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Death of Dennis Hof, the 'P.T. Barnum of Booty,' Leaves Uncertain Future for Nevada Brothels and Senate Seat

Hof had a huge impact on legal sex work in Nevada and his death has spurred a heady mix of reactions.

STEVE MARCUS/REUTERS/NewscomSTEVE MARCUS/REUTERS/NewscomAfter spending the night at a campaign rally with porn star Ron Jeremy and ex-Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, Nevada state senate candidate and notorious brothel owner Dennis Hof passed away at his Nye County "Love Ranch." Jeremy, a longtime friend, discovered the body on Tuesday morning, just hours after the pair had been celebrating Hof's 72nd birthday.

"No cause of death has been determined, but no foul play is suspected," says Chuck Muth, Hof's campaign manager. "I'm told the Clark County coroner will conduct an autopsy."

For now, Hof's death has spurred a heady mix of reactions—befitting a man whose big heart and boorish behavior are both part of the lore.

To many who knew and worked with him, Hof was a priceless mentor, benefactor, and friend. As news of his death spread, so, too, did the online outpourings of gratitude and sadness from former and current workers at Hof's businesses (in addition to the Love Ranch outside Las Vegas, Hof owned six more legal brothels around Nevada, including The Moonlite BunnyRanch) and others who knew him.

"Your amazing achievements and the incredible opportunities you've provided for so many of us will never be forgotten," tweeted Bunny Ranch worker Ava Carter on Tuesday.

Penthouse journalist Mitchell Sunderland called Hof "the sweetest, least judgemental man in American life," and posted a personal story of how Hof had helped him at one of his darkest times. "America knew Dennis as the PT Barnum of Booty," added Sunderland, "but I saw him help numerous people, giving them advice, friendship, shelter, and, in some case's, money when nobody else would."

Many such individuals were sharing their stories on social media yesterday. "Those close to him knew the real Dennis—a kind & strong man who always made time for his friends," posted sociology researcher and sex worker Christina Parreira. "He was my rock, mentor, & friend, and I loved him immensely."

"You changed the sex work industry forever and your company changed my life," tweeted Ruby Rae, a graduate student and sex-worker rights activist who also works at the Bunny Ranch. "Through the opportunity of your employment I realized my own passions within this crazy world."

Within the larger sex worker community, however, Hof has been a controversial figure. Several dark allegations lie in Hof's history. Former employees and lovers accused him of sexual assault in 2005, 2009, and 2011. "My rapist is dead," former Love Ranch worker Jennifer O'Kane told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday.

And Hof's failure to fight for prostitution decriminalization or legalization writ large struck some as confirmation that his commitment to the wellbeing of sex workers started and ended with his own pocketbook.

"He could have tossed some money at different orgs trying to get sex work decrim," tweeted Amber Batts, an Alaska woman who spent several years in prison for allegedly "sex trafficking" willing adult women who worked for her escort service. Instead, Hof seemed "just fine staying in his neck of the woods" while sex workers elsewhere "are being jailed and getting killed out here."

But within his own brothels, Hof did help revolutionize working conditions for Nevada's legal prostitution industry. "When Hof bought he Bunny Ranch in the early 1990s, Nevada brothels would not let the women leave for days at a time," explains Allison Schrager at Quartz.

They had to do whatever the customer wanted, for the price the house set. Hof took his experience selling time-share property and employed a similar model to sex work. He had all the women work as independent contractors who set the terms of their own transactions, including the price, and then took 50%.

Schrager said she visited Hof's brothels three times while working on articles and enjoyed being in an environment "that felt so devoid of hypocrisy." This, she adds, "is how Hof lived his life."

"Dennis Hof was a visionary," tweeted Alice Little, a Bunny Ranch worker, blogger, and podcaster. "He has a dream- to give women an empowering environment to own their sexuality. He did that, and so much more. He was a mentor, role model, friend, and like a family member to so many of us."

STEVE MARCUS/REUTERS/NewscomSTEVE MARCUS/REUTERS/Newscom

Perhaps it's Hof's general politics—he's flitted back and forth between the Libertarian and Republican parties, coming down in recent years on the pro-Trump side of things—that put him at odds with his largely liberal peers in the adult entertainment and sex-work industries. But this conservatism also helped him out with local authorities in some of the Republican-heavy counties where brothels operate.

Hof was running for the Nevada senate as a Republican, and "though many prominent Nevada Republicans refused to endorse Hof, he was still expected to win the general election to represent the deep-red district," points out Rolling Stone. Now, come November, Hof's name will remain on the ballot but it will note that he is deceased. If Hof still wins, the seat gets filled by another Republican from the district, to be picked by commissioners from Nevada's Nye, Lincoln, and Clark counties.

Hof's candidacy isn't the only brothel-related issue up for a vote this fall, however. In Lyon County, where Moonlite Bunny Ranch and three of Hof's other brothels are based, voters will be asked to decide on the future of legal prostitution. A similar ballot measure was floated in Nye County as well but failed to get enough signatures ahead of last June's submission deadline.

Grover Norquist, who calls Hof "a friend and political ally," lamented that the man—"so full of energy and life" when Norquist saw him Monday—"could have made a big difference in the direction of Nevada towards limited government and lower taxes." Perhaps. But there's no doubt that he helped fight for and preserve Nevada's limited-government approach to sex work. Without Hof's personal and economic influence on local politics, Nevada's brothels face an uncertain future.

For now, Hof's "brothels will close because he was the sole licensee," reports the Review-Journal. But this "could be temporary as authorities and Hof's lawyers work to find a solution."

Photo Credit: STEVE MARCUS/REUTERS/Newscom

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  • Don't look at me!||

    The coroner will spend days trying to get the smile off his face.

  • Don't look at me!||

    Oops, undertaker.

  • Don't look at me!||

    First Hef, and now this.
    Sad!

  • BigT||

    A Hef, a Hof, next a Haf?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Huf

  • Mongo||

    Here's a tip for the ladies: Politely decline a visit from a Saudi forensic doctor and his four friends.

  • Don't look at me!||

    They are so funny! Crack you up!

  • John||

    The blond in the Cleveland shirt is damn cute. The rest of them, not so much.

  • Mongo||

    If Hof is the PT Barnum of Booty then I'm the PT-109 of Busty Blondes.

  • SIV||

    You spent all day on that Liz?

    I expected better.

    Good thing you don't work for tips

  • Dont Tread On Womyn||

    Yea I was kind of thinking the same thing after she hyped in the comments of the AM links.

  • SIV||

    Reason is really slacking on this shit. This one would have been fine as a quick "what they're saying on twitter" Tuesday night or Monday morning . The whole death of Hof should've generated several posts. There's so much to work with here yet they're squandering it all. I was kinda expecting something a little more substantial after a 24 hour lag.

  • Eddy||

    "Now, come November, Hof's name will remain on the ballot but it will note that he is deceased. If Hof still wins, the seat gets filled by another Republican from the district, to be picked by commissioners from Nevada's Nye, Lincoln, and Clark counties."

    Just goes to show that there are circumstances where you have to root for the electoral success of a dead brothel owner vis-a-vis a Democrat.

    RIP

  • Dillinger||

    >>>largely liberal peers in the adult entertainment and sex-work industries

    makes little sense the bunnies would back the regulators

  • Alcibiades||

    All you need to know about capitalism.

    From:
    Adam Smith?
    Milton Friedman?
    F.A Hayek?
    Ludwig von Mises?

    nope,

    Teen Vogue:

    https://twitter.com/ne0liberal/
    status/1052660248987795458

    Take that Reason!

  • Eddy||

    The fact that advertisers support this stuff illustrates the remark (attributed to a commie leader) about capitalists getting hanged with rope which the capitalists themselves sold to the commies.

  • Alcibiades||

    The apparent absence of any self-awareness here is pretty staggering.

  • Juice||

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    That Neoliberal guy says he's a consequentialist. So we are now bitter foes.

  • Alcibiades||

    "...throughout history, other countries have embraced other systems, like socialism or communism, so it's important to explore what capitalism actually is."

    "Embraced"...makes it all sound so snuggly and warm and, well, so darned nice!

  • ||

    "...other systems, like socialism or communism..."? Socialism has two forms: 1. Communism. 2. Fascism.

    There are only 2 fundamentally different systems: 1. Authoritarianism. 2. Voluntarism.

    The first uses the initiation of violence, threats, and fraud. People hate & fear it but have seen no competition.

    The second is based on reason and rights and may take infinitely different forms but all are based on non-violence and voluntary cooperation. It is the only system that protects rights. And the only system compatible with capitalism. It is seen in the private sector worldwide, but not the public. It creates wealth and value. Socialism consumes wealth and destroys values.

  • Bronze Khopesh||

    He probably died doing what he loved: Clutching his heart and going "Arrrrghh, I'm....!"

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    At least it wasn't "The Hof", of hassle fame.

  • Conchfritters||

    Rest In Peace Hof. I didn't know he and Heidi Fleiss were domestic partners. I can see why he wanted to keep his little gig down in Nevada exclusive, but not likely I'll see prostitution legal anywhere else in the US in my life time, except in Nevada. Then again I never thought that pot would be legal for recreation.

  • Bronze Khopesh||

    Perhaps we should start with medicinal prostitution. Work our way up to general legalization like the pot folks did.

  • Conchfritters||

    Makes sense to me. At least that way the incels will get laid.

  • kinghiram91||

    Yeah, but the problem with incels is they seek validatory sex, not the transactional sex that prostitutes offer. They think that a woman touching their peepee will make them feel loved. They have no self-esteem, so they can't validate their own lives and believe that someone loving them will do the job.

    The truth is a lot of incels problems would be solved if they would engage in some basic self-care. Take more showers, wear deodorant, brush the teeth more often. If they feel they should grow facial hair, maybe they should actually groom it properly. Maybe hit the gym a couple weeks a month. Do laundry, don't count on Mom to do it for you. Stop consuming so much junk food. You'd be surprised what all those things can do for a guy looking to get laid. Women like seeing a guy who at least looks and smells like he's got it all together.

  • Bronze Khopesh||

    ^^^All this.

    I was pointing out to my daughter the other day that they're not really "in"cels as there is no one actively trying to stop them from having sex. They just refuse to do the things that would give them a better shot. So they're really "vol"cels.

  • Eddy||

  • Bronze Khopesh||

  • Nardz||

    Maybe, or maybe that's just a stereotype. It could be largely true and still not capture the whole story. It's possible kids coming up in an "everything is rape" and "gender fluid" environment may not develop normal relationship skills.

    Regardless, prostitutes serve the same role as psychotherapists: contract intimacy.

  • Echospinner||

    If what these guys lack is confidence and self esteem a prostitute is probably more than they can deal with emotionally.

  • Azathoth!!||

    What I find hilarious is how y'all say 'them'.

  • LeaveTrumpAloneLiberal-tarian||

    Some asshole dareth writeth this. It makes me so mad I think he should be excommunicated and forced to live in some Scandinavian shithole along with OpenBordersLibertarian— preferably amongst Muslims and ISIS, which are the same thing.

    Even the idle rich, as conservative patron saint Frederick Hayek once insisted, have a socially constructive role to play. Wealth gives them the freedom to experiment "with new styles of living," new "fields of thought and opinion, of tastes and beliefs." The wealthy enrich our culture.

    These defenders are wrong. The awesomely affluent have no net redeeming social value.

  • Eddy||

  • Eddy||

    "So why do we spend more? "Because people at the top have so much more," he notes. They're spending more on their own celebrations, and they set the consumption standard, unleashing what Frank has labelled "expenditure cascades." People at every income level feel increasing pressure to reach the higher consumption bar those directly above them have set....

    "...In the communities where these rich congregate, they suck the vitality out....

    "...New York's luxury towers are blocking out the sun in Central Park, Manhattan's historic commons. The superrich are altering our lived environment for the worse....

    "Our global environmental crisis would not, of course, suddenly melt away if the world's most affluent suddenly ended their profligate consumption. But the wealthy pose our single biggest obstacle to environmental progress.

    "Great fortunes both rest on environmental degradation and blind the wealthy to it....

    "In starkly unequal urban regions, the wealthy bid up the price of close-in, conveniently located real estate. Rising prices force middle-class families to move farther out from job centers to find affordable housing. The farther people live from their work, the more traffic...."

  • Eddy||

    "...the exceedingly rich usually blanch whenever someone proposes tax-funded solutions, mainly because they figure that sooner or later people will want to tax them....

    "...US investments in infrastructure have fallen off dramatically, from 3.3 percent of GDP in 1968 to 1.3 percent in 2011, a long-term decline that began at almost exactly the same time as inequality in America started rising. The US states where the rich have gained the most at the expense of the middle class turn out to be the states that invest the least in infrastructure....

    "...the more wealth concentrates, the more our political leaders tilt the wealthy's way....

    "At first glance, the basic giving numbers in the United States look impressive. In 2015, gifts of $100 million or more alone totaled over $3.3 billion. But the aura of generosity fades the moment we start contemplating what the superrich *could* be contributing....

    "Meanwhile, despite a state law that requires California public schools to offer music, art, theater, and dance at every grade level, arts-education programs in the budget-strapped public schools of Los Angeles remain woefully "inadequate," the Los Angeles Times reported late in 2015..."

  • Don't look at me!||

    The Richest 1,409 taxpayers pay more income tax than bottom 70Million

    The top 1 percent paid a greater share of individual income taxes (37.3 percent) than the bottom 90 percent combined (30.5 percent).

    The top 50 percent of all taxpayers paid 97 percent of total individual income taxes.

    It is the top 0.001%, or about 1,400 taxpayers. That group alone paid 3.25 percent of all income taxes.

  • SIV||

    Gillespie should write all the obituaries. He's really good at that.

  • Homple||

    He should write one for the late Libertarian Moment.

  • Echospinner||

    Well he sure looks like he was one happy guy who did what he wanted.

  • IceTrey||

    Obviously he was killed by the same people who took out Bourdain.

  • Let freedom ring||

    I did not know Dennis well, and I am saddened by his death. But when I interviewed him the last time He ran,as a Libertarian, he was strongly opposed to decriminalization, and puffed up the sex trafficking trope, complaining about "gangs" in Las Vegas. Only Hoff and the Nevada Brothel Association advocate the "legalization" model, all other advocacy groups favor decriminalization.
    I just visited Hungary, where sex work has been decriminalized since 1999. The women advertise on Hungarian web sights and work from their apartments. They can set their own boundaries openly. The government wants them to keep records and pay taxes, I do not know how that is enforced.
    I wonder if Stossel and Norquist understand the difference between legalization and decriminalization? Legalization is just another way of rent seeking, keeping an industry closed to new competition and guaranteeing profits.
    Yes, Dennis was beloved by many. His girls called him "Daddy". He could be generous, often taking in women who got in trouble in other states as workers essentially "laundering" them through the legal environment.
    But, as the article points out, others like the Honest Courtesan despised him and considered him little more than a profiteer. Condolences to his family, friends and those who remember him fondly.

  • Agnes||

    I'm actually more sad about Dennis Hof's death than I have been with other recent celebrity deaths. I grew up, like any healthy teen, sneaking to the other tv room to watch the Bunny Ranch on HBO after my parents were in bed. Although I had nothing repressing me, I feel like it really 'normalized' my sexuality early on.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    God was not running for State Senate, but State Assembly.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    God was not running for State Senate, but State Assembly.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Have to hate "auto-correct"...HOF!

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    Have to hate "auto-correct"...HOF!

  • DavidS-T||

    Nasty but funny comment I've seen about the final birthday party with Hof, Norquist, Jeremy, and Arpaio:

    "The shocking thing is that Ron Jeremy was not the biggest dick in the room."

  • Hank Phillips||

    So now that we have this new plank, do we have a candidate in that race? A write-in maybe?

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