10/23/2001

Discouraged Sometimes? Meet Private Investigator, Jay J. Armes

by FC Miller, Profiles Threat CounterMeasures Group

(From the Informed Source Newsletter, published by Profiles Threat Countermeasures Group.)

Every professional goes through his share of frustrations and discouragements. Sometimes, we think we’re the only ones going through them, but we’re wrong. Discouragements are part of life, and we have to deal with them. We sometimes get "suckered punched" by Madison Avenue’s portrayal of "other" lives filled with ease, glamour and success, but those "images" are as phony as a lead nickel! Within the profession, there are guys who struggle because they have the business acumen of a mango, or have physical challenges. Forget the "public relations images" we sometimes stumble over, and let me introduce you to a disappointment and challenge "over-comer," a Private Investigator who’s been called one of the worlds greatest PI’s.

Excerpting from a commentary:
"In becoming the world’s best-known private investigator, Jay J. Armes has amassed wealth, possessions, fame, and the kind of lifestyle that goes with them. He has a beautiful wife, fine, healthy kids, satisfied clients in every corner of the world, and a job he loves to do, but nobody handed them to him on a plate. He started way down at the bottom of the pile, and to get where he is, he had to climb faster and harder, and fight tougher than most - because he is, in the most literal sense of the words, a self-made man, and has become what he is in spite of a truly incredible handicap. He has no hands."

Excerpting Jay J. Armes:
"You could look upon my hooks as a handicap, I suppose, although I never do, not anymore. To me, they’re an inspiration, but I won’t pretend it was always like that. You can’t imagine what it’s like to be a teenager with no hands; it’s sheer, unadulterated hell. When they first fitted hooks to my arms, I remember thinking that everyone was going to stare at me as if I was some sort of freak, and it frightened me. It took me a long while to get used to it. But I did; you have to. It’s a long way from easy, though.

I was born Julian Armas. I had two brothers and two sisters, and my father worked in a grocery store. We lived in Yselta (Texas) and we weren’t rich and we weren’t’ poor, just everyday normal. I was an ambitious kid, and I wanted to get ahead. I knew the only way to do that was to be like Avis and try harder. By the time I was 11 years old, I had four jobs. I delivered the morning papers on my bicycle, getting up at 4:30 am, then rush to bottle-feed sixty calves for a local farmer before I went to school. After school was out, I’d deliver the afternoon papers and then bottle-feed my "babies" again.

After supper, I had a job down at the local movie house where I doubled as an usher and ticket collector. I didn’t have any clear idea of what I was going to be or anything, I learned how to take care of myself very early. One of my less savory sidelines was a loansharking operation I ran in school. I’d loan quarters to the other kids at the beginning of the week, and collect fifty cents at the weekend when they got their pocket money. Sometimes they’d renege, and I’d have to whip them to get paid.

I nearly got thrown out of school when the principal found out what was going on. He made me promise to quit loaning money in school, and I did. I always keep my promises. I started up again on a street corner opposite the entrance to the school, and settled any differences after school hours. By the time I was 12, I had a firm ambition. I wanted to be a doctor. I had a doctor friend, and he answered all my questions patiently, loaned me books, encouraged my interest. I had dreams of myself in white mask and gown, a regular Dr. Kildare. Then all those dreams were shattered, literally blown to bits.

When Jay J. Armes was 12 years old:
"I remember it all so well. It was a sleepy May evening, and I was playing in my backyard with an older boy that I knew. He was about 18 then. Dickie even had his own car, which was a great source of envy among us other kids, although it probably saved my life. That evening, Dickie had gotten hold of a box of railroad torpedoes, and bought them to our house. We got an icepick and pried the box open. Inside were some containers. I took one of them out, and tore off the seal. It exploded in my hands. The effect was exactly the same as if I had detonated a stick of dynamite, and the next thing I remember is being face down near a tree about 20 feet away. I was trying to get hold of the trunk of the tree to get to my feet. I couldn’t get a grip. It didn’t occur to me that I no longer had any hands.

My mangled hands were squirting blood like two water hoses. I looked around and saw Dickie running out of the yard. I thought he was running to get help and ran after in him. In fact, he was running in sheer terror. "Dickie!" I shouted in anguish. "Get the car, get the car!" He turned around and looked at me. I must have looked like Satan coming up out of hell.

Dickie ran to the car and yanked the door open for me. He couldn’t look at my arms. The pain was coming in sweeping waves. I remember that my blood was squirting so strongly that the windshield become slick and opaque with it, and Dickie couldn’t see to drive. He had to wipe the glass clean with his hands. By the time we got to the doctor’s, Dickie was soaked in my blood as well. At the hospital, the doctor told my father that there was no way they could save my hands.

So they did what they had to do, and I began to realize what had happened to me. I wanted to die. I didn’t want to do anything. I just lay on my side and stared at the wall and thought black, black thoughts. "Why me?" I kept thinking. "Why me?" Tears of self-pity would fill my eyes I loathed my own ruined body.

Then one day I realized how totally selfish I was being. I suddenly realized that I wasn’t really saying "Why me?" at all. What I was saying was "Why not somebody else?" It was as if someone somewhere had heard my question and told me the answer: "Why not you?" At that moment, the effect was miraculous. I quit feeling sorry for myself. I’ve never felt sorry for myself since that day, never felt that I got a rawer deal than the next man. And I vowed that I wasn’t going to be just as good as I’d been before the accident. I was going to be even better.

I had to learn everything from scratch. All of a sudden, something as commonplace as tying a shoelace became a major engineering feat. I had to be stubborn and refuse to go to the rehabilitation center; I simply wouldn’t think of myself as handicapped, needing help. I was going to do it all my way. My way turned out to be the hard way; that’s the way I did it. When I got through, I could do a lot more without hands than I had ever done when I had them.

As I said, you could look upon the fact that I have hooks instead of hands as a handicap, but I don’t. You are only handicapped if you think you are. I’ve spent a lifetime observing people, and I know now, that they set their own limitations, create their own inhibitions. Yet a man can be anything he wants to be, do anything he wants to do, so long as he has a star to steer by. I make no secret of the fact that in my case it is Jesus Christ. I’m not proselytizing; I just believe.

When I got started in this business, there were 18 detective agencies in the El Paso area alone. I knew what most people thought of the private investigator. They called him a snoop, a shamus, a gumshoe, a peeper, a dock, and they used the words derogatively, were ashamed if they had to buy his services. I wanted to change all that.

Press excerpts:
"His hooks are not just substitute hands. They are, first of all, tools. And after that, weapons. It’s only when you see Jay Armes practicing karate or unarmed combat that you realize those ordinarily innocuous hooks are, in fact, lethal. He is hitting that practice bag with fifteen pounds of stainless steel, propelled by the full force of arms and shoulders fully three times as strong as those of the average man. He can lift sharp-edged heavy metal objects which would take off the fingers of another man. Once, he even stopped a dangerous machine by simply jamming his hook into it.

Think of all the things that burn, bruise, break, tear, slice, shred, or mangle the human hand. Armes is impervious to practically all of them. Having hooks instead of hands poses one obvious disadvantage-the man who wears them is hardly inconspicuous, something an investigator often has to be. To offset this, Armes went to the most famous of all the Hollywood makeup men, and gave him a specification: "make a pair of cosmetic "hands" so realistic that even someone sitting next to me won’t be able to tell they are artificial." He wears them for "dress" occasions, and for disguise and undercover work, but for everyday, he prefers the hooks. He knows what he can do with them."

Jay J. has been though all the usual ups and down of the profession - dismal failures and impressive successes. He once used the music from the television show Dragnet as background for a radio commercial promoting his Private Investigator business. According to Arms, "I used his music and followed it with the sound of a woman’s scream and then her voice saying, "Who are you? Who are you?" There would be the sound of footsteps, the crash of breaking
glass, another scream. Then the announcer would say, "If this is your problem, if your privacy has been invaded, your safety threatened, your loved ones frightened, call The Investigators! Night or day, call the Investigators! Let your problem be their problem!"

We started getting up to two hundred telephone calls a month, and more work than we could handle. I took on additional agents, and set about writing another set of radio commercials, this time with business backgrounds - a boss finding a shortage but unable to trace the miscreants, a store suffering from heavy theft, but not catching shoplifters, and so on. Same exhortation at the end of each one. In a matter of months, we were handling every kind of investigation there was."

Armes then advanced into competitor intelligence, missing persons cases, etc. His missing persons work took him to Christian Brando, the missing son of actor Marlon Brando, which was so highly publicized it projected him to world headlines and world fame. His other clients over the years have included King Faisal, Elizabeth Taylor and husband Richard Burton, actor Richard Widmark, and Howard Hughes.

Armes says of the highly publicized Brando case, "I think there must have been a representative of every newspaper in the world at those hearings. The case, and my part in it, made world news, but back home in El Paso, they had some trouble accepting that Jay J. Armes, who was being called “the world’s best private detective" was the same Jay Armes everyone in town knew. You know what they say about prophets being without honor in their own town. I found it was that way for me. "Jay Armes, the world’s greatest private Eye?" they’d say. "How can that be? He grew up right here in El Paso. How did he get to be the world’s greatest private investigator?" I’ll tell you this much, it wasn’t easy. There’s a song that says that the best things in life are free, but I’ve found that most of the worthwhile things are earned by the application of either sweat, time, money or blood. Most of the capers I’ve handled have involved the first three. Once in a while it was all four."

Excerpting Armes:
"When I graduated from high school, I went out to California, quite certain that I was going to become a movie star. I was mad about languages, and found I had the natural flair of the mimic. I studied as many languages as I could: German, Italian, French, even Chinese, and I continued with the law studies I had begun in high school. I learned to type by the hunt and peck system, and got up to 60 words a minute. All through my life, I have seen people putting off doing the things they want to do, and it exasperates me, as does having people make me promises they don’t or can’t keep, appointments they turn up late for, or not at all. The most souldestroying moments of my life are the ones when I am idle. I can’t unwind. I never learned how. From boyhood, I had conditioned my mind and body that way. Now I can’t do anything else.

The hardest thing at first, is to let people know that you are there, and that you’re willing to work harder for them than anyone else. When I got started, I pounded the streets, going from door to door like a carbon paper salesman, doing it the only way I knew how, the hard way. I set up an office with a secretary and wrote letters to every attorney within a hundred miles. I hired ten agents, all expolicemen, and sat back waiting for the work to start pouring in. Nothing happened. There I was with an overhead that would have crippled Lockheed, ten agents eating me out of house and home, and I wasn’t being asked to find a missing dog.

Then I hit upon a system that worked. I would go downtown each night and morning, and pick up the newspapers hot off the press. Then, everything that had to do with a crime was clipped, and I do mean everything, the whole enchilada. These cuttings became the foundation of a potential case file. I would send a letter to anyone who had been the victim of a crime, whatever it was, saying that Jay J. Armes was there to help them. I found then, and I still find, that if I talked to people personally, they retained me. There were more than a few who did a double take when they saw that I had hooks instead of hands, They would sit down in my office, plainly wondering if I was competent to handle their problem. I told them I guaranteed results. If I took on a case, I would stay on it all the way down the line. From that day to this, I’ve stuck to that rule. That’s why I’ve never had an unsolved case.


(photo credits-Tony Korody/Sygma)


Armes is very creative, a regular "Inspector Gadget" with countless innovations in his artificial hands. Examples? Among other things, he can turn the hooks into a powerful electromagnet, use a diamond tip attachment which transforms one caliper into a highly eficient glasscutter, and another turns the hooks into heavy guage wirecutters. For all this, "Armes has a touch so delicate, he can pick up a cube of Jell-O without crushing it." Armes is also a crack shot with every kind of weapon.


This article is reprinted with permission from Informed Source Newsletter at www.profiles-threat.com.

Profiles Threat CounterMeasures Group serves clients both nationally and internationally with protective services, training and educational seminars, products, threat assessment evaluations and educational information - from small start up companies to Fortune 500 and 100 companies, to Professional Consulting and Investigative firms, Executive, Dignitary and Tactical Protection Teams, Law Enforcement, Local, State and Federal Governments both domestic and foreign.

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