Behind every great man is a great woman. At the world famous Moonlite BunnyRanch, the man is Dennis Hof and standing right behind him is his general manager, Madam Suzette.
Fans of HBO's documentary series Cathouse will recognize Madam Suzette as the woman 250 call girls call "Mom." We got a chance to talk to Suzette recently and found out what it's like managing the world's oldest profession.
Where are you originally from and how long have you been the madam at the Bunnyranch?
I was born in Oakland, California, and moved to Tahoe when I was young. I moved away, came back in the early 80ís and Iíve been back here ever since.
About 1983, I saw this tiny, little ad in the newspaper and it said, ďHelp Wanted - Hostess Wanted.Ē Before that, I was in between jobs. I was a court reporter for a couple years, and then I was a cocktail waitress. So, I have a lot of people skills and a business background.
I called up and they said, ďMoonlite BunnyRanch, how may we help you?Ē I was so shocked it was the Moonlite that I hung up the phone. I thought it was so taboo. I ended up calling back again later because I was curious to see what it was really like. They gave me directions to come in to apply, and then when I got there they hired me on the spot as a hostess. My job would be to answer the door, introduce the girls to the customers and keep the parlor up.
I met Dennis that day and he was in the middle of remodeling the place. He had just taken over the BunnyRanch a couple months before and it was pretty rundown, so he was tearing down walls and tearing up carpet.
I started at the door being a hostess. I almost got fired that day because the girls complained to the manager that I was staring at them. I suppose I was - I had never seen a real life prostitute before. I was thinking, ďOh, thatís what one looks like.Ē I was in awe because they were just like the girls next door. From there, I moved up from hostess to bartender to cashier to shift manager, assistant manager and then the ultimate job as the madam.
What exactly does your job entail?
Well, I am the general manager and weíre a 24-hour business, so I am on call 24-7. I do work a lot of hours (about 65 hours every week) and when Iím off, Iím still on call. I make sure that we have cashiers, bartenders, housekeeping, drivers, maintenance people and then also the girls. I get hundreds of applications and thousands of e-mails a day from girls trying to get in here to work. I only have 28 rooms, so we are very selective. Thereís no way I could talk to everybody, but I do answer everybodyís e-mail and then hopefully they will also get a phone call back from Dennis or I for a little talk over the phone. Thatís when we explain how things work and how they can start working here, so they can make all the money and start having fun.
What was the reaction from your friends and family when you first started working at the BunnyRanch and what is their reaction now?
Now, they are more acceptant. They know that I have a business background and thatís how I was able to work my way up to here. But, at first, I couldnít tell my family Ė especially my father. So I told them that I was the manager at McDonalds. Then, when I started moving myself up and became the general manager, we started doing a lot of focus on media and that sort of thing. Thatís when I had to tell my father. He told me to quit immediately. But now he asks me, ďHow is business?Ē Heís all right with it because he knows Iíve applied my business tactics that he had taught me all my life.
Does anyone in your family watch the show Cathouse or have they ever visited you at work?
My brother was here just the other day and he sat down because on Thursdays we have ďCathouse Thursday.Ē Every Thursday we get to watch it in our parlor before anybody else does. So he came in and watched it with us. My father wants to watch it, but I donít want him to see it because they show a lot of sex and I donít want to be disrespectful to my father.
How accurate is the HBO show? Do they do a good job of portraying what itís really like there or is it edited to make things look a certain way?
They portray us very well. In fact, they may even tone it down a little. If we do recreate something, itís only to show something thatís happened before. Itís a big joke around here because things happen here everyday - something goofy happens or crazy happens and we all say, ďWhere is HBO?Ē
Does anything shock you anymore at this point?
No. When I first starting working here, I thought I was really hip. Were talking about in 1983. I thought I was a woman of the world, but I was living a very naive life until I started working here. Nothing shocks me - absolutely nothing. Some of the men that come in want to be like women, and you get women that are dykes that want to be with the girls. You get all different types here Ė and theyíre just people too. They are the nicest people because they are real. This is the real world, out there is ďphony land.Ē
What is the biggest misconception that people have when they come into the BunnyRanch for the first time?
They donít realize that it is a business and is run by a businessman. We have housekeepers. We have food. We cater to the girls. The girls are clean. They go to the doctor and are cleared every week by the doctor. There has never been a case of HIV positive ever in the history of legalized prostitution. You canít say that about any other profession in the United States, and weíre really proud about that. We have girls that are grooming their way through college to be lawyers or nurses or real estate agents.
One of the most fascinating events at the Moonlite BunnyRanch is your weekly tea party. How did that come about and what has the reaction been from the girls?
Dennis and I, we think so much alike. Of course, he is the Einstein - he is the genius. A few years ago, I started going into these antique stores and secondhand stores and I started gathering up cups and saucers and lace and hats and putting them in a box because I wanted to have a nice tea party for the ladies. Denis was unaware of it. Then, one day, we were sitting having lunch and he said, ďYou know what? You should have a tea party here.Ē
We started Thursday at three is tea. We bring out the different types of finger foods and the teas. We make it into a little meeting for the girls to let them know whatís going on and whatís coming up. We have raffle tickets and we give out little prizes. Now, thereís usually 25 girls at every tea party.
What do you do when youíre not working? What do you do to unwind?
I masturbate. No, Iím just kidding. Iím the sexless madam. I donít date. I donít have a husband. I usually just regroup to come back to work. I like to go on Ebay. In fact, I have a store on Ebay, ďMadam Suzetteís Boudoir.Ē I love to travel when I get a chance. I do get a couple of weeks off every year and Denis letís me go anywhere I want in the world.
Is there any particular reason why donít you date? Do you just not have time?
Itís just really not a high priority. I was married for 17 years, and since I am down here so many hours a week, what little time I do have off Iím very selfish with. I do have little kitties. If somebody comes walking into my life, I wouldnít kick him out. I just donít make myself available, I suppose. I donít think Iím going to meet a boyfriend in here and this is where I am 90 percent of the time.
Iíve got one last thing for you here. Iím going to do a word association. Iíll just throw out a name and tell me the first thing that comes to your mind.
The love of my life.
The Moonlite BunnyRanch.
Oh my God. Mark.
Chubby. Loyal. Honest. Good friend to have. A woman of integrity.
Travel. Time off.
Interviewed by Joel Murphy, September 2005. The Moonlite BunnyRanch is located 20 miles south of Reno, Nevada, six miles east of of Carson City. For more information, visit their website or call them at 1-888-BUNNYRANCH.