Brooke Phillips: The Life and Death of an HBO Hooker

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He would sometimes see her with rough-looking types, men who flashed wads of cash and had nocturnal lifestyles. One, Jose Fierro, struck up a friendship and employed her for bachelor parties he organized. The day they met would be a seminal one, but no one would understand that until much later.

One of Brooke's boyfriends told her about one of his exes, Shelly Duschel. Shelly was a dancer, too, but then she went to Mound House, Nevada, to work at the Moonlite BunnyRanch.

Prostitution was legal there, the girls got tested weekly, and there was no chance that police would kick in the door. And surely Brooke saw Cathouse, the HBO series-slash-recruiting tool documenting the sorority-style hedonism of the Ranch and the patriarchal embrace of Dennis "Daddy" Hof, the P.T. Barnum of pimps. One episode drew 1.5 million viewers. The girls loved sex and loved lots of cash, and, really, what could be better than that?

"I'm going to try something new," she told Lewis one day. "I can make a lot of money."

Lewis shook his head. "You have more to offer than that."

"I know I do," Brooke said. "But the only thing anyone wants is this," and pointed underneath the table.

Shelly Duschel remembers Brooke coming to the Ranch in early 2008. Freckled, brunette, a few pounds from Hof's ideal, she introduced herself to Shelly and they talked about Moore and Popeye's chicken and the numbing inertia of Oklahoma. Brooke had submitted a video of herself pole-dancing, which attracted the attention of the front office. Thanks to HBO, they could receive upward of 1,000 applications a month.

Like all the girls, she was picked up from the airport and driven directly to the brothel, located at the inevitable address of 69 Moonlight Road. A doctor tested her for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV. She was given a "Bunny Bible," a written code of working-girl conduct (don't discuss children or boyfriends) and a "mentor" who assisted in her first few negotiations.

Ranch workers are not unlike firefighters: They sit around in the windowless property and kill time until a buzzer goes off, at which point they stop whatever they're doing — including sleeping — and line up for whomever just walked through the door. The customer picks the woman he likes best, and she has 10 minutes to get him into a room and begin selling him on various sexual services from a menu. If she can't, he's turned loose for someone else to try and close. It was not unlike speed dating, Shelly recalls, only with a guarantee of a climax.

Brooke was a closer; she had experience chatting up men, making them feel special. Most workers average four to 10 partners per week. If they're popular, $15,000 for a three-week stint (four or five days a week, twelve-hour shifts) is not unreasonable, though the house takes a 50 percent cut.

When an escort closes a sale, she goes to an office and writes down the services to be performed, along with the agreed-upon price. The office hands her a fresh set of sheets. She inspects the customer's genitalia with a flashlight for any breakouts. Sometimes it's over quickly; sometimes the men just want to talk. Sometimes you hit a high roller: Brooke once made $20,000 for an overnight party.

No drugs are allowed on the premises, but no drugs are allowed in baseball, either. Mostly, the girls drink. "You had to be in a different place mentally," Duschel explains. "Girls drink in order to do the job."

Once, on a slow winter night, Brooke drank to excess and had to be carried to her modest room, the kind reserved for the new and unproven. Eyes glazed over, she stared at Duschel and pulled her close.

"I want you inside of me," she said, too cotton-headed to process the gender of the person in front of her.

"Honey," Duschel said, "I don't have a penis."

The next morning, Duschel told Brooke about it. Brooke laughed. She had been too drunk to remember.

Duschel left the Ranch in early 2009 but returned to visit. Brooke, tired but happy to see her friend, came out to greet her wearing a kimono; she had an interest in Asian culture, watching anime and reading manga in her free time. She was blonde now, and thinner, better tailored to Hof's preferences. She had slept with the boss, as many do, and had been an escort for promotional duties like the Tyra show. Her room had been upgraded to one for the better earners: She had a private bathroom and a fireplace. They talked about Duschel's pregnancy and her marriage.

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Jake Rossen