For more than 40 years, Gary Glanz has seen through the walls of Tulsa, laying bare some of the city's most infamous cases
by Mike Esterling | Urban Tulsa
There was a time when it wasn’t difficult to become a private investigator in Oklahoma. Just shell out a few bucks for an application from the city, paint your name on a window, get some business cards printed, and you were in business.
There was no training required, no test to pass, no regulations to worry about and no license from the state. It was hardly an exaggeration to describe the 1960s and ’70s as the Wild West era in the state’s private detective business.
“At one time, anyone who wanted to be a private investigator could call themselves that and take people’s money,” said George Kennedy, the president of Tulsa’s Center of Professional Studies, a training and education facility for those in the private security industry.
Naturally, a lot of people took advantage of that situation, or tried to, anyway. After all, it looked like a glamorous, easy lifestyle–at least on television, where dozens of so-called private eyes went around cracking cases, and heads, with ease and impunity. They tied things up each week in a tidy little 60-minute package that usually featured a car chase, an exchange of gunfire and/or a back-alley pursuit on foot as its climax.
A lot of folks believed that that might not be such a bad way to make a living. After all, if they could figure out who embezzled the cash/stole the diamonds/kidnapped the girl halfway through an episode of “Charlie’s Angels,” how hard could it be in real life? Plus, who doesn’t like sitting around with their feet up on their desk, swilling expensive Scotch and cracking wise with exotic, lonely–and rich–female clients?
So, by the thousands, they jumped into the business, not understanding the first thing about how to conduct a surveillance or knowing the difference between an illegal wiretap and a hole in the ground. Not surprisingly, very few succeeded.
“When (the city of Tulsa) quit issuing licenses (for private investigators, security guards and patrol services) in the ’80s, they were up into 35,000 or 40,000,” Gary Glanz said. “So, it tells you how many people had applied for a PI license, and how many failed at the PI business.”
Glanz wasn’t one of the latter.
As a former Tulsa police officer who had earned a name for himself by making several flashy and high-profile arrests, Glanz was better prepared than most for the life of a private investigator. He understood the demands of the business, even if he didn’t fully grasp the economics, realizing quickly he wasn’t going to be able to feed his family on the $8.50-an-hour rate and $100 retainer he initially charged clients.
He also learned almost immediately, it was a business in which nothing counted but results.
“Being a retired law enforcement officer does not make you a good PI because you’re used to carrying that badge, you’re used to working an eight-hour shift and going home and forgetting about it,” he said. “When you take one of these cases, you work it until it gets solved.”
Failing a client just wasn’t an option in Glanz’s mind.
“Most people in this business think you’re going to solve one or two cases, and that was going to set them up,” he said. “They don’t realize it’s about your reputation.”
Glanz recalled that he was so green when he went into business for himself that he didn’t even bother to get a business phone, simply listing his home number on his cards.
“I had a metal desk, a plastic chair and $75 in my pocket,” he said.
But Glanz showed a knack for the private investigator field, just as he had revealed himself to be a quick study as a police officer. His ability to put people at ease often led to his turning up information that others had missed, while his eye for detail allowed him to spot the little things that often meant the difference between success and failure.
“Essentially, Gary was a real up and comer,” said Kennedy, who was a young officer with Glanz in Tulsa in the 1960s. “He had a very brilliant mind. It was not so much that he could look at the facts and come to a different conclusion than everyone else, but he would come to it immediately. He reacted to it quickly. Because of that, he excelled.”
When those traits failed him, Glanz had one more thing going for him that allowed him to get the job done: his willingness to bend–occasionally even break–the law in order to secure the information he needed. It was still the Wild West, after all.
Before long, he had established a reputation as a premier private investigator and found himself the subject of a front-page profile in The Wall Street Journal. That 1973 piece called him a “super sleuth” and painted a portrait of him as a detective with a gift for easily solving cases that left other investigators mystified. It also outlined in detail a number of instances in which Glanz almost gleefully admitted to committing offenses ranging from burglary and bribery to tapping telephones or drugging a prostitute who was trying to extort money from a Tulsa businessman.
From Glanz’s perspective, that was all part of getting the job done. He certainly didn’t apologize for his willingness to do his best for his clients then, though he distances himself from such tactics these days, insisting they aren’t really necessary in the Information Age. Still, it isn’t hard to imagine he still wouldn’t shave a few legal corners these days if the circumstances demanded it. He just might be a little more careful about owning up to it.
That devotion to finishing the job is what allowed him to leave others in his dust–even the TV icons who inspired that fool’s gold rush in the 1960s and ’70s.
“You know, I’ve outlasted Mannix and Magnum and Jim Rockford,” said Glanz, a tall, rangy Texas native who obviously enjoys spinning a good yarn. “They’re all in reruns.”
At age 69, Glanz has hardly slowed down, though he has mellowed. For instance, it’s likely been years since he tumbled through a skylight to break up an illegal gambling operation, which he once did as a vice cop, or dangled by a rope from a rooftop 24 stories above the pavement just to photograph a bedroom rendezvous for a client.
Maybe that’s just because he doesn’t have to resort to such tactics anymore. His firm–Gary Glanz & Associates Inc., which operates from a modest, unassuming house just off Peoria Avenue near Brookside–is highly successful, allowing Glanz to say no to 75 percent of the calls he receives from potential clients. Glanz said 90 percent of his business these days comes from the corporate world, with most of those clients wishing to remain anonymous.
“Anyone that has employees has problems,” Glanz said, explaining that he routinely is called in to deal with such issues as internal theft, security, sexual harassment and unlawful termination lawsuits. “We never know from hour to hour who we’re going to be called to work for.”
It’s a far cry from the past, when Glanz spent a lot of his time exposing unfaithful spouses or retrieving children who had been taken by non-custodial parents. The nature of the work has changed, and technology has dramatically impacted the way information is gathered, but Glanz continues to be successful because he has embraced those changes, rather than shrink from them. He also knows that no amount of technology can replace hard work.
“Technology is not the whole answer,” he said. “You still have to have people out on the streets, you still have to have people performing, you have to have people interviewing, taking statements. You know, everybody thinks that they can do this business. And their criteria is, they knew the answer to a mystery program before the hour was up. That’s what’s going to make them a good private eye.
“So there’s a lot of people that have gone through this business trying to make it as an investigator, but there’s very few that have sustained it over the years.”
It also helps if you have a mind that operates the way his does. Call it instinct. Call it a sixth sense. Call it what you want, but Glanz seems to have an innate feel for when people are up to no good. His fellow Tulsa police officers went so far as to call it his “spirits.” As a young patrolman, he claims he could drive down the street, look at a building and tell you when there was a burglar inside or a nefarious enterprise being conducted. A quick check of the building almost always bore that suspicion out, he said.
It’s an edge he hasn’t lost as he’s aged.
“My wife gets so mad at me,” he said, chuckling. “I’ll be driving down the street, and I just see crimes going on all over the place.”
Glanz put that talent to good use as an officer. His career as a cop lasted a relatively short time, beginning in 1962 and ending in 1968, but it was a memorable one. He was involved in a number of high-profile cases, breaking up illegal gambling operations, whiskey stills, drug rings and prostitution circles, earning him plenty of attention in the media. Many of those busts resulted from tips from his extensive network of informants.
“Gary had the ability to generate snitches,” said Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz, who shares a distant kinship with Glanz. In those days, the future sheriff was also a young Tulsa police officer, and his assignment to the vice squad gave him the opportunity to watch how Gary Glanz could persuade people to open up.
“He’s a hard worker and a real people person,” the sheriff said. “His personality is well suited for the work he does.”
Glanz’s reputation for doing things differently also stemmed from his willingness to gore some sacred cows. With Oklahoma remaining a dry state well in the 1960s, Glanz once busted the Tulsa Press Club during a Tulsa Business Women’s Association meeting for running an open saloon.
When Glanz informed the manager she was under arrest, the woman was unimpressed by the young vice officer.
“She said, ‘Young man, you don’t know what you’re doing,’ ” he said.
But Glanz, who already had demonstrated a flair for snappy retorts, as well as advancing his career, knew exactly what he was doing.
“I said, ‘Yes, ma’m, I’m getting ready to get off the vice squad,’ ” he said, laughing. That didn’t go over well with the woman, who quickly moved on to an implied threat. “She said, ‘I’ll call the mayor.’ I said, ‘Hell, I’ll look his number up for you.’ ”
Sure enough, later that evening, Glanz was invited to the home of the Tulsa police commissioner for a personal audience to explain just what the hell he thought he was doing sticking it to the Tulsa Press Club. But as he walked through the door, the 10pm news was airing. The lead story featured footage of officers removing two paddywagon loads of whiskey from the press club storeroom for tens of thousands of local viewers to see.
So much for Glanz being chastised.
The young officer took great satisfaction in his work–he refers to it now as the most enjoyable part of his life–but he also had begun to consider a career outside law enforcement. A police officer’s salary in those days was barely enough to support one person, let alone an entire family. Glanz, who already had started doing a little private investigation work in his spare time, decided to leave law enforcement and go into business for himself. He quit the department and opened his own investigations firm in 1967, then briefly went back to work as a police officer before quitting for good in 1968, giving the private detective business a full-time go.
It was a decision he has never regretted, though he had a thing or two or learn about convincing people to talk to him once he no longer had the force of law behind him.
“The hardest thing that I had to overcome in transitioning from the police department to private investigations was reaching in your pocket and pulling out that badge and talking to people in a reactive state rather than a proactive state,” he said. “Once you leave the department, and once you don’t have that gold badge, you don’t have near the authority that you had as a police officer. And when you can figure out how to still get these answers and still conduct interviews and people to talk to you, that’s what makes you a better investigator.”
No longer being an officer of the law also allowed Glanz the freedom to indulge his creative instincts, something that often was frowned upon, sometimes even mocked, back at the police department. To his delight, Glanz found that trait came in most useful in his new job.
“You’ve got to think outside the box,” he said. “I’ve always had that ability, even as a police officer, to do that. I may have been a little too creative for the police department at times, but it served me very well.”
As it turns out, that was just what his new job called for. Glanz’s unique approach to his craft–a combination of intuition, grit, gall and hard work, along with a willingness to consider possibilities that wouldn’t even occur to other investigators–made him a natural.
Glanz’s success stories piled up, just as they had when he was a cop. Glanz flew around the world–Canada, Australia,
South America–retrieving children who had been taken by non-custodial parents, sometimes operating only on a hunch. He recovered huge amounts of missing money or stolen merchandise, uncovered evidence that led to record-setting insurance settlements, and caught cheating husbands–and wives–on film.
Before the divorce laws changed in Oklahoma, Glanz spent much of his time working on suspected cases of infidelity.
“Back then, you could catch people running around, and there was some value to catching them,” he said. “Now there’s no value at all. Now Oklahoma’s a no-fault divorce state. So unless it involves a child-custody situation, or locating assets, divorce cases are a very small portion of our business. The divorce cases, though, are the ones that are humorous.”
Just as his current clientele includes many of Tulsa’s best-known corporations, Glanz counted many of the city’s most prominent citizens–or their spouses–as his clients in those days. His surveillance efforts frequently turned up revealing footage or photographs of a straying husband or wife caught in a compromising position.
Glanz explained how he was brought in at one point to help a female client whose divorce had been delayed several times by her husband, who was reluctant to settle. The two shared a house that literally had been divided in half, and the woman suspected her husband had been secretly entering her half and going through her things.
Glanz set up a hidden video surveillance and quickly captured footage of the man entering his wife’s side of the residence, as she suspected. But he also taped the man–a rather portly fellow, as Glanz recalled–trying on her silk stockings, thong panties and high heels, and parading around the room.
After an ensuing deposition, at which the husband flatly denied entering his wife’s side of the residence, the wife’s attorney presented him with a screening of the evidence Glanz had supplied. Within 10 minutes, the man agreed to a generous settlement with his wife.
Glanz has dozens of such stories, some involving Hollywood starlets, others featuring prominent businessmen. Many of his best stories involve people who don’t seem notable at all, until he goes digging around in their private life.
Take the case of a middle-class Wagoner man whose wife once called Glanz for help. Glanz’s investigation revealed the man secretly had squirreled away millions of dollars in cash, gold and securities, even as he refused to give his wife $100 to purchase a backyard swing set for their children.
Much of his work was of a more serious nature, though. The day Tulsa businessman Roger Wheeler was shot and killed in 1981 in perhaps the city’s most notorious slaying, Glanz was called in to do some work for Wheeler’s family. Although he said he’s not at liberty to discuss its nature. The case finally was solved in 2001 when a mob hit man named John Martorano admitted he had shot Wheeler.
As word circulated about Glanz’s talent, it wasn’t long before he came to the attention of Wall Street Journal reporter Richard Shaffer, who flew to Tulsa in 1973 to interview the private investigator. A bit of serendipity during that interview led to perhaps the most widely publicized case of Glanz’s career.
Sitting in his office with Shaffer, Glanz received a call from the owners of Casa Bonita, the Mexican eatery that has been a fixture on the Tulsa restaurant scene for decades. A total of $15,000 in cash was missing from the business, Glanz was told, and the owners were uninsured. They had already contacted Tulsa police to report the crime, but the owners needed Glanz to get their money back.
With Shaffer in tow, Glanz began working the case, quickly deducing that the theft was an inside job by the restaurant’s assistant manager, who supposedly had been on vacation in Florida at the time. Glanz located the manager and another suspect, interviewed them, and secured a warrant for their arrest. Upon their arrest, he quickly obtained a tape-recorded confession about their involvement in the crime.
The only problem was, the money was still missing. So, Glanz went back to work on the main suspect, eventually convincing him to reveal the location of the loot. With Shaffer still following him, Glanz and the suspect flew to Florida, drove to a swamp and dug up the money–which was in the process of being consumed by grub worms. Another couple of weeks in the ground, Glanz figures, and that $15,000 would have been all gone.
It was a jaw-dropping conclusion to a compelling tale, and a Wall Street Journal reporter had been along every step of the way.
“I wore his ass out,” Glanz said.
Later, after serving his prison term for the burglary, the same assistant manager would return to rob the same Casa Bonita, shooting an off-duty Tulsa police officer during the crime, Glanz said. The recidivist subsequently was apprehended in Kansas.
Shaffer’s story hit newsstands on June 13, 1973, sealing Glanz’s reputation as perhaps the best private investigator in the region. Almost instantly, his phone began ringing, bringing him not just plenty of potential new clients but also book and movie offers.
It was pretty heady stuff for a guy who had been worried about just scratching out a living a few years earlier.
“I’ve never solicited a case since I’ve been in business,” Glanz said, though he added he would have welcomed the chance to get involved in the Patty Hearst kidnapping case in 1974. “That would have been interesting.”
That Wall Street Journal profile may have made him a legend, but Glanz continues to produce often startling results. In 2006, for instance, he led an investigation into the theft of several 950-pound rolls of aluminum at the Port of Catoosa that led to the apprehension of the perpetrator. His description of that case indicates why luck has so often been on his side over the years.
“You still have to sit there and grind it out on certain applications,” he said, explaining his philosophy.
In that case, an employee was suspected of going in after hours and driving away with the aluminum. Glanz set up an overnight surveillance with some of his associates, and the group convened at the port at 7pm one night to keep an eye on things.
The time passed slowly with no suspicious activity and no sign of the suspect. By midnight, Glanz said, his crew was ready to bag the surveillance. “No, we wait this thing out,” he told them. The hours continued to crawl by.
But at 4am, there was some activity. The surveillance crew perked up, and 30 minutes later, the suspect came driving by with a semi truck loaded down with nearly 15 tons of rolled aluminum valued at more than $23,000. After Chelsea police pulled the truck over, Glanz–well into his 60s at that point–apprehended the suspect himself, persuading him to climb out of the truck by leveling a shotgun at him.
“Eventually, we recovered another 50 tons of rolled aluminum he had stolen and sold,” Glanz said. “This is what excites me, the game you’re playing out there.”
Sometimes it’s more exciting than others. Kennedy cited a case from the 1960s that illustrates Glanz’s willingness to, as he said, grind it out.
After a traffic collision in rural Muskogee County in which at least one person burned to death, Glanz was hired by an attorney for one of the families to locate the individual who had reported the crash to the Highway Patrol. As Kennedy pointed out, those were the days before 911 and Caller ID, and the caller had not left a name with the dispatcher, so there was no apparent means of tracing him or her.
“How would you go about finding that person?” Kennedy asked. “Most people would say there’s no way you could do it.”
Glanz didn’t let that stop him. He hired Kennedy on a contract basis to work the case with him, and the two visited the crash scene, then began knocking on the doors of residences on either side of the roadway. It wasn’t long before a woman told Glanz a man had come to her door shortly after the accident, asking to use the phone and report the crash. Glanz continued his questioning and ascertained the man’s car had Texas plates on it, though the woman did not get his name.
“Now we’re home free,” Kennedy thought to himself sardonically. “All we’ve got to do is call everyone in Texas and ask them if they saw this accident.”
Kennedy concluded the two had done their best and that the case had reached a dead end. But he said Glanz returned to the scene the next day and began visiting gas stations along nearby Interstate 40, talking the attendants into letting him see the credit card receipts they had taken from customers driving vehicles with Texas plates.
“He wrote down every Texas tag number and name for miles, many miles, then came back,” Kennedy said. Through public safety records, Glanz used the tag numbers and names to obtain telephone numbers, then sat down and began calling all the names on his list. Eventually, he struck gold, finding the individual who had reported the accident to authorities.
Glanz recalled that the man was in the Air Force and was stationed at a base in Texas. Not only had he reported the accident, Glanz said, but he had witnessed it.
To this day, Kennedy remains deeply impressed by his longtime friend’s tenacity.
“Now, if you ask 100 people if there’s any way to find this person, every one of them is going to say, ‘No way,’ ” Kennedy said. “People say, ‘That’s luck.’ Well, I say, that’s Gary and his own hard work. So, it’s no wonder to me he’s been extremely successful and he’s one of the most highly regarded private investigators in the country right now.”
Clark Brewster, a prominent local attorney, has worked with Glanz since 1987 and places great value not just on his work, but on his judgment. Glanz’s gift for sizing up people and situations has allowed him to play a critical role in many of the cases Brewster has handled, he said.
“Gary, many times, has worked with us, interviewing witnesses and providing reports, and his presence in the case wouldn’t be known to anyone but us,” Brewster said. “But he’s been very instrumental in our decision-making in particular cases. I can just say on many occasions it may have been that one piece of information he’s obtained that made the difference in our going one way or another in regard to strategy.”
And Glanz’s skill at putting people at ease is unmatched, Brewster said.
“He has such an easy way about him,” he said. “He can get into a discussion and communicate better than anyone you’ve ever seen.”
Tools of the Trade
While he still puts in plenty of long days and late nights, Glanz said many of the tasks that used to take days or weeks to complete can now be accomplished in a matter of moments, thanks to the Web. Glanz said if he has a person’s date of birth and Social Security number, he or she usually can be found within a 35- or 40-second Internet search.
“Years ago, it was really an art to find people because you didn’t have computers,” he said. Glanz honed that art by cultivating contacts, especially people who worked for utilities. After all, everybody needed telephone, electric and gas service.
“When I started out in this business, you’re always looking for contacts and resources,” he said. “Before computers, if you didn’t have contacts and resources, you didn’t have anything. The best resource in the world was Ma Bell.”
Another factor that has enabled Glanz to remain successful has been the way he has always embraced the latest technology. In the ’60s, that consisted of bulky cameras and tape recorders. These days, those same devices are a fraction of their former size and weight, they are far easier to conceal, and they’re much more effective.
He’s especially fond of video, which he considers an essential tool when he’s got a subject under surveillance.
“Video doesn’t lie to you, it doesn’t go to sleep, it doesn’t charge you overtime, and it works,” he said. “It doesn’t blink.”
Glanz also takes full advantage of cellular phones, GPS systems and Google Earth. From his desktop monitor, for instance, Glanz has software that allows him to track the whereabouts of vehicles using satellite images. That can eliminate hours of human surveillance, he said, provided he has signed permission from an owner of the vehicle.
“Things have changed so dramatically,” Glanz said. “I’ve always been on the cutting edge of technology.”
Computers not only have given Glanz another tool with which to work, they’ve given him a tremendous number of clients. Many of the suspected infidelity cases he works on these days involve people who have met online and eventually decide to consummate their relationship in person.
“The Internet is guilty of breaking up homes more than anything, in my opinion,” he said.
Glanz admits he’s not exactly technologically savvy, but he said he surrounds himself with people who are, including his wife Linda.
“They say a machine is outdated if it doesn’t change, and so are human beings,” Brewster said. “Well, Gary is right there with the newest technology and most current equipment.”
All that technology gives Glanz a number of options he didn’t use to have when it came to gathering information. He acknowledges the shady measures he often resorted to earlier in his career, but he always believed those were necessary to assist a client who had been wronged.
Glanz said it didn’t take him long to realize that when you’re dealing with unscrupulous people, “You better be ready to get down in the gutter and waller around with them.”
He takes great pride and relief in the fact that he’s never run into any legal problems as a result of some of those things he did earlier in his career. Just out of curiosity, Glanz once submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to discover if he had ever been the subject of a complaint for such activities. The request turned up no record of a complaint, he said.
Kennedy said Glanz has helped take the lead in promoting greater professionalism among those in the private detective field in Oklahoma over the past few decades. The state began licensing investigators in the 1980s, and anyone who gets a license these days does so only after undergoing a good deal of training. The field is much more strictly regulated than it used to be, something that has rooted out many of the pretenders.
“I would simply say he’s highly professional at what he does,” Kennedy said.
As for the old days, Glanz maintains that many of his supposedly illegal wiretaps actually fell into more of a legally gray area. And because such information could never be introduced in court, Glanz said it was used for information purposes only, often corroborating legally obtained material.
“Before 1967 or ’68, there was no Omnibus crime bill about wiretaps,” he said. “I would tell you, yes, during that period of time, that we solved a lot of cases and crimes (employing those methods).”
Even so, Glanz isn’t as eager to tempt fate as he once was.
“We’ve never had a problem,” he said. “And now that I’ve reached this point in my career, I’m not nearly as willing to step over that line.”
Oklahoma Four O
More than 40 years after he took his first case, Glanz still finds plenty of motivation in his chosen field. It turns out all those people who got into the private detective business in the 1960s without really knowing what they were doing were right about one very important thing–it is fun.
Glanz has never denied that. As much as he doesn’t fit the popular notion of what a private detective is: “Nobody’s ever seen me with a fedora or a cigarette in my mouth,” he said. He still takes an obvious delight in recounting his adventures over the years. No matter how many times he tells some of those stories, Glanz’s eyes never fail to light up whenever he talks about the charge he got from returning a missing child to a worried parent, discovering nearly $700,000 in cash from a foiled kidnapping or working to secure a priceless art collection.
“How can you not get a rush out of doing that?” he asked rhetorically. “These are the things that you get the adrenaline rush from.”
If Glanz has lost a step or two in recent years, it isn’t apparent to his friends.
“I’ve known Gary for the last 22 years, and he just appears to same to me as he always has,” Brewster said. “He’s got that same nervous energy. I don’t see Gary changing. I think Gary will be active for many years to come.”
Kennedy dismisses the idea of Glanz calling it a career anytime soon.
“I think his mind is still as active and sharp as it’s ever been,” he said. “I know as he’s aging, he’s looking at, well, ‘I’ll maybe train somebody to take over.’ But he’s got it in his blood. I doubt he’ll ever totally retire.”
Glanz maintains that day won’t come until he loses his enthusiasm for his work, which he hasn’t done yet. Nor has he allowed a lifetime of poking into other people’s often-sordid personal lives to turn him into a cynical, thick-skinned type with nothing but disdain for the human weakness he encounters on a regular basis. On the contrary, he’s personable, quick to laugh and seems to genuinely like most people.
Glanz sometimes marvels at how he’s been able to keep all that darkness at a distance.
“You know, I don’t even know the answer to that,” he said. “I like to work for clients that I felt like I’m making a difference in their lives. I have seen a lot of seamy stuff, but I just deal with it.”
That seamy stuff may not haunt Glanz, but it has made him a bit difficult to impress.
“Nothing surprises me, nothing shocks me,” Glanz said. “I wish somebody would sit in here and shock me or embarrass me after 45 years.”