Just a Gigolo? Or the Rosa Parks of Sex Work?

Markus Bestin discusses rigors of his job at Nevada's Shady Lady Brothel.

Byandrea Canning And Cole Kazdin
February 01, 2010, 11:30 AM

Feb. 1, 2010 — -- He's 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, a former marine. And if you're a woman in search of no-strings romance, Markus Bestin can be all yours -- for $300 an hour.

The 25-year-old works at the Shady Lady Brothel, a legal house of prostitution two-and-a-half hours northwest of Las Vegas.

"If she's willing to step through these doors," said Bestin, "she'll have the best moment, hopefully, that I can provide for her in her entire life."

Bestin, who began taking clients last month, is making history as the nation's first and only legal male prostitute. Nevada is the one state in the country where paying for sex is allowed.

"I'm basically doing what Rosa Parks did when she decided to sit at the front of the bus instead of the back, or what Gandhi did when he had a sit-down protest against the British Embassy," Bestin told "Nightline." "I'm basically trying to reset social norms."

Watch the full story tonight on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET

Those are some big comparisons -- lofty goals for a man who calls himself a gigolo -- but Bestin intends no irony. "I feel very strongly about this," he said.

Bestin is one man among a thousand working women in Nevada's 24 brothels. You won't see him in a typical lineup, like the ones at the famous Moonlite Bunny ranch, or entertaining in one of the themed rooms at the Shady Lady. Bestin has his own turf out back, where he services only female clients.

"It's like Home & Garden, you see those houses, it's really meant to be inviting, open and really comfortable," he said. "So if a woman wants to come in here and take a shower with you? Yeah, it's all good, and if she wants to be bathed, cleaned, do anything that she specifies."

Bobbi Davis, the brothel's madam and owner, says the slow economy and the demand for male prostitutes forced her to think outside of the box.

"We've had requests with couples that wanted to add a girl and a guy, and we always add a girl in to the mix but we could never add the guy, and so we've had more and more requests for that, so we decided to go ahead and at least try it," Davis said.

Heidi Fleiss, the once infamous Hollywood madam, says it won't work.

"We're not like men. Men will sleep with mud," said Fleiss. "Women, we're a little different. We want a spa-like environment, something first class."

'More of a Date-Type Situation'

But Davis says dozens of women have reached out, some just lonely, others asking for bachelorette parties.

"There are women that are going to come in and just want straight, dirty sex, basically, you know what I'm saying? And then there are going to be women who want more time and more of a date-type situation," said Davis.

For Davis, adding a stud to her all-female stable wasn't easy. It meant overturning a 73-year-old Nevada law that barred men from joining the trade.

"It [was] basically a little flaw in the state law," said Davis. "It determined that all men had to have a cervical exam, and so when we pointed that out they said, 'Well, that's not right ... we can't discriminate.' So they were willing to change it, from the cervical exam to a urethral exam."

But Fleiss, who three years ago tried to open her own male brothel called Heidi's Stud Ranch, says it's more than just the law. It's the merchandise.

"I had over 5,000 men apply when I made my announcement, and they were hot guys, soap opera stars," she said. "It has to be luxurious and comforting and enticing."

Fleiss never got the financing to get her stud ranch off the ground. Instead, she opened a laundromat. And while today she believes women can just go to Craigslist and skip the brothel, she still sees a market.

"What I think would work now is a male-male brothel," she said, "but I don't know if Nevada is ready."

Davis says she isn't ruling out a gay business plan when she adds more men to her roster in the future. But for now she's focusing on the ladies, and she says there's no shortage of men willing to offer their services. Over 100 applications have come in, from bartenders to real estate agents, many who lost their jobs in the recession.

"So a lot of men might think that this is going to be a lot of fun, but you know, it does become a job, by the third or fourth, it's a job," said Davis. "And as long as you look at it that way, a lot of people can do it, not everybody is cut out for it."

And yes, size matters.

"Does the man have to be well endowed?" said Davis. "He's not going to have to be a super stud, but it helps. I think that's ... some of [the] things that women are going to look for. Basically we ask that in a questionnaire."

Bestin said he was up to the job. "I'm well endowed, you know, I'm above average," he said. "But at the same time women have said that if you're too big it's very uncomfortable, so I'm right in the middle range."

'It's About Making Money'

And what about those moments when he's not attracted to the client?

"If the chemistry is not right, we might have to use a little bit of an enhancer, such as Viagra," he said.

Bestin is used to the scrutiny. He came to the Shady Lady after a failed attempt at the porn industry left him homeless in Los Angeles.

"Now I can have a place to stay," Bestin said, "I have people around me who care about me. I have an amiable means of employment so I would be taken care of. I wouldn't have to sleep on the streets anymore or live in a shelter surrounded by drug addicts."

None of his new roommates, whom he now calls "sisters," would talk to us on-camera, but Cuddles, a prostitute from a neighboring brothel, told us she welcomes the new addition.

And she had some advice. "Just keep your head up, make your money, that's what it's about, like I tell everybody," Cuddles said. "It's about making money, that's why you start doing it for."

But Bestin says it's not about the money.

"I thoroughly enjoy the presence of women," he said. "They're like fine china."

Experience, he said, wasn't necessarily among his qualifications for the job.

"I've only slept with three women in my whole life," he said. But he has no doubts as to his ability. "Lord, no," he said. "I have talent, stamina, endurance. I'm gifted for it."

And he has a clear idea of what he wants women to think as they walk out of his bedroom.

"I hope she can go out in the world and feel that she can put her shoulders back and say, 'Wow, I cannot believe that I can actually do this in America now," Bestin said.

A hard sell from the lone gentleman in the world's oldest profession.

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