Lamar Odom, NBA star turned reality star turned NBA washout, lies in a Las Vegas hospital, fighting for his life. Yesterday, Odom — too tall to be flown — was rushed from a Nevada brothel by emergency responders after he was found unconscious with pinkish fluid coming from his nose and mouth. Brothel employees reported that he was using cocaine, according to Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly, and “herbal Viagra.” Khloé Kardashian, his estranged wife, rushed to his side.
And Dennis Hof, owner of the Love Ranch, the brothel where Odom was found, won’t stop talking about him.
For 24 hours, Hof has responded, in great detail, to questions about what exactly went wrong during Odom’s stay at the Love Ranch. He’s described how Odom was chauffeured to the ranch; he’s discussed how Odom got a Kardashian-related call during his visit that left him a little bit down; he’s even discussed the brand of “herbal Viagra” Odom reportedly took.
Unlike some brothel owners, Hof’s not even a hard man to find.
A recorded voice answers a phone call placed after midnight EDT to one of Hof’s establishments in Carson City, Nev., offering a reporter options for sex prices, limo and sedan services, and employment opportunities. The reporter holds for the live operator, then asks how to contact Hof, expecting a referral to a publicist — or a hang-up. Instead, a woman on the phone offers Hof’s cell number. The reporter calls it; Hof, fresh from an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, answers himself. On his 69th birthday, no less.
“Hello, this is Dennis,” he says.
First question for Hof: Pimps are supposed to be discreet — why isn’t he? Hof objected to the question’s premise — he was discreet, he said. But, sometimes, circumstances push a man over the edge.
“Until Tuesday, nobody ever knew that Lamar knew who I was,” he said. “We got 60 years of privacy and discretion, but when an ambulance rolls out of my place … I need to put the proper words to it.”
He stressed there was a lot of incorrect information floating around out there about Odom, about drugs and about his brothel’s employees.
“People are saying all kinds of terrible things,” he said. “That’s my reason for it. I’m not going to sit back and let people tell tales about me. … I run a credible business and I’m a high-profile person. I’m not going to let people take potshots.”
Hof went to great lengths to deny reports that Odom was “sitting around doing cocaine with a bunch of hookers.” Not so, Hof said, objecting that it created the impression the prostitutes he legally employs were “perceived to be all drug addicts.”
“Sixty percent of them have better educations than I have,” he said. “Sixty percent have better educations than you have.”
Hof, who grew up poor in Arizona, determined at a young age to better himself.
“I was a very positive kid,” he wrote in a memoir. “If by chance I had found myself in a shed full of manure, I’d have been excited, knowing that somewhere nearby there was a pony.”
A former developer of time shares in San Diego who has long proclaimed the economic virtues of prostitution, Hof bought his first brothel in 1993. His thinking: The same techniques used to sell condos could sell sex.
“The younger prostitutes think it’s all about the sex,” Hof told the New Yorker in 2001, discussing the salesmanship abilities of one of his best earners. “Amy realizes it’s about giving the guy a party, doing things that he wouldn’t think of doing.”
But early Thursday, Hof said that those things do not include drugs. Indeed, Hof said he made it a condition of Odom’s visit that the former pro baller not bring illegal substances. When the brothel’s management said that Odom was coming for an “extended stay,” Hof said he offered Odom his VIP house on the property and “all the comforts.” On one condition.
“Tell him: No drugs,” Hof said.
Why had Hof singled out Odom as a potential user? Hof thought this a no-brainer.
“Because he has a history of it,” he said. “Everybody knows he has drug problems. That he has substance problems. It was prudent to put the facility on notice.”
Hof pointed out that Love Ranch has a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to drugs, and has had one for more than two decades. He didn’t think the policy any more important at a brothel than at any other place of business, as drugs “are disgusting and ruin people’s lives.”
“It’s important to keep every workplace drug-free,” he said. “You don’t want people on drugs running the fryer at McDonalds.”
Was Hof stressing there were no illegal drugs involved in Odom’s collapse because, if there were, his license might be jeopardized? Sure, he said. But any place of business — a bar, a nightclub, a casino — would have the same concern.
“You could jeopardize your business,” he said. “My business license is a little more valuable than most. It’s one of 17 in America.”
Hof has been driving home this point for years: Prostitution is a billion-dollar business that is great for society and would be even greater were the criminals driven out of the enterprise by making it legal. Proper regulation would end sex trafficking, by his thinking; protect society from sexually transmitted diseases; put money back in the economy; put criminals out of business; and provide greater sexual opportunities for men.
He made such points in the HBO documentary series “Cathouse,” which has aired on HBO since 2005. He made them in “The Art of the Pimp: One Man’s Search for Love, Sex, and Money,” published earlier this year, which bills him as the “P.T. Barnum of Booty.” And, after debating prostitution with members of Parliament, he made the point at Oxford University in 2012 — where, at “the world’s oldest university,” he discussed “the world’s oldest profession,” as he put it.
“My morals say that a girl being trafficked is disgusting,” he said at Oxford, pointing out that legal brothels would have protected the victims of Jack the Ripper. “… You’ve had 124 years to fix the problem. Try it my way. Just try it my way because it works. I’ve lived it.”
Moreover, after Odom’s fall, Hof said he is candid about the circumstances because, though many disapprove of his trade, it is within the bounds of the law.
“Because it’s legal — it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “When you have a business or a product that’s illegal … who is in business? Criminals. The sex trade is pimps, it’s drug addicts, it’s underage girls and it’s never gonna change with prohibition.”
So — is it okay to call Hof a “pimp”?
“If O’Reilly or Hannity says I’m a pimp, we’re going to fight,” Hof said. “If Snoop Dogg or Lil Jon says it, I’m a cool guy.”