When Moonlite BunnyRanch owner Dennis Hof releases his new memoir, The Art of the Pimp, on March 17, it will mark the debut of Regan Arts—a new imprint headed by Judith Regan, the publishing legend behind Wicked, O. J. Simpson's If I Did It, and critically acclaimed fiction like The Zero. Hof's book is a hell of a way to start a publishing venture; it opens with a description of how meeting Marilyn Monroe as a child gave him his first boner ("If you want to know about my first erection, and I'm sure you do, this is the story," he writes), and goes on to explain how he became the owner of the most famous legal brothel in America. He discusses how his controlling mother motivated him to become a live-and-let-live business owner, how SCREW publisher Al Goldstein became his "father figure," and how he became best friends with porn star Ron Jeremy. (Hof and Jeremy sleep in a bed together, and Hof uses female pronouns to refer to Jeremy.)
As is Regan's trademark, the memoir is packaged as a frenetic mix of lowbrow and highbrow culture. Richard Ljoenes has illustrated a beautiful, cartoonish cover, and Robert Grossman—the iconic illustrator behind the Airplane! poster and the New Yorker's best drawings—has written a 32-page comic about Hof's life.
Packaging aside, Hof tells a heartwarming story. In between anecdotes about Ron Jeremy and a cowboy who wears panties, he and his co-writer, the ghostwriter and screenwriter Pablo Fenjves, highlight traumatic moments from Hof's life. (People with happy childhoods rarely become prostitutes or pimps.) In one of the book's saddest moments, Hof's father moves into one of his properties and then stops speaking to him. One day he received a call from a neighbor telling him the home has fallen into disrepair. Hof asks the neighbor to ask his dad to call him, and the neighbor breaks the news that his dad has been dead for a year. At another point, while discussing his need for love, Hof writes, "What's the point of getting into bed alone? What's the point of living?"
Between the book itself and Hof's plans to sell it by way of billboards and press stunts, the memoir will surely get people talking. When I read it on the subway, a couple people pointed at the cover and gasped. "It's called The Art of the Pimp," a woman whispered to the man sitting next to her. The finger-pointing was worth it: The Art of the Pimp made me laugh, cry, and squirm all at the same time.
Recently I sat down with the Hof for an hour to discuss the writing process, the differences between pimping out a book and a hooker, and why he dedicated a whole chapter to his refusal to show Ron Jeremy his dick.
VICE: Why did you decide to write your memoirs?
Dennis Hof: Judith [Regan's been] my New York wife for a long time. She's been trying to talk me into doing this book for ten years. I met her a long, long time ago. I remember I went into her office. I said to Judith, "We're going to get along real well." And she said, "Why?" I said, "Because I understand you've got the biggest dick [in publishing], and guess what: I got balls like a water buffalo." We've been friends ever since.
Why did it take you a decade to agree to write the book?
I was kind of apprehensive, I have to say, to put myself out there, because what I've done for 22 years is built a persona. There's this persona of this champagne-drinking, cigar-smoking guy that bangs eight girls every morning before breakfast, has a little breakfast, goes to the pool, bangs another five or six in the afternoon, takes a nap, gets a massage, and hits another four in the nighttime. That's just not the reality of it all. I'm putting it out there, and Judith told me, when we finally made the deal, she said, "Listen, this can be a very heavy ride, and many people have broken down over this if you're really forthright and truthful about it." And I thought, You know what, I'm a tough guy. But there was some times it kind of got to me.
You included a psychiatrist's scathing psychological evaluation of you and your ex's essay about how much she hates you in the book. Why'd you do that?
I just put it all out there. I didn't hold anything back. People are going to be shocked. It's shocking that people like Judith, like Madam Suzette, who's worked with me for 23 years, and Heidi Fleiss, who's my dear friend [were shocked]. These are three of the smartest women on the planet, and there's things that they don't know about me, and now they know I let everybody take a shot at me. I asked people to be honest in their evaluation.
The psychiatrist that did this is a real psychiatrist. Her clients are some of the heaviest people in New York City. We had a two-hour session. There were people in there—the PAs and the assistant to the psychiatrist in there were crying—and so it was a very heavy time, but I was perfectly honest with her. I don't agree with her synopsis: My life is good. My life is what every man wishes his life was. I've got celebrity, I've got money, and I've got girls everywhere—exactly 540 of them.
Later in the book, you describe speaking at Oxford. What did you talk about there?
I fight the battle of sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is out of hand in America—out of hand. The TV show [HBO's Cathouse] has given me the opportunity to have an international audience. I'm proud that I spoke where Mother Teresa, Dalai Lama, Winston Churchill, and Albert Einstein spoke, at Oxford University. I speak on legalization of prostitution and how that's how you fight sex trafficking. You can never control the demand; guys are going to buy sex. We all want it, and guys are gonna buy it. What you can control is the supply. The supply can be controlled by legalization, because if a guy has an option, he's going to go to a legal alternative as opposed to dealing with a criminal.
What was your childhood like?
My parents had good standards. Humble, nice, hardworking people. The biggest thing that my father taught me was you make the decisions. When he got out of World War II, he was down in Phoenix, Arizona, by a hotel, had a bicycle shop and rented bicycles and little motor scooters. He saw himself developing into a motorcycle franchise and growing that way. My mother talked him into quitting all that. She reminded him that during the Depression, the only people that knew that were eating properly were civil servants.
He listened to her, [by becoming a mailman], and he just always felt like he never accomplished anything, so I wanted to be independent. I wanted to be my own man and have my own business. I wanted to roll the dice, and I wanted to either make it or break it. I started off with gas stations. I think that's probably a lot of my childhood; I'm a gentleman. I'm the guy that's going to pull the chair out for a girl. It's like what I tell the girls: I open the car doors, I pay the bills, you come first, and we're all gonna get along real well.
At the same time, the book discusses your heartache of going through a lot of partners. Are you still searching for true love?
I think we all are. Krissy is here living with me now, and we're actually moving into my real home. She's 16 months from getting her doctorate, and she's going to work in the business as she's getting her doctorate and work in the legislature as a lobbyist for me. I now own over 40 percent of all the [legal] brothels in North America. She's smart, she's worked in the business a little bit, she's beautiful. If you go to KrissySummers.com, you can check her out.
"If I'm not having sex, if I'm not ejaculating, I want to be laughing."
Your love life, your friendships—everything is connected to business. Are you treating the book like a business? I heard rumors you were taking out billboards.
I'm going to be a relentless marketer—we're already on it. I have a website, BunnyRanch.com, that gets 125 million to 200 million hits a month, depending on what media I'm doing. I've got banners on that. The girls are all working; I've got an army of girls working social media, and retweeting, and everything. I'm going to reach out to the 200 radio stations that I have had relationships with forever. I do about 100 interviews a month on radio, and I get up five days a week, and I'm up and starting on the east coast at 4:30 in the morning working my way across the country. I'm working on a big rock star bus right now—a pink bus—to travel around the country in, hit every little city. I'm gonna pimp it, and that's what I do.
Along with your business and Krissy, I know Ron Jeremy is one of the most important parts of your life. I know Judith is your "New York wife" and Madame Suzette is your "office wife," but is Ron Jeremy your real wife?
Ron's my bitch. I haven't called Ron in the male context in 12 or 15 years—it's her. I feed her, I gave her that big belly, and I'm probably responsible for that heart attack. I buy her clothes. What's she wearing today? She's wearing a BunnyRanch T-shirt, she's wearing some Crocs that I bought her, because every year for her birthday, I buy her three pair of Crocs: one formal pair, black, and then I buy two of the craziest colors. This year I got pink and I got orange.
Ron's my best buddy. Every time we're together, we never get enough. There's always something crazy going on; Ron's always sleeping someplace. We'll be at the Emmys or the Grammys or something, and he'll be sleeping. Ron went to sleep at Jerry Buss's funeral and we're in the section with the family, and I'm waking her up. I was like, "Butthead, wake the fuck up. They think it's a double funeral. They think you died too." I've got a website, SleepingWithRonJeremy.com; it's just pictures of Ron sleeping everywhere. We laugh, we giggle, we have a great time. I love to have fun. If I'm not having sex, if I'm not ejaculating, I want to be laughing—and I can laugh a lot more than I can ejaculate.
If you love Ron so much, why didn't you want him to see your dick? There's a whole chapter about that.
First of all, I'm a good size, but Ron is the king. I've never been into group sex with another guy. I've got this philosophy that I need to be the only penis in the room. And I can be naked with a bunch of girls at a party and have the time of my life. I just don't want to see a guy's dick and I don't really want him seeing mine.
You've got the girlfriend, you've got Ron, you've got the Ranch, and now you've got a memoir. What else do you want in life?
One, I want health. It's the old saying, "If I'd have known life was going to be so good, I would've taken better care of myself." And then I want to fight sex trafficking. I think that's my way of giving back to the world in a big way, and I'm real good at it. If my tombstone says, '"best friend, greatest salesman, and fought sex trafficking," I'm good with that.
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