If the Pahrump name is brought up in Las Vegas and beyond, it is probably not good.
Usually it is a crime story that capture people’s attention over the hump, or a political fight.
Tuesday’s apparent overdose of a former NBA player and estranged husband of a Kardashian, Lamar Odom, is just the latest example.
While I know and you know that there are no brothels in the town of Pahrump, the world immediately lumped the Love Ranch South, located 20 miles outside of the town, as being in Pahrump.
The first headline posted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal stated “Lamar Odom found unconscious in a Pahrump brothel,” before quickly correcting the headline to a “Nye County brothel.”
E! News wrote, “The former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star checked into Dennis Hof’s Love Ranch South on Saturday in the town of Pahrump.”
Other publications also followed suit, throwing the Pahrump name into association with whatever happened to Odom. Quick note, any time the phrase “found unconscious in a brothel” is written, the rest of the story will not be good for anyone involved, even if it is an association by proximity, such as Pahrump.
This is an image problem for anyone trying to promote Pahrump for tourism, business growth or as a family-friendly community.
While much of social media was quick to start the tried-and-true tradition of rumoring up Odom’s death (he is not dead), or ponder the impact of Odom’s situation on the psyche of his in-the-process-of-divorcing wife and reality television star Khloe Kardashian, others took to commenting on Pahrump itself.
None of it will be picked up by the chamber of commerce or the tourism committee for the purpose of a promotional campaign.
On Twitter, apparent Las Vegas resident @sloshuaa wrote, “Just FYI. #Vegas locals never go to Pahrump. It’s gross, out of the way and I’m pretty sure that’s where they shot Road House.”
Someone posting as @LiseMerle stated “And Pahrump is a CRAPHOLE. Nothing but whorehouses, adult entertainment ‘museums’ and Jesus billboards.”
Even former Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins took a swipe responding to a comment, referencing an inability to read in Pahrump.
I understand that there are many people here who wear the Pahrump outsider image as a badge of pride. They say that they live out here because they want to be away from intrusive government and want to be left alone (except for eating at McDonald’s and shopping at Walmart).
While the media world was making their way to Pahrump for a Wednesday press conference to release the 911 calls from the brothel, Valley Electric Association was busy unveiling its plans to install broadband service throughout the Pahrump Valley.
CEO Tom Husted believes that the wired community could spark businesses with better paying jobs to the valley, maybe even technology companies. It is a bold plan that has worked in areas such as Chattanooga, Tennessee.
State Assemblyman James Oscarson said this will bring an “economic boom.”
But no matter how much technology infrastructure is installed, or other efforts made to raise the quality of life with industries that need a more educated workforce and better paying jobs, there continues to be the problem of the public perception of Pahrump.
Someone who was previously involved in promoting economic development in this area told me this week that the big challenge in recruiting businesses usually included brothels: the wives don’t feel comfortable with them so close to where their family will live. You may roll your eyes at this notion, but I believe what this person says.
But beyond better jobs (which leads to better schools, but that’s another column), there is also the issue of tourism.
When I travel with my wife, we enjoy stopping by wineries. It wasn’t until I came to this newspaper a year ago that I discovered two award-winning wineries were located in Pahrump. The community also has the wonderful Fall Festival, the Pahrump Hot Air Balloon Festival and Grape Stomp. There is the Spring Mountain Speedway, Fourth of July Parade and Front Sight Firearms Training Institute, to name a few more wonderful Pahrump attractions.
But when you type “Pahrump” into Google, I can almost guarantee those attractions will not be what comes up first, especially this week.
What happened to Odom could have happened anywhere, and it does. People are rushed to hospitals from their homes, from hotels, resorts, restaurants, etc.
But Odom was “found unconscious in a Pahrump brothel,” a statement that will stigmatize this community as a part of a punchline for a long time, even if it wasn’t technically true.
While I might not live here, I chose to work here, visit here on weekends, and bring my kids here. The Pahrump Valley Times is part of this business and social community.
This tragedy may be an opportunity to reevaluate this valley’s future and start to redefine Pahrump’s image.
Arnold M. Knightly is editor of the Pahrump Valley Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and find @knightlygrind on Twitter.