America's Famous Brothel: The Moonlite Bunny Ranch
Nevada, considered by some as the State of Sin, has been the home of legalized gambling and prostitution for a long time.
Among all the legal brothels in Nevada, one has risen to national fame in just a few years, due to the smart marketing techniques of owner, Dennis Hof. Hof, who spent fifteen years in the real-estate business, bought the Bunny Ranch in 1992 and immediately applied the sales techniques of his former business to the world's oldest profession. Today, The Bunny Ranch is probably America’s best-known brothel, since a reality-documentary for cable television was filmed on site, and its main competitor, The Mustang Ranch in Reno, was shut down after its owners were convicted of fraud.
One of Hof’s first innovations was to hire porn stars as prostitutes and promoted them on radio shows such as Howard Stern and in adult magazines.
According to Hof, who likes to call himself “America's Pimp”, it is all about value and the perception of value. One of his motto is” Not Just Sex, An Adventure” because, clients come to see prostitutes for something other than just plain sex, he says. They want fantasy and to do things they cannot or would not do at home. For Hof, if a girl knows how to sell the value of her services, she will be successful. As he likes to say during one of his mandatory sales courses new girls: “you do not have to have the prettiest face or the best body to make the most money at the Bunny Ranch”.
The motto must be working because, according to Hof, one client recently spent 1.7 million dollars in 5 weeks partying with the girls at the ranch.
The Bunny Ranch is located in Carson City, the state capital of Nevada, and within Lyon County, one of 10 in Nevada that allow licensed prostitutes to work out of legal brothels. Brothels pay a license fee as well as property taxes.
The Bunny Ranch consists of single floor prefabricated buildings. Clients ring a bell at the outside gate before entering the “parlor”, a small and dark room with tinted mirrors on the wall, where the girls line up. Sir Edward, the Victorian Butler, who introduces the girls by name and presents a menu of all the sexual services available at the ranch, greets clients. The client(s) can either choose a girl (or two, or more) right away or take their time and have a drink at the bar.
Patrons range from a local businessmen to rock stars, from car dealers to young up and coming athletes. Jesse Venture, the Governor of the state of Minnesota revealed in his autobiography that he visited the ranch in his youth.
While waiting at the bar, the girls come to the clients and try to start a conversation. Most will offer a tour of the establishment. From the parlor, there are two narrow corridors with doorways, each bearing the stage name of a girl such as “Air Force Amy” or “Miss Sunshine Lane”. Each girl has her own room. This is where prices are discussed and negotiations commence. Prices vary from a few hundreds dollars for basic sex to a few thousands for “fantasy parties”.
The Bunny Ranch relies on networking and word of mouth to recruit new girls. Many hear about the Bunny Ranch through radio programs and on TV shows. The money and the secrecy seduce them. All new recruits need to go through the business manager, Madame Suzette.
Madame Suzette is a pretty woman in her mid-forties with body language that inspires authority. Although she has never worked as prostitute, she knows how to get their respect.
To be hired, women have to be of legal age with no criminal record. Drug users or street prostitutes are usually not accepted. Some of the girls are educated and some even have held white -collar jobs, but prefer to work as legal prostitutes for its lifestyle and the money. Some are married with children at home and one even came on her first week at work with her husband.
Each new girl is checked for sexually transmitted diseases when she arrives, then again every Thursday of her stay at the ranch. She also has to learn the house rules from a thick ring binder and is encouraged to be trained in negotiating by an older resident. She will also have to attend one or more of Dennis Hoff’s sales presentations.
All girls have their own room that they can decorate as they like. They are expected to be productive, otherwise are charged nineteen dollars per day for room and board. They have access all day and night to a kitchen where meals are cooked and displayed for them to eat at any time they want or can.
The prostitutes are independent contractors. Each girl sets her own prices. The negotiations of prices must happen in their room, where the conversation can be heard through a microphone. If a deal is made, the girl brings her customer to the cashier/office to complete the transaction.
Each girl has a card, similar to a punch-clock card, which is kept in a rack on the wall. The office employee writes down on the card the time and the amount of money that the client has agreed to pay, then takes his payment in form of cash or credit card. Fifty percent her earnings go to the Bunny Ranch.
The couple is then given clean sheets “a party sheet” and head for the room. To keep track of the elapsed time, the office clerk uses small kitchen timers. Each timer is placed above the card and when the time is up, the clerk tells the girl through an interphone. If the client is not finished, they are given the option to pay more to continue.
All girls working at the Bunny Ranch are free to come and go as they wish during the day. The girls must spend the night at the ranch and work a 12-hour shifts each day they are there. They usually stay one to three weeks at the ranch at a time then go home. Some have been regulars for years while others come to the ranch only when they need money. Those who work regularly and make the most money get the best rooms or suites.
The girls can refuse any client they don’t want to go with by either quoting a high price or by not joining him at the bar. Despite this freedom, most are eager to work as much as they can. Some reside in Carson City and some as far away as Florida.
Dennis Hof has big ambitions, among them to create a franchise out of the name. This would include magazines, clothes and X-rated movies under the name.
Text by Frederic Neema
(c) 2004 Frederic Neema
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