DEBORAH HASTINGS Associated Press

Josh Hermanbail bondsman to the stars, is barreling down the
Santa Monica Freeway in his green truck to meet a man named Bubba.

Bubba. Not rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg. Not one of Herman’s other
celebrity clients whose names he safeguards like a family secret.

You don’t want to mess with Bubba,” says Herman, who has the
unnerving ability to read court documents, bark into a cell phone and
drive — all at once.

Charles “Bub” Flowers, according to his business card, is an
investigator. He’s a nice guy. But if you skip on a Herman bail bond,
Bubba is the man who comes after you. And Herman is looking for a
missing client.

Bubba is big. He has a gun. And he isn’t always nice.

In Herman’s universe, musclemen, bounty hunters and career felons
co-exist with hip-hop artists, Hollywood producers and movie stars.

Lived in the shadows

Until recently, Herman lived in obscurity, which is how he and
his well-known clients liked it. Then Newsweek ran a little story about
“the bail bondsman of choice for jailed rap stars.” Now Herman has a
Hollywood manager to handle callers professing interest in book, TV and
film deals.

That’s Hollywood. Jackie Brown, Quintin Tarantino’s newest movie
featuring a bail bondsman, is hot. So by the logic of show biz, Herman
is hot.

His manager envisions a TV series. Fast cars and fetching women?
“Yeah,” says Herman, who is 6-feet-3 and tops 200 pounds.

“But Bubba and I couldn’t both fit in a Ferrari.”

Herman says he finds the hype surreal and silly. That doesn’t
explain why someone who claims to hate hype hires a manager to stir it
up.

“I don’t know why,” he says. Then he laughs.

Perhaps he is just used to peculiar characters. This is a man who
gets people out of jail for a living and counts some as friends.

“There’s nothing wrong with them. They’ve just been to jail,”
he says.

In his eight-year career, Herman has written thousands of bonds
pledging to pay the entire bail if a defendant fails to appear in court.
His fee is 10 percent of the bail amount.

70 percent celebrities

He has built a client list — mostly from referrals of criminal
attorneys and record company lawyers — that is about 70 percent
celebrities, he says.

A middle-class guy from West Los Angeles, Herman, 26, learned the
business from his father, Mark, and grandmother, Flo. Mark bailed out
Black Panther leaders and musician Ike Turner.

“My grandmother was tough,” says Josh Herman.
“And she didn’t drive. She’d say `You need a bond? Come get me.’ ”

Now father and son work together. Their toll-free number: 1 (800)
7Get-Me-Out.

Josh Herman won’t say how much he earns. He has a Beverly Hills office but never uses it. He works out of his truck, or his
Mercedes-Benz, driving from court to court, jail to jail, constantly
answering his beeper and cell phone. He is on call 24 hours a day, seven
days a week.

He divulges the identities of rapper clients Snoop Doggy Dogg and
Dr. Dre, he says, because they don’t mind talking about their
well-publicized brushes with the law.

“Look,” Herman says, “I do a lot of famous people, not just
the rappers. Movie people, TV people, you name it. But I can’t talk
about those people. I’d lose my business.”

`Velvet gloves’

Beverly
Hills attorney Jeffrey Brodey handles very wealthy clients and
high-profile murder cases. He uses the Hermans to bail out his clients.

They are “very different,” Brodey says, from “scummier”
bondsmen.

“I’m looking for somebody who’s going to be there right away,
who treats my clients with a velvet glove,” Brodey says, seated behind
a marble desk in his high-rise office.

“Josh will pick up somebody from jail and bring them home.
That’s just unheard of.”

Tupac Shakur is one other client Herman will discuss. The rapper
and film star died in 1996, six days after being shot on the Las Vegas
Strip. His killer hasn’t been caught.

“Tupac was a good friend, and a good guy,” says Herman.

Dead at 25, Shakur lived a scarred life of fighting, shootings
and prison sentences that filled his gangsta rap lyrics.

Many of Herman’s bonds involve assault and drug charges.

“If they’re rappers, they’re beating somebody up,” Herman says.
“If they’re rock stars, it’s heroin.”

Calling Bubba

Famous people rarely skip bail. It isn’t that easy for them to
fade into the woodwork or blend into a crowd. About three percent of the
others do, Herman said. That’s when he calls Bubba.

Herman often goes with him, taking the .40-caliber Glock handgun
he is licensed to carry. Bondsmen and their agents have broad arrest
powers. They don’t need warrants. A person who signs a bail-bond
contract agrees he is subject to seizure if he fails to appear in court.

If the job is big — say the fugitive has well-armed friends —
Herman calls in his bounty hunter, who assembles his own well-armed
friends.

“Look,” says Herman, “This is all I know. I’m my own boss.
There is action. I like action.”


Illustration:photo:
JoshHerman talking with Charles `Bub’ Flowers (BAIL BOND)