For Former Madam of Beverly Hills--a Final Indignity
As if a working woman pushing 60 doesn’t have enough to worry about these days, Elizabeth Adams’ nest egg is gone. Someone, it seems, swiped it from the mirrored guest bathroom of a mansion in Bel-Air.
“There were diamond bracelets and necklaces, sapphires and diamonds and pearls, gifts to me when I had started out and the Arabs had just found their black gold,” Adams fumes. “Eighteen watches, Piagets and Cartiers. Half a million dollars worth, in a tan Louis Vuitton bag.”
If you have not heard about Adams’ missing cache, you have certainly heard of her: the Beverly Hills Madam, “Madam Alex” to her clients and friends. An underground celebrity in the 1970s and ‘80s, Adams ran what police acknowledge to have been the most lavish and lucrative call girl ring on the West Coast.
Those were the days, she sighs, millionaires and movie stars and sheiks, days worth $2,000 a pop for each of her employees, aspiring actresses and pinup girls and moonlighting college students she refers to still as “my creatures.”
Adams got 40% for each referral, an average of $100,000 a month or more. By acting as an informant and passing on “pillow talk,” authorities say, she managed to keep the police at bay. Then in 1988, depending on whom you believe, she either stopped talking or got caught in the cross-fire of an interdepartmental feud at the Los Angeles Police Department. In any case, detectives built enough of a case against her to get her convicted of pandering.
The case--one of the most celebrated of its kind in the nation--culminated last October with a plea bargain and 18 months of probation for Adams. Come spring, she says, she will be a free woman again. But the cost! Her legal bills were astronomical, Adams said, and a catering business she has opened has not begun to make up the slack.
Recumbent on the plumped-up cushions of her bed, surrounded by china knickknacks and crystal vases and Persian cats, Adams crosses her pale and calloused feet under a trademark green paisley muumuu, runs a withered hand through her thinning hair and ticks off the indignities.
The Doheny Drive mansion that once served as the headquarters for her enterprise is out of her price range now--a star of “Beverly Hills 90210" now occupies its well-appointed rooms--and the Saudi royalty who once flocked to her boudoir have scattered like elk in the wake of the bad publicity. When she tried shortly after her arrest to hide some of her assets by putting her vast antique collection in a storage locker and placing the locker in the name of a friend, the friend took possession of her effects and auctioned them off before she could get them back.
So reduced are her circumstances, Adams said, that in recent months she found herself dipping more and more often into her last reserves--the bag of jewels that she had hidden at the home of a friend, David Niven Jr., to keep the authorities from confiscating it, too.
Niven--son of the late actor and a longtime friend of Adams, who has a photograph of him on her night stand hugging sex therapist Dr. Ruth--refused to comment about the incident. But according to a police report, he told detectives that the bag of jewels was stolen about 5:30 p.m. Nov. 16 by a pair of robbers posing as parcel deliverymen.
Niven told police that when he answered their knock on his door, one man pushed a pistol into his face, ordered him to lie down on the floor, hogtied him with duct tape and then demanded: “Where’s the bag? Alex’s bag?”
Terrified, Niven directed them to the guest bathroom, where Adams said she had been hiding the cache for four years. After they fled, the report stated, Niven managed to free himself and called the authorities.
LAPD Detective Steve Bucher would not comment on the investigation other than to confirm its existence and to remind that Adams is, after all, a breaker of the law and “you can’t believe too much of what she says.”
But other law enforcement sources echo Adams’ theory on the theft--that an up-and-coming rival madam choreographed the heist.
“Whore Wars” is how Adams summed it up, adding that her prime suspect is a 26-year-old former “creature” of hers who in the past year and a half has picked up where Madam Alex left off.
“She used to work for me and then eventually became a madam herself,” Adams said. “She stole my business, my books, my girls, my guys and now, finally, she has stolen my jewels! She has told people she wants to be the Madam Alex of her generation. Hah! She’ll never be me. When I gave it up, it took seven ladies to do what I did all by myself.”
In the spare, elegant living room of her Benedict Canyon home, Adams’ rival denies any connection with the theft. Brash as your kid sister, dark-haired and stick-figure thin, the New Beverly Hills Madam--if madam is what you can call a twentysomething party girl in boots and jeans--sinks back into the cushions of a designer love seat and puts on a feral smile.
On her coffee table, a member of the Brat Pack smiles up from the cover of Penthouse magazine. Two very young blonde women with lithe bodies and tawny skin mill about the high-ceilinged rooms. One offers coffee and then returns, giggling apologetically that she “can’t get the coffee maker to work.” The phone rings 10 times in less than an hour, and the madam takes only one call. “Hi, dad,” she says. “Give me 15 minutes and I’ll call you back.”
“Look,” she says, chopping the air with a bony hand, “I know Madam Alex was great at what she did, but it’s like this: What took her years to build, I built in one.
“The high end is the high end, and no one has a higher end then me--or than I did ,” she corrects, adding that she is “in transition” now.
No, she says, speaking on condition that her name not be used, she did not steal Adams’ nest egg. She attributes her cachet to her bevy of young and beautiful friends, and to contacts she made through a rich ex-boyfriend and through her social connections.
“In this business, no one steals clients. There’s just better service,” the rival madam said. “If you service two people, pretty soon it gets around and everyone tells their friends. It’s just hard for Madam Alex to accept the fact that her ship has sunk and she’s been forced out.”
And what of the jewels?
Adams and her jeweler believe that they are in the hands of a fence in New York, who is offering them for sale to a select clientele.
Which is why she has come to the press for help, she says.
“It’s been weeks since they were stolen and nothing has happened. I want to light a fire under the cops,” she fumed. “If the police don’t hop to it, it’ll all be lost. And that was my last resource.”