Quote Unquote: Laredo Muredo, Security Guard of Stairway to Heaven
Lawrence Murray, better known as Laredo Muredo, was a gregarious guard at the popular, and illegal, Ha‘ikū Stairs hike. Find out where he disappeared to.
Photo: Odeelo Dayondon
“Where in the world is Laredo Muredo?” has been the question on many hikers’ lips since Honolulu’s most visible—and eccentric—security guard vanished from his familiar station at the base of the Stairway to Heaven (Ha‘ikū Stairs). Lawrence Murray was known for running down trespassers on the forbidden ridge climb, then utterly charming them even as he turned them back from the summit. His fame, and Facebook page, quickly grew. But one day, Laredo was gone.
I’M LOOKING AT THE STAIRS from a window at my house. I live in Ha‘ikū. When the job came open, it was in my backyard; I was always a hiker. I thought, “How perfect is this?”
I RETIRED FROM MY SALES JOB to take the job. I was 62. For 17 years I was with Hawaiian Tropic Suntan and Perfumes of Hawai‘i. The Ha‘ikū Association and the state decided to stop hikers who were bugging the people who lived here. Wackenhut was the security contractor. It later changed its name to G4S.
I’D SHOW UP AT 8:30 A.M. when I started. But after awhile, people started coming at 6 and I’d see them coming down as I got to work. So I started coming earlier. The last couple of years, they were coming at 4 a.m., jumping fences, getting lost in people’s yards.
I USED TO CHASE PEOPLE who tried to sneak by me. I’d chase them all the way to the top and over. Someone would see me and say, “Oh, he’s coming!” They’d take off a little faster than they should on the stairs. When they did that they were easy meat, I would overtake them, sit by them, say hello, time to go down. Then they’d want to take a picture with me.
MOST TIMES UP THE STAIRWAY? In a day? Seven. Took 13 hours and 10 minutes. My best time going up was 36 minutes. There’s a few who can do that. A triathlete actually did it in 28. Down, nobody’s faster than me. My record is 13 minutes, 26 seconds going down. I slide on the rail. There are seven steps to each section, so I slide; you wear out your gloves. It’s really kind of stupid, but fun as could be.
THE SCARIEST PLACES NOW are the saddles above Likelike and Pali tunnels. So narrow and pointy and crumbly and windy. Just nasty.
I GOT MY NAME FROM A FOOTBALL PLAYER ON THE JERSEY SHORE. He lived across the street. Couldn’t say Lawrence; it came out Laredo. Couldn’t say Murray: Muredo. I kept it.
I HAD THE JOB FOR FIVE AND A HALF YEARS, and retired two years ago.
NO INTERVIEWS. They say that in the company handbook. But the head of the whole company said to us, “Oh, you gotta take care of your client, bend over backwards.” And our client is the City & County, and they have a guy who brings people up to things and escorts the mayor places. He brings up a TV crew and introduces me as the guy who opens the gate. The reporter asks me, “Can I ask you some questions?” I gave the interview and thought I did good. They called me in after. So I got fired.
PEOPLE ON THE MAINLAND still recognize me. All the time. That’s a fact! They’ll see me in a car rental place. “Laredo! Laredo Muredo!”
READ MORE STORIES BY DON WALLACE