[Web Exclusive] Interactive: Love at the Ranch
Legal brothels have populated the state since the 19th century and continue to flourish. On a day dedicated to all things love, photojournalists Aaron Thompson and Benjamen Purvis hit the road to find out what life is like at Pahrump’s world-famous Chicken Ranch.
>Former Penthouse model and porn actress
>In the biz almost four years
>Loves punk rock
What is Valentine’s Day to you?
To be honest, it’s a holiday to be avoided. That’s why I’m here.
I don’t have a personal life outside of online. I’m working on that, I have dates, but I don’t really want one.
You have dates when you’re not here?
Not working dates. I go out with boys. But I meet them online because I’m pathetic.
Do they know what you do?
Uh, hell yeah. If they’re not cool with it, I don’t meet them in person.
The Internet rules. It’s a total way to save for the hours and hours of bullshit of really bad dates. Generally every guy I’ve met with online I’ve had fun with because I’ve had two or three months or talking with them online first. So it totally cuts things out. You get a chance to get beyond the “Hi, you’re cute.” Plus you have a chance to see them naked online so you really know if it’s worth the effort of meeting up with them anyways.
... I got a penis picture from the firefighter.
Arielle: And any good?
Saphire: Eh, not sure.
>Age: “Almost 40”
>In the biz almost four years
>Loves flight simulators, doing daring things, Perry Mason.
She [Saphire Rae] introduced me to the online dating thing, too … because it’s difficult when you hide your life all the time.
... This is my every day at noon Perry Mason marathon. I love my Perry Mason.
... In Iraq, I have a friend that I’ve been sending stuff to. And so I organized the girls, I got a bunch of them together as if they were my friends. I got pictures of all the girls. Printed them out and everything, and we did like 20 guys and sent them little bags of candy, and every guy got pictures of 10 girls. They were all personalized on the back and it was kinda fun.
Does Valentine’s Day have some kind of significance to you?
Unfortunately it’s my anniversary of when I’m no longer married. I actually got married on Valentine’s Day, so for me it’s a Hallmark holiday, you know. I mean I like getting the candies and the flowers. I got roses in my bathroom … but I don’t think about it that much. I’m kinda that way about all holidays. Holidays are really just an excuse to go out and meet people anyways. I’m not big on Valentine’s Day. I don’t know if any of us really are.
>In the biz about a year
I’ve just been fumbling all day because I do want to get on the floor, and I do want to make money, but all I want to do is just be in this sentiment I’ve never felt before. Like to me, Valentine’s Day was not about me. It was always about the other person and whatever I can do to bring joy and something very exciting to that other person that they would remember. That’s all I needed to do. But now I’m like “How about some of that for me?” You know, it’s just a weird way to go about because I’ve been so selfless in my process in prostitution. It’s never about me. I get out of the way. But now I think maybe with my parties today, I’ll be a little more demanding and just bring that [energy] out of my clients like I’d bring it out of my man.
Where’s your lover?
He’s in over California.
Does he know what you do?
Oh yeah, yeah, and he’s very supportive, and we’re talking right now. He’s someone I met recently but [he’s] the one, and it’s making me think, where else I can evolve my art instead of here [at the brothel]? But I don’t know if there’s another avenue to do it.
I know that I deserve it and I know that what I’m feeling right now is so precious and so rare that to turn my back on it would be really stupid to do, as a woman.
>No age available
>In the biz for 10 years
>Favorite colors: black, red
Actually, this is the very first Valentine’s Day I’ve ever worked. I don’t expect it to be super busy. People spend it with their significant others, so I don’t expect it to be a super hectic day. But I did get a Valentine’s gift already. From a customer, and he brought me a gold toe ring for Valentine’s Day. It’s probably the fourth time he’s seen me this week.
What did you do before you came to the brothel?
Well, I’ve been a working girl for quite a while. I just moved around to different brothels. I actually started here 10 years ago. I then worked five years straight, then moved around, and I’ve been back here for about a year.
Would you say it’s a hard life to do what you do?
No, not hard. It’s a job. It’s not bad; it’s good money, and if you’re strong mentally, you’ll be all right.
Do you have any hobbies?
I like to sing. I like to karaoke. But I don’t live out here, so [I sing] mostly in my car.
I worked at another brothel, and you could do karaoke there—you couldn’t get me off the stage. Then I didn’t want to get off the stage to work; all I wanted to do was karaoke.
>Working at Chicken Ranch for 18 years
We call our ladies therapists around here. A lot of times they sit and just hear talking and talking and talking and talking.
When I first started bartending here, a guy came in and he wanted to be dominated. A girl dressed him up in one of her spandex dresses and nothing else, and made him go into the back room and clean the mirror behind the couch with the ladies sitting around and with everything of his hanging out.
>Working at Chicken Ranch for almost four years
How did you find yourself being employed at a place like this?
I came from California, sold my business and took a year off of work for the first time in my life. I didn’t like it. I never worked for anyone since 1978. So I came out, got an application, and Debbie hired me on the spot.
... I had a guy who came up here. He wanted to be dressed like a woman and wanted to be whipped.
... I hear a girl coming up the hallway, and she’s just busting out laughing, and she goes, “Judy I just got the startle of my life this time.” She goes, “Have you ever been shocked to see a spider?” And I go, “Yeah?” And then she goes on, “I opened [a client’s] pants up and a spider came out of them.” … [She] didn’t know how go on without laughing.
>Working at Chicken Ranch for 20 years
Is Valentine’s Day any different from any other day at the brothel? Is there more business?
Valentine’s Day is really no different than any other day of the week other than some of the girls may have some regulars who may choose today to visit them, bring them a little gift or some flowers. Hopefully the working girls’ significant others on the outside send them flowers. You know, remind them that they’re thinking about them while they’re away at work. But other than that, it’s generally business as usual.
In your time here, what has been the most extravagant gift the girls have ever gotten?
Probably diamonds. Back in the day—it hasn’t happened in the last few years, but I’ve seen girls get diamond rings, diamond earrings. You know, big huge bouquets of flowers. If they get a guy, a regular who really enjoys spending time with them and does it on a regular basis, they might come out or just have flowers, candy and small gifts delivered to the girl if she’s here working and away from home and may help brighten their day a little bit. So that happens. And then if us staff ladies are lucky, our men remember to send us flowers.
>No age available
>In the biz 15 years
Do you have a significant other on the outside?
Nope. My last date was nine years ago. I’m the [most boring] hooker you’re ever going to meet.
Do you ever miss the outside world, or is that reality boring considering your work?
Actually this is kind of reality, too. I mean, you’re here for weeks or sometimes a month on end, so this is your reality, it’s no different.
Aaron Thompson is the Weekly’s calendar editor.
Benjamen Purvis is the Weekly’s art director.