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Hitting a few beats: TBS' Wedding Band

Pathetic spectacles seem to be cheaper by the dozen these days. Still, Heidi Fleiss is tough to beat.

The former "Hollywood Madam," who served a 37-month sentence for "pandering" until her release in September 1999, is the focus of HBO's notably stuporous Heidi Fleiss: The Would-Be Madam of Crystal.

The 110-minute documentary, premiering Monday, July 21 at 8 p.m. (central), is almost as lousy as its as its still-life title. That said, it's all foreplay, with the now 42-year-old, crinkle-lipped head case striving to open a cathouse catering to women clients in Godforsaken Pahrump, Nev., where such businesses are legal with the proper license.

Fleiss begins by claiming to have "conquered the world" in her 20s while Alexander the Great waited until his 30s to do the same.

"And he's dead and I'm alive," she adds, apparently hoping to convince her interviewer that she's a more formidable force than he ever was.

Filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, earlier responsible for the likes of Inside Deep Throat and The Eyes of Tammy Faye, follow a none-too-steady Fleiss on her quest to establish a thriving "Stud Farm" on 60 acres of property that she managed to buy dirt cheap.

Alas, she never gets so far as a permit in this oddball ode to all things Heidi. She does, however, befriend an infirm ex-madam with a caged bird collection. One of them is a misfit parrot named Dalton, with whom Fleiss bonds. It's all supposed to be touching, showing another side of a notorious figure who nonetheless is immediately disliked by Pahrump-ians in positions of authority.

One of them is tart saloon owner Miss Kathy, who tells Fleiss with certitude, "There's no way women are going to drive this far off to get poked."

Another is George Flint, flinty director of the Nevada Brothel Owners Association.

"My biggest fear of Heidi Fleiss is Heidi Fleiss," he says. "Because she wants to be Miss Visibility."

Fleiss unfortunately, but typically, hooks up with an apparently crooked brothel baron named Joe Richards, who's charged with numerous counts of bribery. She has a doofus gofer named Michael Smallridge, too. He's fired after losing a flashlight during a dead-of-night search for decorative rocks.

The filmmakers also record Fleiss's declaration that she's the world's worst at oral sex. And that, yes, her breasts are "fake."

That pretty much covers the high points of a film that turns out to be quite a bit beneath HBO. In the end, Fleiss opens a laundromat she dubs "Dirty Laundry" while waiting for the stink to blow off of Joe Richards.

Alexander the Great shouldn't worry unduly about being upstaged. But Anna Nicole Smith might have some cause for concern.

Grade: C-minus