In the 1976 melodrama "Trackdown," an innocent country girl heads for Hollywood looking to fulfill her dreams. Instead, she is lured into prostitution.
The movie was based on a story written by Ivan Nagy, a Hungarian immigrant who, at the time, was a photographer eager to make a name for himself in the entertainment business. But the film was panned, summed up in one review as having "all the sleazy elements and people who couldn't care less about another's life."
Now, Los Angeles police are alleging that Nagy--the former lover of alleged Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss--is involved in the same prostitution trade he was writing about then.
Nagy, 55, was arrested Wednesday for allegedly recruiting young women to become call girls. The arrest came after a woman--whom police would not identify--signed a complaint on Tuesday alleging that Nagy had tried to recruit her. Police are alleging that Nagy and a partner ran a Westside prostitution ring involving 15 to 20 call girls.
Nagy's arrest, made by the same task force that arrested Fleiss in June, has sent yet another jolt through a tightly knit entertainment community already worried about what secrets Fleiss may reveal. Since the late 1970s, Nagy has worked as a mid-level television and film director, with credits for directing television movies as well as episodes of such shows as "Starsky and Hutch" and "The Powers of Matthew Star."
In the wake of Fleiss' arrest, gossip columns have reported rumors that unnamed studio executives may have used film development funds for procuring prostitutes.
The rumors prompted Columbia Pictures executive Michael Nathanson on Tuesday to issue a public denial that he has any connections to Fleiss. Nathanson, through a spokesman, acknowledged that he has known Nagy professionally for years but denied any wrongdoing.
Columbia has begun an internal investigation into whether any company executives may have used company funds to pay for prostitution or drugs, and, sources said, no evidence of misuse of funds has been found so far.
Capt. Glenn Ackerman, head of the Los Angeles Police Department's administrative vice unit, said that to date police have nothing more than unsubstantiated rumors about studio money and call girls. "We haven't seen any solid evidence," he said. "We hear all of this conjecture and innuendo. If somebody wants to bring in some solid evidence for a change we would take a look at it."
Nagy, who Thursday did not return calls seeking comment, is free on $25,000 bail. In an interview in late June, Nagy said that, except for a 1991 bookmaking arrest that he called "a tremendous misjudgment," he had never had any dealings outside the law. In that case, Nagy pleaded no contest--the equivalent of a guilty plea--court records show.
He denied assertions by Fleiss and some of her friends that he was involved in prostitution and other vices. "That is a lie," he said. "I have no involvement in any escort services. No gambling. . . . It's an out and out lie. These are vicious vindictive people."
Associates of Nagy describe him as a brusque, disciplined director who can work fast, something critical for low-budget films that lack a financial safety net.
"He looks intimidating, but he's a pussycat," said actor Ted Raimi, who stars in the upcoming "Skinner" that Nagy directed. "He's this big guy with a thick Hungarian accent. I had no problem with him."
"Skinner" ended something of a directing dry spell for Nagy. The film has been described as a "Silence of the Lambs"-type thriller, featuring former adult film star Traci Lords--whose name in the film, ironically, is Heidi.
Its executive producer is Brad Wyman, a friend of Nagy. Wyman once had a production deal at Columbia Pictures and tried to get Nagy a credit on a Columbia film that was never made, according to a private investigator hired by Nathanson. The studio declined to comment on Nagy, and Wyman has not returned numerous telephone calls seeking comment.
In the June interview, Nagy said he "came to this country when I was 18 years old, without a penny in my pocket. I grew to become one of the most admired photographers in town. And I went on to a directing career that got me to a certain level."
Nagy gestured around his Century City condominium--to the furniture, the walls filled with modern art, the marble fireplace and the stereo equipment. "What you see here is the direct result of the career that I built, and nothing else," Nagy said.
Nagy has appeared repeatedly on television over the past week, thanks to Fleiss, whose case has gained international attention. Indeed, Nagy was arrested at a coffee shop after a vice officer he knows invited him there to lunch to celebrate his new notoriety.
Nagy and Fleiss have had a stormy relationship. Court records are littered with complaints filed by Fleiss against Nagy alleging violence and threats, but all of the cases were ultimately abandoned.
Before meeting Fleiss, Nagy was introduced to Elizabeth Adams, the famed Beverly Hills "Madam Alex," in the mid-1980s.
"I was kind of fascinated. She told me she was a madam, and I said, 'I'm gonna go up there and check this out, see what a madam looks like,' " he said. "She had a very cajoling and well-developed kind of, well, I don't know, charm."
There followed, he said, an on-again, off-again friendship with Adams that spilled over into his relationship with Fleiss, whom he met in 1988. Adams later sued Nagy in 1989, alleging that he sold $3 million in antiques she had given him to store after her arrest. A judge later dismissed the lawsuit, saying that Adams failed to comply with discovery orders.
Veteran LAPD Administrative Vice Detective Fred Clapp said the relationship among the three was "hard to describe. . . . They're like a bunch of jackals all feeding off the same carcass."