Fifteen years ago, Heidi Fleiss was the top madam in Beverly Hills. Today, at 42, she runs a laundromat next to the Wal-Mart in Pah rump, Nevada. Its name: Dirty Laundry.
Until late last year, Fleiss was living in a tiny clapboard rental surrounded by clay-colored mountains. When I arrive one afternoon at 3:00 — before her arrest in February for driving under the influence and possessing prescription drugs for which she did not have a prescription — she's in bed with a "migraine," white sheets pulled up to her chin. She looks a little worse for wear, but she's still the same girl — irrepressibly enthusiastic, with a big grin and a filthy mind.
"Society makes sex for money sound like a dirty thing, but I think it's a compliment!" she declares. "Not that anyone would ever want to pay me: My blow jobs are so bad, I'd have to pay someone to give them."
Her paramours these days are 24 giant parrots, which stalk around her house screaming their heads off. "I fucked so much in my life," Fleiss says. "I fucked enough for a thousand women: the best-looking guys on Earth and the worst; old, young; fat, skinny; poor, rich. I don't care if I ever fuck again. I don't need a black pimp, a hot guy from Orange County or a little dog to validate my whatever. Right now, I'm happy with my parrots."
"Gina!" Fleiss yells, as an ear-splitting call-and-response with the bird ensues. "Gina's a lesbian," she declares. "She always comes into bed and sits on my face."
Fleiss inherited some of the parrots from the madam next door, who ran the exotic bird room in the Tropicana hotel. "I fell in love with them," says Fleiss. "One night I went to her house at 3 a.m. to feed some babies with her syringe, and she started to die. I called the paramedics. One of them was like, 'Hey, Heidi, I got your phone number,' and I was like, 'Man, don't hit on me — save the bitch!' As they took her away in a helicopter in her diaper and muumuu, she said, 'Heidi, you have to take care of my birds.' I was like, 'Whoa.' Then the bitch dies, and here I am."
Fleiss throws on sweats and jumps into her blue Toyota truck for a tour of Pahrump, the closest town to Vegas to allow legalized prostitution. Her dream is to open a male brothel in the nearby town of Crystal, Nevada — thanks to Viagra, she thinks a "stud farm" would work — but she got mixed up with a guy who is under federal indictment for wire fraud, so the plans are on hold.
"I love it out here — this is like the wild, wild West, with prostitution, gambling, corruption," she says. "I feel like Bugsy Siegel looking at open territory." She grabs a bottle of spirulina off the dash and downs a pill.
At the moment, Fleiss is thinking about starting her own massage parlor next to a strip club, taking over an abandoned space. On the way to check it out, she takes a detour through the scrubby desert to a mysterious hole that she thinks leads to water; she spends the next 45 minutes putting a 100-foot piece of string down it, to see if she hits anything, only to drop it at the last second. Then she zooms over to the parlor, and a girl in black garters with pink bows runs out of the brothel to let her in. Unable to find the light switch, she props open the door, and the desert sun illuminates a tiny shop of vibrators and ancient porn videos, and a back room of dusty Buddhas, old massage tables and tiny bathtubs.
"This place is ugly as fuck, but I can make it work," Fleiss says, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. "I even love the words — massage parlor." An enormous smile spreads over her face, and she looks content. "God. it's so gross," she says. "I love it."