July 21, 2008

HBO Brings Back Heidi Fleiss

By FRAZIER MOORE of The Associated Press

"I know it all sounds crazy, like I'm just a raving lunatic," says Heidi Fleiss. "But it'll all make sense once it all comes together."

Fleiss, the former "Hollywood Madam" jailed for nearly two years a decade ago, is trying to put things back together when she relocates to Nevada, where prostitution is legal. She dreams of opening a brothel catering exclusively to women with male prostitutes.

Her efforts to make this fantasy real is the subject of a documentary, "Heidi Fleiss: The Would-Be Madam of Crystal," which charts the difficulties that result - many self-imposed.

Just because she has acquired the needed acreage and hired architects to design her pleasure palace doesn't mean she's welcome in tiny Crystal. Or that she's immune to strange distractions that seem to raise further doubt she'll ever reach her goal. (One of those distractions: an elderly former madam who lives next door with dozens of exotic birds which, when the woman dies, are bequeathed to Fleiss'care.)

Maybe her Stud Farm Project is a good idea, but, by the end of the film, it remains nothing more than an idea. Instead, Fleiss has opened a coin-operated laundry in nearby Pahrump.

The 70-minute film is the poignant portrait of a world-famous personality nearing the end of her 15 minutes, and seemingly grateful for the extra time the film provides.

Produced by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, it premieres 8 p.m. Monday on HBO.

Another show to look out for:

-- Everything old is new again, and that even applies to leeches, which are making a remarkable comeback, as "NOVA scienceNOW" reports.

Sure, they became notoriously overused in 19th century medicine, and their very name can be an insult. But today they are proving useful when reattached fingers and toes become engorged with excess blood that must be drained off, and they're much less dangerous than mosquitoes and ticks as disease spreaders.

The program's host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, even wades through leech- infested waters - and lives to tell of it.

Other reports include SETI - the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence - with its ongoing survey of millions of star systems for signs of advanced civilizations.

And, a potentially game-changing new development in research called induced pluripotent stem cells.

It's a technique by which the genetic clock of an ordinary skin cell from an adult can be reversed, transforming that cell into the equivalent of an embryonic stem cell - but without the embryo, thus bypassing political and ethical obstacles that have hampered research.

"NOVA scienceNOW" airs Wednesday at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings).

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