Hooked on a Feeling USA's Pie-Eyed Heidi Fleiss Movie Succeeds as a Very Guilty Pleasure

By Cox, Ted | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 26, 2004 | Go to article overview

Hooked on a Feeling USA's Pie-Eyed Heidi Fleiss Movie Succeeds as a Very Guilty Pleasure


Cox, Ted, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Ted Cox Daily Herald TV/Radio Columnist

I want my daughters to grow up to be prostitutes. Yes, only the best for them.

I mean, come on, they get to hang out with big stars, travel the world, set their own hours, enjoy alcohol and even drugs without fear it will cost them their jobs and, best of all, they actually get paid for having sex.

In fact, after watching "Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss," I'm at a loss why anybody works at any other profession for a living.

All right, all right, as a "real-life story," "Call Me" is a little less than real. If it doesn't entirely sugarcoat the tale of the infamous "Hollywood Madame" - Fleiss does eventually kneel before justice and take the fall - it definitely looks at her life through rose-colored glasses. Jamie-Lynn DiScala (nee Sigler), moonlighting from her usual role as Meadow on "The Sopranos," is fetching and charming as Fleiss and utterly lacks the rough edges - that haggard, beat-dog look - that made Fleiss even at her best look more than a little skanky.

Yet here's the thing: Try tuning in to "Call Me" when it debuts at 8 p.m. Monday on cable USA, and you might just find yourself getting hooked and pulled along like a train car. Along with DiScala's winning lead performance, it has a breezy, easy, equally disarming manner of storytelling. By keeping moralizing to a minimum, emphasizing the allure and glossing over the tawdry, writer Norman Snider and director Charles McDougall invite a viewer to jump on, grab hold and just enjoy the ride.

After all, as the glib, airy, free-floating period soundtrack reminds a viewer, girls just wanna have fun.

With her youthful good looks, DiScala leaps right in as Fleiss, honing her organizational skills as a teenager by unionizing the neighborhood baby sitters into an efficient (and, not coincidentally, a well-paid) machine. This will serve her well later on, of course, but as an adult she simply finds herself drawn to older men, like crater-faced Robert Davi's Hollywood hanger-on Ivan Nagy.

At first, she's outraged when he collects a "finder's fee" for delivering her to Madame Alex (the frowzy Brenda Fricker), but she soon comes around.

"I wanna hang with the best people - and get paid for it," Fleiss says.

Sent to the room of a famous rock star, she demands $1,500 and, when he objects, threatens to walk out. He quickly comes around as well.

"It's lonely at the top, eh?" Fleiss says, offering service with a smile.

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