'I'm ending my life by suicide.
Updated 2 years ago on November 02, 2022
The king of 1980s nightlife, Mark Fleischman consorted with Ron Wood, Keith Richards, Rick James and John Belushi. He owned the last incarnation of the nightclub Studio 54 and, by his own admission, enjoyed more than his fair share of illicit substances. Threesomes were commonplace, as was drinking and smoking with Robin Williams, tennis star Vitas Gerulaitis and other members of his Dawn Patrol.
On July 13, however, Fleischmann will take his last drug, a lethal dose of barbiturates. With the help of the Swiss nonprofit group Dignitas, the 82-year-old Fleischmann will commit legal suicide.
"I can't walk, my speech is impaired, and I can't do anything for myself," Fleischman, who is confined to a wheelchair, told The Post. "My wife helps me get into bed, and I can't get dressed or put my shoes on. I choose the gentle way of care. It's the easiest way out for me."
Fleischman, who lives near the beach in Marina Del Rey, California, says neurologists have been unable to diagnose his disease, which began in 2016 when suddenly his left leg began to drag.
"It's worse than not being able to walk. Mark has no balance. He drops things and doesn't know where his body is in space," Mimi Fleischmann, his 27-year-old wife, told The Post. "Doctors initially thought he had a form of Parkinson's disease. But it's not. No one knows what he has."
Fleischmann said his commitment to assisted suicide was not rushed and had been nurtured for at least two years. "I came to this decision gradually," he said. "Two years ago I decided it wasn't worth living. I took a lot of Xanax and ended up in the hospital."
The EMTs brought him back from the threshold of death, but shortly afterwards, "I read a book on how to end your life. I read there that the easiest way was to suffocate. But I didn't want the pain. I was going to buy a gun. But my wife stepped in. We started looking for a place where it would be legal to find someone to do it with."
At first Mimi tried to talk him out of the decision, but decided to respect his wishes. "It would be terrible," she said. "He's my partner, and we're committed to each other. So that's the end of part of me, too. I have to respect what he wants. [But he doesn't give me a choice. He wants to end his life, and this is a dignified way to do it."
Assisted suicide is illegal in California, and you have to be a resident of any of the 10 states where it is allowed. Instead, Mimi found Dignitas for Mark.
Dignitas began in 1998 and is dedicated to helping people commit suicide when their health leaves much to be desired. In Fleischmann's case, members of the organization reviewed his medical records and conducted a series of interviews with him.
"They want to make sure I make my own decision," he said. "After reading my materials, they asked me some questions to make sure I was serious. I had to provide a notarized affidavit stating that I wanted to die. I had to see a psychiatrist and he confirmed that I was of sound mind. I provided all that, and they said they wanted to see me there."
The organization will provide Fleischmann with a life-altering drug and a place to consume it.
"Then," he continued, "they will take care of the body. They'll cremate me and send Mimi's ashes to California. The whole thing costs about$15,000."
Fleischmann, who has no biological children with Mimi, will fly to Zurich in business class. "I'm flying out on July 8, and on the 13th we'll do the act of death," he told The Post, explaining that, in typical Fleischmann style, it will be a high-stakes affair.
"We're staying in a beautiful place, a resort on the lake," he said, adding that he has no "last meal" plan ("I eat well every night") and no itinerary in mind. "I used to play tennis, and there are tennis courts. Given that I've never been to Zurich, maybe we'll do a little sightseeing. Then, on Wednesday, I meet at the apartment that Dignitas has. I have a drink, fall asleep, and that's it."
Fleischmann would not be alone. "Mimi," he said, "will be by my side.
Now that he has passed the psychological tests, Fleischman said, "I have what they call a provisional green light. If for some unforeseen reason that changes before the appointed date, "I'll tell them I'll jump out the window and leave a nasty note about how they tricked me into coming to Europe.
As for why he made the news public, Fleischmann said: "At 82, I decided that why keep it a secret? I was living on my own terms. I'm not afraid of anything. Not even death. I look forward to it. I don't believe in an afterlife. But I want to know what happens when I die. I'm curious. If I do come back as someone else, I think it will be a wolf or a polar bear, an animal that has a good life."
Fleischmann's candor puts him in the minority, since most people who choose assisted suicide keep everything a secret. For some time he had been planning to do the same.
"I was going to go to Zurich and 'relive the stroke' while I was on vacation," he said. "I think people are ashamed [of assisted suicide]. But there's no shame in what I do. It's the right thing to do and it's reasonable at my age. I've done everything, been everywhere and met everyone I wanted to meet."
In fact, he finds that the sheer magnificence of his existence makes it difficult to continue living in the present circumstances. "If I hadn't lived the way I did and enjoyed it as much as I did, things might have been different," he says. "Right now I'm like a vegetable. It's so hard to even get in the car."
Fleischman grew up in Great Neck, Long Island, participated in the Harlem jazz scene of the 1950s and graduated from Cornell Hotel Management School. Always drawn to an elitist path, he enrolled in the U.S. Navy Officer Candidate School in the early 1960s to avoid the draft. He ran an officer's club at the New Jersey Naval Base and was exempt from service.
In his mid-20s, Fleischmann, having received an investment from his father, purchased the 300-room Forest Hills Inn, located next to the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium.
In the late 1970s he regularly partied at Studio 54, where he met club owners Jan Schrager and Steve Rubell.After the two were convicted of tax evasion in 1980, Fleischmann met with them and their lawyer, Roy Cohn, at a prison talk. It was decided that he would become the owner of the club. He took over the debts of Studio 54 and, in a later deal, transferred ownership of his Executive Hotel in Murray Hill to Schrager and Rubell, who turned it into the now-closed Morgans, said to be the first boutique hotel in New York.
Owning Studio 54, Fleischman recalls, was a pleasure. He partied there with people like Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Halston, Liza Minnelli and Cher.
"When you owned Studio 54, you were suddenly semi-famous," Fleischman says. "At 4 a.m., I'd put a bunch of people in a limo and we'd drive to the Crisco Disco"-an after-hours venue named after the lube favored by Manhattan gay men-where they'd consume, a mixture of cocaine and ketamine prepared by the club owner. "There was great music and sex everywhere. I used to go there to pick up women. All the women who went there were easy."
Five years later, from 1981 to 1986, Studio 54 and its attendant lifestyle ended for him: "It can ruin you. You can only live like this for so long.
"I liked being high. That's why I took drugs and drank. Maybe it [the health condition] is because I drank a lot and took drugs."
Nevertheless, he added: "I don't regret any part of my life.
A battered Fleischmann went through rehabilitation at the Betty Ford Center and Rancho La Puerta in Mexico. In 1986 he married publishing executive Laurie Lister. They had a daughter, Hilary, who is still close to her father, but would not comment on his decision. They divorced in the early 1990s after Fleischman returned to the nightlife business, opening an establishment in Midtown called Tatou.
After moving to Los Angeles, he married Mimi in 1994 and with her opened the Century Club hip-hop club in Los Angeles. He also went into the fitness business, opening a workout studio called Bar Method. All of this followed an unsuccessful project with Donald Trump. When the former president owned the Plaza Hotel in the early 1990s, Fleischman struck a deal to open a club there called Gauguin. "While we were building it, the hotel was foreclosed on," Fleischman told Page Six. "Trump didn't tell me. The bank came down on me like a ton of bricks."
A basement club opened, but it didn't last long. "I lost a couple hundred thousand [dollars]," Fleischman said. "And my investors lost over a million."
In 2017, Fleischmann published a frank memoir, "Inside Studio 54," about his turbulent times, even taking out $1 million in insurance in case someone sued him for divulging all the stories. Also in the book, he writes about the suffering he saw his father go through before he died.
"I saw my father fall into a cave. His legs hurt a lot. He couldn't walk," Fleischmann said. "He told me, 'I want to die.' I believed him."
After losing his parents and brother, Fleischmann shared his suicide plans with the rest of his immediate family. Everyone else, he said, "can read about it.
Mimi doesn't believe her husband will chicken out.
"As he prepares to go through the Pearly Gates, he may change his mind - but I don't think he will," she said.
"The more I think about it, the more I want to do it," he said. "I'm on a direct flight to Zurich from Los Angeles. There won't be any last party."
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