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Brothel promises to make its clients reality stars
If you want to watch Nick having sex with a prostitute, he's happy to let you.
The 36-year-old bank-security technician drove eight hours from his home in Metz, France, to Big Sister, a Prague brothel, where customers peruse a touch-screen menu of blonds, brunets and redheads available for free. The catch is clients have to let their exploits be filmed and posted on the Internet.
"Sex is no taboo," Nick said, though he asked that his last name not be used. "You have to free your mind."
Big Sister is marrying 21st century technology with the world's oldest profession to profit from the public's appetite for graphic reality TV.
Since 2005, more than 15,000 men have taken up the offer of free sex in return for 15 minutes -- or less -- of fame, according to the brothel. Big Sister is now expanding into the U.S. with a local version of its website.
Visitors to the virtual brothel pay 29.95 euros ($43.88) for a one-month subscription to a smorgasbord of sex listed by position, preference and number of people. Big Sister also produces cable TV shows that air on Sky Italia and Britain's Television X, as well as DVDs such as "Sex Hyenas" and "Voyeur's Eye."
"Our goal is to attract as many people as possible to catch the first reality-sex TV," said marketing manager Carl Borowitz, 26, who goes by the name Carlos. "This is National Geographic for adults. Everyone's curious to watch their neighbor."
Visitors to the Big Sister brothel start at the electronic menu, which provides each woman's age, height, working name and the languages she speaks. After a customer makes his selection, a manager makes sure the client signs broadcast release forms, and then the intimate details are arranged with the partner for the evening.
After donning a burgundy terry-cloth robe and slippers in a carpeted locker room, each client heads downstairs where the action takes place. Every move is recorded by more than 50 video cameras mounted from the toilets to the bed posts.
Big Sister is the logical result of the reality TV craze, said Paul Levinson, chair of communications and media studies at Fordham University in New York.
"It does seem people like all extremes of reality TV," said Levinson, who hadn't been aware of Big Sister. "As media gets more advanced it gets more real."
At Big Sister, about a dozen guests perform on camera each night, and the website gets 10,000 to 15,000 hits a day, Borowitz said.
"Big Sister could potentially be a monster," says Bob Rice, a co-owner of YNOT.com, which advises porn companies on how to use the Internet. "I just think that their marketing isn't there yet. They're known in Amsterdam, perhaps, but not in the U.S."
Big Sister is based in a renovated apartment building just outside the narrow, winding streets of Prague's Old Town. There are no laws against paid sex in the Czech Republic.
The club's Austrian owners spent $7.4 million to buy and fix up the Big Sister building. Borowitz said they already have recouped their money.
Big Sister is owned by a Swiss company that doesn't identify its investors, Borowitz said. He declined to release further details. Bigsister.net is registered to IT Service Consulting in Switzerland. The corporate registry in the Swiss canton of Zug doesn't name the firm's owners.
At the brothel, the Alpine Room is decorated like the backdrop to "The Sound of Music," with fake Styrofoam rocks and a forest. Other rooms include Heaven, decked out in white, and Hell, which resembles a dungeon.
In a control room, three computer operators choose the best angles. One screen shows a portly, tattooed visitor trying to reenact the Kama Sutra with a thin woman with long black hair. A sign on the wall dissuades them from thinking they're the next Ingmar Bergman: "We do not film the air. We film people in a bordello having sex."
Big Sister has a staff of 25 to 45 women, depending on the season, and 45 workers behind the scenes.
Three-quarters of the prostitutes come from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and they make $4,400 to $7,400 a month, Borowitz said. Average wages in the Czech Republic are less than $1,200 a month.
Nick said he's on his fourth visit to Big Sister.
He comes for the free sex, good beer and women who are "polite and very friendly," Nick said.
"It's a different concept. It's what the people want, to see normal people," he said.