By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
One of the big issues is food. The ranch has catered food brought in twice a day. The fare isn't fancy, but it's hearty, Middle American stuff: chicken skewers, macaroni and cheese, chops, oven fries, salad. The menu rotates like one at a public school cafeteria. For breakfast, there are bagels, muffins, cold cereals and coffee. To make sure the women are kept happy, there's a write-in sheet on which they can suggest certain grocery items not on hand.
Their requests could just as easily have come from a gang of 13-year-olds. Scrawled on the sheet are things like "Nachos more often!!!" "Cheesecake" followed by a little hand-drawn heart. "Frozen hamburger patties." And a heavily underlined plea for "Froot Loops, Sugar Smacks and Lucky Charms."
When Nikki returns, she's wearing a loud, black-and-white floral-print spandex miniskirt that definitely would not have passed muster at her old office job; nor would her skyscraper–high heels. She may not have worked in the sex industry before, but she knows what she's selling and wants to make an impression on the new boss. Hof arrives in his limousine with several of the Bunny Ranch girls and commands the driver to head west to one of the casinos in Carson City.
Hof knows how to make an entrance, walking into the place — which also features a multilane bowling alley — with six flashily dressed prostitutes and glad-handing the staff; there's no mistaking a pimp is in the house. On his wrist is a huge, jewel-encrusted Jacob and Co. watch with a face that bears a map of the world. He passes it around the table and his guests marvel at its weight. "Jacob gave this to me and said, 'The world is yours!' "All the girls call him Daddy.
Once orders are placed, Hof says he's astounded that business has been thriving despite grim economic realities. "I told everyone here that we were going to have to batten down the hatches," he says. "But we've had the best year ever. I can't explain it other than we're doing business right."
It's a pep talk to his staff. Work hard, make that money, and get yourself a fancy watch, too. There is a round of "woo-hoos!" at the table and, for now, the girls seem happy to get in a nice meal outside the confines of the brothel's dining room.
Unlike most of the other "houses" in the area, neither the Bunny Ranch nor the Love Ranch is a "lockdown" house. The girls are free to come and go as they please, a system that works out well for those who are supporting families and have them staying close by.
View all photos in Kevin Scanlon's slideshow, "The Family Prostitute: Portraits of Women Brand-New to the Sex Trade."
Chelsea, a tall, green-eyed redhead sporting numerous rockabilly themed tattoos — a prominent outline of a jukebox, musical notes and Marilyn Monroe's face — is a recent transplant to nearby Dayton, Nevada, via the Los Angeles suburbs. The 26-year-old is currently in the process of moving her parents and half-brother from Southern California's San Gabriel Valley to live with her — "like in a commune."
In high-heeled shoes and turquoise microbikini clinging to a mostly slender frame, she makes a point of standing in a way that shows off her ample backside. Another refugee from the recession, Chelsea says, "I had been working in a restaurant — Gourmet a Go Go in Montrose — and it shut down when the lease was up and the owner went looking for a new location. I worked at a porn shop for a little while. People were constantly approaching me saying, 'How come you don't do movies?' I did two movies, but it didn't seem worth it. The money wasn't worth the time. My body's not free, so I came here."
While Chelsea initially — and briefly — started her career in porn, her switch to legal prostitution makes sense to UNLV's Comella. "You can't underestimate the legal, social and health protections the brothels offer that other sex-industry jobs can't match," she says.
Chelsea agrees: "Porn seemed high-risk. People doing it can have partners in between jobs. You never know. Here, I'm in charge of my environment, of everything I do."
And she's been making enough money to take on the responsibility of supporting her family. "My father lost his home — twice. I've been helping them with rent. I've been doing what I can. My dad was in construction, my mom was in publishing, and both of their industries tanked. I had a feeling it would come to this, so I'm moving them and my brother here to stay with me."
Like Chelsea, Scarlett's family was involved in construction until the recession devastated the family-run business. Working the early shift, she's a rangy 33-year-old with a matter-of-fact way about her; Scarlett comes off as a straight-shooter.
Sitting at the Love Ranch bar in a purple-silk baby-doll nightie and heels, she pours out her tale of economic upheaval while unconsciously putting on the moves she'll use with potential customers: Crossing and uncrossing her long legs, touching an arm for emphasis, leaning forward to show a quick glimpse of what's underneath her bra are second nature to her now, but it wasn't always so.
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