Here’s the Scoop on Vegas Brothels
Skin City Diaries – courtesy of www.afterdarkvegas.com Vegas news with a decided twist!
by Sarah Jane Woodall
About Sarah Jane…in her own words
I am a local libertine, adventuress and dilettante in the demimonde, with a dirty mind and a long-standing interest in all things taboo. During my 10 years in Sin City I have worked as a promo model, nude model, fetish model, cigarette girl, Hooters girl, camera girl, scream queen, booth babe, corporate mascot and journalist, and have collected a vast treasure trove of strange and scandalous stories. When not blogging about my adventures, I enjoy drinking, cursing, smoking and listening to public radio.
I’ve always been burning with curiosity and the desire to see a real, live house of prostitution up close and personal. Thank goodness I live in Nevada, where such things are legal, licensed … and available to tour.
First, let’s catch up on Brothel Law 101. A ton of mystery and misconception surrounds the business of prostitution in Nevada, and I’m here to clear it up for those of you who still don’t get it. Prostitution is legal in Nevada, but only if it takes place within a licensed brothel. And brothels are only permitted in counties with fewer than 400,000 residents — if the residents vote for it. That means that Vegas, with its 2 million residents, isn’t allowed to host any hi-jinks, which is bad news for the lonely sex tourist, but good news for the cab and limo drivers, who get to collect fat fares trucking the curious out to the nearest rural county where brothels are permitted. That happens to be Nye County, a mere 60-mile jaunt to the northwest.
I’d always wanted to go check out the brothels, but until fairly recently they weren’t the kind of place you could just go poke around (ahem). Most of ‘em were little more than dusty, seedy trailers out in the boondocks, with nothing much to see but funny signs and stained shag carpeting. Then, about five years ago, some enterprising folk took over Sheri’s Ranch outside Pahrump, and renovated the place extensively. They turned it into Nevada’s first resort-type brothel, complete with a pool, spa, volleyball court, hotel annex and gift shop. And to my immense delight, they also opened a sports bar and grill that is open to the public … and offers free brothel tours.
Still, I was kinda shy about going out there until finally I fell in with a friendly group of bikers, one of whom invited me out for a ride one afternoon for lunch at Sheri’s. It seems the bikers have a brothel run every year where they visit all the different establishments, so this guy knew what was up. We cruised out to the county line, past trailers, meth labs and churches, and within the hour were rolling down the dead-end road that leads to Sheri’s and the Chicken Ranch (the only other resort-style brothel in the area), both located a toenail’s width from the Clark County line, as close to Vegas as legally possible.
Unfortunately for me, the madam wasn’t in that day at the Chicken Ranch, so I wasn’t able to tour that facility, which reminded me somewhat of a Victorian gingerbread fortress. It looks deceptively homey, but you can’t even get to the front door without ringing a shrill, libido-squelching buzzer at the white picket fence out front.
Not so at Sheri’s. Over there, you just roll up into the expansive parking lot, walk through the front door into the bar and grill area, sit yourself down at the bar and order a drink!
The vibe is reminiscent of any low-key locals bar in the Vegas suburbs: neon beer signs, wood-paneling, half-naked chicks smoking cigarettes and playing video poker … and a stripper pole in the corner. You know, the usual. On the day I visited, the place was also packed with retired RVer couples having lunch, so it really didn’t feel like a house of ill-repute so much as a Marie Callender’s.
I settled in at the bar, and after a rum and coke and a cheeseburger, I was good to go.
My biker pal inquired with the bartender, and she summoned a very attractive, well-spoken, young prostitute to give us a free tour. “Sally” (not her real name) said she had only been working at the brothel for a couple of weeks, but she had taken to it like a duck to water. Originally from Florida, she said she’d gotten into sex work gradually, after the recession had claimed her boring, old office job. She’d turned to nude modeling to make a buck, which in turn had led to her new position at Sheri’s. (I’ve been modeling nude myself the past two years … uh-oh!) While working at Sheri’s, the women are required to live onsite in a dormitory wing, so Sally had packed up all her stuff and come out West. And she never regretted it for a minute.
First stop on the tour was the parlor — the reception area where clients are led in and seated on a plastic-covered sofa. The room was airy and tastefully decorated in neutral colors — sort of a model-home-meets-bordello chic.
Once the client is seated, little flashing red lights throughout the brothel grounds alert all the girls on duty that they have three minutes to get dressed and get into the parlor, no matter what they’re doing. They line up in front of the sofa, and each woman steps forward and gives her name, nothing more. They’re not allowed to say anything else or it’s called “dirty hustling,” and is strictly prohibited.
After the client chooses with whom he’d like to “party,” he has his choice of venues. He can go back to the woman’s private room (they do business out of their dormitory bedrooms, for the most part), or he can rent out one of the other available areas, ranging from the elaborate, expensive private themed villas to the S&M dungeon to the Budweiser Jacuzzi room (yes, this brothel has a corporate sponsor!).
If he just wants to take his “date” out for a nice dinner, he is out of luck since the women aren’t allowed to leave the brothel grounds while in residence. So the ingenious folks at Sheri’s created a “fine dining room.” It’s a cozy, little chamber containing a sumptuously dressed table, plush armchairs and a doily-covered oak sideboard bearing the discreet legend, “Condoms are required at all times.” There’s also a cushy, little “dessert pillow” on the floor at the foot of one of the chairs, where the lucky lady kneels after dinner. Wow!
All in all, Sally was a super-cool chick, and seemed totally at ease with living in the brothel. When not with clients, the women are free to roam the grounds, sunbathe by the pool, work out in the gym or watch TV in the recreational room (the only part of the brothel we weren’t allowed to tour, alas). Sally enjoys crocheting, so she whiles away the hours between customers making doilies and whatnot in her room. What a life! To compensate for having taken her away from her knitting, my friend tipped her $20, and then we were on our merry way.
So that was Sheri’s Ranch – as mentioned, one of two posh “resort-style” brothels in the area, along with the Chicken Ranch. The other brothels within reasonable driving distance of Vegas are a totally different story – basically just “truck-friendly” trailer lots on the side of U.S. 95 that mostly service long-haul truckers and other hoi-polloi. Hoi polloi being my preferred demographic, a few weeks after our trip to the fancy brothels I coerced my biker friend into taking me on another ride – this time to see how the other half lives!
We cruised up 95 North to the tiny outpost of Crystal, which is sort of a far-flung, low-rent suburb of Pahrump about 85 miles north of Vegas. You won’t find any swimming pools or volleyball courts out here — in Crystal, they’re strictly business. First on the agenda was the Cherry Patch Ranch II, which somewhat grandiosely bills itself as a “House of Prostitution” but which is really just a few dusty pink trailers attached to a convenience store and a gas station at the side of the highway. Then it was down the road to Crystal proper to check out Mabel’s Whorehouse and the original Cherry Patch Ranch.
At the time of my visit, the Cherry Patch was closed for remodeling, though a helpful sign was posted advising visitors to “Use Brothel Down the Street” (which happens to be Mabel’s Whorehouse a/k/a Madame Butterfly’s, a sort of Shogun-style trailer park featuring mobile homes with Japanese architectural flourishes). However, the Cherry Patch’s adjoining bar and “Brothel Art Museum” were still open for business, so we went in to take a look around.
Now, the bar and grill at Sheri’s is tough to beat as far as offbeat destinations go… but the bar at the Cherry Patch is pretty amazing too, in its own run-down, just-plain-folksy way. The interior is all shag carpeting and wood-paneled walls, and the “Art Museum” is really just an extensive collection of brothel-related newspaper clippings, shellacked and mounted on wooden plaques on one of the walls. But even better than the old photos of 1980s prostitutes are the super friendly old-timers boozing at the bar – they’re happy to answer your questions, and they’ll fill you in on all the latest brothel industry gossip. A friendlier bunch of folks you’ve never met!