Whatever he may be, the man who calls himself "the P.T. Barnum of booty" has taken what's basically a legal brothel and created a pop culture phenomenon, thanks in part to the HBO reality series Cathouse, which follows life at the Bunny Ranch and has trounced every cable competitor in its time slot. Rappers, rockers and celebs from the A to D list have Hof's direct line programmed in their cell phones. Magazines from Maxim to The New Yorker have done spreads on him. "I've changed the image of this business single-handedly," says Hof, who'll be in town with adult film stars Ron Jeremy and Tyler Faith for a weekend of events sponsored by local porn purveyors Carmen's Boutique. Things climax with Saturday's Cathouse Players Ball, which features appearances by Hof, Jeremy and Faith, some Bunny Ranch ladies and, possibly, Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss (who's rumored to randomly show up at Hof's events).
Here's how the Bunny Ranch works: You jump online, survey the selections of Bunny Babes (called "models") and shop for sex. Like the looks of Felicia Foxxx? Wanna get with Kitten or Kandi? Just peruse the menu, pick from offerings such as threesomes or spankings, and book yourself an appointment.
Of course, if you've seen Cathouse, none of this is new. It's not so much the nudity or the sex for sale that makes the show more watchable than, say, Big Brother. It's the goings-on: What kind of people -- couples, even -- show up to a brothel? What's the appropriate tip for a hand job? How much play does a midget model score? It's fascinating stuff. "My show is a little porn, a little documentary and a little soap opera," says Hof. "I don't hide anything. I allow the media to come into my home and business and see how we live."
Apparently, they're living large. "One of our girls from Houston bought four houses, and she's only been at the Ranch for one and a half years," says Hof. "Six girls have worked their way through med school and over 20 through law school." Hof says college girls who work the Ranch during the summer average about $50,000. "We got five in from Texas A&M," he says. "Three girls came in from Wellesley. They told their parents they were camping. They walked out with $170,000 in three months that they cut three ways."
So could all this action and media love make Hof the next generation's Hef? "There's no question," says Hof. "I'm living the life people think Hef leads."