In the 1990s, Heidi Fleiss was one of the most notorious women in America.
Known as the “Hollywood Madam,” she managed an upscale prostitution ring that catered to the rich and famous. She made more than a million dollars in her first four months of business, and once wrote in Yale Law School’s Legal Affairs publication that she could make up to $97,000 a night in commissions from her prostitutes.
But her high-flying life didn’t last.
In 1993, she was arrested on multiple charges, including pandering. (Her 1994 conviction for pandering was later overturned.) When details about her “black book” of clients emerged, the media speculated about whose names were within the pages.
As it turned out, the biggest name that became public was Charlie Sheen, who testified that he had hired Fleiss’s call girls at least 27 times — and paid at least $50,000. Fleiss has said that many other notable celebrities used her services, but she has always declined to name them.
The next year, Federal Tax Evasion charges were filed against her. Convicted in 1996, she was sentenced to seven years in prison. She only spent 20 months behind bars before being released to a halfway house.
Fleiss became a minor celebrity after her release. She began dating actor Tom Sizemore, whom she later accused of domestic violence. (He was convicted and sentenced to 17 months in jail.)
She appeared on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2009. Sizemore was another participant. Fleiss has spent additional time in rehab and was arrested on drug charges in 2008 and sentenced to one year probation on a drug conviction. In 2013, she was allegedly found with more than 400 marijuana plants and was charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell.
The District Court dismissed the 2013 charges after noting that deputies found no evidence of packaging, scales, money or paraphernalia used for smoking marijuana.
Fleiss attempted to open an all-male brothel catering to women, but the idea never became a reality.
Her Life Today
Today, Heidi Fleiss is 51 and living on a 10-acre ranch outside Pahrump, Nevada. She has kept a relatively low profile, appearing in a handful of documentaries and TV specials.
But life hasn’t been easy for her.
Earlier this year, she gave an extensive interview to author David Friend for his book, The Naughty Nineties. In the book, she admitted that she had recently kicked a crystal methamphetamine habit, calling it “the white trash drug.” She said that the “public humiliation” of Celebrity Rehab was therapeutic.
Fleiss says she has left the sex work behind, and instead chooses to care for more than 20 exotic birds that she inherited from an elderly neighbor. “I fell in love with these birds and I lost interest in the sex business,” she told Friend. “I’ll never turn my back on them.”
Despite her rocky road, Fleiss remains a proponent of legalizing prostitution. “Sex for money will happen no matter what.” she wrote in Legal Affairs. “You can’t stop sex.”