The Family Prostitute 

As the recession continues, more and more women are turning to the world's oldest profession to support their loved ones

Thursday, Sep 2 2010
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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.

click to flip through (13) PHOTO BY KEVIN SCANLON - Chelsea, 26, used to work in a restaurant in Montrose. She’s now helping her parents pay their rent.
  • Chelsea, 26, used to work in a restaurant in Montrose. She’s now helping her parents pay their rent.

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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.

When the Mary Kay rep leaves a little richer, Hof, like a hedonistic self-help guru, begins to pump up his audience for the big finish. Starting low and building, he chants a kind of brothel mantra. The rallying cry is picked up tentatively by his audience, but the small parlor soon reverberates with "Pussy power, pussy power, pussy power ..." Hof works up to a crescendo, stabbing the air with a straight-arm salute as each word booms out. The girls follow suit, stamping the floor with their high heels.

When things calm down a bit, Hof urges the girls to work the customers a little harder and to hustle. "You accept rejection too quickly," he scolds them. " 'No' does not mean 'no.' " In other words, he concludes, "You always have to be closing." When he stands to leave, he's given a round of applause. One of the girls shouts, "We love you, Daddy!"

View all photos in Kevin Scanlon's slideshow, "The Family Prostitute: Portraits of Women Brand-New to the Sex Trade."

With the boss gone, the parlor takes on the ambience of a debauched sorority. A karaoke machine is turned on and the girls have a few more drinks and sing songs with sexual themes. Chloe Daniels, a big, buxom blonde in her mid-30s who moonlights as a porn performer, acts as a sort of house mother to the rest of the girls. Wearing a skin-tight spandex dress that features strategically placed cutouts, she improvises dances based upon everyday items. "This one's called 'the Sprinkler,' " she says, mimicking the chattering Rain Bird watering system — left arm cocked at a 90-degree angle, right arm straight out, hips shaking. The karaoke machine kicks into Fergie's "Fergalicious," which elicits squeals of delight from the girls participating in this spontaneous party.

For no particular reason, an auburn-haired girl named Josie pipes up, "I suffer from ADHD, you know." An attractive, fit woman in her early 30s who wears a royal-blue, less-is-more two-piece, Josie seems a bit unsteady. Like the other girls, she is constantly laying down the "whore con" which involves touching whatever man she's talking to, calling him "baby" or "honey" and not-so-subtly showing off her body. Done skillfully, it's an art form. Done under the influence of a few drinks, it's comical.

Unprompted, she launches into an awful tale of being "abducted, raped, waterboarded and left for dead" somewhere in Los Angeles, which is where she used to call home. For her, working in a legal brothel has provided something of a lifeline.

"I need Adderall," she says, to treat her attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. She also says she needs therapy.

Josie has three children, one of whom, an 11-year-old daughter, stays with her. She says she has "joint custody" of the other two. "I don't expose my kid to this," she says of the brothel. "She knows what I do. ... I just don't expose her to it."

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