The most popular hooker at the World Famous Moonlight Bunny Ranch in Mound House, Nevada, isn't a barely legal 18-year-old, retired porn star, or Marilyn Monroe look-a-like. It's Air Force Amy—a middle-aged former member of the U.S. Air Force who says she fucks like a "drill sergeant," earns hundreds of thousands a year, and occasionally knocks walls down when she orgasms (literally). This year, the brothel veteran celebrates her 25th year of prostitution.
"[I've] spent 25 years sucking and fucking," she brags to me when I meet her on the front porch of the Bunny Ranch. "I'm the Michael Jordan of sex. I have a natural talent like Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Shaquille O'Neal. Why am I referring to all black people?" She laughs. "There's no white people as good as me!"
In person, Amy looks like Dusty Springfield—wearing a striped green-and-white dress and rocking a big blond blowout—but speaks like Amy Winehouse. A few minutes into our conversation, she starts laughing between sentences. At first, I think she's high, but it quickly becomes apparent this is a coping mechanism. Through giggles, Amy glibly describes how she has been treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from a variety of traumatic events. She was diagnosed with PTSD while serving for the air force in the late 1980s, and to manage the condition, she takes Wellbutrin—a medication she humorously compares to Chantix, which people use to quit smoking—and occasionally Valium to "chill out."
"I thought [the PTSD] was mostly because of the rapes and all the stuff that happened as a child, and then throughout the military," she says. "But then come to find out, you can claim disability if the military aggravates a condition you already had. And my condition got aggravated because A) I was tossed around that base like a football and B) I really saw some shit."
I'm the Michael Jordan of sex. I have a natural talent like Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Shaquille O'Neal.
Not all the shit Amy has seen was traumatic, but the lion's share of her life stories sound outlandish by most standards. In the 1990s, for example, she worked at a "really gangster" brothel. After one client failed to come, according to Amy, he asked her if he should get a pool toy from his car. "Go get whatever the fuck you need to get this done," she told him. He returned with a blowup dinosaur pool toy. She put it on and asked him to fuck her; he tried but again he couldn't come. Eventually, he pulled out, put the toy on the ground, started humping it, and came. Amy points out that he worked as a trucker. Over the years, she says, he had taken the toy on the road as a sex toy, and now he could only ejaculate while humping the inflatable pool toy. (An experienced-based expert in sexuality, she understands and sympathizes with the motives behind her clients' turn-ons.)
Amy tells this and other stories as if they're tales from a children's books—which makes a lot of sense considering her description of her childhood.
"My childhood was a job," she says.
Amy grew up in rural Ohio. A middle child and "good Midwestern girl [who smoked cigarettes] in the hayloft," she took after her father. He worked in a factory but had spent his younger years as a semi-pro linebacker. "We were expected to win—in all kinds of athletics and all kinds of things. There were no excuses," Amy says.
She took those expectations to heart and applied the drive that was instilled in her. In the first grade, when she saw boys looking up girls' skirts, she recognized an opportunity improve her station. "The girls didn't like it—they got real mad—but I saw a supply and demand going on here," she explains. "They wanted to look up the skirt; the girls didn't want to do it. I got a skirt." Her family was working class, and her father had taught her to work hard and creatively to get more out of life. Amy told the boys, "Give me your ice cream money and you can see my panties—I like that ice cream." And the boys paid up. Upon reflection, Amy sees her elementary school hustle as a stepping-stone to her prostitution career.
"I had regulars in first and second grade," she says, still able to list their names. "I could count on those guys, man—I went to Catholic school. First it was panty shots, then it was pussy shots—by third grade, it was head [for a pack of cigarettes]."
She continued selling her body throughout her adolescence, but in her early 20s she decided to join the Air Force—it was safer than hooking, she says. From 1985 to 1990, she served in the Philippines. According to Amy, she was highly decorated. She accomplished tasks other women had never completed in the field. "I saw revolutionary war situations and results thereof," Amy later said in an email. "I prefer not speak of them."The horrors she saw in service took their toll, though, and she started drinking heavily. After four years, the military lets you cross train into a field of your choice, and Amy wanted out of combat.
"I was a ground troop, a female Rambo. And I wanted to go into acquisitions," she says. "I wanted to, like, go shopping for the Air Force. They wouldn't let me do that because I was too highly trained. They wouldn't cross train me, they wouldn't give me a reenlistment bonus. And I just said—I was tipping the bottle, you know—'I'll go work in the brothels.' And here we are, 25 years later."
Between 1993 and 2000, she worked in Nevada's "lockdown brothels," which forbid women from leaving the whorehouse. She describes her pimp as a threatening, emotionally abusive man who controlled her life. When she managed to escape his control, she spent her off weeks "homeless" using alcohol and drugs, although she also rented an apartment.
"When I say 'homeless in Vegas,' [I mean] I'd go stay in a penthouse suite in the Bellagio—but I was still homeless. Running down the streets, getting my fix," she explains. "Like everyone else in the '90s, we were all freebasing."
In the late '90s, she decided to get sober and leave the prostitution business to become a real estate agent. Her pimp forbade her from leaving the lockdown brothel to go to AA meetings or take real estate classes, so she quit.
"It turned out I was [bipolar and] self medicating all those years," she says. "I was trying to find a fix for what was driving me crazy."
One weekend, on her way to get her real estate license, she stopped to get her hair done at the Bellagio. In the salon, she bumped into Bunny Ranch owner Dennis Hof and his friend Ron Jeremy. They were in town for the AVN Awards—the Oscars of porn. The trio struck up a conversation. Amy claims she knew little about porn and had no clue who they were, but decided to hang out with them anyway.
"Ron commenced to screw me in every alleyway and elevator and room at [the hotel where the Awards were held]," she says. "I'm walking through AVN with them, and everybody's like, 'Ron, you're my hero!' I'm like, Who the fuck is this guy? He's a weird fuck."
While hanging out with Jeremy, she heard about how Hof's Bunny Ranch allowed girls to come and go as they pleased. With the assistance of Madam Suzette, who functions as the COO of the Bunny Ranch, Hof encouraged Amy to leave the lockdown brothel and come work for him.
"It took a good seven months for me to finally muster up enough [courage]," Amy says. "I was really afraid [the pimp from the lockdown] was going to kill me and leave me out in the desert. His brothels were named after a girl that he killed. So I was really afraid that he was going to kill me."
Suzette promised her the Bunny Ranch would keep her safe, so Amy packed up her bags and moved into Hof's brothel. She started attending AA and got sober. A dedicated AA member, she discusses her own program but keeps other AA members' identities secret.
Amy earned much of her fortune after finding sobriety at the Bunny Ranch, partially because she was more level-headed but mostly because Hof lets girls set their own prices. Girls would fuck a john for $200 or $500 when she first arrived, but then she saw a coworker shake $10,000 out of a dude and thought, Whoa! If she can fucking do that, I can fucking do that. Amy pushed the minimum price to $3,000 an hour, and the Bunny Ranch was never the same.
Amy has been savvy at using the media to attract clients. In the 2000s, she pretended to be a porn star, making a fake Air Force Amy Magazine, in order to earn more money after she heard porn stars made $5,000 an hour at the Bunny Ranch. Today, she uses Twitter, message boards, and even LinkedIn to bring in new business.
When new girls arrive, she likes to take them under her wing and teach them these lessons, along with her other trade secrets like her "canned replies" and "pitch." She does keep some of her "tools" to herself, though.
"This pitch that I have fucking works," she says. "It's worked for 20 years. If you follow my pitch, you're gonna fucking make that money—and no one gave me nothing like that when I came in. All they wanted to do was run me out of the house because I was young."
One of Amy's biggest lessons is to create a client base. She herself has kept the same customers since her early days at the Bunny Ranch, slowly adding to her roster. Many of these business relationships have blossomed into something more complicated. "They email me. And I can't not reply to them," she explains. "Some of them are [elderly], and some of them don't have any money, and I'm the one thing they hold onto that they think that they've got. I can't ignore that.
"When I do come in for appointments and I see clients, I'm very much rewarded by doing so because that's where I get my affection. My best clients I've known for over six to seven to ten years, and what we'll do is spend a week at a time every other month or so. So that's like living with a man. And that's enough for me."
Speaking with Amy, I realize she's made so much money because she works hard to understand the intricacies of her clients: their past, their emotional needs, and why certain kinks turn them on. I wondered, though, Does Air Force Amy ever get to enjoy this sex herself? Does she come when she fucks clients?
"Yes," she says, "when there's more passion involved—when there's kissing and more time. That's scary for me. It taps into [something personal], kind of crosses that line. But I cross the line a lot."
"Is that why you're so good at your job?" I ask.
Although opponents of sex work enumerate its dangers, Amy's most dangerous encounter happened outside her workplace. In the mid-2000s, she had a neck surgery. The doctors accidentally hemorrhaged her brain. They went in a second time and briefly paralyzed her arm. To cope with the pain, she took doctor-prescribed painkillers. Like many Americans, Amy became addicted to pills.
"If you see me really crazy on TV, like Paula Abdul, [it was because] I had all these medications," she says. "And this doctor starts contacting me. I'm all whacked out on painkillers—this is probably my only connection. [I thought] I've probably burnt my bridges with Suzette and Dennis. They had me over at Love Ranch because I was just crazy, I was on painkillers."
The doctor, or Buffalo Bill as she calls him, allegedly started sending her gifts. Amy says he told her he was "going to make me his Dolly Parton." Her life felt like "I Will Always Love You." Then she moved in with him in Arkansas and her life turned into "Goodbye Earl."
"Fucking Buffalo Bill, man. Wild Bill," she says. "That fucker did nothing but rape me and abuse me. Just abuse me. I couldn't get out of there until I got a settlement from the VA, and that let me escape and go back home [to Nevada]. I got back home and relaxed, went to therapy for a couple months, then came back to work."
Throughout our three-hour conversation, Amy smiles while discussing all these events, as if she had never experienced any horrible at all. I wonder how she manages to stay positive in the wake of such trauma.
"I do have to have a higher power, a God, something out there that I can believe in," she says. "I have to have faith in something. And I think that's how I go on."
Although Amy roots for other girls, and though she has experienced violence at the hands of men, she identifies as a "survivalist" instead of a feminist. She hangs a sign that reads "Dream, Sparkle, Shine" above her bed in the Bunny Ranch to reflect her vision for life. The room reminds me more of a carefully decorated teenager's bedroom, like the one Britney Spears posed in on the March 1999 cover of Rolling Stone. She hangs white go-go boots—the first she ever wore at the Bunny Ranch—on the wall, and keeps a copy of an expensive coffee table book collecting her nude pics, which she created years before Kim Kardashian published Selfish. As I sit on her bed, Amy takes out the book and points at her breasts.
"How fucking good do I goddamn fucking look?" she asks. "Dennis's dickhead [magazine photographer] can't get anyone except a teenager in a magazine, and my shit is so totally hot. Who's not gonna want to see what a woman working 25 years as a hooker, what that pussy looks like? Right? What the fuck does that shit look like by now? That's gonna sell more goddamn magazines."
Hof has seen the success of her books and encourages the other girls to create their own because they attract new clients. Krissy Summers, his girlfriend, says Amy wants to help the other girls. "She lets a girl use this room when she's not here."
"Why help the competition?" I ask Amy.
"It might be an ego thing," she responds. "It's just the challenge for me to say, 'Look, I'm giving you all my shit, and I'm still gonna beat you.'" She laughs and then stops; she stares into space with a penetrating look that has probably made many men cum. I'm gay, but I can tell why johns like Amy: She means it.
"I think it's honestly just that no one helped me when I came in, and I just think it's the right thing to do because God's kept me alive through these years," she says. "You think there'd be some reason that I'm in these fucking brothels, looking as good as I do, doing as good as I do 25 years later. I gotta give back."
Amy has prepared two wills in the event of her death. In one will, she leaves most of her money to her AA sponsor; she leaves the rest to women in AA. In another will, all her belongings—from her costumes to sex toys—get sold, and the proceeds are to be used to build a spa at the Bunny Ranch in memoriam of Air Force Amy. (She has included a clause in her will where the spa must resemble the Grand Wailea in Hawaii.)
"I'm a survivor from rags to riches," she says. "It's amazing I can get up and do anything in a day. I don't give myself enough credit."