- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
Heidi Fleiss’s colorful life has been given the musical treatment in Little Black Book, a Broadway concept album co-conceived by writer, composer and singer-songwriter Billy Recce and theater director Will Nunziata.
The 11-track album, just released by Broadway Records, features heavy hitters of the stage like Tony winner Alice Ripley (Next to Normal), Tony nominee Orfeh (Legally Blonde) and Mandy Gonzalez (In the Heights) belting out songs like “Streets of L.A.,” “My (Much, Much Older) Man,” “One of the Girls,” “Pandering,” and “Serial Fuckup.”
The lyrics tell the story of how Fleiss rose to prominence (and ended up in federal prison) after running a high-profile escort business that catered to Tinseltown’s rich and famous. She has long since retired from the sex industry and now lives in Pahrump, Nevada, where she maintains a macaw sanctuary that houses upwards of 35 birds. (Little Black Book even features a bird on its striking album cover.)
So, what does the infamous Hollywood madam think of the musical? “I think it’s funny,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter by telephone in between piercing squawks from the birds in the background. “It doesn’t seem like that’s me anymore. It’s hard for me to identify with the life I used to have.”
Fleiss says she currently has no official role in the production and suggests that any money she would take at this point would be best served to be put back into the production. “I would want them to do a really good job and use the money for the budget. I don’t want to see some shitty production,” she explains, adding that if it eventually does make it on the Great White Way, she would appreciate it if they funneled any profits to her bird sanctuary, a 501c3 nonprofit. “I’ll never be someone who asks for money no matter how many hardships I encounter. I like challenges and figuring things out, but right now, these birds got me stumped.”
Less confusing for her is why creatives remain interested in her wild story. “I was driving a Ferrari with sports team owners calling me every day to set up their lives. I cornered the whole high-end market,” she says. “There’s nothing shitty about what I did, and nobody did it better than me. Nobody ever will. I was 25 years old living in Beverly Hills dealing with the kind of people I dealt with. It’s amazing I lasted as long as I did.”
Recce, known for A Musical About Star Wars and Balloon Boy: The Musical, tells THR that he’s always been inspired to write pieces that offer three-dimensional takes on people whom “the tabloids have two-dimensionalized.”
“She’s such a beautifully colorful character who also represents a level of ambition and business acumen that was glossed over at the time of her arrest. We want to celebrate that,” he explains, adding the show would also reinvestigate the sex industry. He credits music producer Lloyd Kikoler for mastering the remote recording process during COVID-19 and his partner Nunziata for helping to shape the show and vision for it.
Up next: They will shop it around with the ultimate goal that it will be staged in a venue in the next year or so. “It’s a story about a phoenix rising from the ashes and a woman realizing there is more to her and her story than what was reported in the tabloids at the time.”
Arrested in 1993, Fleiss served 20 months of a 37-month sentence in federal prison before being released to a halfway house where she lived less than a year. One lesser-known fact about her life is that she suffers from a condition commonly known as “beat deafness,” meaning she can’t dance nor decipher rhythm. “This is kind of embarrassing,” she says. “I can’t keep a beat. I can’t dance.” Fleiss said she has researched the condition to better understand it and how it has affected her. That said, she recalls growing up and loving major stage shows like Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables — “all the good stuff.”
“I like all those shows. Who doesn’t? That’s why they spend so much money going to see them,” she continues. “It’s all really cool and I like that they’re doing my story. But the birds are my primary focus, and they take 100 percent of my time.”
A version of this story first appeared in the May 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day