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Heidi Fleiss' Kiss-and-Sell Strategy Shouldn't Be a Surprise

September 24, 1993|PATRICK MOTT and ANN CONWAY

In a painfully inevitable move, the now-ubiquitous so-called "Hollywood Madam," Heidi Fleiss, recently announced that she would be lending her name to a high-fashion women's lingerie and sleepwear line.

Is this the ultimate expression of media-circus-turned-marketing-strategy? Or is the little lady just trying to make good?

HE: Well, gee, she certainly has an impressive entrepreneurial pedigree. Allegedly providing an endless menu of frisky bimbos for Hollywood guys with a bucks-to-brain-cells ratio of approximately 100,000,000 to 1 certainly qualifies her as a front-line couturier. Maybe she'll get into designer eyewear next and call the line Fleiss Specs.

Haven't we learned yet? Wasn't the sight of Gordon Liddy pocketing wads of cash on the rubber-chicken circuit enough to sour us on sleazy celebrity opportunists forever? Or are there enough people out there who think Heidi will be as good at bra manufacturing as she supposedly was at . . . well, you know.

SHE: I was expecting Fleiss to come out with a brand of hide-all shades, a line of little black books or an assortment of quick-change wigs-- anything but lingerie.

The whole idea makes me sick. Can't you just see her hawking her stuff on an infomercial with a come-on like: "When you're tired of standing by your man . . . "

HE: Should we really be surprised by all this? (Incredulous, aghast, dumbstruck, appalled, sure . . . ) It's just another take on the old dodge of being a consultant. In a story in the September Esquire, called "How to Be a Consultant," Stanley Bing writes that consultants are, essentially, malcontent screw-ups who couldn't make it in their chosen field but have managed to persuade bigwigs in the same line of work that they are brilliant, innovative and just the thing to whip Consolidated Aardvark into fighting trim. They then go steaming in and muck up the works worse than ever, and get paid a huge salary for it, all the while spitting ideas back at the bosses that are about as original as pratfall jokes.

So consider: Heidi Fleiss allegedly provided sex for hire to Hollywood hotshots (breathtaking originality), even though she did not go in for that sort of thing herself (disdain for actual work), but is claiming to be an expert on matters diaphanous (pay me, I'm a consultant).

SHE: Who will buy? Hate to say it, but probably guys who think the stuff will make their girlfriends or wives into raving nymphomaniacs. I doubt that any decent woman would want to be caught dead in Heidi-wear.

Lingerie is hot. So hot that New York mega-designer Donna Karan is cashing in on it. And let us not forget the mighty success of the Victoria's Secret catalogue (a publication I call the "office Playboy").

Lingerie from Frederick's of Hollywood has even found its way into the fashion mainstream. I can remember when only a "certain kind of woman" would slink into Frederick's to buy its faux fannies and cutout brassieres. Now, it's almost become acceptable.

Fleiss is onto something. A legitimate business.

HE: Legitimate, true. But Heidi Fleiss designing teddies because her employees often wore them for a few seconds at a time is like Richard Dreyfuss getting booked into Carnegie Hall tomorrow because he once played a pianist in a movie.

Let's look at this thing dispassionately. Heidi Fleiss has two, and only two, things going for her at this moment: She knows a bunch of rich and powerful people in Hollywood, and she allegedly used to sell sex for money. This is enough in her mind, apparently, to qualify her as a go-getting '80s-style entrepreneur. Apart from that, though, she's unusually arrogant, kind of goofy-looking and, if the allegations are true, she's a crook.

The rub: If she ends up in the slammer, her clothing line will be a slam-dunk, at least for a week or two.

SHE: Ouch. You're right. Come to think of it, the line could make for great joke gifts. But I better not find one of her garter belts in my Christmas stocking.

HE: Joke gifts, and just in time for the holidays! Stocking stuffers for the truly creative! Valentine's Day presents for the happy hooker in your life! Birthday presents for the woman who has everything and just needs something to put it in!

Nah. Victoria's Secret still gets my vote. And I'm a big fan of their catalogue.

SHE: Figures. You have 10 of them on your desk.

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