Updated June 13, 2019 - 5:30 pm
The death of brothel owner and state Assembly candidate Dennis Hof on Tuesday puts into question an election and the future of his businesses.
Hof’s five brothels will close because he was the sole licensee, but that could be temporary as authorities and Hof’s lawyers work to find a solution. The race for Nevada Assembly District 36 also could be in flux because Hof, a Republican in a district that skews heavily toward the GOP, was the favorite to win the election.
The circumstances of Hof’s death remain unclear. He was found dead Tuesday morning at the Love Ranch Vegas in Crystal, just north of Pahrump. He was 72.
Hof, who was featured in an HBO series about one of his brothels, celebrated his birthday Monday at his Bunny Ranch in Northern Nevada before traveling south.
He continued festivities Monday night at a party and campaign rally at the Pahrump Nugget. The guests included former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, Heidi Fleiss, adult film star Ron Jeremy and political figures Roger Stone and Grover Norquist.
“He said it was the best night of his whole life, which makes this really bizarre,” Jeremy said outside the Love Ranch on Tuesday. “I made the reference to Nelson Rockefeller, the same thing happened, he died in the sack.”
Fleiss, who was briefly engaged to Hof, said he was a “genuine person,” and “when he promised something, he always followed through.”
“He could not have been happier in this stage of his life,” she said.
Jeremy found Hof naked and unconscious in his bed at about 11 a.m. Tuesday.
He said he entered the room with one of Hof’s girlfriends who was with him the night before. The woman, Dasha Dare, told Jeremy she last saw him in the early hours of the morning, and he was alive. The two went to his room to wake him for a luncheon at the Pahrump Senior Center.
Dare massaged his chest, while Jeremy shook his arm, Jeremy said. His skin felt cold. His eyes were half open and his arm stiff. That’s when they called 911 and tried to administer CPR.
Shock and sadness
“This came as such a shock. How the heck?” Jeremy said. “People love the living daylights out of the guy. … You don’t think of an American pimp being a teddy bear, but he was.”
Hof, his friends said, suffered from diabetes and didn’t always eat well. But he had recently lost weight and made his own healthy “Hof Juice.”
The coroner drove Hof’s body from the property in a silver Chrysler after several people carried him from his suite — the same one where former NBA player Lamar Odom overdosed in 2015.
In front of the room sat Hof’s black campaign car bearing his website and famous slogan “Make Nevada Nevada Again!”
Visibly tearful, Dawn Duncan, a cashier and shift manager at the Love Ranch, walked from the suite arm in arm with a friend.
His campaign manager, Chuck Muth, who had worked closely with Hof since he ran for state Assembly in 2016, said he spoke to Hof on Monday night, when he bid him farewell and the candidate asked him to give him a grade for the rally at the Pahrump Nugget.
“I told him, ‘Don’t ask me that. I grade on a curve anyway,’” he said jokingly. “He was very friendly, he’ll give you the shirt off his back, and he was a brilliant marketer, which was part of the chemistry between he and I.”
Muth called Hof, who liked to compare himself to President Donald Trump, an “outsider” who was willing to “fight and take on the establishment.”
“Nobody gave him a prayer of winning the Republican primary,” Muth said. “It’s just a shame he never got to make it all the way to Election Day and see it for himself.”
The brothel owner recently mentioned loftier aspirations, including a potential run for governor or lieutenant governor in 2022.
Hof was the GOP candidate for Assembly District 36, which encompasses all of Nye County and parts of Clark and Lincoln counties. His opponent, Democrat Lesia Romanov, was stunned to learn of his death.
“This is not anything that I would have ever guessed would happen,” she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “My heart goes out to those who care about him. Just a crazy turn of events. Wow. All I can say is wow.”
“Obviously he was my opponent,” she later added, “but I would never wish anything like this on a person.”
In June, Hof defeated Assemblyman James Oscarson in a contentious primary. He later was denounced by the Assembly Republican Caucus and top GOP leaders, including U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Laxalt.
“Our thoughts go out to his family and his friends,” Oscarson said.
“The Assembly Republican Caucus was saddened to hear of the passing of Dennis Hof this morning,” said Eric Roberts, the caucus’ executive director. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this challenging time.”
Name to stay on ballot
Under state law, Hof will remain on the ballot for the Nov. 6 election. If he wins, the county commissioners for the three counties in Assembly District 36 would meet to appoint another Republican to the seat.
“If the deceased candidate receives the majority of votes for that office, then the deceased candidate is deemed elected to the office,” said Wayne Thorley, who oversees elections at the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office. “Then there is a vacancy created at the beginning of the term for office.”
There also will be notices at every polling location where Hof might appear on a ballot. Ballots already have been printed for the Nov. 6 election.
Hof’s candidacy was plagued by allegations of sexual assault by former prostitutes. Jennifer O’Kane, who worked as a prostitute at the Love Ranch in 2011, said Tuesday that she received the “ultimate justice.”
“My rapist is dead,” O’Kane said. “He doesn’t get three square meals a day. There’s no more drugging other girls. There’s no raping other girls.”
The heir to the brothel empire will be Hof’s general manager, Madam Suzette, who works at the Bunny Ranch, according to Zack Hames, Hof’s chief executive assistant.
“It’ll be business as usual,” he said. “We’re going to get the license under Suzette’s name.”
Brothel temporarily closed
The Love Ranch will be closed until a new owner can get licensed for it, Nye County spokesman Arnold Knightly said.
Hof also owned four brothels in Lyon County. Sheriff Al McNeil said his office would not comment on licensing or legal issues and referred questions to Lyon County District Attorney Steve Rye.
McNeil said he has “no intention” of closing Hof’s brothels unless the D.A. says otherwise.
Rye told the Review-Journal that his office is researching the licenses and should have an answer in the next few days about the brothels’ future.
Marc Randazza, an attorney for Hof, said it would be “unethical for me to confirm or deny anything” about the brothels’ future. “His attorney-client privilege does survive his mortal existence.”
Randazza also said he would not be able to confirm or deny whether Hof left a will. Hof had two children, but few details are known about his surviving family.
‘An uncommon life’
“At this time, I’m not at liberty to share anything except my own personal feelings about this loss,” Randazza said. “Dennis was a man from another age, dropped into our time. He was the quintessential Nevadan — independent with a strong sense of liberty.”
Randazza said Hof was more than just the larger-than-life TV personality.
“He was a genuinely kind man who saw it as his duty to make sure that everyone around him was always taken care of, and that they had a hell of a time,” Randazza said.
“At least he lived a roller coaster of a life. An uncommon life. And, to the extent anyone believes in an afterlife, I can assure you that the other side just got a hell of a lot more fun.”
Contact Briana Erickson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5244. Follow @brianarerick on Twitter. Contact Ramona Giwargis at email@example.com or 702-380-4538. Follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Eli Segall contributed to this report.