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VIDEO: Mount Washington Man is Bradbury Building's First Private Eye

Private investigator and Mount Washington resident Keith Rohman gives Patch an exclusive tour of the Bradbury Building: the Downtown architectural icon that houses his office.

Private investigators uncover information for a living.  So it’s particularly fitting that Mount Washington's Keith Rohman, president of Public Interest Investigations, has his office in the historic Bradbury Building, which reveals its secrets gradually. 

The outside of the Bradbury Building, on Broadway at the corner of Third Street in Downtown Los Angeles, is modest compared to some of the street’s ornately decorated movie palaces.  And the low-ceiling entries from both Broadway and 3rd Street give no hint of the grandeur of the five story atrium, which opens up to soar past fanciful, wrought iron elevators and banisters, marble floors and Mexican tile to the domed glass ceiling.

Because of the Bradbury’s frequent appearance in films, most recently The Artist, tourists are a constant presence at the building.  However, for the security and privacy of the tenants, which include the Internal Affairs Division of the LAPD, only guests of residents are allowed past the second floor landing.  Consequently, Patch jumped at the chance to take a video tour of the upper floors with Rohman, a decades-long Mount Washington resident. 

There is mystery too surrounding the origin of the Bradbury Building.  Mining millionaire and real estate developer Lewis Bradbury commissioned the building’s original design from esteemed local architect Sumner Hunt but was unhappy with the latter’s concept. For reasons that have never been clear, Bradbury then asked Hunt’s lowly draftsman George Wyman to contribute a design.  Wyman agreed only after his long-dead brother Mark, via an early version of the Ouija board, urged him to "Take Bradbury Building. It will make you famous."  Mark’s beyond-the-grave advice proved prescient. 

Just as the Bradbury Building had an unusual beginning, Rohman’s career as an investigator had a quirky inspiration.  In 1978, the former political organizer saw The Big Fix, a movie (and book) by Roger L. Simon that featured Moses Wine, a hip, Jewish private eye. 

A decade later, after Rohman had become an investigator, he taught a one-night class at the Learning Annex about how to be an investigator.  He remembers that the class was mostly attended by writers, including the entire writing staff of Remington Steele ... and Roger L. Simon.  Rohman told Simon that The Big Fix had suggested the possibility of a career in investigation.

Rohman and the author occasionally had lunch over the ensuing years, and he noticed that details from his work made their way into Simon’s detective novels.  The final tribute, however, was the character of an instructor at the “Learning League” who was teaching a class about how to be an investigator.

The teacher’s name?  Pete Roman.

Anna Carpenter December 07, 2012 at 08:25 PM
What a great story about Keith. I love the video interview, and in seeing it I am struck by another "link" to Mt Washington. The building was built in 1893, the year Paramahansa Yogananda was born, founder of Self Realization Fellowship with its headquarters on Mt Washington.
David Fonseca December 07, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Excellent info, Anna! Glad you enjoyed this.
nonoise December 09, 2012 at 03:31 AM
How much does it cost for everyone else to go on the tour?
Kim Axelrod Ohanneson December 17, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Thanks for the info, Anna! nonoise, the tour of the bottom floor is free for anyone. The upper floors are off-limits to walk-in visitors, however, which is why Patch jumped at the chance to tour the upper floor and share it with Patch readers.

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