By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"Our money came from floor covering, which is tied to construction and remodeling. That's what my husband and I were doing, working with my brother and my dad. Jobs started drying up, so I started looking for something to do to make the most money for my family. And what sells? Sex always sells. And where can I sell sex?" she asks, looking around the room to answer her own question.
Scarlett somehow attributes her choice, in part, to her Southern heritage. "I had never done anything in the adult industry. No dancing, no movies, no 'independent' working, nothing. I decided, 'Hey, why not?' I'm a Southerner. We go big or we go home. I don't believe in doing anything half-ass. I jumped right in."
Running a hand through tousled chestnut hair, Scarlett admits that her new profession has put a strain on her marriage. "There's the kind of guy who gets an ego boost from having someone that everyone else has to pay for. That's kind of where he was at. Some other dynamics changed in our relationship. I grew and he didn't."
As she talks, Scarlett opens up and starts weaving a tale that sounds like an update on some forgotten Erskine Caldwell novel. "We were losing the house through foreclosure because of what my husband did with our money — spending everything at strip clubs for two years. I wasn't pushing for him to do any better because I thought he was doing the best he could. I wasn't allowed near our checkbook. A $10,000 loan in my name that he spent on strippers. I was pregnant at the time and our baby was 22 months old. When I'm trying to get dinner for all of us with $5, that's not cool."
But the move to the Love Ranch, she says, has improved the family's lot. At the job for just over a year, Scarlett notes that the amount of money she makes can vary wildly, but that she averages one customer every day. "When you go to work at a square job, you're guaranteed a certain amount of money. Here, it's different. If I'm here for 12 hours and don't get any customers, I don't make any money. Plus, I owe $25 every day for room and board." She's quick to point out, however, that "There's always food here."
With a laugh, Scarlett notes she might be able to book more customers if she worked the weekend and night shifts. "My kids aren't with me full-time," she says. "They're with their dad, so I have them on the weekends and some nights." Those are the busiest times. Customer flow is random — except Saturdays between 2 and 2:30 a.m., which, she says, is the peak traffic time. "But there will be guys who come in at 5 in the morning and who'll stay all day. We'll order pizza and it'll be really boisterous."
View all photos in Kevin Scanlon's slideshow, "The Family Prostitute: Portraits of Women Brand-New to the Sex Trade."
The other boisterous time during the work week is the mandatory "tea party." Hosted by Hof, it's a combination of motivational lecture and business seminar. In preparation, workers have laid out crumpets and sweets on doilies and the girls have paid for drinks at the bar, the most popular being a split of budget champagne spiked with grenadine and garnished with strawberries. They all wear their lingerie but, somewhat comically in the spirit of an old-time tea party, a few of them wear big, Victorian-style hats.
It's early afternoon, and there are no customers. On hand is the local Mary Kay cosmetics representative. The girls take their places in the parlor. Medoff joins them with notebook and memos, and, at the appointed hour, Hof enters like Tony Robbins.
After expressing his dislike for the movie Love Ranch, which utilized uncredited research at the Love Ranch, Hof announces that Medoff soon will be heading up the launch of a Love Ranch magazine to be used "as a marketing tool."
Medoff then goes over some upcoming events. "A photographer for one of the tattoo magazines will be coming here, and this can be a good opportunity to market yourself ... if you have tattoos." Several of the girls are inked, and they seem excited at this news. He then admonishes them to keep the doors leading outside closed so the cool air doesn't escape. In the summertime heat, air conditioning gets expensive. He also mentions that traps are being purchased to "humanely" capture the feral cats that prowl everywhere. He goes through the past week's records and announces the names of the top five bookers.
Ciara, the young blonde, has the No. 1 spot and receives a round of applause. Over the past week, she's managed to rack up an impressive $8,000, half of which she gets to keep for herself. According to the girls, it's not uncommon to average $10,000 or so over a two-week period, but they also go through lean periods when they make next to nothing.
And a lot of what the girls earn goes toward "upkeep," such as beauty products and treatments. The Mary Kay rep takes the floor briefly to introduce a new fragrance called Orchid as well as a satchel full of discontinued items that have been discounted by 20-50 percent. The girls crowd around and check out the merchandise.