Dennis Hof, a legal pimp who starred in an HBO series, found dead

Hof owned a handful of brothels in Nevada.

FILE - In this June 13, 2016, file photo, Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite BunnyRanch, a legal brothel near Carson City, Nev., is pictured during an interview during a break in the trial of Denny Edward Phillips and Russell Lee Hogshooter in Oklahoma City. Nevada authorities said Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, that Hof, a legal pimp who has fashioned himself as a Donald Trump-style Republican candidate has died. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
Dennis Hof, on June 13, 2016. –Sue Ogrocki / AP, File

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Dennis Hof, a pimp who gained notoriety for an HBO series about his brothel business and who fashioned himself as a Donald Trump-style Republican candidate for the state Legislature, was found dead hours after his 72nd birthday bash, authorities said Tuesday.

Hof was found unconscious and later pronounced dead in his private residence at his Love Ranch brothel west of Las Vegas, Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly told The Associated Press.

Wehrly, who also serves as county coroner, said she saw Hof at his birthday party late Monday at a local casino-hotel reception room with more than 100 of his friends, including former Phoenix-area sheriff Joe Arpaio.

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“He was sitting on a stool talking with people when I left about 10,” Wehrly said. “I guess that’s partying at 72.”

The sheriff said there was no preliminary indication of foul play but her office was investigating. An autopsy will be conducted by the Clark County coroner in Las Vegas, she said.

Hof, who turned 72 on Sunday, was the Republican candidate in a heavily GOP state legislative district. He had said his party would be attended by porn star Ron Jeremy and Arpaio, the former six-term sheriff of metropolitan Phoenix.

It wasn’t immediately clear Tuesday if Jeremy attended, but Arpaio confirmed he had been at the party Monday night and was astounded to hear of Hof’s death.

“Boy, that’s shocking,” Arpaio said.

The former sheriff, known nationally for his positions on illegal immigration, said Hof was in good spirits when Arpaio left the party around 10 p.m. Monday.

Arpaio, who lost a Senate GOP primary in Arizona in August, said he had taken part in some of Hof’s campaign efforts and was asked by Hof to speak at the party. The lawman said he delivered his comments to the crowd, wished Hof well and ate birthday cake.

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“The thing I liked about him: He was with Trump and was for the Second Amendment and lower taxes,” Arpaio said in a telephone interview before boarding a plane to Phoenix.

Ahead of the birthday celebration, Hof teased on Twitter that rapper and reality television star Flavor Flav would be there.

But Flavor Flav’s lawyer, Kristina Wildeveld, said Tuesday her client did not attend.

Wildeveld said Flavor Flav, now 59, appeared on a reality TV show with Hof. Drayton’s “Flavor of Love” ran about a decade ago, about the same time as Hof’s HBO series “Cathouse.”

Hof owned a handful of brothels in Nevada, the only state that allows them to legally operate.

His Love Ranch brothel outside Pahrump is where NBA player Lamar Odom was found unconscious in 2015.

The brothel was temporarily shuttered twice this year by regulators who said Hof failed to renew licenses and get proper permits for renovations.

About 20 brothels operate in Nevada, mostly in rural areas. The state doesn’t publicize how many are open, and most owners keep a lower profile than Hof.

In addition to his legislative campaign, Hof faced a push to outlaw brothels and had problems with local regulators in the two counties where he runs the licensed bordellos.

Hof had also been accused of sexual assault on at least four occasions. The Nevada Department of Public Safety has said it was investigating an allegation made in September but has released few details.

Hof had denied any wrongdoing.

Besides “Cathouse,” the flamboyant Hof wrote a book titled “The Art of the Pimp,” a play on Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal.”

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Wayne Thorley, deputy Nevada secretary of state for elections, said Hof’s name will remain on the November ballot. Thorley said ballots with Hof’s name have already been printed and mailed to voters but signs will be posted at polling places notifying voters that he has died.

If Hof wins the election in the heavily GOP assembly district, officials in the counties that the district covers will nominate another Republican to fill the vacancy, Thorley said.

Hof was running against Democratic Las Vegas educator Lesia Romanov.

Hof also ran for office in 2016 as a Libertarian but lost the race.

This year, he ran as a Republican and earned backing from Trump associate Roger Stone and tax-cut activist Grover Norquist.

He upended Nevada politics this summer when he ousted an incumbent Republican lawmaker in a primary, celebrating at an election night party with “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss.

He said the anti-brothel push and regulatory problems he’s faced this year were political retribution.

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Associated Press writer Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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