The other night, when I was taking a breakfrom excessive drinking (kidding…sort of), I caught the HBO documentary film Heidi Fleiss: The Would-Be Madam of Crystal. Originally, I think it was set up to be a documentary about Heidi Fleiss’s attempt to create and run an all-male brothel just outside of Las Vegas, that would cater exclusively to women. By the way, this is kind of an amazing idea.
But, despite her persistance and gung-ho attitude, she was ultimately denied a license by the brothel committee of that particular city. There have been questions raised about this on various blogs in terms of prejudice against her. Heidi was definitely discriminated against because she is Heidi Fleiss, but some question whether or not she might have been discriminated against because she’s a woman, and because her brothel would cater to women in this way. I guess more specifically, that there’s an underlying assuption there that women can and do enjoy sex just as much as men do.
Aside from these questions, though, the thing that I did not expect & that I noticed the most was the portrait of Heidi Fleiss as a person. One anecdote I enjoyed was about the babysitting ring she had as a young girl. This was basically in the model of The Babysitter’s Club, but hilariously foreshadowed her adult life as a madam. Basically, she developed an early skill for matching the right girls to the right customers. I bet Kristy never considered that as a career option (even though Kristy is totes a lesbian, but whatever)!
The documentary did a brief recap on her lengthy trial, imprisonment & chaotic engagement to Tom Sizemore– who, as far as I can tell, is the only long-term, “serious” relationship they mention that she’d had. Fast forward to last year, she’s relocated to a very small desert town, just outside Las Vegas, very nearby the site she planned to build her brothel. She’d recruited some super sketchy “assistant,” whom we are told was recently formerly homeless. We are also told that, funnily enough, she lives next door to a former madam, who is very elderly and bedridden, but who owns a great number of exotic birds. These are really the only 2 people that can be seen as Heidi’s friends.
It’s important to note also that Heidi admits to being a meth addict. She’s trying to get clean, but from the footage I saw here, it seems like she’s definitely in full-fledged methhead mode, even though she appears to be pretty functional. For example, she actually ends up kicking her assistant out entirely after she fights with him about an incident involving the location of a flashlight. That is like, the junky-est fight I’ve ever heard of, unrelated to drugs directly. So, she’s then left with the ailing madam next door as her only friend. Heidi had already begun to develop a relationship with the madam’sr exotic birds, but when the madam dies and leaves all the birds to Heidi, Heidi’s fragility– both mental and emotional– becomes frighteningly obvious and more intense.
I really didn’t expect to be so saddened by a Heidi Fleiss documentary, but it is REALLY awful to see a person that I thought of as almost invincibly tough (I mean, to just be in that business alone, I imagine takes quite a bit of emotional strength) to just completely turn into this sort of “cat lady” (but with birds, I guess). Towards the end, we learn that she has added a giant atrium on to the side of her house to accommodate the birds. One of the birds, her favorite had recently died. It’s sort of frightening to hear her emote so much over this bird. It all became clear to me that the degree of her loneliness is quite staggering. I did actually cry.
It makes me wonder if, although no doubt, you seriously have to have some fucking brass balls to be in that awful business, Heidi is actually scared to have any real connection with people. I think the drugs probably play into this a lot, but, it’s just kind of fascinating to think that she can be simultaneously so ballsy, and yet so scared of her own potential feelings and relationships with others that she’s esentially driven herself to this.
Apparently, she owns some laundromat now.