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
A cold wind started whipping off the mountains in the distance, and dark clouds were heading our way. We tried calling Fleiss. There was no answer. We stared at the cactuses for a bit longer, and then piled into the car and headed back to Pahrump. We tried to reach her along the way, and a couple of times when we got to Pahrump, but still no answer. I had spent five days of my life waiting for this woman to answer her phone and keep her promises; why not wait a little while longer?
There was a corner store on Pahrump’s main drag, directly across from a strip club with a sign in front of the club advertising copies of Heidi Fleiss’ book Pandering, signed by the author. We ignored the strip club and headed inside the corner store to ask for directions to Sheri’s Ranch, known as the nicest bordello in this part of the state, where they offer overpriced drinks and no-contact tours. There were two women working behind the counter and a young girl standing beside it. I waited my turn in line, but when I got to the counter, I couldn’t bring myself to ask for directions to a whorehouse. The photographer just shook his head and took control.
“Excuse me,” he said, “what’s the fastest way back to Los Angeles from here?”
“Had enough?” asked the woman behind the counter.
“Yeah,” I told her, “we’ve had more than enough.”
She glanced at the storm clouds in the sky and told us if we wanted to take the shortcut, we’d have to skirt Death Valley and we’d have to hurry.
“It’s gonna rain something fierce,” she said. “The roads wash out. There are flash floods. You can probably make it, but if you see water coming your way, just get your butt to higher ground.”
We didn’t need to be told twice.
A few weeks later, I reached Fleiss at her home. She apologized for the craziness and told me she didn’t call me back because, while she had retrieved the old truck, it had broken down again near the edge of Death Valley. This time she paid the tow truck to take the junker all the way to Nevada.
As it turned out, she’s yet to file her brothel application. The problem, this time, was her neighbor. As Fleiss puts it, “Only I would move to the middle of the middle of nowhere and end up living next to the oldest hooker in Nevada.” Her name was Mary Anne. She had 70 parrots and a ton of stories. She liked to keep Fleiss up all night telling her about the good old days and her time with Howard Hughes and the bad old days and her being held captive by the Detroit mob. Mary Anne passed away not too long after the tow truck dropped Fleiss back in Nevada. She hadn’t yet filed her application because she was too upset about the death.
“I don’t understand it,” said Fleiss, “I’m so distraught. It’s just so out of character for me.”
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