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Palm Latitudes

Playthings

August 18, 1991|Bob Young | Edited by Mary McNamara

You can't be too careful these days. That guy walking next to you at the Forum looks like he's wearing a Walkman, but it could be a a long-range microphone, useful for hockey-mogul eavesdropping. Or at the board meeting, secrets fly behind locked doors, but poised in an adjacent office, an underling hears every word with a super-sensitive spy stethoscope.

Sound like a paranoid urban daydream? It's not. Anyone can make like 007 with sneaky stuff such as aerosol spray that briefly turns envelopes transparent and tiny bugging devices that let you tune in conversations from a block away. "Most people think that telephone taps are only used by secret agents and police," says Gwaine Martin, manager of the Spy Factory on Sunset Boulevard. "But there's a lot done by industrial spies. We get execs who want to prevent phone taps and catch cheats, and movie stars who are concerned for their personal security."

Matchbook-size electronic bugs are hot items, Martin says, especially with suspicious spouses. One of the more practical devices is a telephone attachment that alters your voice--elderly women can sound like Sly Stallone, kids can come off like the Terminator. "It's a terrific home-safety tool," says Martin. "It works great, too. I tested it on my wife. I called her, using a sexy female voice, and asked for me. When I got home, boy, was she steamed."

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