Friday, April 11, 2008

School was never like this...

PAHRUMP, Nev. - Nicki Amouri hands her camera to a friend, throws her arm over another and smiles wide as she leans in for a shot with the monument her class came to visit.

Greetings From the WhoreHouse...Come On In!

It's a typical field trip memento — except that Amouri is in a brothel. The monument is a fluffy, queen-sized bed in a Western-themed party room reserved for VIPs and big spenders.

IF I were the type to frequent such establishments, and I were a big spender, the only scenery I would be concerned with is the woman who's services I would be paying for.

Amouri was one of a dozen Randolph College students who toured the Chicken Ranch, a legal bordello in the desert 60 miles outside Las Vegas. Thursday's class trip, which included seminars from the working girls, capped a course on American consumption and "the ideas that consume us."

American consumption, indeed. I believe its called THE WORLD'S oldest profession for a reason...

"I think it's fascinating, this is fun for me," said Amouri, a junior at the private liberal arts school in Lynchburg, Va., that until last year admitted only women. "Not many people get to do this."

Aim High, sweetie! Maybe you can join the workforce later!

Academic and media inquiries are daily occurrences at many of Nevada's 27 legal brothels. Some shy away from the scrutiny, others, like the Chicken Ranch, welcome the publicity.

Because if you're gonna be a whore, you may as well get all the free advertising you can...

"We're always open to trying to educate the public about legalized prostitution," said Chicken Ranch general manager Debbie Rivenburgh, who acknowledged this was the first class tour request she'd received in 21 years.

And I imagine she's entertained some fairly interesting requests over those 21 years. Must be an interesting resume she has.

'Don't just study America — live it'
The brothel tour was a natural fit for a class that tells students "don't just study America — live it," said Julio Rodriguez, the director of the college's American Culture Program.

Who said in a off-record remark "Hey, if I can get a trip to the brothel and get the school to pay for it, then its all gravy, isn't it? I LOVE my job."

Each semester the course examines a strain of American culture and ends with a class trip. Past destinations included post-Katrina New Orleans, Walt Disney World and the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Ala.

Well, I suppose a brothel could be likened to a Disney World for adults. Academia has sold itself out to far more dubious ideas in the last 20 years...

This year's focus on Nevada started with a professor's interest in water rights and conservation. It grew to include discussions of the wedding and entertainment industries and, inevitably, prostitution.

A professor's interest in water rights and conservation as part of the American experience with consumption? No, I'm sure there wasn't an end goal in mind here, right from the start.

Nevada is the only state where prostitution is legal. Brothels are allowed in 10 Nevada counties, though not in Las Vegas.

No legal prostitution in Sin City? What's wrong with this picture?

As part of their research, students were assigned "The Beauty Myth," by feminist author Naomi Wolf, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," by Hunter S. Thompson, and a "20/20" episode on prostitution with Diane Sawyer, among other research, professors said.

Yeah, I always got to cite opinion, travelogues, and of course television as sources in my college research.

"We gave them all the option to either opt out or express reservations privately. No one did," said Rodriguez, adding that he received no objections from parents or administrators.

"Of course, we did forget to tell the parents until after the trip had occurred", he muttered after the tape recorder was turned off.

Prostitutes at the Chicken Ranch had plenty of reservations. Most don't jump at the chance to talk to strangers about what they do, Rivenburgh said. They worry about friends or family finding out. They know how others see them. It can be uncomfortable.

At least someone still has some sense of shame. However, I suspect the reservations have more to do with an inability to bill for the time they spend talking to the students...

"Ninety-nine percent of the working girls will not participate. Each woman's got her reason and her limitations," Rivenburgh said. "I couldn't have done better with the two that said yes, though."

Flexibility and free time
Alexis, 38, and Alicia, "over 30," sat on white folding chairs in front the young, earnest women in the brothel's Victorian-styled parlor, usually the setting for the "lineup." They would not give their last names. The group took close notes as a handful of television cameras and reporters looked on.

Free Advertising...sagging sales, perhaps?

A blonde in jeans and platform boots, Alexis talked about the job's flexibility and the free time it has allowed her to write a book about her life. Alicia wore a black-and-white gingham nighty and a tattoo on her left breast that read "Famous."

Ahhh, yes, the 'tatted breast' trick. No doubt she charges extra to have your photo taken with it in the frame.

"I enjoy giving back what some people don't get in their lives, as far as companionship, time, just the touch of a woman," she said. The job allows her to take care of her mother and grandmother. She's also in real estate.

She doesn't 'give' any of these things. She charges for them, but I'm sure that is an inconvenient point to the spin put on it by the 'journalist'.

The introductions gave way to questions.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Alexis: "Most women in this business wear the pants in the family."

Except for the ones who work for pimps, of course.

Is there a certain look most men prefer?

Alicia: Every man wants something different. "There's all different kinds of girls."

And the level of intoxication also impacts the choices made, I'm sure.

Why aren't there brothels with male prostitutes?

Rivenburgh: Former Hollywood Madame Heidi Fleiss is trying.

Because its harder for men to fake it, duh. (no pun intended)

Do you still give a military discount?

Rivenburgh: Yes.

Nothing but the best for our men in uniform.

What's the worst part?

Alicia: "Being confined, being cooped up. I have to be here 24 hours a day."

But Alexis gets all this free time. Hey....what gives?

With a tour and time to mingle, the students packed up gift bags containing a menu of services, a Chicken Ranch key chain and a brochure. They had to get back to Las Vegas in time for a backstage tour of the risque revue "Jubilee." With any luck, they might get to interview the showgirls.

A menu of services...I tell you, I'm just soooo damn proud of this country and all the educational opportunities it offers, I could just burst!