Last night Ryan and I watched the HBO special, Cathouse 2: Back In The Saddle, a revisitation of the world of The Bunny Ranch, Nevada's most famous legal whorehouse. The Ranch is not so much a ranch as it is a portable bungalow, the kind that my school held Mrs. Chiang's science classes in during ninth grade. Every time we lit a bunsen burner, there was the possibility that the structure might be blown toward outer space like the shittiest rocket ever. That's what the Bunny Ranch looks like, only bigger.
So all I could think during this special, despite the myriad boobs and father-son customers on display, was if, as these working girls insist, the ranch is a second home, why isn't anyone pumping money into it? Some of those hookers quote two thousand dollars an hour and up, and still, they're throwing their "parties" in wood-paneled squares with vertical blinds and suspicious carpet. It seems to me that returning a portion of profits to the welfare of a business usually results in increased profits, so I find it difficult to understand why owner Dennis Hof doesn't plunk down the 400k and invest in a real ranch with real walls, making the place of business not only less depressing for the girls, but likely to drawn in a wider economic spectrum of business. One of the girls in the special claims to be making $200,000 a year, and since I'm guessing that Dennis takes at least twenty-five percent of each "party," I can only imagine what the joint is pulling in. And, if I was a hooker (and maybe this is why I'd fail as a hooker, because maybe I'm too socialist too be a hooker), then I wouldn't mind handing over at least ten percent of my profits to ensure that I worked in an inspiring environment.
So, the reigning dilemma for me throughout the special became: are these people being shortsighted in the face of greed, or is there just an undeniable, immutable, static whorehouse aesthetic that is greater than any combination of humans, any organization of beings on this earth?
I kept thinking about how notions of masculinity have been rapidly changing over the past few decades, how images of sexuality have evolved, how even that bastion of rigid femininity, The Miss America pageant, has had to adjust itself when confronted with the flux of erotic and aesthetic boundaries. But The Ranch isn't budging, and this mystifies me. The eyeshadow is still blue. The hair is still peroxided, and the ringleted ponytails are still attachable hairpieces. The couches are still red. The bikinis are still sequined and sometimes they're patriotic. There's still a lot of velvet and crushed silk flowers stuck in the bed frames, and there's still a lot of white patent heels with white patent straps. The aesthetics of sex at the Ranch haven't changed over the past few decades, despite the maelstrom going on outside. In other words, regardless of the shifting tastes of the modern public in terms of popular sexual atmospherics, whorehouse aesthetics appear to me to be just like love itself-- unconquerable and lasting throughout the pull of time.
Orrrrr, maybe everyone's just cheap, and the reason that everything looks like leftovers from 1972 is because it's all leftover from 1972. A piece of evidence that favors this reading is a scene in the special, during which Dennis calls all of the girls into a room to reward them for the "most profitable March ever." One of the hookers wins (I think this is the category- the categories get very confused) "most parties within the shortest amount of time," and Dennis sends her over to the folding prize table to collect her reward. On it there's a stack of DVD players and a stack of VCR's. The girl reaches for one of the DVD players, and Dennis is like, "Uh uh uh, honey. VCR." And I'm like, dude! She's pulling four trains a day. Give her the newest technology known to mankind.