On a sunny Sunday morning in April of 1977 the S.Y. protective detail took off for Cypress Gardens, about an hour drive. King Hussein had added water skiing to his interests that included flying his own jet, HAM radio operator, motorcycle enthusiast—the list goes on.
The Road to Cypress Gardens
Two black vehicles and two motorcycles driven by Agents Blackbeard and Bluebeard, streaked down Highway 27 with very little traffic. King Hussein occupied an armored Lincoln that S.Y. had expressly shipped to Florida.
As we sped along en route to Cypress Gardens (codename: Neptune), the A.I.C. asked me how far along Highway 27 he could expect the radio repeater on the Disney tower to extend their signal back to Orlando. He had left an agent at Disney World resort that had constant commo with S.Y. headquarters at the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C.
“It’s hard to tell,” I said. “In Atlanta, the Georgia pines limited our UHF radio coverage to less than two miles. Here the terrain is flat, although I’m not that familiar with the terrain we’ll pass through.”
“Mr. Smee,” he said impatiently, referring to my radio call sign, “What is your best estimate?”
“We should be good to go until halfway to Neptune [Cypress Gardens]. After that the coverage could get sketchy.”
“Is it possible to stay on the repeater all they way to Neptune?”
“Due to the fading of the frequency and the curvature of the earth beyond thirty miles, I’d say no.”
The A.I.C. grabbed the microphone of the mobile radio that I had installed in the two vehicles. The mobile trunk units transmitted more power than the handheld radios.
“Peg Leg, this is Captain Hook, over.”
“Roger, go ahead Captain,” Peg Leg replied from the Disney World Resort, about five miles away.
“Be advised we will likely have radio blackout before arrival at Neptune [Cypress Gardens]. I will call you via landline upon arrival.”
“Roger, I copy, Captain.”
The A.I.C. laid the mike down and said to me, “That’s pretty dammed good, considering that OC [the Office of Communications] told me not to expect any radio coverage in route to Neptune.”
I said earnestly, “Sir, are you expecting any interference?”
Cannonball, in the passenger seat, turned toward the rear. The A.I.C. glanced at him, and with a furrowed brow said to me, “Young man, I always expect interference.”
His reply quieted the interior of the Lincoln. Up ahead I saw the back of King Hussein’s head. Ironically, this is the closest I had come to him on the detail.
The Lincoln swerved ahead! The A.I.C. rose in his seat. My breath got lodged in my throat as our vehicle swerved accordingly.
“Report!” the A.I.C barked into the microphone.
Deep inside I had been expecting it. We were under some kind of attack.
“Captain, this is Gunpowder,” the agent in the lead vehicle reported.
The pause froze me in the seat.
“Stand down,” Gunpowder added. “A white-tailed deer crossed our path. We had to take evasive action.”
“Everybody copy that,” the A.I.C.’s voice droned over the airwaves.
“Roger… Roger… Roger…”
“Okay all, let’s continue our mission.”
The A.I.C. turned to me and quietly nodded.
The miles built up without any further complication. The radio coverage finally petered out about eight miles north of the Winter haven—Cypress Gardens area. Not bad.
When we arrived at Neptune the A.I.C. promised to send an Atta boy to OC for my job well done. Cypress Gardens coverage required no need of a radio repeater. The S.Y. agents’ handheld radios alone (along with their Glock firearms) were sufficient to protect him. The A.I.C. shook my hand and released me to return to Disney World with one of the agents to take down my radio repeater. The team would not be returning there.
I learned that the King had met up with a young American girl at Neptune whom he apparently had already known. That led me to wonder who the “companion” at Disney World was?
Month’s later I had followed King Hussein of Jordan’s personal life through various newspaper articles in the Washington Post and International Herald Tribune. When King Hussein married Lisa Halaby, an Arab-American girl in 1978, I figured she was the girl he had met up with in Cypress Gardens. As for the King’s “companion” at Disney World, maybe it’s better that she remained a mystery…
Footnote: When I returned to my workplace at Springfield, Virginia, Norm Bates patted me on the back. He said OC/R had received glowing reports about my support of the King Hussein of Jordan detail from the S.Y. Agent-in-Charge. Norm added, “Don’t let it go to your head, rookie.”