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Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss (2004) and Heidi Fleiss, Hollywood Madam (1995)

Tearing through its exposition at a breakneck pace, Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss wastes no time getting to its main subject. Within the first five minutes, we learn that Heidi had a strict mother and an easygoing father who encouraged his children to act out. Soon after, we see teenage Heidi organizing the neighborhood girls’ babysitting schedules, foreshadowing of her management skills. In the next scene she learns her parents are divorcing. Three minutes later we see Heidi’s boobs as her creepy older boyfriend, Ivan Nagy, recruits and then sells Heidi to her future madam, Alex, for $450. At first, Heidi Fleiss is outraged with her pimp boyfriend, then for no apparent reason decides to go along with him.

Young Heidi’s first client is a curly-haired rock star. When he leans in to kiss her neck, she shoves her hand down his pants and demands $1,500. He scoffs at her so she turns to leave, asking, “Is it lonely at the top?” He then asks her to stay and the deal is sealed. Although I have never worked as a call girl—and please ladies, correct me if I’m wrong—but I’m going to make the assumption that insulting your client is a bad tactic. The scene felt unrealistic and I found myself doubting that the real-life Fleiss could have been so successful despite such poor social skills.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

That'll be $50 to remove my earplugs.

After a lifetime of never seeing Breakfast at Tiffany’s (how gauche), I recently took a lazy morning to revel in what critics have been saying for 50 years is Audrey Hepburn at her best. That may be true for the actress, but I couldn’t get past the obvious helplessness and sheer rudeness of “Holly Golightly” to see in her the lauded prototype of today’s chic, independent woman. Elegant in her timeless Givenchy and pearls, she embodies the “poor girl with a rich dream” thing with incredible facility.

Hepburn is exalted for her portrayal of Holly Golightly, a lifestyle sugarbaby whose name befits someone too afraid of commitment to furnish her Upper East Side brownstone or even to name the cat she considers more of a roommate. Holly is portrayed as a glossy, gold-digging socialite, though some claim the original character in Truman Capote’s 1958 novella is more obviously a call girl (Capote actually considered her an “American geisha”). She makes her living charming one rich dude after another, smoothly collecting her dues ($50 for the powder room) and then leaving them, drunk and horny, begging on her doorstep. She obviously works it (check out those clothes!), but it seems she does it by being an annoying and ungrateful tease.

Hump! Amateur Porn in Portland

Three strippers and a well-adjusted boyfriend attend the 7th annual Seattle and Portland amateur porn film festival, Hump!. This was Kat and her friend’s first time attending and the second for my man friend and myself. We learned that we never want to see sex to piano music again, that stop-motion animation can be more obscene than real life, and that Kat’s former coworker wasn’t afraid to be penetrated with a knife.

Standing in the long line outside of Portland’s Cinema 21, I was immediately struck by how chipper the crowd was. An equal proportion of mid-twenties to late-thirties men and women chattered excitedly in the rain. I actually stood on my tiptoes to peer down the block, looking for solo older men lurking in the shadows, but didn’t see any. All six Portland showings had completely sold out and the line of hip young people wrapped around the block. Kat overheard a guy tell his girlfriend that they were at the new Harry Potter movie, which didn’t seem unreasonable given the mob of excited people.

The Girlfriend Experience (2009)

The “girlfriend experience” concept is really interesting. In escorting, the “GFE” is treating a client as you might a lover—you talk to them about their day, share a bit about yours, kiss, cuddle, and have an intimacy that goes beyond penetrative sex. Men want space to be vulnerable and talk about what they’re going through to a woman who will pet their head and tell them it’ll be OK, enough to pay for it. Can a sex worker maintain that intimacy while still maintaining professional boundaries? And what do you do when you no longer want to maintain those boundaries, when you want to take it personal? How do you deal with the fallout?

This Girl’s Life (2003)

I was initially really impressed by This Girl’s Life. The idea of a sassy, intelligent woman who does her job and doesn’t seem to take it too seriously really made me smile. I like when people treat sex work like a job, because that doesn’t happen in every film. Then I kept watching—it gets crazy!

An Overview:

Moon (Juliette Marquis) is a world renowned porn star. Her old man has Parkinson’s, and he knows what she does for a living. She has a circle of cool girlfriends outside the business, and they tell sassy jokes at cigar bars (I wish I smoked cigars). She works for a guy who is at once a really sweet dude and also capable of being really cruel (but only to other workers, specifically the only black woman in the film) and is waffling on signing a contract renewal. She also begins dating a guy who Kat thought was pre-med because he wears a beanie, but he’s an actor… maybe he’s playing a pre-med student in a movie?