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Last week, I read Eamon Javers’ article on BuzzFeed about Tom Corbally, “a private investigator whose career crisscrossed continents and spanned decades.”

It’s an absolutely fascinating read. It’s literally a story straight out of Hollywood. Corbally was the “original most interesting man in the world.” He rubbed elbows with Hollywood types, flew on corporate jets for vacations with automotive legend Lee Iacocca and, on one occasion, at a horse race in Paris, he was whisked into box seats with Middle Eastern royals. He even reportedly spotted the diplomat Henry Kissinger in a New York restaurant and greeted him as an old pal, saying, “Henry, how the fuck are ya?” He also became a close confidant and client of “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss.

While I read the article with complete awe, I was struck by how different my life as a private investigator has been. Although even some of my closest friends think I have some secret spy life, I spend most of my days sitting behind my computer digging through the darkest areas of the Internet. I’ve never rubbed elbows with diplomats, flown on a corporate jet or befriended anyone running a high-class prostitution ring.

While Corbally lived in another era, today’s age of social media makes it seem that meaningful lives are extraordinary and attention-grabbing ones. In an opinion piece published in The New York Times, Emily Esfahani Smith argues: “The most meaningful lives, I’ve learned, are often not the extraordinary ones. They’re the ordinary ones lived with dignity.”

It’s OK that you are not going to be famous.

Or have some remarkable and glamorous career.

Or do something so extraordinary and attention-grabbing that you will end up in folklore like Tom Corbally.

In my short career, I’ve done some really fascinating work on some really high-profile cases. But I have no interest in rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, mayor of New York or pitching in a national advertisement for a turkey club.

And my life will never end up being the subject of a Hollywood movie, I can assure you of that.

That’s not what I want.

While I am a private investigator and want to be the best private investigator that I can be, I am first and foremost a husband, the father to two amazing kids, a sports junkie, and a lover of all things food-related.

The private investigator gig is just something that can allow me to live an ordinary life and be the best husband and father I can be – and maybe take me to a few sporting events and eateries around the world.

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10 replies
  1. Tim Acker
    Tim Acker says:

    Geez, I thought I was “The Most Interesting Man in The World”, hmmmm, ok I take “The Most Interested Man in The World”, because that’s what makes a Private Eye. To be interested in you clients story and to take each case on like it’s your first day at school. Agencies and other P.I.’s ask me, “Tim, how are you gonna do this, or how did you get it done?”, and I never can answer either, other than I just put one foot in front of the other and it happens, I’ve never known beforehand if I would solve it. I’ve worked for “The Rich and Famous”, but I don’t get any Christmas Cards every year from any of them, and they claimed I saved their you know what. My sons give me love and cards, sometimes, they’ve all grown and off to the world, but I look back and say “Wow, I did it all, raised my boys alone,(marriage is hard) and was a jet- setting, international Private Detective! Who is this Tom guy? ????????

  2. Scott Ross
    Scott Ross says:

    Brian, As you know, I’ve done many of those including just being retained for a Norristown, PA retry. It’s not what people romanticize about, it’s not TV. It’s not all that it’s cracked up to be, quite the contrary. The media is watching; you are expected to do extraordinary things. Most people think you are “too expensive” or “too big” for their case and get you passed up because no one wants to call. I’ve heard too many times when people finally call, they don’t have any more money but need help. I try to repair what was not done and often for very little money or no money just to help. Stick to the bread and butter and let TV be TV.

  3. Jim Clark
    Jim Clark says:

    While relatively new to the private investigation field I’ve not thought of how this career would take me to any height beyond the day-to-day investigations. Who knows? I’ll keep my eyes open for Henry Kissenger. He’s 94 I believe. I think my chances are small.

  4. EJM Investigations
    EJM Investigations says:

    Over the years I’ve met a couple of soccer players from the higher leagues of English football, and had to effect process serves on one or two people with a little local “fame”.
    But ultimately I’m happy going home knowing I’ve done a good job and hopefully made a difference for someone.
    Just this morning I served an evasive debtor with a court order. It was only a small amount, barely in the thousands of pounds, not the usual ten’s or hundred’s of thousands, but knowing my client can ill afford to lose this money, and she now stands a chance of recovering it, this was probably the most satisfying job I’ll do this week.

  5. charles
    charles says:

    Good piece and very inspiring. Thanks.
    Just one small observation – like the extraordinary life of our hero, going to the edge is where the challenge is often greatest; the reward commensurate. So sure, rubbing shoulders” with a famous Madame does not qualify one very far! But having been a journalist who covered local city halls and then the Lebanese civil war for a Network, neither the risks nor the rewards were close!

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