One Friday afternoon a few years ago, just as lawyer Shawn Chapman Holley dropped some highly confidential paperwork discussing her client's alleged illicit activities through the mail slot of a lavish home in the hills, she realized she had the wrong address.
Panicked, she decided that protecting the dirty secrets of Lindsay or Paris or Snoop — all of whom she has defended, none of whom she is willing to confirm as the celebrity in this story — meant waiting for the people to come home and convincing them to give her back the documents.
She called home to tell her husband that she wouldn't make it back in time for dinner.
“Next thing I know,” Shawn remembers, “he shows up” — with burgers, fries and orange soda, braving torrential rain to wait with her.
And wait. And wait.
“We were there so long I had to pee in the Jack in the Box cup and pour it out in the rain,” says Dorian Holley, laughing. Now that's love.
For years, you've seen this spunky, tireless litigator and her genial, bald clotheshorse of a husband standing behind the rich and famous. She does it on CNN and TMZ as an attorney to the stars; he does it on MTV and NBC, where he is currently lead vocalist in The Tonight Show band. (He's also a former American Idol vocal coach.)
Enumerating the full list of celebs these two have supported legally and vocally could take days. She's defended O.J. Simpson and Nicole Richie; he's sung with Jessica Simpson and Lionel Richie. And while many of their clients gallivant, self-medicate and stumble around insular bubbles of fame, the hardworking and humble Holleys somehow have managed to make an honest living amidst the razzle-dazzle of Tinseltown.
For the past six years, this unnervingly happy couple has lived with daughter Olivia, 10, in the cozy neighborhood of Lafayette Square, just off Crenshaw Boulevard, in a burnt-orange Spanish Revival home adorned with Churrigueresque details and twisted, white pilasters.
Indoors, guests may find that a proffered glass of water comes with two fresh blueberries, floating. On the walls: a Picasso, a Mr. Brainwash and a painting based on a cellphone photograph Dorian once took of Shawn, naked, facing away from the camera, talking on the phone.
The Holley home thrums with melody and rhythm; even their doorbell plays unpredictable, rotating ditties. Shawn Holley's encyclopedic knowledge of lyrics inspires her to riff on words in ordinary conversations and break into song “at least four times a day,” according to her husband. The family plans to record an album of silly tunes they've invented around the house. Potential singles include “Fat Man Booty Jiggle” and “I Don't Wanna Hear Your Music — TURN IT DOWN!”
“They're like Black Eyed Peas songs,” Dorian, 56, says.
“Slash nursery rhymes,” Shawn, 50, adds.
A framed This Is It set list hangs above the piano. Dorian sang backup for Michael Jackson on all his solo tours; Shawn worked on his 1993 molestation trial and served as E!'s chief legal correspondent during his 2005 trial. Her firm currently represents his estate.
On June 25, 2009, they both laughed when they saw on TV that the star was in cardiac arrest. “Up to the same old tricks,” Dorian said, thinking of how the King of Pop often faked being sick to get out of rehearsals.
Dorian called tour director Kenny Ortega, who assured him that he had just spoken to the doctor and Jackson was fine. But when Shawn called her friend Harvey Levin, the creator and managing editor of TMZ, he claimed Jackson was dead. (“Harvey, of course, loves this story,” Shawn says.)
Dorian chose to believe Ortega and headed to Staples Center for rehearsal. “Within an hour and a half … they were already tearing down stuff,” he says, shaking his head.
Jackson's death was hard, but Shawn and Dorian maintain a professional distance from the stars they work with. Both grew up in Los Angeles, and Dorian's parents, a nurse and an insurance salesman, instilled in him “a real healthy dose of [the idea that] celebrities are no different or no better than anybody else.”
Like all great romances, the Holleys' began with a series of coincidences and leaps of faith. Ten years ago, Shawn missed a flight from Sacramento. Waiting for the next one to take off, she suddenly paused her phone conversation, startled by the uncanny connection she felt to a man walking down the aisle.
“Do I know you?” she asked him.
“I wish,” he responded. Dorian was in the middle of a divorce but still living in his marital home, waiting for the younger of his two daughters to leave for college. But he sent Shawn a drink on the plane, and for the next eight weeks he anonymously mailed flowers, poetry, cryptic messages and heart-shaped bath fizzes with rosebuds to her office before finally asking her out.
Miraculously, within a month of their first date, Shawn became pregnant. She was 40.
“We're both freaking the F out,” Shawn recalls.
“I [was] hoping she's not crazy, and she's hoping I'm not crazy,” Dorian says, beaming at his wife. They finally married when Olivia was 7 months old.
“We did it ass-backwards,” he says, “but we were in love.”