The Reinvention of Heidi Fleiss

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Heidi Fleiss has the exact opposite life one would imagine, in contrast to her infamous history. She currently lives in Pahrump, Nevada and owns a casino-themed, coin operated laundromat called Dirty Laundry. She also runs a rescue aviary for abused birds, currently housing 20 exotic macaw parrots, which she lets fly around her house. (Part of her house burned in Thanksgiving of 2011, but none of the birds were harmed.)

Venture One: The Vegas Laundromat

In 2007, Fleiss opened ‘Dirty Laundry’, a 24-hour, coin-operated laundromat with 13 washers and 14 dryers, in a shopping center in Pahrump, Nevada, where she also hoped to build a legal brothel catering exclusively to women called “Heidi’s Stud Farm”. The laundromat is, of course, decorated with panels from slot machines and video poker machines. It also features a purposefully romantic, dimly lit restroom, floors decorated with a collage of broken tile and mirrored glass. Fleiss quipped of her themed laundry operation, “If you’re doing laundry, you can have a little fantasy. ‘Hey I’m going to win a $20 million jackpot.’”

A Phoenix From The Ashes Of Tragedy

Fleiss went full force into opening the laundromat in order to distract herself from the loss of her favorite pet macaw, Dalton, who died earlier in 2007, leaving her in shambles. “I had to force myself to do something,” Fleiss told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Nothing in my 41 years – nothing – ever affected me like this.”

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The Sacrifices For Happiness

Living in Pahrump, Nevada with twenty rare, exotic macaws, Heidi has never seemed happier, but the expense of taking care of these beloved birds has her stretched to her limits. “I never, ever thought that I would end up here, but everything happens for a reason,” Fleiss says. “[Today] some people call me a crazy lady who plays with birds. It’s been a crazy way to reinvent myself, but I love these birds and I will be successful.”

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Poverty By Choice

In 2008, the British tabloid News Of The World published a story on Fleiss. 20 years ago Fleiss was the talk of Hollywood. She lived in a multi-million dollar mansion, drove a Porsche and shopped on Rodeo Drive, but sadly no longer. The article was generally favorable towards Fleiss, but it also revealed that she’s totally broke and reported that Fleiss was wearing a two dollar Salvation Army t-shirt during the interview.

A Lifestyle Adjustment

“It was all I could afford,” she says. “To think I used to earn ten million dollars a year—I shopped at the most exclusive stores on Rodeo Drive. I’d think nothing about spending $400 on a pair of jeans. I drove a Porsche and ate at restaurants where soup cost 30 bucks. Now I can barely afford a can of soup. Some days I eat the parrots’ nuts because I can’t afford bread.”

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A Window Into Everyday Life

In 2011, Animal Planet followed Heidi Fleiss for a reality special titled “From Prostitutes to Parrots” about her life with her 20 macaw parrots and here is the description, taken directly from Animal Planet’s website: “With her home covered in bird poop and monthly bills for the birds soaring into the thousands, the former madam must balance her need to tend to the birds at home with the necessity of leaving them to earn a living outside of it. With multiple businesses and jobs to focus on, Fleiss spends her days shuttling from the laundromat she owns, to the doggie daycare she is set to open. But, as the anxiety at being away from her birds increases, and the pressure to hire a staff to care for them rises, will the stress of life drive her back to drugs?”

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A Dying Madam’s Last Words

Also in 2011, Fleiss recalls the story of how she got her start with the birds in a very candid interview with TV Guide Magazine. “There was a bed-ridden madam who used to run the exotic bird department at the Tropicana Hotel. And her single-wide dumpy trailer was filled with hundreds of birds. Basically she was dying and her last words were, ‘You take care of my birds.’ And I [at first] said no. I have one bird left from her now. All the rest have their own stories and their own histories.”

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