The sudden death of Dennis Hof has caught those closest to him off guard.
Friends found the brothel owner dead inside of one of the units on his Love Ranch South in Crystal, Nevada on Tuesday morning. It happened the day after Hof hosted his a celebration for his 72nd birthday.
The Love Ranch South remained closed for business Wednesday. Hof had numerous business ventures, but the brothels drew the most criticism.
“He was a big part of my life,” said Heidi Fleiss, a former madam and close friend of Dennis Hof.
According to Fleiss, she and Hof have been friends for almost two decades.
Fleiss lives in Pahrump in a home she shares with Macaw birds she has rescued.
“Dennis got it,” Fleiss said. “He was here with these birds.”
To the public, Hof was a pimp, a reality TV star, book author, and politician, but to Fleiss:
“He was a really good friend to me,” she said.
Hof was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1946.
“He did talk about his childhood and his growing up and how poor he was,” Fleiss said.
Fleiss says Hof’s humble upbringing motivated him to become a successful businessman.
According to his autobiography, he owned five gas stations in Arizona by age 25, but Hof fell in love with Nevada after a road trip with his dad.
Hof was married twice and had two children with his first wife. He sold his businesses in the Grand Canyon state, moved to Lake Tahoe, and purchased more gas stations.
As for how he got into the brothel industry:
“He was at the Bunny Ranch as a client,” Fleiss said.
But Hof didn’t just stay a client. He decided to purchase the Bunny Ranch in Carson City. The facility was later featured on the HBO reality tv show: ‘Cathouse.’
“That’s what he, Dennis, was all about was being famous and stuff like that,” Fleiss said.
But Hof’s success came at a price. According to Fleiss, he had a falling out with his two daughters — he has been accused of sexual assault multiple times — and he had political and business battles with some of Nye County’s commissioners.
At the time of his death, Hof was the front-runner in his run for State Assembly.
“I’m missing my friend,” Fleiss said. “I’m missing my friend.”
The Clark County Coroner is performing Hof’s autopsy. His cause of death will be released at a later date.