Better Call Brad: Hollywood’s Secret Problem Solver Speaks

Better Call Brad: Hollywood’s Secret Problem Solver Speaks

Not long ago, Brad Herman, the right-hand man to hush-hush Hollywood, invited a longtime client, legendary Motown songwriter Eddie Holland, to a private visit with another client, The Supremes’ Cindy Birdsong, who since September 2021 has resided in a Los Angeles-area care facility after two strokes that have left her unable to walk or speak. Herman claims he has been granted power-of- attorney over Birdsong. He had previously worked with Birdsong’s relatives to remove her from an old living arrangement.

“Eddie places his hand behind her neck, very delicately and sweetly, saying, “Cindy. I’m really glad to see you.” Herman then recalls, eyes tearing, rolling up his shirtsleeve to show a forearm that prickling in memory: goosebumps. “Everyone with a public face has drama. I can help.

Herman, 64, who will speak — circumspectly — of his late clients (e.g., Johnny Carson, Burt Reynolds, Stan Lee) but remains mostly mum about those still living, including his current roster (A-list performers, athletes and influencers), has collected affectionate monikers. The Late Late Show host Tom Snyder was a long-time client who used to call him The Wolf. This was in reference to Harvey Keitel, the skilled cleaner of messes in Pulp Fiction .. In a thank you note to Herman for guiding Larry Fortensky through a DUI arrest, Elizabeth Taylor called him My Sunshine. Howard Weitzman, a well-known industry attorney, called him The Secret Weapon. Margaret Weitzman, Margaret’s widow, recalls that Brad was always talking to her husband. He’s almost like an ordained priest, one who takes care .”

of business

He might be called a fixer by those less interested. Herman admits that “I do operate within the gray area between an officers of the court and layperson.” But he “hates” the term. “The implication is there’s something underhanded or surreptitious. He claims that everything he does has been legal and straight-forward for all of his life. What is his preferred method of working? Shawn Holley, a top entertainment lawyer is concise: “Brad’s unique.” He is the only person in Hollywood who can do all of the things he can.

“Everyone who has a public face has drama,” Herman says. “I help.”

Photographed by Christopher Patey

Over a series of meals at his favored old-school L.A. standbys — including The Smoke House, El Coyote and The Grill on the Alley — for the first time in his professional life he’s spoken openly about his clandestine trade, which has him tooling around town in his mobile office, often a black 1988 Porsche Carrera coupe, overstuffed leather Tumi tote bag by his side. He does what he does to keep productions moving, reputations high, relationships strong (or at the very least, surviving), and deals flowing. Ann Turkel, actress and former model, says that while driving with him a few week ago, his phone didn’t stop ringing. “One major person after another was flipping out over something he needed to take care,” she said. It’s amazing to see.” Alison Martino, Spectrum News correspondent and documentary producer, says, “If you have him dialed, you have your consigliere .”

This tireless operative, a Boy Scout’s sincerity, who instinctively picks up all calls, paying no attention to blocked numbers, and responds to each message immediately, has been perhaps the industry’s most reliable freelance troubleshooter, and certainly its longest-standing. He says, “If you do something really, truly well that nobody else wants,” and he shrugs, “you’ll be very busy .”

Despite his success in solving problems for others, he recently found himself in an uncontrollable crisis of his own. It is beyond the emotional or practical capabilities of this veteran of entertainment’s dark realm. He confesses that his closest friends don’t know how he does it.

Herman’s Los Angeles family has been serving Hollywood since the sign said HOLLYWOODLAND. His great-grandparents owned a tobacco shop and barbershop on the Paramount lot. One relative worked for Max Factor (“When Max Factor was just a guy, and not Max Factor Incorporated”) and his aunt was an early secretary for the Warner brothers. Herman was an undergraduate at UCLA and saw the private lives of stars and businessmen while working as a delivery boy at Westside grocers Jurgensen and Gelson’s. Jimmy Stewart invited him to his Beverly Hills home to show him a button on his master bedroom wall that would activate the front-yard sprinklers to keep autograph-seeking trespassers away.

Herman turned these connections into a car-washing business for a network that included actor Ernest Borgnine and producer Stanley Fimberg. “Everyone in my bubble used Brad and still uses Brad,” explains publicist Jeffrey Lane, who met Herman in the early 1980s during his tenure at Rogers & Cowan. “He was then as he is now: Someone who turns caring into an art.” Eventually Hookstratten, aware that Herman had an in at the DMV — his then-girlfriend’s mother worked at the Santa Monica branch — tasked the then-26-year-old go-getter with chaperoning a client, Frank Sinatra, to assist with an expired license. Herman explains that “[well-known] people either don’t want to go or are afraid of being hassled there.” That was Mr. S’s thing. Fear was the reason. It’s the only place where you can get in line with the unwashed masses, regardless of your resources. What did I do? I processed it in advance, dealt with it through a back door, and created a VIP concierge services.”

Since then, Herman has been the car guy who lubricates the Hollywood dream car. He still holds a silent-partner stake, which is in an auto-detail business that caters to high-end clients. He says that what started with Mr. S as an one-off became a foundational part my business. “I still visit the DMV three to five times a week. Whereas other people avoid it, I embrace it.” Danny Trejo, a current client with a slew of vintage cars, calls Herman “a godsend,” adding, “If you go to the window there and try to get a registration for a 1930 Ford pickup truck, you’ll be there for hours, and it’ll be crazy,” referring to selfie and autograph requests.

Clockwise from below left: A driver’s license and an AAA card belonging to now-deceased clients Tupac Shakur and Frank Sinatra; Jacqueline Onassis’ driver’s license; and a personal note from Elizabeth Taylor.

Clockwise from below left: A driver’s license and an AAA card belonging to now-deceased clients Tupac Shakur and Frank Sinatra; Jacqueline Onassis’ driver’s license; and a personal note from Elizabeth Taylor.

Courtesy Image (4)

Herman is also a regular at the many government offices that handle passports, birth certificates and property records. This paperwork is essential for identity paperwork, which can often decide whether a shooting schedule will be delayed, a lawsuit avoided, or a lucrative contract signed. Herman’s expediting services are paid for by clients through civil-servant clerks. He says, “It’s all in the relationships.” Peter Benedek is the founder of UTA and a board member. He notes that Herman visits the DMV with many agents from his firm. “He’s on a first name basis with everyone, talking with them about their kids; these people are in jobs that don’t give them appreciation. This is how he manages to be so efficient with impossibly complicated bureaucracies.” (Herman won’t discuss his fees, which are usually project-based. Typically, he’s tapped either by an agent, manager, lawyer, or another studio or network’s business affairs department.

Another area of expertise in the public sector is jail. He says, “I’m usually the one that gets called.” Herman has his preferred bondmen. “Over the years, I have had to bail out a lot of clients from the Gray Bar Hotel .”

Herman uses the term DEFCON to describe situations that require emergency-style disaster response. These situations can include clients as well close connections who might be tempted by their troubles. Herman relates that he was once on a cross-country red eye flight with the mission to prevent a young man being convicted of DUI and impounded Bentley from becoming a part of his intimate, older boyfriend, a star in the world. “The actor had purchased it in his own name and I advised against it at the time because it was being used by this person,” Herman recalls, still smart despite the success of the mission. “I suggested that it be acquired in an LLC or trust to ensure that the public figure was not tied to it in case of a problem.” A long sigh. “They didn’t listen.”

Herman with his 1988 Porsche Carrera at the DMV in Santa Monica.

Herman with his 1988 Porsche Carrera at the DMV in Santa Monica.

Photographed by Christopher Patey

Herman’s services also include asset management. This could include extensive wine holdings, fine art collections, or property portfolios. When the time is right, he works with trust executors to arrange estate sales. Producer David Niven Jr. says Herman is trustworthy, efficient, and just unbelievably useful. Herman has overseen digitization and restoration of photos from his family, including those of his Academy Award-winning actor dad.

Herman was Herman’s client for more than a quarter of a century while Phil Spector was on trial for Lana Clarkson’s murder. Herman said Herman was “indisposed” and oversaw the payroll at the Wall of Sound music producer. He also recovered a motor home believed stolen, and kept a close eye on Rachelle’s spending habits, which Spector later cited as grounds for her divorce.

Pat Boone has been a client since 1991. The performer says that Brad has saved him from all kinds of trouble over his years. “He’s like an Swiss Army knife. He has many blades to cut through all the subterfuge and complications. He is a man who will help you in any way he can. If he could .”

, he would try to help you in your marriage.

Herman says he began working for Tom Cruise “very early on” in the actor’s career and continued for 19 years, up until, he claims, “I wouldn’t go to Scientology sleepaway camp,” a proposed weeks-long session at the church’s headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. Herman recalls that Tom Cruise, an icon and master of grand gestures, once gifted Herman’s mom a new Range Rover.

Herman’s specialty was overseeing the acquisition, maintenance, and storage of vehicles. (Just before she was murdered in Beverly Hills in 2010, awards publicist Ronni Chasen was driving a brand-new Mercedes-Benz E350 Herman had delivered to her.) He has worked with some of the most prominent auto enthusiasts in the industry, including Burt Reynolds and Jerry Seinfeld. In 1986, Herman conspired with client Johnny Carson’s producers in a bit to prank another client, David Letterman. The Chevy pickup truck, which was in bad shape, was taken off Herman’s Malibu driveway. It was allegedly because it was unsightly (Carson being a neighbor). Letterman appeared behind a curtain on .The Tonight Show. Letterman joked that “What’s next? Kidnapping my girlfriend?” Herman recalls that the segment was filmed in the aftermath of the revelation. “They later got another client, Judge Wapner [of reality series The People’s Court ],] to settle the dispute.”

Herman’s keen awareness of the stardust appeal of celebrity vehicles has helped him accumulate a wide range of law enforcement contacts, particularly in Southern California jurisdictions. These contacts include watch commanders, chiefs, and sheriffs. He invites car-struck cops over to his client collections for private tours, and then lends them cherished chariots to their fraternal organizations’ charity events. “I’ll show the original Trans Am and the Bandit ,” Herman. “They all want a photo .”

His ability to get his calls back from top brass, or to press higher-ups within their organizations, is invaluable. Herman argues that outcomes do not change. Information flows faster, which is a crucial advantage in times of disaster. If he does his job well, crisis PR specialists won’t be needed to be tapped. Herman says that “at least [knowing someone] advances an issue when something else will be sitting at the bottom a pile,” but he insists that he isn’t a blurred-boundary Ray Donovan. (He admits to having crossed paths with Hollywood P.I. (He admits that he has crossed paths with Hollywood P.I. a few times.

From left: Herman with Stan Lee and wife Joan Boocock Lee; with Austin Butler (right) this year; with Quincy Jones (left), posted on his Instagram

From left: Herman with Stan Lee and wife Joan Boocock Lee; with Austin Butler (right) this year; with Quincy Jones (left), posted on his Instagram

Courtesy of Subject (3)

Herman states that he is firm about his limits. He insists that “game over” will occur if he’s asked to do something illegal, immoral or untoward. Who can …’ and before they can even finish, I say, ‘Nobody, I don’t know anybody like that. Don’t ask that question.’ I have been asked if I can do crazy things. But Herman can’t help but feel for those he serves, even in their most vindictive moments. He says that they are in an “angry, unstable place” which leads to “massive, massive desperation,” which then leads to malice.

Herman’s mandate often overlaps the legal profession. He explains that lawyers typically leave a paper trail. “I don’t necessarily leave the exact same kind of trace,” he says. “It’s possible to not have a bar [association] cards as long as you’re proceeding in the furtherance to a positive result, with an integrity foundation and with the best intentions — and within the parameters of law.” He’s deployed to mediate disputes, acting as an emissary for reaching a resolution with family members, business associates, household employees and any other individuals alleging that they’ve been harassed, lied about, cheated on, or stolen from.

Herman, who self-describes as sensitive and sentimental, says that his personal disposition and the way he’s wired helps him. He also admits to being a good listener and unabashedly weeps. “I’m not threatening.” His goal is to listen to the parties and find a compromise. It could be an onscreen credit in a future project, a formal apology or money in exchange for the promise to not speak publicly about the dispute. (Lawyers later draft agreements. He says, “Sometimes the goal just is to find a place where both sides can say, “We’re equally miserable, maybe this is where we can meet.” “

Herman has spent a lot of his energy over the years auditing entourages — complex networks of conflicted professional and personal relationships — with the directive of rooting out corruption and other predation. He says that celebrities are used to being fucked with. They see it as a cost of doing business. One of them, who will not be named, said, “I know I’m getting screwed.” It’s the price of being me. It’s almost like a tax.

Herman believes there are common traits among those who are taken advantage of. He observes that they are too trusting, too isolated, and too disconnected from the day-to-day management of their lives, households, and business affairs. They don’t care about the practicalities. Sometimes they’re in a fantasyyland.” According to him, older stars are acutely susceptible. He claims he has tried to address the problems surrounding several high-profile celebrities whose late-life stories included public allegations of elder abuse, including Joey Bishop and Mickey Rooney.

Herman recalls another DEFCON situation where he was assigned to investigate a living arrangement of an elderly man on the other side. His stepson, a movie star who supported the man financially, believed that the stepfather was being conned by a young, attractive female caretaker. According to Herman, he was sent for a checkup to gather evidence of wrongdoing. He invited the woman to a fancy boozy dinner, got her talking, convinced her to let him wear the family heirloom watch that she had been wearing; ordered more drinks; then brought her home and called the police. She finally understood his plan when they arrived. Herman recalls, “She said, “You can’t do that, I live here!” “I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t live there anymore.” Your employment was terminated. I’ve been instructed to see that you receive your payment within 48 hours.’ [The client] wasn’t interested in recompense. He wanted her out, and that he would watch her back.

Herman, an only child, recalls being shy and scrawny as a child. His father died at age 41 of an aneurysm when Herman was in high school. He said, “It calibrated some thing.” “I didn’t know how long I had .”

He was forged by that death and the painful end of an early, unhappy marriage (which he hasn’t remarried since). So, too, did an episode that cut short a successful run in his 20s and 30s, during which he acquired several residential properties, including Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s former Pacific Palisades home and a Brentwood commercial building. He lost a lot of his net worth to what he claims was a deceptive loan scheme run by a real estate broker. (The broker was later convicted in another case of fraud and her license was removed. )

A thank-you note from Nancy Reagan, whose former home Herman purchased

A thank-you note from Nancy Reagan, whose former home Herman purchased

Courtesy Image

“I was on an upward trajectory, and then, at the age of 40, I got kicked to the ground,” says Herman, who during this period himself pleaded guilty or no contest to a series of vehicular offenses, including driving without a valid license and a misdemeanor hit-and-run in which nobody was injured. He attributed this string of incidents to his “mentally unravelling” and was sentenced to multiple periods of probation. However, he insists that he was innocent in the hit & run incident and only pleaded guilty to avoid a costly trial.

Herman, for his part is not ashamed to be on the road when he shouldn’t. He says, “I wasn’t having a great experience; I was doing business — I didn’t lose any clients.” Herman believes that his firsthand experiences with the judiciary system in “a bad way” have taught him valuable lessons in humility, empathy, and made him better at what he does.

They have been put to the test in recent years. He has been involved in long legal battles with J.C. Lee (the only child and heir of the late Stan Lee) regarding remuneration Herman believes that the Marvel mastermind earmarked for him for his services. Their daughter has blocked this investigation. In a 2018 THR investigation into elder abuse claims involving Lee and his circle, Herman alleged he witnessed J.C. physically assaulting her parents at their Hollywood Hills home during a 2014 verbal dispute. (She denied it and is now pursuing a defamation lawsuit against him. )

Herman is scheduled to testify in the prosecution’s case against Keya Morgan, a memorabilia dealer accused of financially exploiting Lee prior to his death. Herman claims that the trouble stemming out of the Lee saga has been unlike anything else he’s ever encountered: “I’ve received death threats, and I’ve been tracked.” The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that it helped Herman obtain a protective order in connection to the case.

Despite this, Herman claims that it was another ordeal that has most tormented. As he tells it, in 2021 he hired a well-regarded trucking company to transport, via two 26-foot-long trucks, nearly all his personal and professional effects to a new location. Each vehicle’s lift gate failed after it was loaded. The pandemic-era delays in supply chain delivery meant that the trucks were left unloaded on the company’s property, which Herman was assured was very secure. Herman discovered that the trailers had been broken into and valuables taken from them both weeks later. He has since estimated that the loss was nearly $4 million. He claims that officials at the lot told his that he had abandoned his belongings and that they would be disposed of immediately after he called police. He soon tracked down his belongings and found them crushed at a local dump.

Herman is considering his legal options. He claims he has lost decades worth of work product and generations of family mementos, everything from Sylvester Stallone’s divorce decree to Herman’s own baby book. He says, “It’s all gone.” He claims that he doesn’t have his own passport, college diploma, or birth certificate. He has a collection of mostly vintage vehicles, but he doesn’t have their titles or any other proof that they are his. Therefore, he cannot bring them on the roads. It’s just not fair. Martino, Martino’s friend, says that the irony is too much.

Herman, who is seated in a red Naugahyde booth at Taylor’s Steakhouse in L.A., explains that “my very reason to exist” is to limit my clients’ exposure, risk, and liability. “Then this happens? Is it happening under my watch? It is not OK. We are unable to comment .”

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Herman cannot stop thinking about the loss of his mother’s ashes in the tragedy. He cries again, “The first thing that comes to mind when I wake up in the morning is my mom’s ashes in a dump.” It’s the last thing that I think about before I go to sleep. I will always be broken and battered and less .”

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Brad Herman, despite his anguish or in reaction to, or simply because it’s who he is, can’t help but to help. He picks up the white linen tablecloth from his phone’s screen and places it in his lap. The voice on the other end is muffled, but it’s not a bad one. Herman becomes more focused as he listens to the matter at hand. He finally says, calm and in control, “Don’t worry. It will be fine. It’s fine.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 5 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. It has been updated to reflect Herman’s narrative of the trucking incident. Click here to subscribe.

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