Will Lee
November 26, 1999 AT 05:00 AM EST

On December 2, 1994, an L.A. superior Court jury convicted 28-year-old Heidi Fleiss on three counts of pandering; she was later sentenced to three years in jail. It was a somber and oddly anticlimactic coda to a pop opera that had titillated the public and unnerved Hollywood for more than a year.

The daughter of a prominent Los Angeles pediatrician, Fleiss was well known on the Tinseltown scene, a glamorous figure who palled around with the likes of rocker Billy Idol and threw lavish soirees for stars like Mick Jagger. Publicly, Fleiss was little more than a party-happy socialite. But privately, she lived a not-so-secret life as the town’s ”Madam to the Stars,” the operator of a high-end call-girl ring that catered to the rich and powerful.

Following a lengthy sting operation involving the LAPD, the Beverly Hills police, and the U.S. Justice Department, Fleiss was arrested in June 1993 by several LAPD officers as she took out the garbage at her Benedict Canyon home. At first, the incident received scant notice in the media. But Fleiss cultivated her own ascension to scandal queen by intimating to the press that should she take the fall, she would reveal the names of her clients—whom she claimed included highly placed movie execs, rock stars, actors, and politicians. ”All these egos, all these actors, all these executives,” she told EW in August 1993, ”it’ll come out when the time is right.”

But the revelations never came. Although the rumor mill churned out some names—most prominently, actor Charlie Sheen—the contents of Fleiss’ little black book (in reality, red Gucci planners) were never disclosed. Judge Judith Champagne had the evidence sealed for the trial because she deemed it irrelevant to Fleiss’ case. In the meantime, book publishers and tabloids, though tempted by the explosive claims, ultimately shied away from making a deal with Fleiss, skittish at both her high price tag and the likely prospect of libel suits.

Still, for much of the year, Hollywood’s fast-living set watched the proceedings while holding their collective breath. As one producer put it: ”The attitude changed from ‘Why don’t I get invited to those parties?’ to ‘Thank God I wasn’t invited.”’ But once it became apparent that Fleiss’ name-dropping threats were empty, attentions wandered. ”L.A. carried on exactly the same way it did before,” says Nick Broomfield, who directed a 1995 documentary on Fleiss. ”The girls, the parties, the drugs…. She was only representative of the lifestyle, which will never change.”

Indeed, even before Fleiss’ trial ended, scandalmongers had moved on to their next fix: Another well-known Southern Californian had had his trial scheduled to begin, coincidentally enough, on the same day as Fleiss’. His name: O.J. Simpson.

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