"Nevada's the last of the live and let live states," says Dennis Hof, the self-described "Brothel King" and owner and proprieter of Nevada's Moonlite Bunny Ranch, made famous as the setting for the HBO documentary series, Cathouse (2005-2008). "I don't care if you smoke weed. Don't bother me because I have a safe full of guns and I'm in the sex business."
Reason TV's Zach Weissmueller sat down with Hof in his brothel for a wide-ranging interview about sex, prostitution, black markets, politics, and more.
Hof acquired the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in 1992 and systematically pushed it into the public eye through a blend of showmanship, attention-seeking, and media outreach he calls the "PT Barnum/Andy Kaufman" school of marketing and publicity. In fact, he claims that Andy Kaufman gave him the initial idea to buy the Bunny Ranch when they partied there together in the late '70s.
"In about '78, Kaufman said, 'Dennis, let's buy this place and make it our den,'" says Hof (1:30).
Since then, Hof has gone on to acquire six more brothels, giving him a huge share of a national market that only includes 17 total brothels. This is because Nevada is the only state in the U.S. that has legalized prostitution, and only in counties with populations of less than 400,000. This, of course, rules out Clark County, where Las Vegas is located.
"It's illegal in Las Vegas, and look what you've got," says Hof. "You've got 2,000 girls a month being arrested. Lots of guys being arrested, lives being ruined… Las Vegas is the sexual cesspool of America." (24:20)
He also points to the remarkably high rate of HIV infection among prostitutes in Las Vegas. By contrast, he says, under the state's regime of mandatory STD testing, there has never been a documented case of HIV among licensed workers in Nevada's brothels.
Watch the whole interview above to hear Hof talk more about what it's like to run some of the country's only legal brothels, as well as stories about his run-ins with Sen. Harry Reid (7:10), his advice for Anthony Weiner and Elliot Spitzer (17:45), and why he started the group "Pimpin' for [Ron] Paul" (18:17).
And don't forget to check out Reason TV's documentary on how legalization of the sex trade could be a strategy for fighting underage sex trafficking.
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Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Shot by Sharif Matar and Will Neff. Approximately 27 minutes.
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