He’s best known in detective circles, or to fans of country music star-turned-mystery-author Kinky Friedman’s detective novels—in which he’s a main character.
But Steven Rambam is due for greater recognition starting Aug. 4 when the Investigation Discovery channel (ID) premieres Nowhere to Hide, a crime and justice series that follows the New York-based private investigator extraordinaire as he recounts the most dramatic stories from his extensive casebook.
“Superman and Batman, combined, have nothing on Rambam–he is the real deal, modern day superhero,” said Henry Schleiff, group president of Investigation Discovery, Destination America, American Heroes Channel and Discovery Fit & Health, in a press statement announcing the series.
“We all love the thrill of watching the bad guy being brought to justice but, it’s even more of a roller coaster ride when the chase spans years and continents.”
Indeed, each episode of Nowhere to Hide—which runs weekly on Monday nights–begins with the very first case call, then presents undercover surveillance footage with re-enactments and commentary from Rambam and other key participants.
“It’s not going to be a typically ridiculous, over-the-top P.I. show,” says Rambam. “It’s going to be the first show that accurately depicts how private investigators really work, the critical tasks that they perform for their clients and how they’re an integral part of the criminal justice system: How they put guilty people in jail, get the innocent out of jail, help collect debts, deal with fraud, reunite families, find missing persons. How the world would be a much, much worse and less just place without private investigators.”
Viewers, he adds, will get to see “the skills and the tricks and the science and the risk that go into every private investigative file, and see it from beginning to end–from the moment when the client comes in to the moment at the end when we help the client achieve justice.”
Nowhere to Hide is contracted for five years of six one-hour episodes per season, says Rambam, who heads New York’s licensed investigation agency Pallorium, Inc.
“At the end of those 30 hours of shows the viewer will understand what private investigators are really about,” he promises, “not just me, but about 15 of the country’s best investigators who are working with me–the A-team of private investigation.”
A “combination of reality TV and partial reenactments,” Nowhere to Hide will show “some of the most interesting and dramatic cases we’ve closed, but also some active cases we’re working on,” Rambam continues. “We’re going to show viewers the type of crimes and cases addressed by private investigators when law enforcement either can’t get involved or won’t get involved—or there are jurisdictional problems.”
In the series premiere, “Three Doctors, One Wife and the Cat,” Rambam is hired by a distinguished surgeon to clear him of his wife’s false accusations, then discovers that he’s not the first physician to suffer at the hands of the extortion artist. It’s followed by “Stalked By a Cop,” in which an unbalanced police officer becomes obsessed with a young girl and tries to frame her brother for murder after she rejects him; “Faking It for Love,” where a man enlists the Mexican mafia to fake his death and claim millions in life insurance after dumping his family for his 20-year-old second cousin; and “Kiss and Run,” which concerns the business manager for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band KISS, who refuses to pay alimony to his ex-wife, then suddenly disappears—leaving his family homeless.
One of the remaining two episodes, “Family Secrets,” joins two simultaneous cases of children looking for their birth parents.
“I have to tell you, these are two incredibly emotional and suspenseful cases,” says Rambam. “Most importantly, they both show that it’s never a sure thing when you’re looking for a birth parent. You never know who you’ll find, or if they want be found. These two cases are perfect examples of the unique skills that private investigators learn.”
But no case proves more challenging than “The Prince of Austria.”
“This guy was a major fraudster, a lifelong felon who was also a former mental patient recruited by the FBI to be a roving informer,” recounts Rambam. “He phonied up a case against a recently retired assistant district attorney, and as it was progressing, everybody knew ‘the Prince’ would be a key figure, but nobody had any idea who he was, where he was from, or what his background was. He was a total cipher–a mystery. I was hired to identify him, background him and interview him, and went to his apartment in Soho and backgrounded him in Michigan. The fascinating thing was that every single person I spoke to thought he was a bad guy and was willing to cooperate, including his mother, father, brother, wife and kids. He was a bona fide villain.”
But when Rambam “got too close to the truth that he was a felon, mental patient and dishonest informant,” a “small group of rogue FBI agents in the New York field office walked into the HOPE [Hackers On Planet Earth] Conference—where I was speaking–and arrested me and charged me with obstruction of justice and a whole host of other bogus crimes.”
“It may be counterintuitive,” reveals Rambam, “but the false arrest by the FBI made me an even bigger fan of the American criminal justice system, because not only did we get an attorney off of bogus charges and the FBI agents and prosecutors were punished, but ‘the Prince’ is now in jail, serving up to 15 years. This is the only country in the world where little guys still win—and in large part, that’s what this show’s about: that the average person can find justice.”
Rambam fittingly premiered “The Prince of Austria” episode two weeks ago at the annual HOPE Conference in New York—just ahead of a discussion with Daniel Ellsberg, and by computer hook-up, Edward Snowden.
“I have a 20-year relationship with that group, and knew they’d be fair,” says Rambam, who also delivered a talk, “Privacy is Dead—Now They’re Taking Anonymity,” before an SRO crowd of 2,000.
“ID trusted me and took a risk on doing the premiere there, because it’s a group you can’t fool, and I knew they would be sufficiently critical–that if the show was not good, they’d let me know right away. But once I got the first laugh out of them, followed by applause, I was very relieved.”
Now, Rambam jokes, he’s looking forward to marketing Nowhere to Hide with “Steve Rambam Bobblehead Dolls.” But seriously, “we’re really going to show the true face of private investigation and what a critical profession it is,” he reiterates.
“Private investigation today is not a job, but a profession,” Rambam concludes. “It’s not some gorilla in a trench coat beating the truth out of someone, but a skilled, experienced, competent professional who knows the laws and computers and forensics and how to conduct interviews and cross boundaries and international boundaries. And in the 21st Century, it’s a very skilled profession.”
And to top it all off, Rambam is the central figure in Kinky Friedman’s upcoming detective novel, The Hard-Boiled Computer, which involves privacy and missing persons.
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