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
How’d that go for him?
“Oh, my God,” said Hof, “you can never forget that despite the fact that Nevada has a long history as a culture of tolerance, this is still a state that votes red in every election.”
And while Fleiss was keen to tackle all these challenges, first she had to get back to Nevada. Unfortunately, the freeway was bumper-to-bumper all the way through the San Gabriel Valley. Making matters worse, Fleiss didn’t seem to understand that her old truck didn’t really want to drive straight or stop quickly. At least it was dark enough that I could barely see her tailgating ways, though when I asked if she’d checked the brakes recently, she just started to laugh.
“I bought this truck for $400 at a police auction a few days ago,” she told me.
The photographer wanted to know if she has a good mechanic back in Nevada.
“Yeah,” said Fleiss.
“You’re a good mechanic?”
“I’m a great mechanic.”
“Well, you might want to change your hoses, that’s what goes first in the desert.”
“Hoses?” she asked. “What the hell are hoses?”
When we passed the horse track at Santa Anita, I asked her if she liked to gamble. “I love to gamble. Gambling will cure everything. It’ll cure heartbreak. It’ll cure drug addiction. You’ll lose everything. It’s great.” Driving a bullet-riddled, $400 police-auction-purchased truck through the desert seemed a hell of a gamble.
Just a few miles past the racetrack, there was the sound of gunfire, or what sounded like gunfire, accompanied by an orange burst of flame blasting out of our tailpipe.
“Holy shit,” said the photographer.
“Holy shit,” said the journalist.
The flesh peddler kept quiet.
The freeway was still packed, but we were flying along in the middle lane. There was another crazy bang and more flames. In the distance, the screech of tires. Other cars were swerving out of the way. The photographer started shouting for her to pull over. I started shouting for her to pull over. Smoke started pouring out from under the hood. She didn’t want to pull over.
There was another bang, another crescendo of tailpipe fireworks.
“Lady,” shouted the photographer, “pull the fuck over.”
The lady started to pull over. Seconds stretched to hours. The lady kept pulling over. Hours became decades. We finally made it onto the shoulder. There was barely any shoulder. An 18-wheeler whizzed by with inches to spare. Everything not tied down rattled. Not much was tied down. Were we on fire? The photographer jumped out of the car; I jumped out of the car. More smoke poured out from under the hood. Fleiss, the great mechanic, stayed behind the wheel, looking bored and annoyed.
When it was clear we weren’t on fire, she tried the ignition, but the engine wouldn’t catch.
“It’s the fuel line,” explained the photographer. “Old cars, you get shit in the fuel line.”
She was certain it wasn’t the fuel line.
“We’re out of gas,” she said.
“We’re not out of gas.”
“We’re out of gas.”
“Gas is the thing that makes flames. Running out of gas doesn’t make flames.”
She wasn’t listening. The HBO crew was about 15 miles ahead of us. She was already calling them on her cell phone.
“Go get some gas in a can,” she told them. “We ran out.”
As it turned out, we weren’t out of gas; rather, a spark plug had come loose. HBO did show up; they had room for only one more passenger in their vehicle. Fleiss was that passenger. As it turned out, we weren’t going to be in Nevada on Thursday.
So we made another new plan: The photographer and I would head back to L.A. with the photographer’s girlfriend, who luckily happened to be betting the horses at Santa Anita that day, and drive our own car out in the morning. Fleiss would head to Nevada with the film crew. The photographer’s girlfriend arrived to rescue us. There was only one thing I wanted to know before we left.
“Is it always like this?” I asked Fleiss.
She smiled for the first time in a little while. “Chaos, baby. I thrive on chaos.”
It was gold miners who brought prostitution to Nevada, and ever since, the sale of sex has been part of the culture. Both Reno and Las Vegas had thriving red-light districts until 1951, when they were declared a public nuisance and shut down. Brothels were allowed to continue — though not in a way that pleased the mostly mobbed-up pimps who ran those joints. Responding to this, in 1970, Joe Conforte, owner of the Mustang Ranch — a man about whom The Economist once wrote “spent time in jail, tried to float the brothel on the stock market, fled charges of money-laundering, racketeering and bribery, and is now rumored to be in Brazil” — successfully lobbied the state for the licensing of brothels and brothel workers, thus providing protection against similar enforced nuisance closures. This law was, however, amended in 1971, when a clause outlawing prostitution in counties with a population over 400,000 was added. At the time, Clark County, home to Las Vegas, was the only one affected. Since then, five other counties have passed antibordello legislation, while the other 11 continue to permit it.
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