By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Stow our gear in the truck? In the bed of the truck were three motorcycles and heaps of other junk. The motorcycles were tied down, sort of. The junk — tools and duct tape and old car batteries and an assortment of indeterminate shit — was not. This was free-floating junk. Wasn’t she worried about the junk flying out and killing someone? I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know.
We squished everything we could into the bed of the truck and kept the camera gear on our laps. It would be tight, but we squeezed inside and got on the road. We talked film. She liked the movie Excalibur. She liked Merlin’s line, “There’s always something more clever than you are.” She offered us a vegan cookie. She was a vegetarian. She believed in taking care of her body. She told us she’d been clean for 47 days.
We got off the road not five minutes after we got on to top off the gas tank. She had filled up not too long ago, but with broken gauges, she wanted to make sure. At the gas station, she gave the photographer a hundred-dollar bill to pay for gas. He walked it up to the window. The clerk stared at the bill, glanced at the photographer, glanced over at Fleiss, then stared at the bill some more. He laid it on the counter and shook his head. He said, “This ain’t no good.” The photographer nearly shit himself. Then the clerk took the bill back and started laughing.
“Just kidding, man.”
Apparently, this is just how things go in Fleiss Land.
I once asked Fleiss what she liked about the sex business. “I don’t like anything about the sex business,” she said, “but it’s all I know how to do.” For doing what she knows how to do and otherwise, she has a motto: “Maximize and capitalize.” One of the ways she’s been maximizing and capitalizing lately involves HBO. See, Fleiss filed for bankruptcy a few years back. She told me the government got every penny of her madam money, that those secret Swiss bank accounts weren’t all that secret once Uncle Sam got involved. Originally, for her stud farm, she’d planned on getting investors, but then she changed her mind. “I’m Heidi Fleiss,” she said. “I don’t need investors.”
Nope, but she needed HBO. She needed them because they agreed to pay her for the rights to make a documentary about her attempt to open a stud farm. Rumors were they’d put up a hundred grand. “No,” she said, “it’s a little more than that.” But they’d paid up-front, and Fleiss said she was sinking the money into her new establishment. What interested me was that Time Warner owns HBO, which meant that one way or another, Time Warner was helping to pay for the nation’s first stud farm. I called HBO to confirm this, and while they would admit to making a documentary about the stud farm (it will air next fall), they wouldn’t discuss finances.
The problems Fleiss has with her stud farm are significant. She wants to open a brothel in Nye County, Nevada, but the Nye County brothel code states, among many other things, that the brothel licensing board may refuse to grant a license to any applicant who is “financially insolvent” or who has undergone “a prior bankruptcy” or who has a history of “financial instability.” Plus, while there have previously been convicted criminals who owned brothels in Nevada, the law also states that the board may refuse to grant a license if the prospective owner has ever been convicted of a felony; specifically mentioned is the crime of “moral turpitude.” Fleiss has been convicted of the felony crime of moral turpitude, specifically for being a madam in California, which, somehow, according to the brothel code, renders her morally unfit to be a madam in Nevada.
And this is only the beginning of her problems. The Nye County brothel code refers to all prostitutes as “she” and requires cervical STD tests for all such “she”s, meaning Fleiss will have to have this language rewritten to cover her studs. In regard to this, the Hollywood Madam has been public with her “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” remarks, just as she’s been public about her willingness to use the court system to battle against “sexual discrimination” if there is a problem changing that language.
Then there’s the fact that the granting of permission is the sole dominion of the Nevada brothel licensing board, of which both the chairwoman, Candice Trummell, and the Nye County sheriff, Tony DeMeo, are fundamentalist Christians and, as such, not big fans of prostitution in general and definitely not of the innovative and well-publicized kind that Fleiss has planned.
Not that Fleiss is one to back away from a fight. “This is the sex business,” she said, as we pulled out of the gas station and back onto the freeway. “It’s all egos and sharks. For a woman to get up in this world, you have to be ruthless.” About that, as Dennis Hof, owner of the “world famous” Moonlight Bunny Ranch and host of HBO’s top-rated Cathouse, pointed out, “prostitution is the world’s oldest profession, and Heidi Fleiss was the very best anyone’s ever been at it.” Hof also mentioned that about seven years back, he tried to register porn star Zack Adams and his wife with the Nevada brothel board so the two could pair up for ménage-curious clients.
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