Dennis Hof, proprietor of theWorld Famous Moonlite Bunny Ranch—along with six other brothels in Nevada—and star of the HBO docuseries Cathouse has died at the age of 72. According to The Daily Mail, Hof was discovered unresponsive in bed by his good friend Ron Jeremy, ending a life spent enjoying the benefits—as well as always trying to expand the rights—of legalized prostitution.
Jeremy wasat a campaign event held for Hof in Pahrump, NV, where Hof was running for Nevada State Assembly. This puts an extra note of sadness on his passing, as Hof was a tireless campaigner for the protected rights of sex workers, and could have possibly done something to further that agenda had he been elected.
I conducted an interview with Hof back in 2015 over on Fleshbot, when he was promoting his autobiography "The Art of the Pimp." Below you can find the transcript of that interview...
In his memoir,The Kid Stays in the Picture, Robert Evans famously said, “There arethree sides to every story: myside, yourside, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each one differently.” There is no more fitting way to describe the philosophy behind Dennis Hof’s new memoirThe Art of the Pimp: A Love Story. Hof is the proprietor of theWorld Famous Moonlite Bunny Ranch, as well as six other brothels in Nevada, and approached his life story with the same commitment to a warts-and-all version of the truth that he brings to everything else he does. Hof rose to fame thanks to his tireless marketing efforts for the Ranch, but his star exploded thanks to the HBO documentary seriesCathouse, where he showed himself to be not just a savvy businessman and salesman, but also a down to earth, Joe six-pack type of guy.
When I reached Dennis at his hotel room overlooking Times Square in New York, heand current partnerKrissy Summershad a lot to say about his continued efforts to fight sex trafficking and legalize prostitution, as well as his latest business venture.We also delve a bitinto why his book ends with a psychological evaluation by a psychotherapist who deemed him a dependent, compulsive, narcissist with sadomasochistic habits, unrecognized sadistic behavior, and struggles with addiction?
Dennis Hof: Krissy, are you there?
Krissy Summers: Yeah, I’m here.
DH: I got Krissy Summers on the phone, she’s a former bunny and University of Michigan cheerleader who was a fan of the HBO seriesCathouse, and then came out, paid off her school loans, and now she’s back at the Ranch living with me and doing PR, and she’s 13 months from a PhD in Human Sexuality.
Tucker Bankshot: Well, congratulations Krissy.
KS: Thank you so much.
DH: Well, where do you want to start? Have you seen the most recent thing we just put out in the New York Daily News about the brothel tester?
TB: Yeah, that was actually one of my questions, there was some debate here yesterday if there was any legitimacy to that. It obviously seems legit, especially in light of asimilar thing happening over in Europe, but we were wondering if that was true.
DH: Yeah, absolutely. Of course, everything I do is designed to bring attention to the Bunny Ranch, but we need quality control and we’re always looking for the right person to be our secret shopper. We need to know that the girl at the door is being friendly and dressed properly, we need to know that the bartenders are doing the right job, serving the drinks in the proper glasses, being congenial, charging the right prices, and just being friendly. We need to know what’s going on in the rooms, cleanliness, are they playing loud rap music,put a cap in your ass motherfucker(everyone laughs), or is it easy listening music or country/western, we want to know what’s going on in the rooms.
And the biggest part is the quality of the services provided. We need to know if, just because this girl is hot doesn’t mean she’s great in bed; does she have skills? Does she know numerous positions? Is she open-minded enough to try new things, if someone wants to try a wheelbarrow or something, does she know what this stuff is? It’s no different than any restaurant, bar, anything, every company has secret shoppers. Ours is unique because of the fact that it’s the sex business.
TB: Now, this seems like the kind of job that I imagine any heterosexual man in America would look at and say,well I can do that. What qualities are you looking for, what are the things that would send somebody to the front of the line in this process?
DH: Cleanliness, attitude, being open-minded. Now, Krissy’s going to be doing a lot of the interviews by Skype and we’re meeting with people in New York; and also stamina. Are you good for one party a day? Can you have sex and not ejaculate or can you reload quick enough to make it make sense? To be with one girl in a day is not cost-effective. I need this guy to come up to northern Nevada and go to each one of my four locations, the Kit Kat Ranch, theLove Ranch, theSagebrush Ranch, and of course the World Famous Bunny Ranch, so I need this person to party with four girls in a day, and then I need them to go down to southern Nevada and party in my three houses down there, and be able to move around the state and come at different times of the day at different houses.
I’m also looking for bad attitudes, we’re a microcosm of America so whatever can happen—good or bad—can happen at the Bunny Ranch. Could there be somebody in there smoking weed? Yeah. Do I want weed in my place? No. So I need to know these things, was your girl sober or was she just a hot mess? So there’s a lot that’s going to go into it, and Krissy I think you’re gonna spend a lot of time trying to ferret out the right applicants here.
KS: Yay, I’m excited!
TB: Well, it’s got to be an intensive search. Are you just looking for one person to do this?
DH: Well, no we’re probably going to hire at least six, and they’ll work at different times. They’ll come in every month until they’ve worn themselves out as far as their identity, people might figure out who they are. We’re like Tyra, we’re searching for America’s Next Top Brothel Tester (everyone laughs). I’m gonna put that up on the site. We’ve also been doing media for three or four weeks now…
KS: For the book
DH: Yeah, for the bookThe Art of the Pimp, Judith Regan’s book. The reviews are great, the sales are great, and my goal with this book is a movie. I told Judith when she came to me about doing a book, I said, “Okay, but I want to do a movie,” and she said,Well, let’s get the right person. So we’ve got a screenwriter, Pablo Fenjves, who’s done numerous movies, twelve books, two number one best-sellers, so Pablo wrote the book as a movie and he did a good job because MGM’s already taken an option for a television show.
TB: Wow, that’s great. I actually read the book last month and it reads like gangbusters. I have to ask if you’ve readThe Kid Stays in the Pictureby Robert Evans, or seen the documentary they did based on it?
DH: I have not read that, but I do know who he is.
TB: Okay, well, it struck me as being very similar in as much as you’re not afraid to have dissenting opinions written about you.
DH: Well, thanks for noticing that. The secret toCathousewas that it’s real. This TV show aired new content thirteen years in a row, in 64 countries… I just spoke at the Sorbonne in Paris and people knew who I was in Paris, and so I’ve gotten a worldwide reputation and notoriety thanks to this TV show, and the secret was that it was honest. So I told Judith, from the beginning, I want to do the most honest book ever done. And she said to me,Dennis, there’s risk in that, do you really want people to see the goods, the bads, and the uglies?and I said, “Absolutely.” Then she said,Are you going to allow people to say whatever they want to say?“Absolutely.” So then she says,Well, what if they say bad things?and I said, “Well, (the reader) will consider the source and some of them will have some credibility and others will look like they’re just whack cases and haters because I dumped them.”
So we made it honest. You know, who has the nerve to put a psychiatric report after a four hour evaluation in New York City? They filmed it and they’re releasing some of the clips soon, but who has the nerve to do that? I didn’t even read the report. The bottom line is this, 23 years in the business, I’ve got a hit television show, a second show at Cinemax calledWorking Girls in Bed, I’ve got a book out, I’ve made a lot of money, I’ve slept with a lot of beautiful, beautiful women, and I’ve got a lot of notoriety and celebrity that I’ve been able to retain. So I don’t really give a damn what the psychiatrist says. I think most people will look at it and say,You know what, he’s done good. Okay, so he’s a narcissist. Forbes Magazine says most CEOs in America are narcissists, so I take that as a badge of honor. (To Krissy) What were some of the other things?
KS: You like recognition, you crave praise and admiration…
DH: Yeah, well, show me somebody that doesn’t, somebody that’s in the media eye, a radio host, a television host, an athlete, a rock star. Show me one of those that isn’t… Maybe Steve Carell might be the only one. But yeah, that’s me, and I’ll go along with that and I’ll totally accept that.
TB: Okay, so continuing in that same vein, why would you then choose to end the book with that psychiatric evaluation? You do have an Afterword, but this is more or less the last thing people are going to see when they read the book, so why send the reader out on that?
DH: You know what, I don’t have an answer. That’s a Judith/Pablo question, but now that you mention it, it probably should have been up toward the front or the middle and then had people like the owner of the Lakers saying nice things about me. He’s my dear friend and when he compared me to his father, I just thought,Wow, what a nice thing to say. Tucker Carlson, Rita Crosby, you know, have people like that afterward to kind of put me back together after the psychiatrist beat me up (laughs).
TB: It was interesting reading that throughout the book as the testimonials tend to go from praise to obviously (ex-Bunny) Cami (Parker) is towards the end as is the psychological evaluation, and I just thought to myself, why do it this way? Now obviously it’s probably more of an editorial decision rather than something you had control over, but I wondered why there was a shift as opposed to trying to strike more of a balance between the two.
DH: Well, the one thing that I had with HBO was total editorial control, and I never once exercised it. The only problem I ever had with HBO was when they were dubbing the show in Spanish and they had a guy doing my voiceover that was obviously gay and I didn’t like it. Now, I have a lot of friends that are gay, I’ve got nothing against gays, but I didn’t want to come off as this six-foot-four, 260 pound gay guy. That’s not the image that I have, so that’s the only time I exercised editorial control. With this book, it was the same way. I could’ve taken out some of the bad things they said or manipulated it in any way that I wanted, but I didn’t want that. I want people to come away from this, first of all, realizing who I really am; that I’m a businessman, that I’m a great friend… which is also what I want on my tombstone: Best Friend, Fought Sex Trafficking, which I do everyday of my life. I just spent an hour on the phone talking about sex trafficking and what I’m doing to combat it, and also, World’s Greatest Salesman. I’ve taken a little place in Carson City, Nevada that nobody, except for a few people in Nevada, knew about, and made it world famous. If that doesn’t put me on the list of world’s greatest salesmen, I don’t know how you get on the list.
TB: Back in 2012 when you appeared on Fox News in the piece by John Stossel, he called you a pimp and you asserted that you were not a pimp. Why the turnaround? Is this about you reclaiming that word from the context in which he was trying to use it against you as a bad thing?
DH:No, and it’s a great, great question. The reality is this, I hate pimps and I fought it for 23 years now. I hate what pimp stands for, I hate what they do, the exploitation, the drugs, the STDs, and the criminal activity involved in it. I am a businessman, I have a license to do what I do. Now in the book we use “The Art of the Pimp,” but it’s tongue-in-cheek. In other words, Art of the Pimp, I’m really not a pimp, and in the book it explains that, and it’s the same thing with Stossel. Now, it depends, you get Lil Jon or Snoop or, just last week, Whoo Kid, 50 Cent and Eminem’s DJ, he called me a pimp in the studio and I’m okay with that because it’s a term of endearment. So if Stossel or Hannity or O’Reilly, and they’ve all done it, if they’re gonna call me a pimp, I’m gonna say, “Excuse me, you’re the one with a pimp. Rupert Murdoch is your pimp.”
So I’m not a pimp. I fight it, but in the title, we thought it was tongue-in-cheek because I think that most people that know me know that I’m not a pimp.
TB: Can you talk a bit about your experience attempting to get asatellite brothel in Phoenix for the Super Bowl?
DH: Yeah, Krissy and I went down there and we put out a press release and we just got shot down. We did six television interviews in one day, and I said, “You know that sex trafficking is coming to Phoenix.” First of all, Phoenix is one of the top three most sex trafficked cities in America. It goes like this, from time to time they lose their ranking as number one but it’s Atlanta, Oakland, Phoenix, and Vegas, those are the big ones. So I say, “You know it’s coming. Everyone’s talking about it, and you’ve put laws into effect that are tough on sex trafficking, but nobody’s enforcing them. So I want to open a version of the Bunny Ranch in Arizona a month before and a month after the Super Bowl. I will give you a half a million dollars if you’ll use it to fight sex trafficking, and let’s do this experiment and see what we come away with. If sex trafficking is down, if I’m correct, are you gonna have 500 girls on Backpage—which is what they had—all of them selling sex? So let’s try this and if it works out, then let’s consider legalization.”
Krissy and I actually went, with ABC News, to a motel in Phoenix. She stripped down to her underwear, I took some pictures, she said there and put them up on Backpage and tell him what happened…
KS: We did an undercover sting for Backstage, and I’m in my 20s but I pretended to be an underage girl. I advertised that I was 18, though, but when somebody called, and we had probably forty people call us in a matter of thirty minutes, this guy asks, “How old are you?” And I’m like, “Well, I’ll be 18 in two weeks, so technically I’m 17,” and he says, “I won’t tell if you won’t tell.” He was completely fine with that and he had this daddy/daughter fantasy which was weird.
DH: You also had like forty texts within a few minutes.
KS: Yeah, it was crazy, I couldn’t even keep up with it all.
DH: Couldn’t keep up with, and they filmed all of this and then they played it on TV in Phoenix and said, “Here’s the reality of this, don’t put your head in the sand.” And I say this all across America, you’re enabling criminals to traffic underage girls because you won’t legalize this business. And they always say that it’s a moral issue, “We don’t want prostitution,” well guess what? You’ve got it and it’s not going away, it’s never gonna stop, so wake the fuck up and do it the Bunny Ranch way. I’ve debated at Oxford on this, I’ve debated Trinity College, we just debated at the Sorbonne in Paris, and it’s something that’s got to be dealt with, and any law abiding person in America needs to tell their legislators and police department to wake up. We’ve got to do something, the status quo is not working, all you’re doing is allowing a criminal environment to proliferate.
TB: So what do you think is the biggest roadblock to legalized prostitution in America and do you think it will happen in your lifetime?
DH: The roadblocks are politicians. I can go to the White House Press Correspondents dinner, and I’ve done it, I’ve been around Attorney Generals and all these different congressmen, and we talk about all the different reasons to legalize and everybody agrees, and then it gets down to the end and I’ll say, “Let me ask you this, congressman, you don’t mind being the first to stand up in front of your church group or at a PTA meeting and say that you’re in favor of the Bunny Ranch style of legalization of prostitution, do you?” And everybody in the room falls out because they don’t want to irritate anybody, they want to be right in the middle on this issue.
If you’re a smart guy and you say, “This is right and the sex trafficking’s got to stop,” the right wing is gonna shove that up your butt in the next election: “Joe Johnson wants prostitution, do we want that in our area?” The other way is you say you’re not for it, then the smart thinkers are out there saying, “What’s wrong with this idiot? We’ve got to do something, we can’t just allow this to happen.” So they don’t do a damn thing. I spoke at the Nevada Legislature two or three years ago, joint session, and the media was there, and I knew it was gonna be a media circus with all the cameras and reporters there, and when I got done with my talk I opened it up to questions and every one of these legislators just looked at me like,Dennis, we like you, we’re thrilled to death with your business practices, go away, don’t put me in a position to answer this question.
It was as if the room was dead all of sudden, for literally more than a minute, which is a long time when you’re soliciting a response, and then everyone started laughing. One of the reporters started laughing and then everybody started laughing, and I just said, “Hey, thanks a lot for your time, and I’ll see you in another couple of years,” and I just walked out of the room because they’re not going to put their name on it, for or against, and that’s why it’s never going to happen in America.
Look at what happened with the prohibition of liquor. Obviously when you take it out of the hands of the criminals and put it in the hands of the professionals, then you get licensing, distribution, quality checks, age restrictions, and all of a sudden you’ve got a six billion dollar a year federal income. Marijuana is following in the exact same way, and I’m not a weed smoker, I’m not even a proponent of it, but you see what’s happening and the drug cartel is shifting now into heroin and underage sex trafficking.
TB: It’s remarkable, I was just thinking that as you were saying that, you look at what’s happened in Colorado and Washington, their economies are exploding at this point.
DH: Exploding! And when it hits Nevada, it will be the same way. Nevada will be the weed capital of the world. Fifty million tourists a year coming into Nevada to party and they’re not gonna haul it with them, so it will make them the weed capital of the world. It will make Amsterdam look like nothing.
TB: Alright, well my last question is if there’s anything else you’d like your fans to know?
DH:I’d like to have them know that I’m just a regular guy. I haven’t let the money or the notoriety go to my head. I’d like them to know that I do things in a legal, honest, ethical manner, and that I’m a good friend to a lot of people and I want them to buy the book and read it. What the book should have said, on the cover, is “What the Harvard Business School Didn’t Teach You,” because I teach people about life, I teach them about business, I teach them about marketing, and there’s a lot of interesting takeaways there. And what I’m finding now from women, especially women radio and television hosts, they love that side of it. Women are just now coming into their own so much now as business people and they love it.
KS: It’s an amazing book, I recommend everyone read it because you find a lot out about Dennis actually.
DH: Krissy’s got a chapter in there and this was at a time when we weren’t together. I didn’t even want to read it actually because I didn’t want it to hurt my feelings.
KS: It’s not a bad chapter. It’s honest but it’s not mean, or spiteful, or hateful.
DH: She came from a very Christian, very family-oriented Midwest background, prostitution didn’t sit right with her, but it was a means to an end. And because of the Bunny Ranch, she’s now 13 months from being a PhD and she never would have gotten there without it. Now, is this employment for everyone? No. But it is, for some people, a great opportunity to get rich or at least a stepping stone. I don’t know of any other business in America where women make a lot more money than men. I mean, typically what is it, women make seventy-two cents for ever dollar that a man makes in most employment, but this is a business where women make two or three hundred percent more than a man would in the same business. These women are real businesswomen and I think that experience for Krissy of being a real businesswoman, doing her own marketing, and having her own budgets and expenses and all that was a good experience. What’s your take on that, Krissy?
KS: I agree. I made so much money, I had more money in my bank account than I ever have, but I really liked the idea of having flexibility. I was able to pay off my student loans and then go out and have fun whenever I wanted to, and it was really nice because I was never able to do that prior to that, so it really does empower a woman financially.
TB: Sure, and even more than just the financial aspect, it’s about taking the reigns of your own destiny and saying, I get to decide who’s in control of what I do.
KS: Yeah, for sure. At the end of the day, you’re the one paying your own bills.
DH: How many people in life get to decide when they work? What hours? What days? Can take a month off and lay on the beach in Hawaii? Who can do that? What business can a woman pick their clientele, because the women here don’t have to party with anybody they don’t want to. I think that a lot of people who would to have a job where they had those perks.
TB: Yeah, and it’s mind blowing to me that the right wing, for as much as they preach free market and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and taking control of your destiny, they can’t get behind what you’re doing. And I know that it’s probably a moral and religious issue, but I don’t see how anyone preaching those values can’t get behind you.
DH: Well, you’re absolutely right. The way the right wing in Nevada supports me is by not being against me, so when something comes up or there’s an issue about the brothels, they just don’t say anything at all. But they do support me because they know that I contribute to the economy and they know that a lot of tourists come there for our product, and without the brothels, Southern Nevada wouldn’t have an EMT system, the sheriff said that. And in Northern Nevada, the sheriff said that the money for police cars and the extra patrol people to keep the community safe is the half a million dollars a year that Dennis pays in license fees. If I had four McDonald’s in Lyon County, Nevada, I’d pay $1200 and could sell billions of burgers, and I pay a half a million a year for the same privilege license.
TB: That’s crazy. Well Dennis and Krissy both, it was great talking with you.
DH: Thank you very much and I look forward to talking with you again someday.
KS: Thank you so much!
It's a damn shame his last words to me will never come true now. Rest in peace to a legend of the sex worker industry.