The podcast where TWO passions become ONE!
April 10, 2023

Extraordinary People #4 Former Actor/Former Corporate Spy Robert Kerbeck

Robert Kerbeck’s true crime memoir, RUSE: Lying the American Dream from Hollywood to Wall Street is the story of how a wannabe actor became the world’s greatest corporate spy. Frank Abagnale, author of Catch Me If You Can, said, “Kerbeck has mastered...

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Robert Kerbeck’s true crime memoir, RUSE: Lying the American Dream from Hollywood to Wall Street is the story of how a wannabe actor became the world’s greatest corporate spy. Frank Abagnale, author of Catch Me If You Can, said, “Kerbeck has mastered the art of social engineering, or what he calls 'rusing', and taken it to a whole new level,” while Shondaland (producer of the Netflix series Inventing Anna) described RUSE as "almost too good to be true with no shortage of wild stories.” Kerbeck’s previous book MALIBU BURNING: The Real Story Behind LA’s Most Devastating Wildfire, won a 2021 SoCal Journalism Award, the 2020 IPPY Award, and the 2020 Best of LA Award. His writing has appeared in numerous publications including the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Magazine, and Lithub’s Crime Reads.

Robert Kerbeck

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spies. They are good for extracting information. Sometimes they are hired to be able to see things that you cannot see. But what if they exist in corporate America? What if your job hired a spy to spy on you or their competitor? Do they really exist? Join me as I talk to former actor,

former corporate spy Robert Kerbeck on this extraordinary people edition of True Crime and Authors. Welcome to True Crime and Authors podcast, where we bring two passions together. The show that gives new meaning to the old adage, truth is stranger than fiction. Here's your host, David McClam. What's going on everybody?

Of course, I am your man, David McClam. Hey, if you guys haven't already, make sure you follow us on all of our social medias. One link to a link tree gets you every place you need to go in the show notes. All right, if you guys are paying attention, you know our new segment has started with extraordinary people. So here is another episode of that. And boy, do I have one for you today. So let me introduce our guests.

He has a true crime memoir called Ruse, Lying the American Dream from Hollywood to Wall Street, and it is his story of how a wannabe actor became the world's greatest corporate spy. Frank Abinelli, author of Catch Me If You Can, said that Kerbeck has mastered the art of social engineering or what he calls rusing and taken it to a whole new level, while Shondaland, producer of the Netflix series Inventing Anna, described Ruse as, almost too good to be true

with no shortage of wild stories, Kerbeck's previous book Malibu Burning, The Real Story Behind LA's Most Devastating Wildfire, won him a 2021 SoCal Journalism Award, the 2020 IPPI Award, and the 2020 Best of LA Award. His writing has appeared in numerous publications including the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Magazine, and Lithup's Crime Reads.

Lying the American Dream from Hollywood to Wall Street. Please welcome Robert Kerbeck. Robert, thank you for joining today. Oh, David, thank you for having me. I'm a little jealous though, because I wish I had a nickname like David the man, McClam. I don't have a good nickname. Well, take it from me, everything I just read, you are truly the man in a lot of areas. Yeah, I've had a crazy, it's a crazy story. I've had a crazy life. You know, I didn't go to high school or college, uh, you know, studying

become a corporate spy. Let me just say that. So let's kick this off because I'm fascinated on a lot of these. I can't wait to dive into your book because I've read a lot of reviews on it. I've read the synopsis. It's gonna be a crazy ride but you say how a wannabe actor actually turned into a corporate spy. Let's talk about that. Why were you wannabe actor? What happened to your acting career? Yeah

I'm from Philadelphia and wanted to meet women. And somebody said to me, the theater is a great place to meet women. And of course he was right. So I started doing plays and not only did I fall in love with the woman in the theater, I fell in love with the theater and I fell in love with acting. And so when I graduated, I was going to work for my family, had a car dealership. The Kerbeck name is very famous in the Philadelphia area. My great grandfather sold horse carriages before cars were invented.

invented, then he switched over to become a car dealer. My grandfather took over that dealership, my father took over that dealership, and I was supposed to take over that dealership. But when I graduated college, I worked briefly for my father, and it just didn't feel right for me. The trickery of car sales, which of course, as we're going to talk about, becomes pretty ironic that I didn't want to do car sales. And then, of course, I stumble into a career as a corporate spy. But when I moved to New York to finally try to become an actor, actors need survival jobs,

And I didn't have kind of the patience to be a waiter. I wasn't a late night guy. So bartending was out and a buddy of mine one day mentioned this mysterious job and then shut up right away as if he knew he had been told not to talk about it. And he had said something he wasn't supposed to say. And I said, Hey dude, whoa, whoa, whoa, you got to help me out. I'm broke. I need a job. And so he very reluctantly got me an interview. I went up to the Upper East side and your audience, you know, if they don't know the Upper East side, it's kind of the ritzy old money area of Manhattan.

I was living in Hell's Kitchen in a cave with two other guys. And so I go to this ritzy doorman building. I take the elevator up to the penthouse. This woman, you know, ushers me in the most luxurious apartment I've ever seen. So I knew right away whatever her business was, it was lucrative, but I still had no idea what it was. We have this very strange interview. She never tells me anything about the job. She sends me on my way and my buddy calls and says, you're hired, but don't get too

And the next day I went out and I began my training, my apprenticeship as a corporate spy. And of course, when I went out for the very beginning, I still had no idea what the job was. I thought we were selling magazine subscriptions or selling something. So you go from acting overnight to becoming, now you're going to be training for a corporate spy. When you first got to your training ground, what was your first thought? Well, I go out to Brooklyn and, you know, this is, you know, Brooklyn back in the 90s.

uh, you know, which was, you know, rough. Uh, it's not the Brooklyn of today where all the only thing you find in Brooklyn or, you know, hipsters with beards and coffee shops, right? This was not that Brooklyn. And so I go out there, it's pretty rough. I walk up the fourth, fourth floor, walk up. People are screaming behind doors. You know, I'm imagining, you know, drug deals and I don't know what the hell is going on, but, um, I knock on this door and this beautiful woman opens the door. She says, come on in, you'll work in my bedroom.

what's going on, but I was single, so I went with it. I go into this bedroom and she's got a futon on the ground and a desk and she says sit down at the desk and she begins to explain to me that what we do is we use our acting skills, voices, accents, we create stories, we create personas, and we call up corporations and we trick people into telling us secrets that they should never

was my first day as a corporate spy. And of course I had no idea such a thing existed, right? We all know the Russians spy on the Chinese, the Chinese spy on us, but most people like me have no idea that corporations are spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to spy on each other. So now that we've covered, cause you covered my next question, which is basically what a corporate spy does. So are there actually corporations that is calling people up and saying, hey, we know something's going on. Can you spy on here? Or how do you actually get the jobs that you get?

Yeah, great question, right? We weren't advertising our unethical, potentially illegal services as corporate spies. Generally, what corporations do is they all hire spies, but they're never ever going to tell you they hire spies. And so they want to have plausible deniability so they don't get caught. So what they do is they hire spies through an intermediary. So oftentimes, the spies are hired from a consulting firm that is hired by the corporation. So the consulting firm hires the spies.

executive recruiting firm, all major corporations now, most of their mid-level and senior-level hiring is done by executive recruiting firms, also known as executive search firms, commonly referred to as headhunters. So all corporations hire headhunting firms, the headhunting firms hire spies. And what they do, of course, they know what the corporations are looking for, the type of intelligence, secrets. And we get a laundry list of everything that a corporation wants to know about their rivals,

top people are, what their products in the pipeline are, what their plans are, are they opening new offices, are they closing offices, are they hiring people, are they firing people, you know, when is a certain product going to be released, how are they going to price that product, anything and everything that a rival would want to know so that they could, you know, have some sort of competitive advantage. You think of like a football team, right? Imagine if you could get the playbook on your competitor three or four days before the big game, right? That would be a pretty big deal.

and Patriots did exactly that. Man, the New England Patriots has so many gates in them. You know, you have, you know, ball gate and inflate gate. That's what, yeah. Okay, so just to kind of give them ours a little bit. Apple is a very secretive company, right? So when they go to drop product, you never hear about it. They never flaunted. So would somebody say like a competitor hire you and say,

they were hiring somebody like you to see if you can get that information? Correct. And think about how valuable that information would be. You know, I always use the example. Imagine if you knew about the iPad in the very early days of the iPad, before the iPad is released. And imagine if you knew the names of the designers that were on that team, the top three or four designers. And imagine if you could contact one of those designers and poach them, steal them from Apple, and bring them to your firm.

going to bring their talent and theoretically those secrets, imagine how much money that would be worth. And that's why Apple is one of the most secretive firms in the world. And Steve Jobs was legendary. He would tell his employees, don't talk about anything. Don't tell anybody. Don't tell your wives. Don't tell your husbands. Don't tell anybody anything about what you do. And if you do, you're not just going to be fired. We're going to sue you. We're going to prosecute you.

so that they knew to never talk about anything. Most firms aren't like that, and so most firms, you can find people that are all too willing to say things that they shouldn't say. And in the beginning, when we were doing our spying, we would actually go in person, and we would go to events. We'd go to a bar, we'd go to a sporting event where we knew a certain company was there, or had a box or whatever. But we quickly learned that we actually got more private information, more secrets,

the anonymity of a phone call where we would be pretending to be an executive in some other office that they knew of but they had never spoken to but they knew this is a senior executive this person's with the firm and boy if they're in trouble if they need something it's got to be legit you know we would do accents you know this is Gerhard calling from his office in Frankfurt Germany he has a European Union regulators here and we need some information from the states

Because most corporations now, they have offices all over the world. They have offices in London and in Dublin and in Frankfurt and in Moscow and in Charlotte and San Antonio and, you know, everywhere, right? So you could be from any office. People most likely don't know you, but they know of you. And people in corporate America, corporate culture are taught what? To be a good teammate. And so what do they do? They spill the beans without verifying that you are who you say you are and tell you things

that in a million years they should never ever tell you. How do they find you? So these headhunters who come for you, is there like a secretive list of who the spies are? How do they know how to get ahold of you guys to hire you? You know, the woman who had the spy firm that I started with and trained with, and then eventually I went on my own, and then eventually I started my own spy firm, she had some clients, and then what would happen is, over time, people would know about us, and they would learn about us, and then when I went out on my own,

former boss sort of left this by business, she would recommend people to me. And it always amazed me. I mean, I never obviously advertised the day in my life and I always had more work than I could handle. People begged me to work for them. The largest corporations in the world were throwing money at me at one point when I started the job and remember it was just a survival job for an actor and I was a working actor. You read some of the stuff. I mean, I did over 50 major TV shows.

George Clooney on a show so he could go on the ER. You know, I worked with Paul Newman and, you know, had all kinds of encounters with O.J. Simpson the week before he became the world's most famous murderer. And one of my favorite things about Ruse, the book, is that it's kind of two books. One book is the Corporate Spying Book, and the other book is the Hollywood Tell-All book. And because I was a working actor and I was working with super famous people, Kevin Spacey hit on me, Yoko Ono hung up on me,

in the book and all, you know, so you got one chapter where it's like crazy Hollywood encounters and then the next chapter there's crazy spying encounters, you know, so it's kind of two books in one, which is something I think is a lot of fun for readers. So other than what you've mentioned about the competitive edge, why is secret corporate information so valuable? Well look, you know, we talked a little bit about football, right, and we all know sports incredibly competitive,

to win a tennis tournament, whatever. It's incredibly competitive. These people, these athletes devote their lives, their coaches devote their lives, sometimes to the detriment of their personal lives, but they devote their lives to winning, right? Corporate America is no different. It's exactly the same. If you're the CEO of a corporation, you're making kibillions of dollars, you are looking at your stock price every second of every day, you're worried about your revenue

day, your bottom line, your expenses, you know, that's just your job and that's for all senior executives, right? And so it gets incredibly competitive. And so if you can hire a spy and let's say you're number five in your marketplace or number seven in your marketplace or number 11 or number 32, and you can hire a spy and find out the playbook on your top five or six competitors and you can learn some secrets, you can learn some pricing, you can learn about a new product, you can steal their

top people because now you've identified who the rock stars are, right? And that's something again, your listeners may not be aware. Every corporation ranks their internal employees. They have a system for ranking their people. We would learn what the system was so we could tell you who the top people were at your rivals. Because if you're interviewing people and they come in and they meet you in an interview, everyone's going to tell you that they're number one in their team or number two on their sales desk, or they're the top banker or the top designer.

They're all gonna say that, but we would find the metrics that proved it, right? So that when you were recruiting to steal somebody away from your top rival, you were getting the best person or the second best person, right? And you think about how valuable that is for your company and how detrimental it is to your rival, right? Imagine we see it in sports all the time. A free agent leaves one team, Tom Brady leaves a New England Patriots, they go downhill, he goes to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they win the Super Bowl, right?

It's the same thing in corporate America and it's just as competitive, if not more competitive. They're willing to do anything and everything to get an edge on their rivals. So who do you think calls in for the spot? Is it somebody like at the very top of the executive branch of the corporation? So does all the executive branch know that the spy has been hired or is it secret for some people? Generally, it's authorized by someone who is extremely high up. I mean, I'm here to tell you, even though most times corporations are hiring me through

Many times I presented my extracted data directly to individuals, senior executives, two of whom today are one step from being the CEOs of two of the largest publicly traded companies in the world. And I personally presented them my spying Intel. I personally handed it to them.

talking about corporate ethics and corporate culture. They're authorizing spying and desperate for the intelligence that spies obtain. So doing this, I'm sure you had to breach maybe some securities or get into things that nobody else had got into. Did it ever get you arrested? Ah, well, you have to read the book. The short answer is, damn close. Yeah.

being hunted by, I can't say every agency in the world, but most of them. So interesting question for those of us, I'm in the tech field, I use a lot of tech. I saw these questions that I gotta ask you this being that you are who you are. So in your opinion, what is the weakest link in cybersecurity? Well, it's always the human being. I saw a funny cartoon the other day, it said something like, what's the weakest nut in a car?

the steering wheel, you know, right? Because you know, most times, most car accidents aren't caused by a mechanical defect. They're caused by the driver falling asleep, being inattentive, driving too fast, whatever, right? And it's the same thing in cybersecurity. You know, you know, corporations have spent a tremendous amount of money on their firewalls, their encryption, their servers, their networks, right? Protecting them from hackers.

much time on is training their employees not to release private information, including passwords, which by the way, you know, like I always say, I'm not, I don't hack systems. I hack people, or at least I used to in the past. And if I can get your employee to give me their password, if I can get your employee to put in their own password and look up stuff on the system for me and tell, tell me about it, all of your cyber security stuff is basically for naught, right?

things and I go to some conferences now and speak about that, that corporations have to do a much better job educating and training employees so that they don't become victims of phishing and hacking and scamming and of course what I call rusing. A tagline to that question is, so did you guys ever use ransomware attacks then in that case? Well, we did not because you know, one of the things I think is that, you know, and again, I'm not saying that what I did was right.

though it is a hell of a crazy fun story, and I'm not proud of what I did, not proud of it, but we, the way we rationalized it, the way I rationalized it was that we were not stealing individuals information, we weren't getting the, you know, the credit card numbers of old ladies, and we weren't doing anything like ransomware or blackmail or extortion or anything like that. In our minds, you know, we were part of the capitalist system, which was this corporation's

And at the end of the day, you know, do we feel too bad when Goldman Sachs gets dinged or Wells Fargo gets dinged? I mean, they're dinging us all the time, right? You know, Wells Fargo was opening phony accounts in the names of all of these people, 30 accounts in your name, 30 accounts in my name, because their salespeople were trying to make bonuses and we were getting dinged with all these charges. And, you know, and that's just one example of one firm that was really behaving reprehensibly, right?

There are many examples of firms overcharging and bilking and doing all kinds of shenanigans. So that was how I rationalized it is look, most corporations are doing some of these shenanigans themselves anyway. And so if I'm going to get information from one firm and it's going to go to another firm, it's just part of the capitalist system. If there is one thing we all need, we all need a good sleep. And for this, we need a great pillow, which brings me to today's sponsor, Sweet Z.

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Sweet Z Pillow today. So they often say the most dangerous person in the room is the person that has the most knowledge and being that you know what you know, the secrets you've uncovered, you've done this with some of the top firms, you know, of our industries. Why write ruse now? Ah, great question. Well, I wrote ruse now because the statute of limitations had expired on any potential crimes that I may or may not have committed.

So because that I was able to freely say a lot of, you know, basically, you know, I think New Yorkers use this word bananas, you know, like so many of my stories, people read them and they go, what, like, this is true. And the answer is, yes, it is true. It's bananas. But these crazy shenanigans and hijinks that I used to get these, you know, incredibly important secrets that in some cases were worth billions or at least portions of billions of dollars.

I was able to write about them freely because I wasn't worried that I was going to say something that was going to get myself in trouble. So anybody get mad at you? You get any death threats behind it once you wrote the book? You know, it's funny, it was the exact opposite, but David, I was worried about that. I was like, oh my God, you know, is this company going to come after me? Is that going to come? Here's the craziest thing. I honestly think this is the craziest thing that happened. Well, there are two crazy things that happened out of writing this book, and I'll tell you both of them. The first one is that, so I write the book. I out myself as a corporate spy.

worried that some company, I'm going to get a letter for some lawyer, we're suing you, we can't believe, you know. Instead, all I got were companies begging me to spy for them. All I got were emails saying, can we please hire you? We need your help. We're, I'm like, don't you understand that I've outed myself as a spy? Like I wouldn't be a very good spy if I outed myself as a spy. Basically put a target on my back and now go back in the spy.

So that was the first thing that was crazy. And then the second thing that was crazy is that this guy, you mentioned in the beginning, Frank Abagnale, who wrote Catch Me If You Can, which everybody knows was made into this really amazing movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg directed it. He read Ruse and he flipped over Ruse and he wrote me this blurb, which is on the front cover of the book, basically saying that this book is crazy and hilarious. And that was the other thing

me away that somebody of that quality read my book and now has become a really huge supporter of me and the story. And it's partly thanks to his kind words that it really got the attention of Hollywood and now Ruse is in development to be a TV series, which is, you know, again, beyond my wildest expectations. But Sean DeLand gave an amazing review of the book. They wrote

feature on me. And, and as much as I love Shonda Rhimes and one of my really good friends works for Shonda, it's a different production company that is producing Roos. Unfortunately, maybe Shonda will get the next project. Well, I wouldn't sleep on that. You know, if she got friends, you know, Shonda is one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. I'm for an African American woman of all places to be where she's at. Every show she's written is turned to gold, as you know. And here's kind of a fun fact. If you never knew this.

My wife and I, we were hooked on a number of her shows. For you guys who don't know all of her shows, Grey's Anatomy was her first one, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Bridgerton, which me and my wife is watching now. But the funny thing was, as you know, all of her shows left ABC. And so we was just like, how would they cancel a Shonda Rhimes show when it makes a bunch of money? So come to find out when she signed her deal in 2017 with Netflix, which was for $100 million for four years, she moved all her stuff

biggest speculation why she left among the many is Disney refused to give her an all-access pass to go to Disneyland. So at that point she said I'm done I'm out and so the writer says it's possible that ABC let Rhymes the Network's cash cow go because they were too cheap to come her a $154 ticket to Disneyland.

So when it comes to rules of TV show, are you going to play in it at all? No, no, no. My acting career, my acting days are in the past. I had a great time doing it. Like I said, I worked with some, I did plays with James Gandolfini from The Sopranos. I just had a lot of really wonderful experiences, but I'm focused on writing now. So who would you like see portray you in the TV series? I get asked that question a lot and I really don't know.

actor playing me is going to be playing the 25-year-old version of me. And I don't know who are the best 25-year-old guys. I do know that my father is a big part of the book and in my dreams. And of course, this is probably a fantasy. But I would love for Leonardo DiCaprio to play my father in the show. I don't think Leonardo is ready to do a TV series yet, but you never know.

You know, Hollywood is kind of switching because, I know you've seen this, but a lot of actors who are big screen actors that would never do TV, they're all doing TV. And some of them are saying that they think they're having a better time at it doing TV than actually doing some of the big screen shows. So never say never. Well, no, there's no doubt. And quite frankly, television is better than films today. For the very simple reason is that when we fall in love with a story, when we fall in love with characters,

and two hours later, that's it, it's over. Maybe three hours if it's a long movie, right? Whereas if we watch a TV show, we get 10 hours, 12 hours in the first season, and we get another 10, 12 hours in the second season. We get to spend so much time with these characters that we love, right? And so I think the same thing is true for actors, is that if you get to play a part and keep playing a part and developing a part, that's gotta be a lot of fun, you know? And of course, you know, most likely it's shooting in the same location,

for those five to seven years so you don't have to move around as much. So if you got a family, you can settle in one place as opposed to if you're, you know, you do a movie and again, your audience may not know, but if you're doing four or five movies a year, you're flying to this location, then you fly to that location, then you fly to this location, you're here for six weeks, you're there for two weeks, you're back here for, you know, it's a very difficult life for relationships and for families. And so I think TV series in a lot of ways can give some stability

is pretty unusual. And so I think, yeah, I think actors love doing them. When can we expect to see Ruse? Do you know yet? I don't know. We're still, you know, in the writing phase. And it's, you know, I mean, I guess I'm not surprised that it's taken so long because, but one of the things that has surprised me is, you know, there, when you go in and you begin to create a series, you create this thing called the series Bible, which is, you know, all of the people and characters. And it's not just first season. We

talking second season, third season, you know, even though you, you don't even know if you're ever going to get that far, but you, they, you need to understand if a show is successful, what more seasons are going to look like, which I didn't really know coming into this that there's that, you know, it's, in other words, it's, it's built out that much. Um, so it takes a lot of time to kind of get all of that set. When it comes to that, uh, I know there's a lot of meat here. How long would you say that you think Rouge should be able to run as a series if it got greenlit? Yeah.

I mean, you know, the thing that I've been grateful is a lot of times writers with the book The production company will you know, they'll buy the book and then they'll say okay. See you see you book writer Bye. Bye. See you later And then they shove you out the door and then they you know They take your story and they do it whatever they want with it. But I've been really surprised and pleased that they Have wanted me around and they're very interested in my stories and ideas because you know

Turner, it reads like a spy novel, it reads very quickly, but the production company is like, okay, you have stories that you didn't put in the book. I'm like, well, of course I do. I was a spy for a long time. I wasn't going to write a thousand page book, but they want those other stories, right? They need those other stories because if a show runs for three, four, five, six years, they need that other content. And so they want me around because they want to have those other stories. Well, see, I think sometimes that's a good thing too, because of the fact that let's just say

somebody didn't read the book, right? It wouldn't tie some to go read the book. And for people that read the book, they're like, wait a minute, none of that stuff was even in the book. And so then that's when, do they put disclaimers in front of that? Cause we know sometimes in these TV series, they dramatize certain things. Sometimes they make things up that goes along with that. So I think it'd be, if they say, hey, these things are really something that really happened, you know, people will be more intrigued with that too as well. Yeah, I think that they probably would put for Ruth

or based on the book Ruse by Robert Kirby. So the idea is that, yeah, this is based on the book and the book is true, but now it's a TV series. So we're gonna play with it a little bit. So, you know, the premise is still all true, but you know, there may be some journeys that we go on that, you know, again, you know, we're not in the book and maybe not exactly what happened. And, you know, that's just, you know, that's just TV world, movie world. Every true story that gets adapted into a series

creative license that's taken because, you know, they're creating content. So now everything in the world now is going streaming. Uh, I remember years ago, Apple said that in the next five to 10 years, streaming would be where TV is. Well, here we are. Are you looking that it may go to an actual network or do you think it'll go to a streaming service? I think streaming. Yeah, I think streaming. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Because, you know, I mean, look, I, it could be a network show, but you know, it's corporate spying and you know,

get information, you know, you've got to be, you know, doing tricks and scams and ruses, which are funny, but you know, they're also, you know, they're, you know, they're dangerous, right? You know, there's an ethical issue, there's a danger issue, so I think it'll do better in streaming. All right, guys, so that is about Ruse, Lying the American Dream from Hollywood to Wall Street. That's his book that's currently out now, so make sure we check that out. We're gonna give you all the information about how to do it at the end

I want to ask you about the other book that you've written, which is Malibu Burning, the real story behind LA's most devastating wildfire that took place I believe 2019 in Malibu. So my question for you with that is, do you still consider that to be the most deadliest fire when it, in comparison to Paradise that happened in 2018? Well, both fires happened at the exact same time. They both happened in 2018. My book, Malibu Burning, the book came out in 2019. Yeah.

the exact same time. And there's no doubt that the campfire in Paradise, which is northern California and we had our fire, some people call it the Malibu fire, but the real name is the Woolsey fire, which obviously burned down a significant portion of Malibu. You know, there were a lot more fatalities in the campfire in Paradise than there were in our Malibu fire. But, you know, one of the things I tell people that don't know Malibu,

lost homes in both fires, you know, you can't really judge a tragedy. That tragedy was worse, no doubt, but for the people that lost homes in Malibu, you know, they're devastated too, right? But one of the things that kept the death count down in our fire was, you know, we in Malibu are very lucky because that's where I live. We're very lucky. We have an automatic safe zone. You know, we have what I call an automatic panic room. And what is the automatic panic room in Malibu?

And so when we have fires, everybody runs down, drives down, walks down, stumbles down, and I saw it all that day, stumbles down to the beach, to the sand, because that's the only place where you can go and be safe. Unfortunately, in paradise, most of the fatalities were people that were trapped by fire and basically were surrounded by fire, because if you go up there, it's all forests.

get caught on both sides of you and that's what happened is a lot of people, there was no panic room, there was no safe zone. I'm here to tell you if instead of the Pacific Ocean, if we had a line of pine trees there like they did in Paradise, Malibu would have lost many, many more people too. So we're just very lucky that we have that there and that's the only real difference that enabled Malibu to have fewer fatalities because our fire was, we had a 14 mile wide

You know fire line like 14 miles the fire from one end to the other was 14 miles think about that, right? All coming down to the beach and I wrote the book because I fought the fire with my family. We saved our house But it was you know a life-threatening moment Most of the homes on my street 17 of 19 burned two-thirds of the homes in my neighborhood destroyed a couple days after the fire the LA Times asked me to write an essay about it

read that essay and asked me if I'd write this book. And so I wrote this book and it was a real labor of love because as terrible as the fire was, people died, animals died, people lost everything they ever had. I know everyone thinks everyone in Malibu is rich or famous, but I'm here to tell you that there's a blue collar element to Malibu. A lot of elderly people didn't have enough insurance, they can't afford to rebuild. But for all of the trauma and tragedy, the thing that was the most incredible thing,

responded to the most in Malibu burning was people coming together and helping. You know, an elderly couple in their 80s saved their home and other homes with their feet stamping out embers with their boots, right? Famous actors, Kevin Dillon, who played Johnny Drahman in the HBO series Entourage, Kevin Dillon stayed behind, put his life at risk to save his home and all his neighbors homes. Him and

So there were all of these kinds of stories, celebrity and non-celebrity, that, you know, here you think of all these super rich people, but they're, you know, salt of the earth, blue collar people, putting their lives at risk to save sometimes hundreds of homes. And so it was really inspirational and I'm really glad I got to tell that story. And I think you're, you're building up a lot of those misconceptions for the audience who don't know Paradise was a fire that happened in 2018 that wiped

It came really close to us because my wife had cousins and aunts that lived there. Luckily they got out but they lost their home. Of course, the Malibu fire did come up. As you probably know, the number one biggest misconception was everybody in Malibu is rich. Matter of fact, I read an article just the other day where they were saying, yeah, people were escaping Malibu on yachts. Some people were like, yeah, well, they're rich, they can rebuild. But to hear you say it and write in your book too that, no, everybody wasn't.

famous. Some people were broke or poor and they couldn't afford to be built. Both fires are equally as devastating but I think sometimes when it comes down to certain areas where it's using a fluent town, you know the same article pointed out that the average home in Malibu at the time at that one point was like three million dollars compared to a two hundred thousand dollar home in a paradise. What does it matter whether it's three million or two hundred thousand? That home meant something to somebody. You lost

cover from. And even though there's been no books written about paradise, I'm glad this book is there because the stories that you share in here really tells that story. It wasn't all about the rich and famous people, there were actually people. And I didn't know that. I didn't know there really was. I mean I always hear that there is a poor area in every town, but when I drive through Malibu or drive through Beverly Hills, you're like, where is it?

not as affluent as people think. That everyone in Malibu is not as affluent as people think. And certainly people are not as, you know, not everybody who lives in Malibu is a famous person. You know, on my street, we had a retired kindergarten teacher, we had a retired firefighter, we had a retired police officer, you know. And, you know, remember a lot of times people buy homes in a community and a lot of people bought homes in Malibu in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s when it was not. As a matter of fact, people did not want to live. And this is something,

in Malibu, Burning about the history of Malibu, which I found fascinating as I was learning about it. People would buy places in Malibu. Nobody wanted to live up there. It was too far to commute for work. Of course, this is before computers and cell phones and whatever. And so nobody wanted to live up that far away from the city of Los Angeles, so it was cheap. So there were a lot of people that bought homes in Malibu, like I said, in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, even 90s, because it was cheap, believe it or not.

than Los Angeles. And it was only when we started to get more and more celebrities buying in, and of course cell phones and fax machines and computers and wifi that all of a sudden people could work from anywhere, that it enabled wealthier people to live further and further away from major business centers. And so obviously Malibu has changed a lot in the last 20 years. But there's still what I call old Malibu.

a lot of the homes that burned were those of old Malibu people, you know, your listeners, many of whom have been to Malibu and they drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. And the Pacific Coast Highway is like a demarcation line because the people that live on the ocean side of the Pacific Coast Highway, yes, celebrities, yes, CEOs of big companies, yes, super wealthy. But the people that live on the land side of the Pacific Coast Highway, up into the

those old school, even a little bit of the wild west frontier types. And that a lot of the homes that burned were those homes. And I can attest to that because from my job, I go to Harbor City, which, as you know, is off of PCH. And I also go to, well, they consider it to be Beverly Hills, but it's right across the street from the Quentin Tarantino Theater, which is the Beverly Theater there. And when I started going there, I'm like, OK,

all the parts of Beverly Hills we really don't see because you don't see the big mansions there. You know, it's a large Jewish community there and there's just a lot of different people that's running through there. So it is true. I've always said that we always see on TV what they want us to see. You have to actually go explore some of these towns to actually figure out that it's not all bells and whistles everywhere you go. So I appreciate that. So when it comes to ruse, what is it that you hope people take away from ruse line,

Street when they read it. Well, you know, again, the book is just a crazy story because, you know, you have this kid that, you know, I was a car salesman, I was an actor, I, you know, was a corporate spy, I'm a writer, you know, you have, I had all these different careers and, you know, interactions with famous people and interactions, you know, with, you know, the authorities and,

have to take the journey you want to take. So that's part one, you know, I wanted to be an actor, I needed a survival job, I stumbled into a job as a corporate spy, it's insane. But I took the journey that I wanted to take, you know. So that's the first thing I told him. And the other thing is, is that it's never too late to pivot into a career that you want. So you know, all of a sudden I was this corporate spy and I didn't want to be a corporate spy anymore, you know, and, and again, this is part of the book too, where I really reckon with the moral issues of it. And that was the moment where I'm like, you

back to being a writer and you know here I am now I've written a couple of books they've done very well I've won some national awards you know ones in development for a TV series and so you know I tell people it's never too late to pivot even if you didn't follow your dream when you were a young person it's never too late to pick it back up you know and so that's what I'd like people that read ruse to come out of it like wow this guy has one crazy story and and you know he he followed his dreams you know even though sometimes it

got him into some big trouble. But in the end it worked out. Is there anything about that part of your life that you regret? No, I don't think so because like, you know, look, again, I'm not proud of some of the things I did, but again, you know, I was not, you know, I wasn't stealing from people. You know, I was, you know, and again, this is a rationalization and in the book I deal with that a lot. No, I, you know, I think I had to take the journey that I took to become the person that I am today.

You know, and I think that's that's the thing, you know, I never rused in my personal life. I wasn't rusing my friends I wasn't rusing my wife. I wasn't you know, I was You know, the ruse was very specifically in corporate America, you know I made my peace with that even though like I said, you know I wasn't proud of it and I'm glad I got out of it and I'm glad that I'm doing what I'm doing today So is there anything that you would like to say to your readers out there? They made me listen to this interview

First off, I tell people go to my website, it's just my name,, K-E-R-B-E-C-K, and you can go on there, you can buy the book, which I hope people will do, but more importantly, you can learn a lot about me. You can contact me directly from my website. You can email me right from the site. There's no filter, there's no assistant that's reading it. It's me that's going to respond to you. So if you have a question about spying, if you're looking to pivot into a new career

I will hook you up because there's plenty of work out there for corporate spies. I'm telling you, corporations are desperate for spies and I can't do it anymore. So if you're looking for a job, email me. You can also see the trailer for Rue's so you can get a sense of what the TV series might look like because the trailer is up. So yeah, it's a lot of fun stuff on the website. Well, Robert, it has truly been a fascinating time talking to you. Again, I think even coming on the show, I'm definitely going to finish up reading your book. Also, I'm going to be reading Malibu Burning.

because from what I've read so far, it is definitely from somebody who's been there. And I like to read stories that are completely unbiased with yours is. So thank you for coming on. Anytime you want to come back, let me know. You're always welcome to come back. Oh, I appreciate it. And when we get close to the series, I'll definitely come back. All right, man. I appreciate it. Thank you for coming on today. Okay. Bye, David.

Alright guys, you heard it there. That was the incredible Robert Kerbeck. You can find all of his information in the show notes. is where you can go. You can order his book there. You also can find it on Amazon and I will list his email. Plus, if you listen to this episode on my website, and you click on his episode, his bio will be linked to that. So once again, I thank you guys for tuning in.

and being good out there and always remember, always stay humble. A little love and compassion goes a long way. And this is the podcast where two passions becomes one. I'll catch you guys in the next one. Thank you for listening to True Crime and Authors. Don't forget to rate, comment, and subscribe. Join us on social media, on Facebook at True Crime and Authors, on Twitter at Authors True,

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Robert Kerbeck

Former corporate spy and Author of RUSE

Robert Kerbeck’s true crime memoir, RUSE: Lying the American Dream from Hollywood to Wall Street is the story of how a wannabe actor became the world’s greatest corporate spy. Frank Abagnale, author of Catch Me If You Can, said, “Kerbeck has mastered the art of social engineering, or what he calls 'rusing', and taken it to a whole new level,” while Shondaland (producer of the Netflix series Inventing Anna) described RUSE as "almost too good to be true with no shortage of wild stories.” Kerbeck’s previous book MALIBU BURNING: The Real Story Behind LA’s Most Devastating Wildfire, won a 2021 SoCal Journalism Award, the 2020 IPPY Award, and the 2020 Best of LA Award. His writing has appeared in numerous publications including the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Magazine, and Lithub’s Crime Reads.