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Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam

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[1996. Directed by Nick Broomfield. Cast: Heidi Fleiss, Ivan Nagy, Madame Alex. BMG IndependentsBMG Video. 1 06 mins.] The moral underlying Holdl Fleiss: Hollywood Madam is the truism that being scuzzy is always a full-time occupation. Maybe this documentary will shock some of the unwashed masses, but it's hard to imagine why. Rarely have love and power been so effectively portrayed as a dreary lowest commondenominator among jackals. Independent documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield 's matter-of-fact take on Hollywood's 1993 sex scandal is not as revealing as its title would lead us to believe. Instead, hls film is more of a tawdry indiscretion dressed in movieland flamboyance. So let's dispense with the film's subtitle. This interpretation of Fleiss' story has as much to do with Hollywood as Last Tango had to do with Paris. Her story takes place there, but the film industry players who might have lent a slight sheen to its case are unnamed. As such, Hollywood Madam's locale could easily have been Tobacco Road. Heidi Fleiss turns out to be the brigh t girlf riend of a geriatrie pomographer who apparently talked her Into turning tricks for fun and proftt. Her prod ucer-d rector boyfriend, Ivan Nagy, would be evil if he had the character. But this depth seems beyond either partner's inane desire to service Hollywood's power elite. Instead, Nagy's venality is superbly matched by Fleiss' vanity and the on ly reason her name's on the title is because he railroaded her before the inevitable heat could get directed to him. Broomfield, a freelancer associated with the BBC and funded by Cinemax cable televisión, does a compelling job of focusing on his unsavory prey. Narrating with the somnambulance of alow-rent Robin Leech, Broomfield 's obsession with Fleiss and Nagy leads him through odd byways that steadily peel away at the nest of lies in the heart of their relationship. Relentlessly aggressive In chasing his targets, but also gifted with the appearance of appearing dumber than he is, Broomfield Iets these Tinsel Town knuckleheads entrap themselves even as they bask in the light of his assured hand-held camera. Everyone's cleariy on the take in this debased netherworid. Broomfield shows this from his visits with Fleiss' world-weary first Madam, Elizabeth Adams (Madam Alex); through his visit to one-time friend and fellow call-girl Victoria Sellers (daughter of Peter Sellers and Brit Ecklund); and especially a background interview with LA. Pólice chief, Daryl Gates, deliciously caught scooping up Cinemax 's cash before facing his interlocutor. But as the story doses, Fleiss' day of judgment has finally come to pass. At the documentary's end, she's bagged three years in Califomia's penitentiary system for pandering. Thefilm's final title card says she's still facing yet even more time (courtesy of Nagy 'stuming state's witness) for a conviction on Federal income tax evasion. But if any lessons have been leamed here, it can 't be told In Fleiss' final on-camera interview. Disingenuously inf erring her actions were victimless crimes, Fleiss is seemingly genuinely surprised at her fate. Maybe she thought the party couldn't go on without her.


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