Ron Jeremy, an adult filmmaker used as a pipeline to “Heidi’s girls,” comes across as one of the more credible sources here, with a matter-of-fact attitude and seemingly no ax to grind. Main figures are Fleiss, of course, and two people who served to some degree as her mentors: the now-out-of-business (she says) Madame Alex, and Fleiss’ former (she says) b.f., Ivan Nagy. For the record, none of the three can stand each other; Fleiss accuses both Nagy and Madame Alex of setting up her arrest; Alex and Nagy accuse one another.
Fleiss and Nagy’s personal relationship may be the film’s most fascinating aspect: While Fleiss claims it’s over, Nagy brings forth convincing evidence to the contrary. Fleiss admits a predilection for older men (“After 40, they all look the right age”); as to her own age, “she’s been 27 for four years now,” according to Madame Alex.
Milieu covered by Broomfield is enough to make a viewer reach for the disinfectant soap: Even if one holds that prostitution is a victimless crime and shouldn’t be prosecuted, many of the principals here are involved in mutual character assassination, non-victimless crime (shooting bullets into associates’ house, for instance) and duplicitous behavior.
Other sources include two former police officers identified as in cahoots with Fleiss and Madame Alex at various times (one’s now in jail; Broomfield interviews the other in a donut shop); some adult-film actresses and retired (they say) prostitutes, one of whom shows off photos of herself with former presidents Reagan and Bush; Fleiss’ former friend, Victoria Sellers; and former Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates — with a perhaps surprising revelation about the chief’s brother.
Overall look of film is appropriately dark and murky. Broomfield, who narrates and is often on camera, is an enthusiastic pup, often charging into a source’s lair with microphone and camera turned on, then (he says) wondering why those sources are less than thrilled to speak to him.
This leads to controversial ideas of appropriate investigative techniques. While Broomfield is careful to reveal when he pays sources (which is often), at other times he films with hidden cameras and tapes telephone conversations without informing the other party — nothing that “60 Minutes” doesn’t do, but this is the BBC.