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Heidi's Arrest Is the Talk of Tinseltown : Vice: Celebrities are rushing to help or distance themselves from alleged madam to the stars.

August 01, 1993|SHAWN HUBLER and JAMES BATES | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

"The guys didn't say anything," McClain recalled. "They were supposedly Japanese and didn't speak English and I thought, 'Well, this'll be easy.' Then all of a sudden, I hear, 'OK, party's over.' And there were about 12 more people in the room than there were before."

Burdette was arrested on misdemeanor prostitution charges. McClain--a San Diego County community college student who said she worked weekends for Fleiss--was questioned and released. Police told her they "wanted the big cheese."

It wasn't until that moment, she said, that she realized her predicament. "I realized it was illegal, but I never thought anything could happen to me."

Within minutes, records show, authorities swept into Fleiss' house, seizing 13 grams of cocaine and other evidence, including travelers checks signed, according to Fleiss, by a well-known actor. She was arrested on felony pimping, pandering and narcotics charges.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Carter said he still has not completed his review of the case to determine whether to prosecute Fleiss. He declined to discuss the case.

An affidavit in support of the search warrants alleged that Fleiss had admitted to an undercover agent and in police interviews that she was a madam. "In the history of this business, in one year, no one has ever been able to do what I do," Fleiss allegedly said.

Other madams, she added, couldn't hope to compete. "You get what you pay for," she said.

*

Rumors started within days of her arrest: Studio executives had been paying Fleiss with movie development funds and corporate credit cards. Veteran vice officers said such rumors have circulated for years, but no hard evidence has emerged. Contrary to reports in gossip columns, sources say the FBI is not investigating the matter.

In a more tangible twist, however, a tape surfaced, containing some of Fleiss' phone conversations after the arrest.

Dan Hanks, a private investigator who has previously served as a police undercover operative, said he made the tape by monitoring transmissions from an apparent wiretap of Fleiss' phone. "I thought maybe I can . . . sell a story to the tabloids or 'A Current Affair'--if I could catch a celebrity with her (and) get some pictures," he said. "It could be happenin.' "

Fleiss, who is out on bail, said she bought a copy of the tape from Hanks and intends to use it in her defense, provided that charges are filed. Her attorney, Anthony Brooklier, declined to comment.

Meanwhile, who actually tapped into Fleiss' conversations remains a mystery. Authorities said they are aware of the tape but it was not culled from a law enforcement wiretap.

But the tape, played for a Times reporter, alludes to a number of rich or famous people who know Fleiss. And as their names have begun to leak out, some have rushed to distance themselves from her. Others acknowledged knowing Fleiss but said they were only social acquaintances or friends.

"I haven't spoken to her for some time. Call my press agent," said "Sliver" producer Robert Evans. His publicist described Fleiss as a family friend.

Bob Crow, heir to the Texas-based Trammell Crow real estate empire, said: "We knew each other pretty well--frankly, I had a little romantic interest in Heidi at one time, but she is sort of a businesswoman.

"I haven't seen her in months," he added. "I gotta skedaddle now."

Billy Idol's personal publicist, Ellen Golden, said: "He's been to (On the Roxx) and met her, but doesn't know her well."

Elliot Mintz, a well-known media handler for rock stars, acknowledged chatting with Fleiss shortly after her arrest. "She's a casual friend," he added. "I'm not in her social loop."

As for Fleiss, she has only one thing to say when asked for details about her alleged business: "Talk to my lawyer."

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