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Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (1995)

A documentary crew from the BBC arrives in L.A. intent on interviewing Heidi Fleiss, a year after her arrest for running a brothel but before her trial. Several months elapse before the ... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Nick Broomfield ...
Narrator
...
Innocent actress
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Madam Alex ...
Herself
...
Actor
Mike Brambles ...
Himself
Cookie ...
Himself (voice)
Elisa Fleiss ...
Herself
...
Herself
Jason Fleiss ...
Himself
Jesse Fleiss ...
Himself
Kim Fleiss ...
Herself
Paul Fleiss ...
Himself
Shannon Fleiss ...
Herself
Gabby ...
Herself
...
Himself (Los Angeles Chief of Police)
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Storyline

A documentary crew from the BBC arrives in L.A. intent on interviewing Heidi Fleiss, a year after her arrest for running a brothel but before her trial. Several months elapse before the interview, so the crew searches for anyone who'll talk about the young woman. Two people have a lot to say to the camera: a retired madam named Alex for whom Fleiss once worked and Fleiss's one-time boyfriend, Ivan Nagy, who introduced her to Alex. Alex and Nagy don't like each other, so the crew shuttles between them with "she said" and "he said." When they finally interview Fleiss, they spend their time reciting what Alex and Nagy have had to say and asking her reaction. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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9 February 1996 (USA)  »

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4:3
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Did You Know?

Quotes

Heidi Fleiss: Any guy over 40 looks good to me!
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Referenced in Biggie and Tupac (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Mondo Rashomon
15 November 2009 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

As Bob Dylan once said, money doesn't talk, it swears - and never as coursely as in Tinseltown's movie and sex trades; the Heidi Fleiss scandal erupted, as if at the apex of a thrashing Venn diagram, where the two industries traded blows.

And money is the prime mouthpiece here: everyone - including former LA police chief Daryl Gates - wants cash up front. In making this documentary, Nick Broomfield becomes just another john, with an ever-ready wad of cash for answers.

In 1993, the director set off to interview Heidi. How did an apparently well-adjusted, middle-class teenager, the daughter of a Beverly Hills doctor, get sucked into such a life? However, during pre-production, Fleiss was convicted of pandering and sentenced to three years in prison, during which time she was also charged with money laundering and tax evasion. Broomfield was thus obliged to seek out anyone with connections to her, and Hollywood Madam chronicles his efforts between Fleiss's June 1993 arrest and her trial in May 1995.

Broomfield had visited this territory before with Chicken Ranch, in which he documented the daily lives of sex workers in a Texan whorehouse. But that film, candid as it is, looks positively prurient beside Hollywood Madam, which unspools like a sordid film noir, with its taut score, and roll call of pimps, porn stars, informants and corrupt cops. After viewing this you'll want to scrub yourself down with a wire brush and Dettol.

Initially, Broomfield lightly skirts the edge of his subject - looking up various individuals on the scandal's periphery. "I was wondering if you could put us in touch with Heidi Fleiss?" he asks a bemused prostitute. "What are you on about?" comes the retort. After this fruitless foreplay, he begins to penetrate the inner sanctum - uncovering an unholy trio of grotesques; TV director Ivan Nagy, Heidi's former boyfriend (and the man who possibly grassed her up); the foetid, bed-dwelling Madame Alex - once Heidi's mentor and the foremost brothel keeper in Hollywood until Fleiss spirited away her clientele; and Victoria Sellers, daughter of Peter and Britt Ekland, and Fleiss's former best friend, unfresh out of rehab.

Admittedly, there's much here that you could have easily gleaned from endless tabloid column inches and trashy talk shows. But Broomfield gives us more - the stuff TV could never show: such as Ivan Nagy's home video of Heidi, reluctantly stripping for him as he goads her on - "banter, fun and games", he smirks - and eliciting one of the film's more lurid exchanges, concerning the colour green.

Here too are graphic stories from the trade. Sellers recalls a client attempting to place a coat hanger inside himself(family planning advisers will be relieved to know the hanger was wearing a condom).

Gaby, another Fleiss callgirl relates how many clients - those well-heeled Arabs and Hollywood A-Listers, the anonymous names in Heidi's infamous 'Black Book' - simply wanted them to watch while they did drugs. "It's much better to have a meal with someone and an intellectual conversation", she adds hilariously.

Most agree that their gentlemen preferred blondes, and specifically "typical, Californian surfer girl-next-door types. You could be an acne-faced dog - as long as you were blonde".

Nobody has a good word to say about anybody. Madam Alex, says Nagy, is "pure evil - devastatingly evil". Heidi, says Sellers, is "a mean, ice-cold bitch". Meanwhile Nagy denies pimping Heidi to Madam Alex for $500. "Look around this room" he gestures at his original art collection. "Do I look like I need $500 dollars?" No... but what's with the bullet holes in his ceiling? And who is the mysterious Israeli known only as "Cookie"?

Everybody's telling different stories. Is anybody telling the truth? Or has truth become another commodity to be bought, sold and traded along with everyone else? Nagy's so slippery he could be melted down for lubricants and Madam Alex isn't saying zip - she died shortly after the film was completed. Answers suggest themselves, yet remain tantalisingly out of reach: was it the fault of her hippie liberal parents? Ivan Nagy's influence?

Yes, everybody's hiding something, including Broomfield, with his well-honed faux-naif persona - not to mention subjective editing of the documentary itself. Only Fleiss, after finally granting Broomfield an interview, seems halfway on the level, coming across as surprisingly down-to-earth, sharp, attractive and witty - if not entirely trustworthy. It's the one moment of grace. But for the most part, this film is akin to being stalked by evil, chuckling pimps while trapped in an ever replicating maze of funhouse mirrors.


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