|Industry||Brothel, Adult Entertainment|
1011 Wild Horse Canyon Dr |
Sparks, Nevada 89434 (since 2005)
|Owner||L. Lance Gilman|
Under owner Joe Conforte, it became Nevada's first licensed brothel in 1971, eventually leading to the legalization of brothel prostitution in 10 of 17 counties in the state. It became Nevada's largest brothel with 166 acres (67 ha), and the most profitable.
The Mustang Ranch was forfeited to the federal government in 1999 following Conforte's convictions for tax fraud, racketeering and other crimes. It was auctioned off and reopened in 2005, 5 miles (8.0 km) to the east under the same name but different ownership.
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The prostitutes lived on the ranch during their entire shift, which lasted from several days to several weeks. In the early 1970s, the women were bikini clad. Conforte claimed in 1971, the age range of the working girls was 18 to 35. Conforte could provide women of any age, race or size on request of the high rollers. The shifts lasted 12 hours per day, the women were required to serve ten to fifteen customers per shift. In 1971, they were required to earn $300 to $600 a week. Women had to pay for their rooms and for any vendors who came to the Ranch. Clothing and salon services were provided by vendors who traveled from as far away as San Francisco and by non-prostitute employees who lived in Sparks, Nevada. Doctors came to the ranch to do pelvic exams and check for sexually transmitted diseases. The physicians provided many of the working women with "vitamin" shots to help keep their energy up. Women were shown by the madam how to use sponges during menstruation. Although many of the women working were from Reno or Sparks, many commuted from Sacramento and San Francisco. Others came from all parts of the country. Women not working on the ranch were not allowed in. Owner Joe Conforte allowed "out parties" for high rollers to take the women to hotels in Reno.
Las Vegas reporter Colin McKinlay visited the Mustang Ranch to do one of the first reports ever allowed by Mustang management. He wrote, "The women were the most beautiful of any fantasy of man. The line-up contained the most pale of Nordic blonde to the midnight of ebony; a wide eyed waif and wrinkled senior; rail thin to pudgy; tall women stood next to near dwarfs, all were required to answer the buzzer unless they were "busy"."
As in other Nevada brothels, customers were buzzed in through a gate. Once in, they chose a woman from a lineup in a lobby, and negotiated prices and services in the woman's room. She checked the penis for any open sores or signs of venereal disease and tested the pre-ejaculatory fluid. A short negotiation was made as to the type of "party" the customer wanted. Typical prices ranged from $100 to $500 plus tips, although the standard price of $25 for 30 minutes with half and half was enforced and could not be refused. Some women, who performed bizarre acts approved by the Confortes, could get up to $10,000 for a party. The house received half of anything the women made. After the negotiations (overheard by a hidden intercom system) were over, the prostitute collected the money and deposited it with a cashier. She returned to the room, washed the male genitals in a basin. After the act, she would again wash the male and slip on her skimpy outfit. The woman was require to escort the customer from her room to the door. Some men would relax in the bar or on sofas talking to the girls. In time the men would be rested for "round two." Many men had favorites or wanted variety. They could be with as many women as they could afford. The fantasy of two and three women simultaneously was common. Another frequent fantasy was of an older and younger prostitute being intimate with the customer and each other; he pretended they were mother and daughter.
The house rules forbade anal sex and kissing on the mouth. Many major-league sports figures and entertainment-industry types would visit the Mustang Ranch. After 1985, due to HIV/AIDS, Nevada state law required customers to wear condoms for both intercourse and oral sex. The women were not allowed to reject a customer who was willing to pay the house minimum and abide by the rules. For the safety of the women, every room had a hidden panic button.
Mapes Hotel bellmen in Reno directed men to the Mustang Ranch.
Alexa Albert, who conducted interviews with several women in the Mustang Ranch from 1993 to 1996, reported that at one point, the brothel required all women to have pimps, who were thought to make the women work harder. Although this practice had stopped by the 1990s, many women were still pressured into the work by boyfriends, husbands, or other family members. About half of the women reported having been sexually abused as children.
Joe Conforte in 1986 wrote his autobiography and history of the Mustang Ranch, with famed Nevada writer, David W. Toll.
The brothel started out as a set of four double-wide trailers, run by Richard Bennet and initially called Mustang Bridge Ranch. Joe Conforte (1923-), (Look gave his age as 48, in 1971) who had owned several brothels in Nevada together with his wife, Sally Burgess Conforte aka Jesse E. Conforte (1917–1992) since October 1955, took over the Mustang Ranch in 1967. At this time, brothels were not explicitly illegal in Nevada, but some had been closed as public nuisances.
Conforte gained political influence in Storey County (by renting out cheap trailers and telling the renters how to vote) and persuaded county officials to pass a brothel-licensing ordinance, which came into effect in 1971. Joe Conforte was featured in Look, June 29, 1971, the article titled "Legal Prostitution Spreads in Nevada'" by Gerald Astor, Look Senior Editor. Joe was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine November 23, 1972.
The Nevada Supreme Court upheld the right of a county to legalize prostitution, and several counties followed suit. Conforte converted the trailers into a permanent structure with 54 bedrooms. Mustang I had a spa room with jacuzzi. The swimming pool was for adult play.
Initially, the brothel did not serve black customers. In 1967, a separate trailer for blacks was built, and the prostitutes were allowed to refuse these men. This segregation was later abandoned, but black customers were still announced by a special signal, so that women could choose not to join the lineup, something not allowed for white customers.
In 1982, Mustang II with 48 bedrooms was built a hundred meters away from Mustang I. A bit smaller and not as luxurious as Mustang I, mostly new women and women demoted from Mustang I for some infraction worked there. Mustang 1 was subsequently rebranded as the "World Famous Mustang Ranch".
Forfeiture and sale following tax fraud
After losing a tax fraud case in 1990, the brothel was closed for three months and auctioned off. Conforte fled the United States and now lives in Brazil. The brothel was bought by a holding company and stayed open. After that company and the brothel's manager (a former county commissioner) lost a federal fraud, racketeering and conspiracy case in 1999, the Mustang Ranch was closed and forfeited to the federal government. That same year, the Brazil Supreme Court ruled Conforte could not be extradited.
In 2002, the brothel's furniture, paintings and accessories were auctioned off. The Bureau of Land Management sold the Ranch's pink stucco structures on eBay in 2003. Bordello owner Lance Gilman purchased the buildings for $145,100 and moved them to his Wild Horse Adult Resort & Spa five miles to the east, where the relocated and extensively renovated buildings eventually became the second brothel located at that complex. However, the rights to the name Mustang Ranch, which Gilman had hoped to use for this new brothel, were tied up in a court battle with David Burgess, the owner of the Old Bridge Ranch, nephew of Joe Conforte, and manager of the Mustang Ranch from 1979 until 1989. In December 2006, a federal judge ruled that Gilman was the "exclusive owner of the Mustang Ranch trademark" giving him the rights to use the name and branding.
In late March 2007, the final remaining building, the Annex II which had been bought for $8,600 by Dennis Hof, was burned down in a fire department training exercise. A Reno Gazette-Journal report cited plans for the restoration of natural conditions to the section of the Truckee River flowing through the land, following the completion of a similar restoration five miles downstream on McCarran Ranch land owned by The Nature Conservancy.
Contrary to a popular urban legend circulated by email, the Mustang Ranch was never operated by the US government. It was operated by the Bankruptcy Trustee appointed by the United States Bankruptcy Court on behalf of the United States Government.
The 1973 motion picture Charley Varrick contained a scene filmed at Mustang Ranch, with a cameo by Joe Conforte. Nevada writer Gabriel R. Vogliotti (1908–1983) did research living at the Mustang Ranch. In 1975 he authored The Girls of Nevada, with a subtitle on the dust jacket, Featuring Joe Conforte, Overseer of the Mustang Ranch. In 1978, Robert Goralnick wrote and directed Mustang: The House That Joe Built.
The 2010 film Love Ranch starring Helen Mirren is loosely based on the events at the Mustang Ranch. After a visit to the new Mustang Ranch in 2008 Mirren announced she was a "complete believer in legal brothels."
- April Corbin (2010-01-07). "Mustang Ranch rides into porn production". Las Vegas Weekly.
- Albert, Alexa (2002). Brothel : Mustang Ranch and its women (1st Ballantine Books ed.). New York: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0449006580.
- David W. Toll: Breaks, Brains and Balls, The Story of Joe Conforte and Nevada's Fabulous Mustang Ranch, Gold Hill Publishing Company, 2011. Toll is a prize-winning Nevada journalist, author and publisher.
- Farrell, Barry (July 26, 1976). "The Killing At the Notorious Mustang Ranch". New York. pp. 41–49. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- "Reno Brothels". NV Brothels. Archived from the original on 7 February 2003. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
- "Battle for Mustang Ranch name over; Gilman wins". Virginia City News. 17 September 2008. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
- Shipley, Jarid (26 March 2007). "A fiery end for the Mustang Ranch 2". Nevada Appeal. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
- River returning to nature Archived 2006-01-12 at Archive.is, an October 2005 Reno Gazette-Journal article mentioning the fate of the Mustang Ranch
- Restoration of McCarran Ranch land from The Nature Conservancy website
- Hoping to save the wild Mustang -- Ranch, that is
- False: U.S. Gov't Tried (and Failed) to Run Mustang Ranch
- Dame Helen Mirren calls for the legalisation of brothels, The Sunday Mail, 7 September 2008