I took a tour of the World Famous Mustang Ranch, a historical brothel outside of Reno NV.
The History of Mustang Ranch
Originally called Mustang Bridge Ranch, the brothel opened its doors in 1951, making it the oldest legal brothel in America.
Prostitution, however, did not become legal until 1971 when the ranch’s second and most famous owner, Joe Conforte, successfully changed laws in Storey County. The rumor is that Conforte built political influence by renting out cheap trailers on his land and telling the tenants how to vote.
Joe Conforte is known as the Father of Legalized Prostitution. Currently, prostitution is legal and regulated in 10 out of 17 Nevada counties and tolerated in two others.
Mustang Ranch has an interesting history–Conforte became one of the most well known men in Nevada after he took over the brothel with his wife Sally Burgess in 1967.
Conforte was all over the news and he used this media attention to his advantage to build a favorable public image. Each Christmas he would give out turkeys to the needy. He even gave complimentary sessions to soldiers who returned home from foreign conflicts.
For a while, Conforte was on top and no-one could touch him.
In 1975, things turned sour when the Mustang Ranch was burned down by an arsonist–it was rebuilt immediately.
A year later, the world class boxer Oscar Bonavena was shot dead at the Mustang Ranch, supposedly by Conforte’s security guard who served 2 years in jail for the murder. People close to the family speculate that Bonavena had an affair with Conforte’s wife and that Conforte killed him in rage.
In 1990, Conforte was convicted of tax fraud and the brothel was seized and sold by the IRS. Conforte, who owed millions of dollars in back taxes, fled to Brazil where he is rumored to still live today.
Mustang Ranch has since been taken over by Lance Gilman, owner of the Wild Horse brothel. He purchased the Mustang Ranch buildings on eBay from the U.S. Bureau and Land Management for $145,000. A few years later, he picked up the entire ranch with a giant double bladed helicopter and moved it next to Wild Horse. There is a picture in the museum of all the working girls in front of the helicopter.
Moving and refurbishing Mustang Ranch cost Gilman over 6 million dollars but he is quoted saying about his investment, “The Mustang Ranch was a historical site. It was a business decision.”
Our Tour of Mustang Ranch
My friend Emily and I visited Mustang Ranch on a Saturday at 2pm-a tour of the house was free and the museum only costs $5. Our tour guide’s name was Sky–she is one of the veteran working girls at the ranch. She had been there six years and was very knowledgeable about the history, facilities, and state law.
First, Sky gave us a tour of the unoccupied rooms, each one decorated in a different theme. It was like riding Disney’s It’s a Small World ride mixed with jacquizzis, stripper poles, sex chairs, and a hooker captain.
There was the Safari suite with a jacuizzi that fills up in 7 minutes and it’s own sauna–nicknamed around the ranch as the “sweaty blowjob room.”
Then there was the Princess suite for gentleman with “younger fantasies”–decorated as you might imagine it to be.
I told Sky that I thought it was odd that the Princess suite was the only handicap accessible room the ranch offered.
She agreed, laughed, and said she had never thought about that before.
I thought to myself, “I bet you tell that to all the guys who make that joke.”
Next there was the Italian room built in honor of Joe Conforte that had a $40,000 mirror–he apparently loved expensive furniture and items of excess.
The biggest room was the Asian suite which has the largest bed in Reno that can fit over 8 ladies comfortably. The suite also boasts a stripper pole, Jacuzzi, and a Kama Sutra chair.
To conclude the tour of the house, Sky brought us to the negotiation room, which according to Nevada state statute, is the only place the ladies can discuss price with gentlemen. This is also where they discuss house rules like no kissing on the lips and no butt.
Nevada state statutes dictate that the working girls get tested every week and that condoms have to be used at all times for everything. In the negotiation room, the lady is also required to check the gentleman’s private areas to make sure that he has no visible signs of an STD. She does this by turning on a bright light, taking a warm baby wipe, and examining his genitals.
Hearing all this inside the negotiation room was about the time I realized that Emily had walked in front of me the entire tour and made me touch all doors and handles. She even warned me she’d do this but I wasn’t thinking.
I repeated to myself over and over in my head, “Don’t pick your nose. Don’t pick your nose.”–Not picking my nose is something I have to do actively.
The tour ended with the museum. It was small and basically just another room that could be rented separate from the rest of the ranch–it’s theme being Mustang Ranch. There are old newspaper clippings lining the walls, shelves filled with memorabilia, and Joe Conforte’s piano. This is also the suite where all the crazy bondage toys were hiding.
Sky ended the tour by taking our photo outside the ranch–which is the only place photography is allowed.
I reached into my wallet and took out all the cash I had–$18.
I say, as I handed the cash to Sky, “I’m sorry it’s not what you’re used to making for 30 minutes.”
She laughed and said, “It’s okay, we love doing the tours.”
I bet you say that to all the guys who make that joke.