Creepy Utah, the Crack Motels of Fremont, and a Visit to Sheri’s Ranch Brothel

Well everyone, the Vegas literati have spoken….and I am pleased to announce that I, Wonderhussy, am the winner of the Las Vegas Weekly’s 2012 Best Blogger award! I woke up the other morning to all these congratulatory text messages, which I first thought were in reference to the Supreme Court’s passing of the Affordable Healthcare Act — which in itself was an amazingly happy shocker. The news about winning best blogger was just icing on the cake. I don’t get a prize or anything, just recognition…which is fine by me!

So now the pressure’s on to keep writing titillating, salacious stuff. And since I only write about stuff I personally DO, that means the pressure is on to keep hitting up all the seedy shit in town. Thankfully, I’m up to the task!

My activities of late didn’t really bode well for salaciousness at first, however. I took a few days off and went up to Cedar City, Utah, with my boyfriend Captain Crunch. Captain Crunch is OBSESSED with mountain biking, and he figured we could do some quality hiking and biking in the mountains up there, which are staggeringly beautiful. I was all for it, as I am an avid outdoorswoman myself, so I took a day off from shooting photos of the wax Sally Dingdong mannequin to head up there with him. We got a room in town, and set out for some hardcore exploring.

Now, one of my favorite things about Captain Crunch is, he likes to celebrate a good workout with a drink or three — just my style. The only problem was, it stayed light out until about 9pm up there, so we never really got back into town til closer to 10pm — by which time the liquor stores were long closed. If you’ve never been to Utah, it’s a really, really creepy, fucked-up place that only sells liquor at these weird state-owned Alcoholic Beverage Control stores that close at 7PM!!!

The problem is, the State of Utah is owned and operated by a cabal of aggressively wholesome Mormons, and they don’t take kindly to boozing…or anything else that goes against the writings on the golden plates found by Joseph Smith on a hill in upstate New York back in 1823. Driving around Utah is a weeeeeeeeeird and unsettling experience — all around you is astounding natural beauty, dotted with picturesque little towns full of white-picket-fenced houses with well-maintained gardens and lawns. Everything is so squeaky-clean and wholesome it just makes you want to puke!!!

For boozers like Captain Crunch and me, there ain’t much to do after the sun goes down. Everything shutters up pretty early in that state, but thanks to Yelp! we were able to find the only two bars in the entire town of Cedar City (aside from the local Applebee’s, which we also shamefully patronized one night). Our first night in town we checked out Toadz, a sort of college watering hole that was completely deserted this time of year. We were literally the only two patrons in the bar, so we chatted up the poor lonely bartender, a likely young buck with flair-bartending ambitions who could not wait to get out of Utah and move to Vegas. I despise flair bartending, but everyone’s gotta have a dream…and there was something touching about his earnest juggling of Smirnoff bottles as he demonstrated his skills to us big-city judgmental types.

The next night we ventured over to Mike’s Tavern, said to be more of a rough-and-tumble biker bar with what must be the only stripper pole in the entire state of Utah. This place too was totally deserted. We bellied up to the bar nonetheless, but Cap’n Crunch got off to a bad start by ordering a double vodka tonic — BY LAW, they are not allowed to pour doubles in Utah!!! The bartender’s liquor gun even had some sort of fucked-up locking mechanism on it, to ensure that the law was abidden by!! WTF — what the hell was to stop her from pouring two separate shots into two separate glasses, then dumping one into the other? Answer: nothing! She didn’t do it, though — we just sat there and ordered multiple rounds, until we FINALLY got a buzz (I think the amount of liquor in a shot is less up there, too…and the proof of the alcohol might even be less, too. That’s Utah for ya — doing whatever they can to cockblock you from getting a buzz. That should be the inscription on their license plates!!!).

I felt as if we had stumbled onto the set of that stupid-ass movie Footloose: two big-city boozers come to the country and show the square-ass natives how to par-taaaay. But that would be assuming that the natives were square — WRONG! According to the local news, which we watched in our hotel room, there is all KINDS of fucked-up shit going on up there — on the day of our arrival, they found the body of some molested 6-year-old girl in a ditch! This in addition to the crazy shenanigans down in Colorado City, where the polygamists are marrying 13-year-olds to 80-year-olds…and the fabulously fabulous fact that Utah downloads more online pornography than any other state in the nation. I’m telling you, that place might LOOK nice and wholesome…but they’re a bunch of fucking perverts behind blue eyes!!!! Don’t let all those Jell-O salads fake you out.

Aside from the alcohol situation, we had a fantastic time, and actually met some super cool people. Besides being obsessed with mountain biking, Cap’n Crunch is also a hardcore indie music fanboy, so before leaving town we stopped to check out this BAD ASS local independent music store called Groovacious, run by a really cool oldtimer from Portland, OR. They have a fantastic selection of new and used tapes/LPs/CDs/8 tracks, plus a bunch of other wacky counterculture paraphernalia, which I browsed as Cap’n Crunch and the proprietor circle-jerked over Nick Lowe and Modest Mouse and all these weird indie bands I’ve never heard of. Good times!! Come to find out, we just missed this big music festival they have every year out there — 50,000 hippies and weirdos came to town for it, so apparently there IS cool stuff to do up in Utah, after all!

Before heading back to Vegas, we also stopped at a local thrift shop. I love going to thrift stores in other cities, just to see what kinds of crazy crap the locals throw out. In Cedar City, I got an autoharp and a single maraca — I’m obsessed with music and musical instruments, and have a growing pile of shit that I can’t really play, ranging from a steel drum to a ukulele. Well, now I also have an autoharp (already tried and failed to play it) and a single maraca. The maraca intrigues me, as it is inscribed “Melissa and Doug,” and I was wondering if it might have been a relic of some South-of-the-Border-themed wedding, where the couple ended up divorcing and splitting up the set of maracas. Who knows, in Utah???

Anyhoo, we came back into Vegas and it was straight back into the thick of things, Sin City-wise. The very next day, I was hired to do one of the MOST FUCKED-UP photo shoots I’ve ever been party to! A local artist who goes by the name Barfing Rainbows wanted to shoot some mega-disturbing scenes in a crack motel, so he rented a room at the venerable Desert Moon on Fremont Street, then had me come down in a miniskirt and an “I ♥ Vegas” shirt, put on a melting-face mask, and watch pornography on the TV while eating a melting ice-cream cone. It was SICK!

Now, I’ve been in some shitty motels in my day, but this place really took the cake: torn, stained carpet, dead roaches in the bathroom, saggy mattress and cinderblock walls. And they had the chutzpah to charge $44 a night!! WTF — you can stay at the freakin’ LUXOR for that much! I guess it makes sense if you want to be down in the heart of the crack district though, near all the best suppliers and crack hos…but still! Although now that I think about it, this place did have FREE unlimited XXX movies on the TV, so I guess that’s a big part of its allure, too. Come to find out, you have to have a special license to be able to show unlimited porn…so it’s a pretty big deal in some circles.

Speaking of unlimited porn, we made good use of that in the photos — the photographer had the TV screen in the shot, and most fortuitously it happened to be showing a scene involving a circus clown fingerbanging an Asian girl with a ginormous 1980s bush! The clown even shot Silly String all over her bush, LOL! Talk about a money shot!!!

Of course, I couldn’t see much of what was going on, due to the fact that I had a full-face latex mask with no eyeholes covering my visage…and after we finished shooting in the room, we trekked out front to do some establishing shots on the corner of Fremont Street. I stood there in my melting-face mask and “I ♥ Vegas” shirt, flashing my own grossly overgrown 1970s bush to the passing traffic. Astonishingly, no one honked or whistled or even noticed!!! That’s Fremont Street for ya…they’re pretty jaded down there. It takes a lot to impress those bums.

Speaking of Fremont Street, it’s a short jog from where I live, so when it wasn’t so fucking hot out I used to go running down there. It’s a great neighborhood, full of quaint old motels that have since become flophouses, crack houses and hooker havens — all in the great trajectory of Vegas. The history of these motels parallels the story of Vegas in general: back in the 40s and 50s they were family-oriented motor courts, where parents could leave their kids with a sitter while they walked down Fremont St to gamble at Binion’s or the El Cortez. Over time, urban decay set in (the Desert Moon itself even became one of those hourly rental spots for awhile)…but now a wave of hipsters are coming in, buying up the ghetto one block at a time, and gentrifying it. Before you know it, the place will be wall-to-wall Whole Foods and yoga studios…a crying shame for those of us who enjoy a little colorful grime!

After my shoot, I cruised down Fremont Street photographing all the great old motel signage that still stands crumbling in the unrelenting desert sun. Fabulous! The hipster redevelopment wave that is taking over East Fremont Street hasn’t quite made it down this far yet, so this is a rare pocket of old-tyme Vegas — a fragile ecosystem of bums, winos, crackheads and whores whose native habitat is severely threatened by the impending development boom. Check it out before it’s too late!! Already, the benevolent shining beacon of downtown, the Blue Angel Motel, is slated for demolition…soon to be turned into an arts center of some sort. Let’s just hope they keep the fabulous Blue Angel herself — she is WAY too creepy and cool to throw away!

Aside from lollygagging nude in crack motels, I also worked like a fiend the rest of the week, doing a couple of scavenger hunts in between my regular shifts at the Sally Dingdong show. Business at the show has been reeeeeeeally slow of late, so to fill my extra time at work I’ve taken to climbing the fire escape stairwell of the tallest hotel tower I could find — about 28 flights, which I usually manage to scale twice on my nightly break. I found this stairwell by wandering around the endless subterranean tunnels at the hotel where I work — one of the biggest and oldest mega-resorts on the Strip. This place was added onto piecemeal over the years, so the byzantine labyrinth of hallways and tunnels underneath it goes on for miles. It’s a trip!

I also did a fair amount of writing this week. City Life, the alt-weekly for which I freelance on and off, was doing an issue all about Vice…something about which I know a thing or two!! I wrote one piece about my experience in the drunk tank (as chronicled here the other week), and another piece on the lunchroom out at Sheri’s Ranch brothel in Pahrump.

Now as everyone knows, prostitution is legal in any Nevada county with fewer than 400,000 residents. Most of our brothels are shitty trailer-park affairs, located off the side of U.S. 95 in the middle of nowhere (the better to service the long-haul truckers who make up the bulk of their clientele). But there are also a few brothels close enough to Vegas to attract tourists, including Sheri’s. And many people don’t realize that Sheri’s is a full-on resort, with a hotel and a spa and a sports bar and grill, in addition to being a whorehouse.

Their sports bar & grill is open to the public, and I enjoy going out there for lunch now and then — it’s about an hour’s drive out into the manufactured-housing hinterlands of Nye County (the neighboring county to Clark County, wherein lies Vegas). The drinks are cheap ($5 wells), the food is actually pretty good (burgers and stuff like that) and the ambiance is unparalleled — kind of a down-homey Midwestern local-bar vibe, with prostitutes hanging out at the bar playing video poker. They are more than happy to give you a tour of the brothel, too.

I hadn’t been out there for a couple of years, so I figured I should revisit the place and make sure nothing had changed before I wrote my piece. Captain Crunch came with me, and we enjoyed a fabulous lunch and an entertaining tour of the premises from one of the working women — who was really good-looking. That’s the thing that would probably surprise you most about this brothel: the women are HOT! And friendly! This chick gave us the exact same tour I’d gotten on my previous visit — nothing had changed, except that now the Budweiser room (Sheri’s is the only brothel to have a corporate sponsor, LOL) had been remade into the Landshark room (Landshark being Jimmy Buffett’s Budweiser offshoot).

But everything else was exactly the same: you go in through the grand parlor, a big, airy room with a fancy faux-Victorian settee where the client sits while making his selection from the line-up of working girls. The girls are not allowed to say anything more than their names — any more is considered “dirty hustling” (not sure why; that’s just the way it is). The girls are summoned to the line-up by flashing red lights located throughout the premises — while working at Sheri’s, the women have to live onsite 24/7 for at least two weeks, and aren’t allowed to leave. They have a gym, a mess hall, a TV room and a computer room; outdoors they also have a pool, tennis courts and a volleyball court. They can use any of these facilities whenever they want, but when the red light flashes, they have to drop whatever they’re doing and come down to the parlor for the line-up.

Once the client makes his selection from the line-up, he can take the girl back to her room (they do all their business out of their private dorm rooms) or spring for a theme room. There are extravagant themed villas for those for whom money is no object…or there are also smaller theme areas, like the aforementioned Budweiser/Landshark jacuzzi room, the S&M dungeon, and a fake “gourmet restaurant” room with an elegantly appointed table for two (with a knee pillow on the floor for “dessert,” ha ha). Since the women can’t leave the brothel grounds, this is where you take them if you want to have a classy dinner — they serve you steak and lobster, and you’d never know you weren’t at Ruth’s Chris…except for the little sign on the sideboard blaring “CONDOMS REQUIRED AT ALL TIMES.”

Anyhoo, to his credit, Captain Crunch was unfazed by all this…so after tipping our tour guide $20 we headed back home, so I could begin my next adventure: sitting my fat ass on the sofa for 24 hours straight. This was my editor’s idea — since the issue was all about Vice, he thought it would be a nice commentary on Sloth if I could manage to stay on the couch all day, and write about the experience.

Now, as you know I am an extremely active person, so this was no easy feat. I prepped for it the day before by stocking up on books and DVDs at the library, so I had plenty of shit to entertain me. Of course, out of all the DVDs I rented, I chose the shittiest one of all to watch: Top Gun. I’d never seen it, and I figured since I’m dating a pilot I should check it out and see what the lifestyle is all aboot. OMG, it was miserably awful!!!!!!!!! I only watched it with one eye, as I was busy uploading music to my laptop…but still, holy shit. People WATCH that garbage?!?! Captain Crunch laughed at me when I told him, but how was I supposed to know? I guess I should have taken a hint from the fact that it stars Tom Cruise…most anything he’s in is bound to suck. Anyhoo, I spent the rest of my couch time reading and messing around on my laptop…so screw it. But suffice it to say…I won’t be sitting around on the sofa again anytime soon…I’VE HAD MY FILL!!!





















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