The words blowing by at a fast clip, his sentences hop along on gilded proper nouns: A-list celebrities, members of the rock-and-roll pantheon, the agents and execs controlling the industry’s marionette strings. And like any fixer worth his reputation, he’s got a hefty stack of photos from his years in the game to back up his name-dropping. Van Ronkel with Jack Nicholson. Van Ronkel with Pamela Anderson. Van Ronkel with Hilary Swank. Van Ronkel with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

But Van Ronkel’s career has been anything but typical. Since the early 2000s, he’s been a conduit between Hollywood and Moscow, setting up American celebrities and musicians with Russian power brokers. Most famously, he helped hook up action star Steven Seagal and Russian President Vladimir Putin, a relationship that was suddenly back in the news this week after the Kremlin announced Seagal had been named a special envoy to the United States.

While living in Moscow for 15 years, Van Ronkel told The Washington Post he filled many roles, planning movie festivals, organizing Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s son’s birthday party, even working with megastars like Mariah Carey and Katy Perry and oligarchs.