LEONARD ORTIZ, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
ANAHEIM This is a dirty business: meth addicts, heroin pushers, wife beaters, gang-bangers, liars, cheaters, bail jumpers…
Always bail jumpers.
That’s where Kimberly Shepherd, driving a hot-pink 2003 Hummer, and Dawn Wickwire, riding shotgun, come in. They’re bounty hunters. And their cell phones never stop ringing.
“All right, we’re going to rock ‘n roll,” says Kimberly, a former airline stewardess, accelerating down Euclid. “We’re going to a tweaker pad.”
In this case, the tweaker/methamphetamine user is supposedly a Nazi Low Rider gang member who carries a dagger. He recently was released on a $100,000 bail – money the ladies of Lipstick Bail Bonds don’t want to forfeit.
They carry no guns, but they plan to bring him in anyway. A hundred grand is a hundred grand. And besides, they carry pepper spray in cute little pink canisters (”this will definitely drop someone,” says Dawn), and pink handcuffs.
We stop first to pick up the tweaker’s former girlfriend. She says he’s planning to run to Idaho. She’s chain-smoking, chain-talking, and torn between turning him in and remaining loyal. But she co-signed his bond. She’s on the hook, too.
En route, the girlfriend calls a friend: “We’re looking for Billy. I can’t tell you who I’m coming with because I don’t want Billy to know.”
Whoops. Dawn is less than pleased.
“No, no, no! No more calls!”
We meet up with the rest of the team – Teresa and Lisa Golt, sisters and owners of Lipstick Bail Bonds. The Golts are the muscle behind fugitive captures. Kimberly and Dawn are the decoys.
The plan: Dawn will knock on the door. Smile; look pretty. She’ll ask Billy to come to the car to sign some bail papers – a formality. He’ll look her over and, sure, he’ll go outside.
“Men are so predictable,” she says.
The Golt sisters, former LAPD officers, will hide behind the Hummer.
We slowly cruise toward the address.
“God, my stomach is in knots right now,” says Dawn. Then she steps out of the vehicle and disappears down a side path.
All we hear next is screaming.
Now they’re rock stars.
People honk, wave, scream at the gaudy pink Hummer with lip decals on the sides. Every month, they hand out $20,000 in pink freebies – chap-stick, tank tops, hoodies emblazoned with their logo. Waitresses step out of restaurants to say hi. Little girls write. They’ve got five offices, 21 pink vehicles and a reality show in the works.
But it wasn’t always like this. Once, they were blackballed. Vandalized. Even arrested. Rumors swirled about them.
Now? They’re getting national and international press. The Today Show and Good Morning America are calling.
And why not? They’re TV’s “Dog” – with lip gloss and cleavage.
Behind the pink veneer, however, lie old-fashioned American values: Work hard. Be honest. And spend your money wisely.
Identical twins Teresa and Lisa are not only the muscle around here. They’re the brains and backbone. They began volunteering with the Long Beach police at 15; joined the police reserves at 18 – worked three jobs to support themselves.
“No one should pay your way,” says Teresa. “You’ve got to work. That’s why we had no life.”
They joined the LAPD at 21 and worked undercover vice. No guns. No badges. Talk your way out of trouble. Then it was South Central – “the best place to learn police work,” they say.
In 1999, they quit to become private investigators. For six years they chased fugitives for other companies.
“We saw the money they were making and thought: We could be better,” Teresa says.
Over a few glasses of merlot, they named themselves Lipstick Bail Bonds. They bought a $65,000 Hummer, opened shop and waited for the phones to ring.
But absolutely no one called.
Dawn rushes back to the Hummer.
“Man, that scared me. The place was trashed. Totally dark inside. Windows busted. Some girl screaming. A guy dead-bolted the door, twice. People screaming, ‘Get the (expletive deleted) out of here,’ and ‘He ain’t (expletive deleted) home.’ “
The team drives to a nearby Spires Restaurant to talk.
“We built this business from scratch,” Teresa says. “I don’t want to give up a $100,000 bond to some tweaker.”
The twins will surveil the house overnight. But Dawn can’t stay: “I have a dinner engagement tonight. And I have to get my nails done before tomorrow morning.”
Therein lies the secret of Lipstick’s success. Without decoys Dawn and Kimberly, the twins would have no marketing. And without twins Lisa and Teresa, the decoys would have no business.
Together, they’ve touched a nerve in this he-man business.
Sometimes, a raw nerve.
They’ve had tires slashed. Nasty notes glued to windshields. Crank calls. Threats.
“There are men who have been doing this 20 years. They say, “Here are these chicks in their pink cars,” Theresa says.
“They hate it that women are bail bonds.”
But the truth is most people arrested are men. And most people bailing them out are women. And those women like dealing with … other women.
Still, Lipstick has had to overcome two big hurdles in the bail bond business. One was getting their foot in the door. Remember when no one was calling? Well, at that time, their Hummer was garden-variety canary yellow.
merlot may have been involved again when they decided to paint the Hummer pink. Friends said they were crazy. But they did it, and the attention it drew was immediate and profitable.
“The Hummer is what made us.”
Another problem, however, went deeper than car color. It stemmed from sudden departure from the LAPD after 10 years. And the fact that the sisters once were arrested…
For illegally writing bail bonds.