After Monica, Lorena, and Tonya
June 1, 2019 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Heidi Fleiss is not trying for a redemption narrative. Her story is much stranger than that. Once a 90s tabloid cause célèbre, the former "Hollywood Madam" always refused to reveal her client's names. Then twenty years after the height of her infamy a reporter gets a call from Pahrump, Nevada.

If you need a refresher on Fleiss, here's the trailer for Nick Broomfield's 1995 documentary on her trial and conviction for pandering, Hollywood Madam [NSFW]. And the entire imaginatively-titled E! True Hollywood Story episode on Fleiss, Madam Hollywood, is here.

Heidi Fleiss on MeFi earlier: 1999 and 2005.
posted by Gin and Broadband (15 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Fleiss has long struggled with substance abuse, recently favoring the combination of a snorted line of methamphetamine paired with a Xanax. "I'm a snobby drug addict — I don't smoke it," she explained of the meth. . . .

Fleiss was candid about how erratic and conspiratorial she came across over text and email, as well as her habit of rambling. She attributed her behavior to Suboxone, a prescription narcotic she'd been taking to fight opioid addiction. . . .

Fleiss continued to press her case against the man to THR until March. Then something happened. Following a week of silence, she forwarded a letter that appeared to be ghostwritten for her by an associate of the man. (She neglected to remove the associate's email address.) It explained that she would no longer be "going forward with the story," adding: "I was very mad at the person we discussed. I was furious in fact and as a result I made up the stories I told you." The letter went on to observe that she was high during THR's February visit to her Nevada property, recanting everything she'd claimed and that she'd provided evidence to back up. . . .

Maybe a threat changed her mind. Or she was lying. Or perhaps, having convinced the man she was serious about telling her story, he finally yielded and paid out what she desired. (Because of the murkiness of her actions and other credibility issues, THR withheld the man’s identity in this story.)


I really wonder at the ethics of publishing this.
posted by sallybrown at 12:17 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]


I really wonder at the ethics of publishing this.

I think it's ethically okay. It's a factual report about what took place between THR and Fleiss, and the fact that Fleiss may have been stoned throughout doesn't change that. A bit tasteless to hang her out that way, though.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:21 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


The parrots are perfect.
posted by schadenfrau at 12:50 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


I do not think Monica belongs in that company. That is all.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:59 PM on June 1 [34 favorites]


Meth and xanax? And suboxone? Three of the most addictive substances on the planet. She is in deep shit.

Suboxone came along as a savior for people strung out on heroin and in short order they're strung out on suboxone. (Like how heroin was seen as a Heroine, saving these poor people on morphine.)

And: I know a kid (mid 30s, a kid to me) who runs a treatment center here in town, when ppl show up in his office strung out on meth, or had been strung out but now just recently clean, he lays it totally on the line - you've blown out all of the feel-good chemicals in your brain. Everything is going to suck for at least a year. More: There's a good chance that you're not going to be able to orgasm. At all. I knew a woman who ran a group in a treatment center, women who couldn't orgasm without speed or crack, though if I recall correctly speed is the biggie, more than crack.

And if you don't know about how addictive benzo's are I do hope you'll take my word when I say "Very. Benzo's are very, very addictive.", and that while all benzo's are equally "physically" addictive, xanax is the hardest psychological kick.

So. What we've got here is a blown-out cat lady with birds instead of cats, in deep denial as to the depth of her addiction, with cruel shitheads writing about her lips not being perfect anymore.

~~~~~

I'm glad she got to live the life she lived, exactly as she wanted to, kicking it up, running wild and free as any mare on the plains. I'm real glad that she looked those asshole cops and DA's dead in the eye and said not one word, because she has integrity. I hope with all the hope Ive got handy that she can get herself clean and sober, I would *love* *love* *love* to be in any 12 step group she broke apart in, and came back together in -- she'd have the best stories, the best eyes, the truest smile.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:56 PM on June 1 [38 favorites]


I do not think Monica belongs in that company.

Fuckin-A she doesn't. Different situation altogether. She was brilliant in her recent appearance on Last Week Tonight. Just really affirming to see her so poised, articulate, confident, and funny. What an inspiring human.
posted by j_curiouser at 3:50 PM on June 1 [11 favorites]


I mean, none of those women really belong in the same company as Heidi Fleiss. Lorena Bobbitt survived extraordinary abuse and seems to have come through it and built an admirable life for herself. Whatever else she did, Tonya Harding made herself into one of the top athletes in the world. Heidi Fleiss, on the other hand, got in way over her head as a madam and now seems to have significant substance abuse issues. I hope she gets her shit together, but she's way less interesting than any of the other women in the title.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:15 PM on June 1 [12 favorites]


Direct link to beginning of Last Week Tonight interview, though the whole video is worth watching. Contrast Bill Clinton on his book tour.
posted by Bee'sWing at 4:39 PM on June 1 [6 favorites]


Heidi Fleiss was on Celebrity Rehab only about nine years ago. At the start of the season they find her living as a recluse in the Nevada desert with a horde of pet birds. Dr Drew did brain scans of her which showed significant frontal lobe dysfunction, which he theorized was behind her inability to empathize with people, and her affinity for doing so with birds. She seemed to try hard to get clean (from meth and pills) even transferring to the Sober House spinoff show afterwards.
posted by w0mbat at 5:29 PM on June 1


"I'm not that likable," she said flatly. "If you accept that, everything is so much easier. If you care what people think, you're their prisoner."

This is brilliant, I don't think this is a lack of empathy. This is a common business practice. Adepts share substances, alcohol food, status symbols, but not genuine liking when it comes to the deal. The sales of false empathy, enhanced by neuro transmitters, dicy way to make fun and money.
posted by Oyéah at 7:43 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]


Suboxone came along as a savior for people strung out on heroin and in short order they're strung out on suboxone.

The pitch for Suboxone is that it's a better maintenance (or sometimes taper) drug than methadone, which in turn has been a successful treatment for decades. It certainly doesn't cure physical dependence on opioids, but it doesn't promise to.

(Also the only way you're going to get incoherent high on Suboxone is if you're taking it without much of an opioid tolerance and/or taking it with a bunch of benzos.)
posted by atoxyl at 8:14 PM on June 1 [4 favorites]


That's precisely the article I would expect from The Hollywood Reporter. She seems to be a mess, and it's exploitative, unkind, venal. Sorry I clicked.
posted by theora55 at 7:32 AM on June 2 [2 favorites]


Does the article actually ever name the man that she called them to out? 'Cause I'm halfway through and they haven't named him? It's all a shit show, and Fleiss isn't denying that she was an exploiter while being exploited, but that was the 90s, and this is now, when she's a wreck who's just trying to live and making a home for a bunch of abused and rescued birds (I mean damn, the allegory there cuts) and if THR didn't even make good on the promise to help her out this guy and didn't even put in quotes her saying his name...

Oh, I see. "(Because of the murkiness of her actions and other credibility issues, THR withheld the man’s identity in this story.)" I mean, I guess that's almost responsible journalism. But also really shitty.

You've blown out all of the feel-good chemicals in your brain. Everything is going to suck for at least a year.

Hence Suboxone. That's a hell of a thing to lay on a person who's already shown that they have a really hard time delaying gratification and making good long-term decisions while in distress. Would it be better to not be on Suboxone or Methadone? Sure, almost definitely that's true. Is a maintenance drug that helps you approximate a normal life a reasonable alternative when you have tried to get completely clean several times and it hasn't worked? Yeah, it is. I think of addiction, especially opioid addiction, as a kind of brain damage -- and if your brain isn't going to work the same way it used to, then yeah, something that helps you live a life worth living is a good thing to go for.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 8:54 AM on June 2


Does the article actually ever name the man that she called them to out?
Nope. They decided not to name him, because they're unproven allegations.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:59 AM on June 2


I think of addiction, especially opioid addiction, as a kind of brain damage -- and if your brain isn't going to work the same way it used to, then yeah, something that helps you live a life worth living is a good thing to go for.

The brain damage comparison might be overstating it slightly (mostly because I think the irreversibility of processes of drug addiction is somewhat controversial) but yes - Suboxone/buprenorphine doesn't seem to do it for everybody, but in the best case it's as compatible with a "normal" life as, say, antidepressants.
posted by atoxyl at 12:46 AM on June 3


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