Where Oh Where Can Your Baby Be? Try Asking the Fearless Finder of Lost Love, Lloyd Shulman

updated 04/11/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/11/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

Shulman's the name, Lloyd Shulman. Private detective. Specialty? Tracking down old flames. Since 1960 he's brought together some 23,000 couples by tracing high school sweethearts or trailing some looker for a lovesick Joe who eyeballed her once and never caught her street number. Shulman adapted the name for his agency—Mr. Keane, Tracer of Missing Persons—from a 1940s radio show. This gumshoe gets more business from long-lost lonelyhearts than a two-bit dance hall. And he doesn't play down his success rate either. "You know how many girls I've found that guys met on a Greyhound bus?" crows Shulman, 54. "Dozens!"

Now, just because he's some kind of crazy Cupid, don't think the guy's a soft touch. It'll run you upwards of three C notes, but, he says, nine times out of 10 he'll hand over the dope—phone number, address and marital status. Of course you'd never know Shulman was raking in the dough from looking at his L.A. office. With a shade-less lamp, a broken shell ashtray and piles of ancient phone books, it makes the Depression look like a real nice party. Lloyd sits there in his rumpled pink shirt, sleeves rolled up, front pocket spilling notecards and pens, using some kind of X-ray vision to unearth lost Romeos in those mixed-up mounds of court records and club rosters he collects. Luckily he's got seven private-eye types to help, including his son, Scott, 19, and every time they deliver the goods someone clangs a bell in the office.

Back in the '60s Shulman used to pack a pistol as he trailed crooks wanted by the big boys—banks, insurance companies and the like. (Not bad for a guy born in Rochester, N.Y. who earned his bread and board in '57 pumping gas on Hollywood Boulevard.) These days he still plays the corporate detective on occasion, but as Shulman wraps up Case No. 83,690, more than a third of his jobs involve finding somebody's heartthrob. Why the change in style? As his old lady, Shirley, 53, puts it: "Lloyd's a dreamer, an incurable romantic. He gets a vicarious thrill out of finding these people, almost like it's happening to him." Shirley ought to know. She's been married to the guy for 21 years, and they still smooch in public.

Shulman puts on a thicker skin when dealing with clients. Though the folks who hire him—divided equally between men and women and usually middle-aged, widowed or divorced—tend to forget defects in their lost loved ones, the good detective promises no fairy-tale endings. Says he, "I tell them, 'There's your sweetie, call him and find out if you can fit back in his life. If he says "Yes," you're on to something. If he says "No," go on to something else.' "

Sometimes a case brings a tear to Shulman's eye, like the lady from Detroit who lost a dashing suitor to her sexy roommate in 1930. A husband, three children and a lifetime later, she brought Shulman a sepia photograph and some tattered love poems. Turns out the guy had died 15 years earlier. "I was sad but relieved," says the client. "I wanted to find him and I did."

Not every lovebird Shulman tracks down thanks him for his work. One gal hung up on a sweet-talker who had jilted her years before. Then there's the case of "Rosie the Riveter." All Shulman had was a first name (Rose), a 40-year-old address and an idea that this dame welded herself into some real tight coveralls when she worked in an airplane factory during WW II. So Shulman cased a diner near Rosie's old home, talked up some locals, and before you knew it—BINGO!—wedding bells. Very few of Shulman's clients end up at the altar, and in fact Rosie was subsequently divorced. He keeps his nose where it belongs and seldom follows up on clients. Maybe that's because this closet Cupid hates to hear bad news. "Sometimes," says the old romantic, "all you have to do to kill everything in those fantasies is to get back together."

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