paula, there are so many people that have influenced my life that are just the most amazing people that I have great examples of, I mean: my sister is all that is good on this planet, I learned to be kind in my heart because of her; I learned my faith from my mom; I learned my skills as a warrior from my father – they are all a piece of the fabric of who I am.
PC: A song that takes you back high school or your time served in the Marines, or a romantic story?
BB: I love the Marine’s hymn, that’s one. I love the Beatles actually, a good friend of mine, Mike, is Paul McCartney’s bodyguard. I love classical music as well. I love Chris Isaak: his music takes me to Arizona where a lot of things shifted in my life. In Tucson, Arizona – where I was living once I got out of the agency – I was starting my new journey and that was the very first place. I’ve always loved it there and his music just resonates with me when it comes to sitting in the high desert with nature and stuff. I love all music, apart from acid rock and rap, I just don’t like that stuff (laughs) it sucks the life out of my soul, you know. When I hear the classics from the ‘20s and ‘30s I can see my mom and dad dancing in the living room when I was a little kid. I love the music you get in Lord of the Rings that big ‘go fight a battle’ music – inspires my soul. And I love Christian music.
PC: What about that song that you have to turn up when it comes on your car radio? Like for me it would be “You Shook Me All Night Long’ by AC/DC.
BB: One that resonates with me and where it comes from: my mom’s family are Lamberts and that’s like the Lambert from Scotland. I didn’t know that I had that part of my ancestors for years but I tell you what: when you hear “Amazing Grace” played on bagpipes!
BB: It will bring you to tears! There are so many funerals I’ve been to, and coming from The Citadel, we have a bagpiping corps there and I grew up with that during my college years – there’s just something about them.
PC: Yes it just stirs you up, I know.
BB: Resonates with my soul. I think after I got knighted into the Knights Templar (also known as the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem) it raised my curiosity to kind of check into that. I thought it was really funny: as a little kid you always think of getting knighted by the Queen of England or somebody like that – and that never happened – (laughs) so I kind of got knighted by the Knights Templar and these are the guys from what I understand that still protect the temple in Jerusalem. It kind of brought me a little closer to that bagpipe music. It’s a squeaky sound but…
PC: It’s a stirring sound.
BB: It takes you someplace. It inspires you.
PC: And what about the first record that you ever bought?
BB: I do remember the first two records I ever bought. I still have them. It was The Beatles and Traffic. I was 9 years old I think, or something like that. I have a whole bunch of those vinyl records in storage.
PC: Yeah I’m all about vinyl, all about vinyl! Do you see much live music?
BB: I don’t go to a lot of live venues to be honest. I think the last one I went to was Red Rocks in Colorado and heard The Oh Hellos and Elephant Revival, which was two groups a beautiful friend of mine introduced me too, and I actually had a great time there.
PC: I have a picture in my head of you sitting down, playing a guitar, do you play?
BB: Paula, it’s funny, I have a guitar and I have been studying it for quite a while actually. I’m not that great at it, but it’s funny, I had an acting agent tell me one time, ‘If you played guitar your package would be complete.’
PC: Yep that’s pretty much the picture I have in my head.
BB: Because I can sing – I have a decent voice – and I always thought if I could play the guitar well enough I would not hesitate to be on stage. I had the opportunity to create a song with Edgar Strubbel (Kenny Roger’s musical producer) and I had the opportunity to sing it in public – it was fun! Maybe another part of my life maybe out on the road? Who knows?
PC: What about dancing? I don’t have that picture in my head.
BB: You know I was a pretty good dancer, and I haven’t done it in a while. I can do a little two-stepping and waltzing pretty good; I can tango I haven’t been out on a hard, punk rock dance floor in a while, but if I had to pull it off I’d probably give it a good shot.
PC: Now you are impressing me: man who can dance!
PC: Last record that really excited you, but maybe that is Chris Isaak?
BB: Those I’ve been listening to the last couple of weeks are Roy Orbison, Chris Isaak and some Christian contemporary.
Three questions we always ask:
PC: What Is your favourite word or most used word, the one you hear yourself saying over and over again?
BB: (Laughs) That’s a great question! I’ve never given that any thought. I don’t know. I think ‘grateful’, maybe.
PC: How would you describe your perfect day? You wake up and your diary is clear.
BB: My perfect day is getting up, having breath when I wake up, and to just serve God. That’s my perfect day. His plan for my life.
PC: What could you not live without?
BB: That’s God. I couldn’t live without God. I don’t mean to sound overly religious but that’s kind of it. I’m here because he created me and I believe he created me for such a time as this, and if I can do that, then I’m a blessed man.
PC: Since you have been all around the world: where does Baz go on holiday?.
BB: He doesn’t go on holiday
PC: He doesn’t?
BB: I can’t remember the last time I just went on holiday to just do nothing. I go to a lot of places but it’s either rescuing kids or operational or whatever, but I have a couple of places that, if I were to go on holiday, I would like to go.
I’d like to go to Scotland.
PC: I was just going to say: you need to come to Scotland! We will do the bagpipes, research your Lamberts.
BB: I visited Wales one time: I remember going into a pub in Tenby, Wales and meeting the locals. They knew I didn’t drink beer so they said, ‘Well you have to drink with us. What will we get you?’ I said, ‘Get me a pint of fresh milk.’ At the end of the evening, when they had consumed, I don’t know how many – a lot of pints – I’d consumed many pints of milk. But Scotland, the Caribbean and the Rocky Mountains here in the United States and the Grand Canyon. Europe was beautiful – I’ve been all over it. There are a few places I’d like to go, maybe get up to Sweden. I’ve been all over Africa, I love it. South Africa is always a great place and Kenya is always wonderful so those are just some of the places. I will tell you this, if I may, when people ask me, ‘What’s the most amazing place to visit? Most people go, ‘Disneyland,’ but my most favourite place to visit is with my family, wherever my mom and dad, sisters and nieces are: it could be in the middle the world, in the middle of a dry desert or the biggest jungle but as long as I’m with the people I love, that’s the place I’m happiest at.
PC: And you are so lucky to still have your parents alive.
BB: I am very blessed. My dad is 85: still rides his bike 25 miles a day. My mom is 83: she still goes to the gym and works out. My sister…
PC Is she older or younger than you?
BB: She’s my younger sister, by three years, and I never take that for granted. Everyday I wake up and I say, ‘Lord, thank you so much.’ I can pick up the phone anytime and call them. I remember when my grandfather passed away, I asked my dad, ‘What’s the one thing that you miss when you think about Grandad not being here?’ My dad said, ‘It’s just the ability to pick up the phone and call him and just say ‘Daddy’.’
PC: It’s exactly that. My dad died two years ago and just last week I unplugged something and there was a bang and a flash and immediately thought, ‘I must phone my dad.’ Then I remembered and went, ‘Aww, I can’t do that.’
BB: But you will see your dad again. I promise you that.
PC: I said to you I’m not religious but that’s the one part that, if I did pray, I would pray that I’d see him again. Right we have to stop because I’m going to cry.
BB: You will.
PC: I do hope so.
www.LifeCoachBaz.com (Life Coach)
Association for the Recovery of Children:
This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Any opinions or views expressed within the interview are the subject’s own and publication does not imply endorsement of any such opinions or views by Absolute Music Chat or its personnel.