HBO takes you to the Cathouse:
- Just when it strains credulity to see how far ordinary people will go for 15 minutes of fame, and what the public will watch, HBO airs a documentary next month in which patrons of a Nevada brothel happily appear on camera negotiating and consorting with prostitutes.
….”We’ve created this population of people who just have this unbelievable urge for slobbering attention,” said Robert Thompson, head of Syracuse University’s Center for the Study of Popular Television. “It used to be you had to be good at something before you could get onto TV. Now … if you simply sacrifice your privacy, and perhaps a bit of your dignity, there’s a little room for everybody.”
“Cathouse,” a one-hour special that HBO will telecast after the season finale of its mob drama “The Sopranos” on Dec. 8, takes viewers behind closed doors at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, where prostitution is legal. The film is part of HBO’s “American Undercover” documentary series.
Amazingly for a business in which a premium is placed on confidentiality, nearly all the 50 some clients secretly filmed while haggling with the “working girls” of the Bunny Ranch signed consent forms allowing HBO to show them on screen.
Among them were a mother who brings her 22-year-old son to the ranch to lose his virginity, a married couple celebrating their 15th anniversary with a menage a trois, a widower who has gone without sex for two years and just wants to be cuddled, and a pimp who tries coaxing away one of the girls.
No X-rated sexual acts are shown. In fact, the four cameras hidden in each room were turned off before any of the girls or their customers consummated their business deals. What viewers will see is a mix of bargaining, seduction, provocative touching and nervous laughter, up through and including payment — in advance — to Madam Suzette.
Also caught on tape are the surprised reactions of the patrons when Suzette announces they’ve been filmed and are welcome to appear in a TV documentary. Producer-director Patti Kaplan said she was astonished that only three declined.
I am reminded of the classic Henry Winkler/Michael Keaton fantasy Night Shift, about unintentional pimps working out of the city morgue: prostitutes, pimps and their customers are really just a big happy family – no shame, no guilt, just win/win/win all the way around. Apparently for all but three customers of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, that fantasy has become reality.