Excerpted from The Art of the Pimp: One Man's Search for Love, Sex, and Money by Dennis Hof. Copyright © 2015 by Dennis Hof. Published by Regan Arts. Used with permission.
Most celebrity memoirs present boring one-sided positive portrayals of D-listers that gloss over their traumatic childhoods, adultery, and messy lives. Bunny Ranch owner Dennis Hof's memoir, The Art of the Pimp: One Man's Search for Love, Sex, and Money, is not one of those books.
Published by legendary editor Judith Regan's new imprint, Regan Arts, the memoir presents a complicated, fascinating portrayal of America's most notorious legal brothel owner. The book opens with a description of the author's first boner and then details the his wild sex parties, estrangement from his daughters, and bizarre relationship with Ron Jeremy. (He supports the porn star, refers to him as a "she," and calls him his "number one bitch.")
As entertaining a book as it is, readers might question whether they like the author at all.The memoir includes scathing letters from Hof's ex-girlfriends and a psychological evaluation of the pimp and his practices, neither of which exactly sing his praises. Below is the report from psychotherapist Dr. Sheenah Hankin, who questions whether the pimp suffers from personality disorders or is just an asshole. Her findings aren't pretty, but Hof kept the chapter in the book, which went on sale yesterday.
A Psychological Evaluation of Dennis Hof
Imagine me sitting on my chair in my office. Dennis Hof is sitting on my couch. I am talking to Dennis and he is very open to my questions and observations. Unknown to him, I am trying to uncover his personality styles so I can explain to him—and you, the reader—why he behaves the way that he does.
All of us have personality traits and I hope as you read Dennis's evaluation you will get to know Dennis as I did. Maybe you will see yourself in some of my descriptions and have a little more clarity as a result.
DENNIS THE DEPENDENT PERSONALITY
Dennis is an impressive promoter. His conversation with me began with relentless selling of his business (the Bunny Ranch), selling his beautiful girls, and selling how he teaches them to sell themselves. He told me that he likes to be "the biggest dick in the room," and how he is different from other pimps. He is Big Daddy, kind and loving to the damaged, dependent little girls who flock to the pseudo-security of the family he has manufactured. Dennis is selling himself.
He went on to tell me that his insatiable need for sex is far greater than that of regular guys. So he constructed an empire, a candy store where he can sample the goods on demand. (He would be his best customer, but he doesn't have to pay.) For him, every day is Halloween.
His employees are emotionally dependent "working girls" who fight for his favors in an attempt to fill the void that unloved and under-nurtured children continuously try to get others to fill. He encourages them to be jealous and yearn for his attention. He laughs at how they bicker, bitch, and fight with each other over him. And yet, he told me that he loves to make women happy: "I never penetrate a woman for the first time without giving her at least eight orgasms."
I listened wide-eyed and openmouthed. What a caring guy, he wanted me to believe. But I needed to know what lay beneath this well-constructed, well-delivered PR campaign. "Who hurt you, Dennis?" I asked.
He hesitated. "I never cry," he said, tearing up.
And there he was, this fearful, self-critical, self-pitying child, the son of a mean-spirited, discouraging mother, and of a passive, distant, weak father who had never protected him from her vicious tongue and violent outbursts. His mother was rigid. One of her beliefs was that only civil servants and the rich are safe from starvation. She refused to allow her entrepreneurial-minded husband to start his own business. And as usual, he complied, unwilling to face her talent for intimidation. Resentful and sad, he ended his working life walking the streets as a mailman.
Dennis made four resolutions as a young teenager:
He would never be poor like his parents. (He is famously wealthy.)
He would be universally admired and envied. (He has 500-plus young women who call him Daddy, and men nationwide who envy his sexual opportunities.)
He would never let anyone—especially a woman—tell him what he could not do. (Unlike his father, Dennis never allows anyone to tell him no.)
He would have a "little honey" to love and care for him for the rest of his life. (Dennis the lonely little boy now takes his "working girls" or current partner with him wherever he goes — he will not be alone.) He has still not found the "special one."
Why has he been so successful in life but not in love? Despite his declared wish for a loving life partner, he has a history of three failed marriages and a long list of relationships that fell apart, leaving him to feel abandoned and rejected. For Dennis is codependent in the true meaning of that word. Just like the majority of his dependent working girls, he is unable to sustain a loving partnership and doesn't know why he drives them away. Needy and demanding, dependent personalities want to be adored in order to feel safe. No one wants to play parent for long to an emotionally dependent adult.
Heartbreak is far more painful for dependent personalities. It is similar to the intense loss and devastation that homesick children feel. Self-critical and self-pitying, they temporarily believe they have lost the only one who could care for them, and blame themselves.
The answer to his repeated failures in love will become clearer as we continue to understand him psychologically.
DENNIS THE NARCISSISTIC PERSONALITY
The cruise ship sailed, headed for Mexico. Dennis and Sunny—his then girlfriend —were on deck together watching a beautiful sunset. Sunny felt happy—alone with Dennis, she hoped and expected that he would propose to her. After all, she had responded to Dennis's training and raised her prices at the Bunny Ranch to over $1,000 a party. The cruise was her reward for her effort. Dennis, unwilling and unable to commit, as usual, declined. They had a terrible fight. In a rage, Dennis booked her a seat on the next plane out, and did so without her knowledge. Sunny refused to leave the ship. Cruel and unusual punishment for a girl who loved him and wanted security, but there is no room for those he believes he loves to be unhappy, demanding, upset, humiliated, and sorry for themselves. All these emotions lie beneath every angry outburst, and they describe all of us at times.
He has no empathy—this means he is tone deaf to how and why his girlfriends all feel the way they do: scared, humiliated, angry.
Narcissism is a fancy word for self-involvement and selfcenteredness. All narcissists are thin-skinned and hypersensitive to criticism. Dennis won't tolerate anger. He is a terminator who is clueless about his lovers' hurts and fears or his part in creating them. His next lover will know in advance of his terminator reputation, and she will probably believe that she will be the one who can change him. No way, she will discover.
Dennis is all too aware of his own painful feelings. Sad and broken-hearted, he mourns his loss and blames "her," and regrets all that he has done for her. His indulgence is really a way to make himself feel like a hero and buy admiration and devotion. "My attitude is, if you're spoiling a woman emotionally, sexually, and financially, it's going to be pretty hard for a guy to come along and take her away from you." When they do, he is truly baffled at his loss, and doesn't get what women need and want. Since he doesn't understand women he can't trust them. Nor does he see that he unwittingly invites the breakdown of relationships that leave him so bereft.
He told his pal Ron, "If we weren't rich and famous only fat and unattractive women would want us." In fact, no woman he loves will want him after a while. His jaundiced view of what women want seems confined to sex and stuff. He insists that he could never stop "fucking other women" and he knows that this has destroyed his dream of a real relationship. He describes a relationship like a shower. When the temperature is just right you feel so good you could stay forever. But when the water is cold, it's time to get the fuck out.
So, he must keep up his act to be popular, and let no one close enough to hurt him—so goes his self-centered belief. No one paid attention to his feelings as a child or showed even a little concern and, I suspect, no acceptance and reassurance. Empathy is learned within our family and other connections as we grow and develop. Empathy is the essential skill missing for him. It is one he needs to develop if he wants better relationships in the future. All children are self-centered until they learn to recognize and think about others' feelings. In this sense, Dennis is very emotionally immature.
DOES DENNIS NEED THERAPY
As Dennis was leaving my office, he was visibly shaken. He asked me if I thought he could ever be a good husband. He was tearful and troubled. This celebrity who has everything he wants cannot sustain the one thing he wants: a woman to care for him. He is of so little value in his own mind that he does not take care of himself. Seriously diabetic, he weighs close to 260 pounds and eats everything a diabetic should avoid. He is not physically fit. I sensed that beneath his ebullient presentation, there was a deep sense of lifelong loss. It came to the surface quickly.
He showed me a photograph of himself at his ranch. A lonely man, alone on his couch with his ever-faithful dog, Domino, on his chest. He is watching the wild horses coming down from the mountains. Clearly, Dennis is yearning for what he will never allow—someone to sit beside him.
Dennis says that it is a myth that people change. "They spend thousands of dollars on therapy, trying to address their issues, but I know few people who have ever made any significant changes." I respect his opinion, but I know many people who have changed, including myself, and they (and I) needed help to do so. I believe Dennis would do well in therapy and, yes, change significantly. There is so much he does not understand about himself, and no one can choose to change anything they do not understand.
Buy The Art of the Pimp: One Man's Search for Love, Sex, and Money on Amazon.
Named one of New York's most popular psychotherapists by the New York Times, Sheenah Hankin, PhD is a co-developer of Cognitive Appraisal Therapy, author of Complete Confidence and co-author of Succeeding With Difficult Clients.