Photos: Christopher Wray-McCann, illustrations: Miguel Valenzuela / L.A. Weekly
Former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss wants to build the nation’s first brothel for female customers in the Nevada desert. To get the story, journalist (and Truthdig contributor) Steven Kotler had to survive roadside breakdowns, barren deserts, abandoned towns, a brothel war, and an assortment of cowboys, pimps and angry locals.
I once asked Fleiss what she liked about the sex business. ?I don?t like anything about the sex business,? she said, ?but it?s all I know how to do.? For doing what she knows how to do and otherwise, she has a motto: ?Maximize and capitalize.? One of the ways she?s been maximizing and capitalizing lately involves HBO. See, Fleiss filed for bankruptcy a few years back. She told me the government got every penny of her madam money, that those secret Swiss bank accounts weren?t all that secret once Uncle Sam got involved. Originally, for her stud farm, she?d planned on getting investors, but then she changed her mind. ?I?m Heidi Fleiss,? she said. ?I don?t need investors.?
Nope, but she needed HBO. She needed them because they agreed to pay her for the rights to make a documentary about her attempt to open a stud farm. Rumors were they?d put up a hundred grand. ?No,? she said, ?it?s a little more than that.? But they?d paid up-front, and Fleiss said she was sinking the money into her new establishment. What interested me was that Time Warner owns HBO, which meant that one way or another, Time Warner was helping to pay for the nation?s first stud farm. I called HBO to confirm this, and while they would admit to making a documentary about the stud farm (it will air next fall), they wouldn?t discuss finances.