Heidi Fleiss – Hollywood madam

It’s like something out of an episode of CSI. Four prostitutes working under Madam Heidi Fleiss go to a hotel room to meet four Chinese businessmen. The bag of coke they were asked to bring with them comes out, they talk for a bit, porn lights the room from the television. Each woman is specifically asked to have sex by one of the men, and as soon as they’ve all verbally agreed, dozens of policemen come out from the next room where they’ve been hiding and break up the party.

The women are charged with prostitution. Fleiss is charged with pandering, and spends three years in prison for that charge along with possession of narcotics and tax evasion.

And to think, at that very real moment in 1993, Fleiss was on top of the world.

Born in Hollywood in 1965, Fleiss dropped out of high school and started dating financier Bernie Cornfield, who was 40 years her senior when she was 19. The connections she made through her time with him helped her revamp the business of famed Madam Alex, for whom she increased her monthly revenue by 500% before branching out into her own business.

For the next few years, she would connect wealthy gentlemen and gorgeous young escorts, arranging everything to their specific liking and taking 40% of the fee for herself. For a few years her business was flourishing and she reveled in parties with the rich and famous.

Until that sting in 1993.

Does Fleiss regret it?

From a CNN interview:

I don’t regret what I did at all. It’s consensual sex… These are men who are billionaires and these are women in their 20s. They are old enough to make adult decisions, adult choices.” [1]

One might think that Fleiss’ career was over, that the scandal would shame her into seclusion. But in the United States we seem to roll with a certain kind of honesty and respect those who have keen minds for business. Fleiss has both.

I think it’s unfair that men put laws on a woman’s body,” Fleiss says. “I think a woman has a right to choose with her own body. I mean, I don’t think prostitution is a career… but maybe [it is] a little steppingstone?

When released from prison, Fleiss had hoped to open a brothel in Nevada, where prostitution is legal in certain counties. When that failed she looked to the pet industry, and after her first store, ‘Dirty Dog’, failed to open due to several legal and personal disagreements, she finally managed to open ‘First Pedigree’ in Las Vegas [2].

Between prison and pooches, she wrote several memoirs and starred in a few small films.

A little scandal wasn’t going to keep this woman down.

Escort ring aside, Fleiss is something of a moral enigma. Her opinions on prostitution are sound and smart, yet she seems to have ungrounded faith in former client Charlie Sheen. After his 2010 scandal in the Plaza hotel, Fleiss (wrongly) asserted that he would get his television show back, was not a drug addict (he was) and that “there’s no way that Charlie Sheen should not be able to see his kids.” [3]

She continues in a Radar Online interview (spelling and grammar untouched):

Personally, I don’t think that society should you make any judgements on the personal lifes of fathers [4]

Now, prostitution is illegal. Drugs are illegal. Child abuse is illegal. Citizens can debate the right and wrong of all levels of the legality of these situations, but law in black and white governs these things. And Fleiss seems to understand this, as she understood she “paid a very high price for a total disregard for the law.” [5]

She also recognizes the hypocricy of those who legally fight prostitution, but then get busted for personally being a part of it as well. In regard to former Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer, she told Newsweek:

You can’t vigorously pursue prosecuting these prostitution rings—I mean, this guy made a point of it—and then do this… you can’t be a hypocrite and a zealot. He’s made prostitution out to be a horrible crime. Obviously it’s not if he was doing it. It’s just a business that needs to be regulated so the women don’t have to always suffer. [6]

Which is where maybe Fleiss could have used her savvy business expertise, unwavering energy and connections to do something completely new and unique… work on changing the law to be on her side.

It was this focus and energy that did help to bring about some legal change in a completely unrelated field, in an act that receives little attention compared to the Hollywood scandal of her brothel.

In 1989, good friend Wendy Tarr was murdered after an attempted rape [7]. Fleiss had sat by her side for three days as doctors worked to repair the body that was barely holding on after having been shot in the face. When she finally passed, Fleiss was outraged by the police’s lack of enthusiasm or ability to find Edward Noel, the man they had identified in the case and one who had been connected with several other rapes in the area.

Infuriated, Fleiss wrote a letter to America’s Most Wanted, pleading the case of her friend. Within 24 hours after the story went live, Noel turned himself in.

If it weren’t for Fleiss, one could only speculate how many other women would have been afflicted by Noel before his capture.

Now with a brutally-honest past behind her, time served and new business ventures taking flight every year, what’s next for Heidi Fleiss? Maybe a political run?

Stranger things have happened.


  1. http://articles.cnn.com/2005-02-28/us/cnn25.tan.fleiss_1_hollywood-madam-heidi-fleiss-madame-alex/2?_s=PM:US
  2. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1393084/From-prostitutes-pooches-Hollywood-Madam-Heidi-Fleiss-launches-dog-grooming-service.html
  3. http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2011/03/exclusive-interview-heidi-fleiss-cbs-made-a-big-mistake-taking-charlie-sheen
  4. ibid
  5. http://articles.cnn.com/2005-02-28/us/cnn25.tan.fleiss_1_hollywood-madam-heidi-fleiss-madame-alex/2?_s=PM:US
  6. http://www.newsweek.com/2008/03/10/dude-these-are-men.html
  7. http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/celebrity/heidi_fleiss/4.html