24 hours a day,
Photo by Michael Grecco - Sygma
Friends in low places:Herman at L.A. city hall
He's the bail bondsman of
By Tara Weingarten and
ASK JOSH HERMAN IF HE CAN remember the moment he realized he was a success, and the burly 26-year-old doesn't hesitate. It was Feb 21 1996 the night he attended his client Snoop Doggy Dogg's party at Monty's restaurant in Los Angeles, a celebration of Snoop's acquittal on murder charges. Handed a bottle of Cristal champagne as he entered the rooftop eatery, the white boy straight outta middle-class West L.A. strolled over to chat with rapper Tupac Shakur and producer Suge Knight. Surveying the many rap stars munching on filet mignon and lobster, Herman realized, as he tells the tale, that "everyone in there was out on one of my bail bonds."
Among the cast of thousands of agents, attorneys, personal assistants and other staffers who keep L.A. celebrities in the money and out of trouble, Herman has created a lucrative role: bail bondsman to the hiphop stars. Even though rappers are less than half of his prosperous bond business, Herman has made more than $500,000 over the past few years springing the big names from jail, bundling them into his Mercedes (license plate; BAIL 4 u) and driving them straight to the studio or video set. He estimates he's posted bond for rap artists "at least 100 times," promising to pay the full bail if a client skips town--and pocketing 10 percent of that amount as his fee. Herman says he made $50,000 in commissions from Tupac alone; Shakur was out on one of Herman's bonds when he was kilied last year in Las Vegas.
How did Herman land such an odd gig? Pure nepotism cut with street smarts. His grandmother started the family bail-bond business in the 1940s; father Mark Herman spent the '7Os and `80s rescuing stars like Ike Tinner from the slammer. In 1990, when record-industry attorney David Kenner called Mark Herman to go rescue rapper Eazy-E, Dad decided 19-year-old Josh was ready to drive on down to the jail. Josh even got a little bonus; on Eazy-E's next album, one track had lyrics about being freed from a Compton jail by a bondsman. "He didn't mention me by name," Herman says modestly. But the reference certainly made for a good reference.
Kenner, who represents Death Row Records and supplies Herman with many of his celebrity clients, is impressed with Herman's work ethic. "He's there when you need him," says Kenner. Herman knows he has to be available 24/7: "If I'm at dinner and I get beeped, I'm leaving. If I'm out of the country, I'm coming home." And neither Josh nor his father sees any downside to spending so much time around accused felons. "I don't really worry too much about him," says Dad. "He's got a license to carry a concealed gun."
Besides, says Herman, having famous a customers gives him an advantage. While other bondsmen wait for calls from cons flipping through the Yellow Pages, Herman is beeped by record-company lawyers. And the best part (besides the parties) is that he doesn't have to worry about a client like Dr. Dre's fleeing the country and forfeiting Herman's bail money. For one thing, he says, "Where are they going to go and not be recognized?" Plus, "Snoop is probably worth $100 million to Death Row," he says. "That record company is going to make sure he's in that courtroom."
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