Brothel bans weighed in Ne­vada as le­gal pimp runs for of­fice

Manteca Bulletin - - Local / Nation -

PAHRUMP, Nev. (AP) — A state mar­keted as a place where peo­ple can in­dulge in all man­ner of sins is con­fronting its sta­tus as the only place in Amer­ica where you can legally pay some­one for sex.

A coali­tion of re­li­gious groups and anti-sex traf­fick­ing ac­tivists has launched ref­er­en­dums to ban broth­els in two of the seven Ne­vada coun­ties where they’re legally op­er­at­ing. The push to out­law the in­dus­try dove­tails with a cam­paign by the state’s most fa­mous pimp for a seat in the state Leg­is­la­ture.

Ne­vada, ac­cord­ing to brothel owner Den­nis Hof, was built “on gam­ing, liquor, girls and min­ing.”

“But there’s a shift oc­cur­ring,” said Ja­son Guinasso, a Reno-based at­tor­ney in­volved with the ef­fort to get the anti-brothel mea­sures on the Novem­ber ballot.

Hof, who has half a dozen broth­els op­er­at­ing in the two coun­ties and starred in the HBO adult re­al­ity se­ries “Cathouse,” is chal­leng­ing in­cum­bent Assem­bly mem­ber James Os­car­son of Pahrump in a Repub­li­can pri­mary Tues­day.

Hof said Ne­vadans are “rough-and-tum­ble, live-and-let-live” and “it’s aw­ful that peo­ple would come in and try to change that cul­ture, that they want to in­flict their moral val­ues on the rest of us.”

Broth­els, which are il­le­gal in the coun­ties that con­tain Las Ve­gas and Reno, harken back to Ne­vada’s days as a min­ing ter­ri­tory about 150 years ago. Broth­els were il­le­gal but tol­er­ated in some ar­eas un­til 1971, when the Mus­tang Ranch near Reno be­came the first le­gal brothel.

It led to a move­ment that al­lowed coun­ties with pop­u­la­tions of 700,000 peo­ple or fewer to de­cide whether to le­gal­ize pros­ti­tu­tion in li­censed fa­cil­i­ties. Out­side of bor­del­los, pros­ti­tu­tion re­mains il­le­gal. Some broth­els of­fer free limo rides from Las Ve­gas, of­fer­ing to pick up guests from their Strip ho­tels.

To­day, there are about 20 broth­els op­er­at­ing in the state, mostly in ru­ral ar­eas. The state doesn’t pub­li­cize how many are open, and most own­ers keep a much lower pro­file than Hof, who wrote a book ti­tled “The Art of the Pimp,” and has dubbed him­self the “Trump of Pahrump”

Hof was also in the lime­light in 2015, when for­mer NBA player La­mar Odom was found un­con­scious at Hof’s Love Ranch brothel in Crys­tal, Ne­vada, after a four-day, $75,000 stay.

The Love Ranch, about an hour’s drive north­west of Las Ve­gas through the Ne­vada desert, looks like a large sin­gle-story home with some stat­ues and pink bi­cy­cles out front, along with a sign for “Den­nis Hof’s Love Ranch Cathouse,” ad­ver­tis­ing a gift shop, full bar and “no sex re­quired.”

Guests ring the front bell and are es­corted into wing­back chairs in the par­lor, while the women in the house slip into their heels and as­sem­ble in a lineup to be cho­sen.

The brothel, like oth­ers, of­fers role-play themed roomed rooms and spa-like ser­vices.

Sonja Ban­do­lik, the brothel’s 58-year-old madam who also works as a pros­ti­tute, said women there sign a con­tract for at least two weeks — enough time to get a back­ground check and pros­ti­tu­tion li­cense from the lo­cal sheriff.

Women are also re­quired to get reg­u­lar tests for sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases and HIV, and con­doms are re­quired.

Ban­do­lik, who has a short pixie hair­cut and a deep tan, said she de­cided to work in a brothel at age 51 after watch­ing a west­ern movie de­pict­ing an old saloon. She re­marked to her hus­band that it would be “cool if we still had those.”

She says her hus­band “loved the idea.” He lives with her at the brothel and works as its gen­eral man­ager.

Ban­do­lik, who es­ti­mated she made close to $18,000 in May, calls her pro­fes­sion “soulex­pand­ing.”

An­other woman liv­ing at the brothel, a 23-year-old with pale skin and long blonde hair who goes by the name Aza­lea Love, said she pre­vi­ously worked as a pros­ti­tute in Las Ve­gas but feels safer since she moved to the brothel three months ago.

“You have peo­ple around if you if some­thing goes wrong,” she said.

Though Hof said he’s never had prob­lems at the broth­els un­til he started run­ning for of­fice, al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct have been lev­eled at the pimp and his clients be­fore.

In 2003, a pros­ti­tute at the Moon­lite Bunny Ranch in Lyon County ac­cused Mot­ley Crue front man Vince Neil of grab­bing her by the neck and throw­ing her against a wall.

Neil later pleaded no con­test to a battery charge, but Hof has said he thinks the woman made up the story.

In April, the Las Ve­gas Re­view-Jour­nal re­ported that two for­mer pros­ti­tutes ac­cused Hof of sex­ual as­sault sev­eral years ago, but the dis­trict at­tor­ney de­clined to pros­e­cute Hof be­cause the statute of lim­i­ta­tions had ex­pired.

Hof de­nies the al­le­ga­tions. He told The As­so­ci­ated Press the women’s claims are “to­tally ab­surd” and both women be­came em­bit­tered against him be­cause they weren’t as suc­cess­ful in the sex in­dus­try.

Hof said the ref­er­en­dums are driven by moral crusaders tied to his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent. Guinasso is a part­ner at the law firm of Os­car­son’s po­lit­i­cal ally, Ne­vada Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison. Guinasso and Os­car­son have de­nied any con­nec­tion be­tween their cam­paigns.

Os­car­son said he was sur­prised to hear about the anti-brothel ef­forts and is not in­volved. He thinks it’s time for the broth­els to go away but said he has not signed an anti-brothel pe­ti­tion.

“This is a man who sim­ply wants to blame ev­ery­body else for his mis­takes,” Os­car­son said of Hof.

Guinasso and oth­ers in­volved with the anti-brothel cam­paign say that many women in the broth­els aren’t there by choice - they may have grown up in poverty, have a past his­tory of be­ing a vic­tim of sex­ual abuse or were sent to work in a brothel by an il­le­gal pimp.

Ban­do­lik, the madam, said it’s pos­si­ble that some of the women work­ing there might have il­le­gal pimps, but those pimps are not al­lowed in the brothel.

In Novem­ber, vot­ers in Lyon County, south­east of Reno, will weigh in after county com­mis­sion­ers put the is­sue on the ballot. And north­west of Las Ve­gas in Nye County, or­ga­niz­ers are work­ing to gather enough sig­na­tures to get the mea­sure on the ballot this fall.

Guinasso said that even if the ballot mea­sures don’t pass, he’ll con­sider it a vic­tory that Ne­vadans will be re-think­ing whether the in­dus­try be­longs in the Sil­ver State, par­tic­u­larly in the wake of the #MeToo move­ment.

Hof pre­dicts the ballot mea­sures will fail, but said if broth­els were banned, il­le­gal pros­ti­tu­tion will flour­ish.

“The busi­ness is not go­ing away,” Hof said. “It’s the old­est busi­ness in the world.”

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