Col retreats as Heidi heats up

As Sony Studios fell under siege Thursday to dozens of reporters searching for links to Hollywood prostitution rings, Columbia Pictures execs geared up for a weekend Santa Barbara retreat where they’ll no doubt address the thorny issue of alleged madam Heidi Fleiss.

Reporters crowded the Colpix studio gate all day, quizzing virtually everyone going on or off the lot about Fleiss, Columbia and production president Michael Nathanson.

Fleiss, who was arrested June 9 for running a call-girl ring, will be charged Monday with five counts of pandering and one drug violation, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office said.

She has threatened to reveal names from her “black book” that reportedly include top-ranking studio execs and several film stars.

Her former boyfriend, 55-year-old producer Ivan Nagy, who was arrested Wednesday on charges of running his own prostitution ring, talked about some of his higher-ranking customers to CNN, but the news network refused to air the names. Nagy did not return Daily Variety phone calls.

Col reportedly has also launched an in-house investigation to see whether company execs used studio money to pay for drugs and prostitutes.

Police confirmed that they were investigating reports that a corporate jet was used to fly call girls to sets of various productions, but studio flacks offered a terse “no comment” on that question.

Nathanson, who had been linked to Fleiss in numerous media reports, took the unusual step Tuesday of announcing through his lawyer that he had never had any professional contact with Fleiss. The alleged madam told reporters that she was only introduced to Nathanson socially through Nagy, but industry speculation on Nathanson has persisted.

Studio sources said Nathanson is likely to be named an exec veep soon, his production prexy slot being filled by former Warner Bros. exec Lisa Henson (Daily Variety, Aug. 4). Despite rumors Thursday that he might be fired, Col insiders insisted he was firmly “in place” in the studio’s family.

A film called “Skinners,” which sources said included in its cast some of the call girls from Fleiss’ and Nagy’s rings, also drew Colpix into the fray. The film had reportedly been offered by Nagy and producer Brad Wyman to Col TriStar Home Video for possible distribution. Sony Pictures Entertainment exec veep Sid Ganis had no comment on the report.

So Col execs are convening in Santa Barbara, and despite studio denials that the Fleiss saga will be a topic, sources said it is bound to be high on the agenda.

“We’re talking about the strategy of running our businesses,” Ganis said.

LAPD Capt. Glenn Ackerman said police weren’t interested in prosecuting any of the names in the already infamous black books.

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