How a kid from Long Island with a knack for nightlife went on to run world’s most famous nightclub Studio 54 where he kept a ‘golden straw’ for cocaine – before mystery brain disorder robbed him of his life
- Mark Fleischman, the former owner of Studio 54, has died by assisted suicide at the age of 83
- Fleischman was the nightlife impresario who took over the legendary Studio 54 from its original owners, Ian Shrager and Steve Rubell after they were sent to prison for tax fraud in 1980
- ‘Every night, celebrities and stunning women made their way through the crowd, up the stairs to my office to sip champagne and share lines of cocaine using my golden straw or rolled up $100 bills,’ he recalled
- In 2016, Fleischman began suffering from an undiagnosed neurological disorder that left him wheelchair bound and a ‘vegetable’ – he said he tried ending his life two years ago by overdosing on Xanax
- ‘I can’t walk, my speech is f****d up and I can’t do anything for myself. My wife helps me get into bed and I can’t dress or put on my shoes,’ he told the NY Post
- Fleischman announced his decision to die through assisted suicide in June 2022, saying that he has ‘no regrets’ and that ‘I am taking a gentle way out. It is the easiest way out for me’
Mark Fleischman, 82, the former nightlife impresario who owned Studio 54, has died by taking a lethal dose of barbiturate at a assisted suicide facility in Switzerland (pictured in 2017)
Studio 54 was a theme park for adults. A temple of decadence, drugs, sex and music — and for five dizzying years, Mark Fleischman served as its ringmaster.
The legendary nightclub was a glamorous hotbed for debauchery, disco hedonism, a dizzying bacchanal of sexual liberation, outlandish eccentricity and celebrities riding a white frothy wave of cocaine.
After 33 months of worldmaking headlines, the club’s original owners were dragged off to Federal prison under charges of tax evasion. Thus paving the way for Fleischman to take over the reigns of the most infamous nightclub on the planet.
Andy Warhol once called it a ‘way of life.’
‘People live there. They dance there. They drink there. They make friends there. They make love there. They break up there. They become stars there. They do business there. They sleep there…We’ve never had an earthquake in New York,’ he said, ‘But if we did, it would be at Studio 54.’
Today the hospitality world mourns the death of the legendary nightlife impresario, Mark Fleischman, 82, who chose to die by assisted suicide after suffering a six-year-long battle with a mysterious neurological illness that turned him into a vegetable.
He announced his intention to take a lethal dose of barbiturates two weeks ago, through the assistance of a Swiss nonprofit group named Dignitas.
‘I can’t walk, my speech is f****d up and I can’t do anything for myself,’ Fleischman, who was confined to a wheelchair, told The New York Post. ‘My wife helps me get into bed and I can’t dress or put on my shoes. I am taking a gentle way out. It is the easiest way out for me.’
Born and raised in Long Island, Fleischman got a degree in hospitality from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration. He began his career as a Naval Officer in charge of the Officer Club at base in New Jersey before he began opening hotels, restaurants and nightclubs around New York City. He took over Studio 54 in 1980 after its original owners, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager went to prison for tax evasion
The club quickly became a glitterati playground for famous celebrities like Andy Warhol (far right), Bianca Jagger (center), Halston (center left) and Diana Ross (left). ‘The whole world, it seemed, came together on that strobe-lit dance floor in a way that seems inconceivable in this age of plague, political correctness, moral righteousness, and social fragmentation. Uptown and downtown, L.A. and D.C., London, Paris, Rome, and Rio, society queens and drag queens, athletes and artists, debutantes and hipsters, Mayor Beame and Roy Cohn, Diana Vreeland and Miz Lillian—they all were there,’ said Bob Colacello, the former editor of Interview Magazine
Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall (above) were constant habitués of Studio 54. Fleischman recalled how Jagger had an affair with his ‘adorable, smart’ 16-year-old assistant who worked at Studio 54 after school. When a photo of the two embracing landed on the front page of the New York Post, he said ‘Jerry Hall was pissed off’
Fleischman took over the reigns and reopened the doors to Studio 54 after it was closed briefly when its former owners went to prison. He celebrated the club’s reopening night by sending out 5,000 invitations in the form of a small lightbulb beckoning them to the ‘relighting of Studio 54.’ New Yorkers came out in droves, so much so that more than 10,000 people showed up at the door and the fire department had to close down the entire block. Above, Sonny Bono and Cher
Fashion designer, Diane von Furstenberg lounges on a couch at Studio 54 with her media mogul boyfriend Barry Diller. The couple eventually got married in 2001. Diane’s first marriage was to Prince Egon von Furstenberg, a regular at Studio 54 who Fleischman described as ‘bisexual and the ultimate party person. He knew everyone, usually had a beautiful woman (or man) on his arm, and was always smiling, laughing, and telling jokes in five different languages’
For extreme privacy, some VIPs would be invited to do their drugs while crammed inside Fleischman’s office. ‘There were so many people around my desk that we needed 30 or 40 lines of cocaine, and they all had to be identical. That girl was in charge of cutting cocaine lines and serving champagne,’ he said
The centerpiece decoration at Studio 54 was a ten-foot crescent moon snorting cocaine from a spoon dangled from the ceiling. Located in Manhattan’s theater district- the discotheque opened in 1977 after co-founders Steve Rubbell and Ian Schrager converted a former opera house into what would become the world’s first super club. It instantly became the hottest and most exclusive party spot on the planet, where — according to model Kevin Haley — ‘Decadence was a positive thing. Cocaine was a positive thing’
The club’s original owners took advantage of the lighting rigs that were leftover from when the space served as a CBS recording studio. The elaborate lighting system was so powerful that on the random occasions when doves were released during party, they would get frazzled and drop dead on the dance floor below. Above, Bianca Jagger holds two doves while at a party thrown by the fashion designer, Halston
As proprietor of the club, Fleischman rubbed shoulders with celebrity artists, rock legends, business tycoons, movie stars, powerful politicians and members of the jet set.
The 11,000 square foot dance floor was a nexus for everyone from the Rolling Stones to Andy Warhol, Jack Nicholson, Diana Ross, Gloria Vanderbilt, Diane Von Furstenberg, John Belushi, Cary Grant, Cher, Liza Minnelli, Farrah Fawcett, Halston, Prince, Donald Trump and so many more.
Studio 54 – located in Manhattan’s theater district- opened in 1977 after co-founders Steve Rubbell and Ian Schrager converted a former opera house into what would become the world’s first super club. It instantly became the hottest and most exclusive party spot on the planet, where — according to model Kevin Haley — ‘Decadence was a positive thing. Cocaine was a positive thing.’
In was the place where its primary decoration was a ten-foot crescent moon snorting cocaine from a spoon dangled from the ceiling, and where Bianca Jagger once arrived atop a white horse. It’s where the fashion designer, Valentino, had a circus themed party, complete with swinging mermaids on trapezes and Grace Jones once performed with a bevy of boys on leashes. The Mercedes Benz heir celebrated with a gold lamé wrapped car serving as the center piece, and Karl Lagerfeld hosted a candlelit 18th century court where the busboys and guests wore powdered wigs and rococo dresses.
A graduate of The School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, Fleischman began his career in the hospitality industry as a Naval Officer in charge of the Officer Club at base in New Jersey from 1961-1964. After his discharge, Fleischman took a loan from his father to buy the Forest Hills Inn, a 300-room hotel located near the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens.
The kid from Long Island with a knack for nightlife opened a few clubs and restaurants in Manhattan while becoming a regular at Studio 54. He became acquainted with the club’s proprietors, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell —’two P. T. Barnum types from Brooklyn’ —who opened the infamous disco house in 1977.
But their tenure as the reigning monarchs of Manhattan’s night life came to an abrupt end in 1980 when they were raided by the Feds and jailed for tax evasion.
After a few jail-house meetings with their attorney, Roy Cohn, Fleischman agreed to take on Studio 54’s mountain of debt and re-open its doors.
‘My first negotiations to buy the club occurred on a visitor Sunday at the Manhattan Federal Prison near Chinatown,’ recalled Fleischman in his 2017 memoir, Inside Studio 54.
‘In retrospect, I don’t believe I made the best deal I could have. But I was thoroughly seduced by the idea of controlling the world’s most important nightclub, and I proceeded headlong and recklessly toward that end.’
Fleischman celebrated the club’s reopening night with an ‘incandescence’ theme. He sent out 5,000 invitations in the form of a small lightbulb beckoning them to the ‘relighting of Studio 54.’ New Yorkers came out in droves, so much so that more than 10,000 people showed up at the door and the fire department had to close down the entire block.
‘From that very first night, I was swept up in a world of celebrities, drugs, power, and sex,’ he said.
‘I was the ringleader for nearly four years and I became intoxicated with the scene—bodies gyrating on the dance floor, sex in the balcony, and anything goes in the Ladies’ Lounge and Rubber Room.’
‘Every night, celebrities and stunning women made their way through the crowd, up the stairs to my office to sip champagne and share lines of cocaine using my golden straw or rolled up one-hundred-dollar bills. I was the guy in control, the owner—the host of the party. It was my duty, my job, to make sure everyone had a good time.’
Drugs were par for the course, and Fleischman indulged in them all: ‘It all started with pot. Then I went onto coke. Somehow in the middle of all that, I did acid and mescaline. Poppers, of course,’ he told Paper Magazine.
‘Then of course there was angel dust. And Quaaludes, which were at the time called disco biscuits. And somebody turned me onto whippets. It’s nitrous oxide, inhaled from whipped cream canisters. That’s really addictive and it was really horrible and it was the one that did me in. In the middle of all that, next to the mescaline, there was Special K. It was a little trippy,’ said the nightlife impresario.
Today, when every celebrity mishap is seconds away from being flashed around the globe, it is difficult to imagine that a place like Studio 54 could ever exist.
Safe from the world’s gaze before the dawn of camera phones and social media, the beautiful people were free to indulge themselves.
They could get as high as kites — and often were — or disappear off to the balconies and bathrooms for sex — and often did — and the photographers allowed inside knew they risked banishment if they recorded it. That is, of course, unless you were Andy Warhol, who Fleischman said ‘returned time and time again for nearly 100 nights, to capture icons in unscripted moments.’
Superstar model Brooke Shields, 14, shows her style on the dance floor. In the early 80s, she was the most famous teenager on the planet – modelling for Calvin Klein and joining Andy Warhol at Studio 54
Halston helps Elizabeth Taylor cut into her birthday cake featuring a photo of her face as The Rockettes pose in the background. Taylor entered the party standing on a float of gardenias between Halston and her (then) husband, Senator John Warner of Virginia
Diana Ross hits the dancefloor hand in hand with a young Richard Gere
In 1983, Studio 54 featured the world premiere of Michael Jackson’s 13-minute music video for Thriller. (Pictured above standing next to Steven Tyler). Jackson made a surprise visit and the crowds went crazy. The DJ, Frank Corr, said: ‘It was as wild as wild can get in a very happy way. Everyone was cool, but I had to tell the tech crew to move the bridge back to the DJ booth when it came time for Michael to leave. There was no way to take him through the crowd in the club.’ Michael danced his way onto the bridge above the dance floor and out the back door’
Rod Stewart poses next to Tina Turner. Drugs were par for the course, and Fleischman indulged in them all: ‘It all started with pot. Then I went onto coke. Somehow in the middle of all that, I did acid and mescaline. Poppers, of course,’ he told Paper Magazine. ‘Then of course there was angel dust. And Quaaludes, which were at the time called disco biscuits. And somebody turned me onto whippets. It’s nitrous oxide, inhaled from whipped cream canisters. That’s really addictive and it was really horrible and it was the one that did me in. In the middle of all that, next to the mescaline, there was Special K. It was a little trippy,’ said the nightlife impresario
Extravagant parties served as great publicity for the nightclub. Bianca Jagger made headlines when she celebrated her birthday entering the club on a white stallion. The success of it brought in more exotic animals such as a leopard, black panther, an elephant (pictured right with the actress Linda Blair). The second time Jagger celebrated her birthday at Studio 54, she released 100 white doves
For the most part, celebrity hedonists were safe from the public glare. ‘You’d stumble into half-hidden rooms filled with a few people who seemed to be sweating because of something they had just done, or were about to do,’ recalled Grace Jones in the 2018 doc, Studio 54.
The singer also said there was a top-secret room up in the gods of the old theatre — ‘a place of secrets and secretions, the in-crowd and inhalations, sucking and snorting.’
The legendary Rubber Room was the dark balcony at the top of Studio 54. It was covered with black rubber trim and flooring that could be easily washed down. Every night after all the lunacy, the busboys would find discarded rubbers, poppers, and panties —a testimony to the night’s fun and games. ‘Alec Baldwin, who had worked there as a busboy when he was a struggling actor, said he finally had to quit because seeing the sexual interplay night after night left him ‘perpetually horny,” recalled Fleischman in his 2017 memoir.
Mark Fleischman, the former king of Manhattan nightlife who once owned Studio 54 has died by assisted suicide at a facility in Switzerland. After a successful career in New York hospitality, Fleischman got sober and moved to Los Angeles where he owned a chain of Bar Method exercise studios in recent years
‘It was a dictatorship at the door and a democracy on the floor,’ commented Andy on the club’s ultra discretionary door policy. Once inside, it was a place where celebrities rubbed sweaty shoulders with nobodies.
The stringent admission policy also created a sense of commonality on the inside: everyone had passed some standard of cool.
The former sound stage featuring 85-foot ceilings was kitted out massive bass speakers on the floor so party-goers could not only listen but feel the music too. They took advantage of the lighting rigs that were leftover from when the space served as a CBS recording studio. The elaborate lighting system was so powerful that on the random occasion when doves were released during party, they would get frazzled and drop dead on the dance floor below.
‘The idea was to constantly assault the senses,’ said Schrager to Vanity Fair.
Sunday’s ‘Gay Nights’ were particularly legendary. The songwriter and ex-husband of Liza Minelli, Peter Allen once hosted a ‘Titanic-themed’ fete where he instructed guests to wear all black. The drink stirrers and cocktail napkins were imprinted with the ship’s original Cunard White Star logo and at midnight, Allen appeared on the catwalk above to douse everyone on the dance floor below with a fire hose. After the over-the-top Titanic set ‘sank’ – another stage revealed Eartha Kitt accompanied with a six-piece orchestra.
‘There were no inhibitions at this party,’ recalled Fleischman on his Instagram. ‘As was usually the case on Sundays along with an overwhelming aroma of amyl nitrate, which emanated from the small canisters worn by many guests around their necks.’
Fleischman carried on Rubell and Schrager’s strategy to use parties as a way of promoting the club. The lavish entertainment could cost upwards of $100,000.
One memorable Halloween party under their ownership featured a fun house in the front lobby that was decorated with a plexiglass mouse maze on the floor. Hundreds of white rodents decorated with a stripe of UV paint lit up beneath the black lights.
‘We had white mice running around for months,’ recalled Gerard Renny, who landed a gig working security at Studio 54 when he was just 18. He also remembered when one couple showed up accompanied by a live leopard on a leash.
Supermodel Raquel Welch, Steve Rubell and Mark Fleischman at Studio 54 circa 1981. ‘From that very first night, I was swept up in a world of celebrities, drugs, power, and sex,’ he said. ‘I was the ringleader for nearly four years and I became intoxicated with the scene—bodies gyrating on the dance floor, sex in the balcony, and anything goes in the Ladies’ Lounge and Rubber Room’
Elton John hugs Goldie Hawn celebrating at an after party for the British musician’s opening show at the Palladium
‘My office was the place where everyone would come to do drugs,’ Fleischman told the NY Daily News. ‘Robin Williams would entertain and John Belushi was there all the time. Liza (Minelli) stopped in.’ In his 2017 memoir, the nightlife impresario recalls how the handful of regulars who never wanted the party to end started ‘The Dawn Patrol.’ It usually consisted of Rick James, John Belushi, Prince Egon von Furstenberg and Robin Williams (pictured). They would meet in front at 5am, jump into limos and head downtown for ‘Crisco Disco’ the unlicensed after-hours parties held in boarded up vacant buildings and named after the preferred lubricant of choice among gay revelers
Liza Minnelli hits the floor with the legendary ballet dancer and playboy Mikhail Baryshnikov. Of Minnelli, Fleischman said: ‘She became a different person. She was overtaken by drugs and alcohol, then she went to Betty Ford.’ Eventually Fleischman also sought help at the Betty Ford Center, he said: ‘Studio 54 had the power to suck you in, chew you up, and spit you out,’ Fleischman wrote in his memoir. ‘Some of the people in our crowd got so immersed in a nonstop party of over indulgence that it destroyed them’
Choreographer Martha Graham, Elizabeth Taylor, former First Lady Betty Ford, and Liza Minnelli standing together all decked out in glitzy Halston dresses. The First Lady established the Betty Ford Rehab Center after suffering from her own perscription drug and alcohol addictions. Fleischman recalls how he first attempted to get sober in the mid- 1980s. ‘The instructions that Betty Ford sent me were, ‘Get on the plane and come to Palm Springs and don’t drink,’ so I decided I was going to have one last Bloody Mary with breakfast. That ended up becoming three or four,’ he told Paper Magazine in 2017
Diana Ross, perched atop the DJ booth sings to Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager on the closing night before they were carted off to jail on charges of tax evasion
The legendary Rubber Room was the dark balcony at the top of Studio 54 that was covered with black rubber trim and flooring that could be easily washed down. Every night after all the lunacy, the busboys would find discarded rubbers, poppers, and panties —a testimony to the night’s fun and games. ‘Alec Baldwin, who had worked there as a busboy when he was a struggling actor, said he finally had to quit because seeing the sexual interplay night after night left him ‘perpetually horny,” recalled Fleischman in his 2017 memoir
‘We really knew how to have fun,’ said Diane von Furstenberg, who told Vanity Fair that she would slip into her cowboy boots after having dinner with her children, park her Mercedes in the garage next door, ‘go in for a couple of hours, find someone, and leave.’
During his time, Fleischman also remembers a special night at Studio 54 with the psychedelic drug enthusiast, Dr. Timothy Leary. ‘I cooked up a surprise of Special K, a dissociative anesthetic that makes patients feel detached from their pain and environment. You store it in a little glass vial until you snort it and then, BOOM!’
The next thing he remembered was spotting Leary standing on top of the DJ booth screaming at the top of his lungs, ‘This is the center of the universe!’
After the night ended at Studio 54, Fleischman and a handful of regulars who never wanted the party to end started ‘The Dawn Patrol.’ It usually consisted of Rick James, John Belushi, Prince Egon von Furstenberg and Robin Williams. They would meet in front at 5am, jump into limos and head downtown for ‘Crisco Disco’ the unlicensed after-hours parties held in boarded up vacant buildings and named after the preferred lubricant of choice among gay revelers.
‘After a crazy drug and sex fueled night, at about 10am, I’d round up what was left of the Dawn Patrol and we’d head outside, blinded by the light of a new day as we headed uptown to breakfast, usually at the Empire Diner on Eighth Avenue,’ wrote Fleischman in his memoir.
‘There was great music and sex all over. I would go there to pick up women. All the women who went there were easy,’ Fleischman told the New York Post.
On any given afternoon, his assistant, Victoria Leacock (daughter of the documentarian Richard Leacock) would knock on his bedroom door around noon to ask how many coffees she should pour. ‘Never knowing whether there was one woman in bed with me that day, or two, maybe three.’
‘I had more fun at Studio 54 than in any other nightclub in the world,’ said designer Diane Von Furstenberg to Vanity Fair. ‘I would have dinner with my children, put on my cowboy boots, take my Mercedes, park in the garage next door, go in for a couple of hours, find someone, and leave’
Every night, thousands of hopeful revelers would wait outside Studio 54 for a chance to enter behind the velvet rope. ‘I loved getting out of a cab and seeing those long lines of people who couldn’t get in,’ said Brigid Berlin, one of Andy Warhol’s Factory workers to Vanity Fair. ‘And I’d just walk in, and it felt so good—all those people staring and waving and taking pictures of everyone who got in, thinking if you got in you must be somebody’
In 1978, Studio 54 threw a party for the country music star, Dolly Parton (pictured). They themed the club to look like a farm replete with a petting zoo
Fleischman brought rising stars like Madonna (pictured), Duran Duran, and Culture Club to perform for regular patrons and celebrities like Boy George, Janet Jackson, Lionel Richie, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Cyndi Lauper. He said his first encounter with Madonna was less than pleasant: ‘I don’t know when she first became a diva, but it was in her blood. She was there one afternoon to do a soundcheck on her song ‘Holiday.’ She was meeting Frankie Crocker, who was the top DJ in the United States. Most performers really wanted to please him. And she was cursing at him because he was late’
But if the early 80s were the party, then the mid-80s were the hangover for the nightlife impresario. ‘I was a train wreck waiting to happen,’ Fleischman said.
By then, his drug addiction was spiraling out of control, and Studio 54 began to loose its celebrity cachet. He sold the business in 1984, and the new owners shut it down permanently in 1986.
‘Studio 54 had the power to suck you in, chew you up, and spit you out,’ Fleischman wrote in his memoir. ‘Some of the people in our crowd got so immersed in a nonstop party of over indulgence that it destroyed them.’
By then, the AIDs epidemic was in full swing, many patrons were beginning to succumb to the horrifying mystery illness that plagued the gay community. Steve Rubell, one of the club’s original co-founders was killed by the epidemic in 1989.
Those who survived were often left too terrified to continue with their hedonistic lifestyles. Fleischman was one of them.
After seeing his inner circle, Andy Gibb, Rick James, and John Belushi, fall victim to drug and alcohol abuse, he sought help at the Betty Ford Clinic.
‘The instructions that Betty Ford sent me were, ‘Get on the plane and come to Palm Springs and don’t drink,’ so I decided I was going to have one last Bloody Mary with breakfast. That ended up becoming three or four,’ he told Paper Magazine in 2017.
When that didn’t work, Fleischman detoxed at Rancho La Puerta health resort in Tecate, Mexico. ‘I was on top of this mountain – it’s considered a magical mountain – shamans had been going there for thousands of years. Somehow, I was able to get high on that feeling of being healthy and fit enough to climb that mountain.’
Fleischman returned to Rancho La Puerta more than 55 times, every time he needed a hit of that natural high again. ‘It’s cheaper and better than drugs,’ he said, ‘and it allowed me to live longer.’
In 1986, Fleischman married publishing executive, Laurie Lister. The couple had a daughter named Hilary before they divorced in the 1990s and the veteran nightlife man dipped his toe back into the business with a new Midtown club named Tatou.
After a brief and doomed partnership with Donald Trump to open a discotheque in his Plaza Hotel, Fleischman left New York forever and moved to Los Angeles.
‘While we were in construction, the hotel was foreclosed on,’ he revealed to The New York Post. ‘Trump hadn’t told me. The bank came in like a ton of bricks.’
Adding: ‘I lost a couple hundred thousand. And my investors lost over a million.’
While in Los Angeles, Fleischman expanded Tatou to a second location in Beverly Hills in 1994, and later licensed the concept to a restaurateur in Tokyo. Around that same time, he also opened the Century Club in West Hollywood, which catered to a hip-hip clientele with performances by Dr. Dre, Ludacris and Jay-Z, and Pit Bull.
He remarried in 1994 to Mimi Fleischman Denise Chatman, a woman he refers to as his ‘dream girl.’ The couple went on to open a string of successful Bar Method Exercise Studios throughout Los Angeles.
By the 2000s, the hospitality man was out of nightlife completely. ‘I’m the exception, it seems, having trading in the nighttime world of bars in 2007 for the daytime business of Bar Method Exercise Studios,’ he posted on his Instagram page.
The classes became popular with celebrities, which eventually led to a franchising of 12 locations. As of 2019, they retained ownership of the Bar Method in West Hollywood.
Fleischman remembers a special night with the ‘father of psychedelics,’ Timothy Leary (above), who stood on top of the DJ booth one night screaming, ‘This is the center of the universe!’ after Fleischman had ‘cooked up a surprise of Special K’ for his VIP guest
It wasn’t just famous people who went to Studio 54 but also their children too. Above, Ben Stiller poses with his sister Amy. Drew Barrymore was also another celebrity offspring that was taken to Studio 54 aged nine years-old by her mom, and was encouraged to do drugs and dance with male celebrities while there
The late Andre Leon Talley (editor-at-large of Vogue) dances with Diana Ross at a New Years Eve party also attended by Truman Capote, Halston and Carolina Herrera
Caroline Kennedy, daughter of Jackie O, poses with the late photographer (and family friend) Peter Beard (left). Robert Kennedy Jr, son of Attorney General Robert Kennedy, enjoys a night of debaucher with his fiancée, model Jules Dreyfus at Studio 54
Fleischman’s health problems began in 2016, when suddenly he felt his left leg start to drag.
Mimi, his wife of 27 years said that it’s worse than being paralyzed, the illness has left him wheelchair-bound.
‘It is worse than not being able to walk. Mark doesn’t have balance. He drops things and does not know where his body is in space,’ Mimi Fleischman said. ‘Doctors originally thought he had a form of Parkinson’s. But it is not that. Nobody knows what he has.’
Fleischman began considering suicide two years ago. ‘I came to the decision slowly,’ he told The Post. ‘Two years ago, I decided that it wasn’t worth living. I took a lot of Xanax and ended up in the hospital.’
‘If I hadn’t lived the way I did, and had as much fun as I had, it might be different. Right now I am like a vegetable. It is so hard to even get into the car.’
He said that he settled on his choice to commit assisted suicide shortly after that when he read a book about the process.
‘I read in there that the easiest way is to suffocate. But I did not want the pain. I was going to buy a gun. But my wife interceded. We started looking into a place where it would be legal to find someone to do it with.’
Mimi initially tried to stop him but has chosen to let him go the way of his choosing.
‘It’s going to be horrible,’ she said. ‘He is my partner and we are devoted to each other. So it is the end of a part of me as well. I have to honor what he wants. But he is not giving me a choice. He wants to end his life and this is a dignified way to do it.’
Because human euthanasia is illegal in California, Mimi was able to locate Dignitas, the Switzerland-based nonprofit that has facilitated people with terminal illnesses end their lives since 1998.
The process costs $15,000 and requires the patient to pass a psychological test.
‘They want to be certain that I am making the decision for myself,’ he said. ‘After reading my material, they asked me some questions to make sure I was serious. I had to provide a notarized affidavit, stating that I want to die. I had to go to a psychiatrist and he confirmed that I am of sound mind.’
Fleischman went public with his decision to end his life via assisted suicide on June 25, with a candid conversation in The New York Post. ‘I fly out on July 8 and we do the death on the 13th.’
He said, ‘We’re staying in a beautiful place, a resort on the lake’ and has no plan for a decadent ‘last meal.’ After some sightseeing, Fleischman explained that he will meet in an apartment arranged by Dignitas.
‘I take a drink, I fall asleep and that’s it,’ he said. ‘Mimi will be right next to me.’
Fleischman said he originally planned to keep his plan a secret. ‘I was going to go to Zurich and ‘have a stroke’ while on vacation.’
‘But there is no shame in what I am doing. It is proper and reasonable at my age. I have done everything and been everywhere and met everyone I want to meet.’
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