Trouble has found the “Hollywood Madam” once again.
A few months removed from a drug arrest in Pahrump, Heidi Fleiss is about to be slapped with a lawsuit over the house she had been renting in the Nye County town since December 2005.
The owner of the two-bedroom house says Fleiss and her menagerie of exotic birds left behind more than $40,000 in damage when they moved out March 1.
Christiana MacKnight said she has found a Las Vegas attorney to take her case on a contingency basis, and she hopes to file a lawsuit within the next week or so.
She plans to seek $45,000 to $50,000 in damages, plus legal costs.
“I just want my house fixed,” said MacKnight, a former exotic dancer who now owns a lingerie shop in Las Vegas and one in Los Angeles. “I can’t afford to fix it to re-rent it. It’s just a mess.”
Fleiss denied the allegation and accused MacKnight of trying to squeeze money from her to fix a house that wasn’t in very good shape to begin with.
“She’s acting like I moved into a house that was a palace and trashed it, vandalized it. It’s not true,” she said. “I’m not trying to destroy somebody’s house.”
If anything, Fleiss said, she tried to fix up the house by ripping out stained carpeting and old linoleum and replacing it with collages made from broken tiles and mirrored glass.
But MacKnight said she never signed off on that remodeling project or any other. She also never gave Fleiss permission to fill the home with as many as 25 parrots. In fact, she said, the lease Fleiss signed prohibited pets of any kind.
Fleiss, who won worldwide infamy in the early 1990s for running a high-priced ring of call girls to the stars, moved to Pahrump in late 2005 to open Heidi’s Stud Farm, a legal brothel catering to women.
MacKnight said she jumped at the chance to rent her house to the one-time “Hollywood Madam” because she figured Fleiss had plenty of money and reason to keep her nose clean.
“She wanted to open a brothel. I figured she wouldn’t want any bad publicity,” MacKnight said.
“It was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life.”
Speaking by telephone from her home near Los Angeles, MacKnight said Fleiss seemed like a pretty good tenant for the first year or so.
After that, MacKnight said, rent payments became spotty and she started to hear disturbing reports about what Fleiss’ birds were doing to the interior.
By the time Fleiss moved out, every scrap of molding was gone, and the parrots had chewed up most of the shelves, cabinets and doors, MacKnight said.
There also was extensive wood and water damage on the back of the house, where Fleiss built her birds a sun room filled with perches, ropes, toys and a plastic pond.
MacKnight gave photos of the damage to celebrity gossip Web site TMZ.com.
Since then, she said she has received threatening telephone calls from Fleiss and one of Fleiss’ friends.
Fleiss denies that, too, though she said it was “low” and “very unfair” of MacKnight to take her story to the media.
She added that the pictures MacKnight sent out were taken before she was done cleaning up the place.
“It’s clean now. It looks better than when I moved in,” Fleiss said. “You know, it’s a waste of time to have to explain myself, and it’s so easy (for MacKnight) to make me look like an asshole.”
If MacKnight files a lawsuit as promised, Fleiss could find herself juggling hearing dates in both civil and criminal court.
On Feb. 7, Fleiss and her plumber were arrested outside a Pahrump hardware store after police found drugs on them.
The 42-year-old Fleiss was booked on charges of possession of painkillers without a prescription, driving under the influence and driving without a license.
Fleiss has yet to be formally charged, so she is busying herself with remodeling work at her new home in Pahrump: a mobile home surrounded by parrot perches on 10 acres she recently bought a little more than a mile from her former residence.
She is also making plans to expand Dirty Laundry, the coin-operated laundromat she opened in a busy Pahrump shopping center last July.
As for her plans to open a brothel for women, Fleiss said that remains on hold pending the outcome of yet another legal entanglement: her possible role as a federal witness in the political corruption case against Nye County brothel owner Maynard “Joe” Richards.
Richards is scheduled to go to trial on a wire fraud charge in October. Fleiss said she wants that to be over with before she applies for a brothel license.
Her next big splash, then, is expected to come this June, when she “enters treatment” as a paid participant in the VH-1 reality series “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.”
Asked what addiction she expects the show to cure, Fleiss said, “Whatever they want me to be rehabbing for. If they want to say I’m on heroin, I’ll be on heroin.”
“I think everybody needs a little rehab,” she added. “To be honest, I need the money.”
Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.