STARS BAIL BONDSMAN IS SOUL OF DISCRETION
The Los Angeles Times. (Record edition). Los Angeles, Calif.: Feb 8, 1998. pg. 35
Josh Herman, bail bondsman to the stars, is barreling down the Santa Monica Freeway in his big 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 drive, bark into a cell phone and read court documents 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 bailbond, 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 coexist with hip-hop artists, Hollywood producers and movie stars.
Until recently, Herman lived in obscurity, which is the way 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,” Quentin Tarantino’s new 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% of the bail amount. He has built a client list–mostly from referrals of criminal attorneys and record company lawyers–that is about 70% celebrities, he says.
A middle-class white 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.” Beverly Hills attorney Jeffrey Brodey handles 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.”
Famous people rarely skip bail. It isn’t that easy for them to fade into the woodwork or blend into a crowd. About 3% 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.”