Harold "Hal" Lipset was a well-known gumshoe
who is said to have brought dignity and professionalism to the field of private investigation. He was born in Newark
, in 1919
, and attended the University of Pennsylvania
before transferring to U.C. Berkeley
. He enlisted in the Army
, served as both lieutenant and captain in the military police
and won a Bronze Star
in combat. The military sent him to an investigators' school in Georgia
After WWII, he and wife moved to San Francisco, where he opened his Lipset Service in 1947.
After demonstrating his bug in the martini olive technique before a Senate subcommittee in the 1960s,
Lipset was called in as a consultant for the Watergate committee, for which he examined the 18-minute gap on the Nixon tapes, and as technical advisor (and probably inspiration) for Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation. He also served as president (and founder) of the World Association of Detectives and the Professional Investigators Association of California. He directed the Hastings School of Law Trial and Appellate Board of Advocacy, and taught the fundamentals of investigation at the University of San Francisco Law School. He was active in causes involving Soviet Jews, and started Legal Services for the Elderly, which offered free legal services to seniors who could not afford an attorney.
He was security advisor to the Black Panthers, the United Farm Workers, and the American Indian Movement. Other clients included Jim Jones of the People's Temple, Chuck Dederich of Synanon, Werner Erhard of est, the Hare Krishna Society, and the Reverend Moon's Unification Church. Lipset does not care whether the people hiring him are right or wrong, guilty or innocent, and remained completely objective.
His career is explored in a book called Bug in the Martini Olive and Other True Cases from the Files of Hal Lipset, Private Eye, by Patricia Holt, one of his investigators.
Lipset died of heart failure at San Francisco's Mount Zion Hospital in 1997, following surgery for an abdominal aneurysm.