There’s something about Dumbo that can take what should be a fun, ballsy party and turn it into an overly serious art-fest. That’s what happened to the release celebration of Nevada Rose: Inside the American Brothel, a book of art photography shot by Marc McAndrews. The guest list was super-sinful: all- American pimp Dennis Hof, of HBO’s Cathouse fame, Hof’s current sugar kitten Cami Parker and porn star Mika Tan. So why was the party, which should’ve been a carousing, lawless throwback to the Wild Wild West, such a bore?
I blame the venue (Bubby’s Brooklyn? Way too bourgie), the lack of an open bar and the fact that Dumbo is pretty much the opposite of Reno. Despite the sober, grown-up atmosphere of the party itself, the backstory behind the book is quite fascinating.
McAndrews spent five years on Nevada Rose, following his Manifest Destiny from Brooklyn in vans he bought on eBay. Last year, he was about ready to be done with the book, except for one problem: He hadn’t gotten inside the crown jewel of Nevada’s legalized prostitution houses, Hof’s Bunny Ranch. At the party, I sat down to talk with Hof and his gal pal Parker. Hof, who was wearing a glittering blue shirt, a Cathouse-branded hat and a blingin’ watch, said of his meeting with McAndrews: "I told him, ‘What’s in it for me? Why should I do this?’" Luckily, McAndrews had Hof’s buddy, controversial former book publishing titan Judith Regan, on his side.
"She researched Marc and loved him.
She said, ‘This is an artist. It’s going to be a good book. You should be a part of it.’" Though he ultimately agreed to share the spotlight with the 22 other brothels McAndrews traveled to, Hof’s outsized personality thought they could’ve done without them. "It’s like, Mark, I am the book. You could do a book on me. Alone, and forget everyone else."
Hof should worry about the competition closer to home. It seems Parker is a character herself. When she told me she had touched some strippers at Dennis Rodman’s recent birthday party, I asked if that was OK. "I’m allowed. I’m a girl! Girls are always allowed to touch."
How about gay guys, can they touch?
"You could probably touch, too." She laughed. "I’d definitely let you touch my boobs." After all, Cami needs a "new gay husband." "My old one and I got divorced," she lamented.
When I finally got to McAndrews himself, I had to ask, had he used the services of the brothel?
"I’m surprised it actually took you that long to ask. I’ve never said yes or no, for a number of different reasons. It’s a unique situation, a unique environment. There are obviously propositions that take place. However, I was there to work. If I was sleeping with everybody, I wouldn’t have gotten access to everybody." On the other hand, he said, "If I said no, then everybody’s going to look at it as though I’m too good to partake in the thing that I was actually talking about."
With his newfound expertise, could McAndrews see brothels opening up right here in New York City, where the laws around sex work are positively medieval?
"I think it would make sense to have it… it supports the tax base," he said. "It would be great if it could happen here, but I don’t necessarily see that happening."