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Archive for Sunday, August 12, 2007

Famous Mustang brothel re-emerges from troubled past in new splendor

August 12, 2007

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The newly renovated World Famous Mustang Ranch near Patrick, Nev., is shown July 18. In its 40 years, the self-proclaimed World Famous Mustang Ranch has seen the murder of a heavyweight boxing contender and an owner who skipped the country to dodge the feds. It has heard countless stories that never will be told and knows names that never will be uttered.

The newly renovated World Famous Mustang Ranch near Patrick, Nev., is shown July 18. In its 40 years, the self-proclaimed World Famous Mustang Ranch has seen the murder of a heavyweight boxing contender and an owner who skipped the country to dodge the feds. It has heard countless stories that never will be told and knows names that never will be uttered.

— Since its inception, the Mustang Ranch has played a key role in legalized prostitution in Nevada. It's also been shut down by the IRS, burned down, rebuilt and sold on eBay for the price of a small home.

Now it's back.

Like the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes, the gaudy pink stucco buildings used to house a stable of prostitutes are in a new location, under new management and looking better than ever.

"It's like the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. The Mustang's always going to be there to stay," said Love, an employee who used her working name. "They've made it even better than the original."

In its 40 years, the self-proclaimed World Famous Mustang Ranch has seen the murder of a heavyweight boxing contender, an owner who skipped the country to dodge the federal government and tens of thousands of customers.

Its current owner, real estate developer Lance Gilman, bought the Mustang for $145,100 on e-Bay. "The Mustang Ranch was a historical site," Gilman said. "It was a business decision."

The original owner, Joe Conforte, arrived in Nevada in the mid 1950s from Oakland, Calif., where he worked as a cab driver who often steered his fares toward his prostitutes.

He opened the Triangle River Ranch brothel in Wadsworth, about 25 miles east of Mustang, and immediately locked horns with Bill Raggio, the then-district attorney in nearby Reno and now Nevada's Senate majority leader.

Conforte tried unsuccessfully to set Raggio up with the underage sister of a prostitute. It cost him 22 months behind bars and Raggio burned the brothel as a public nuisance.

But Conforte was just getting started.

He married fellow brothel owner Sally Burgess and the two took over the Mustang Bridge Ranch about 10 miles east of Reno in 1967. Four years later, Storey County licensed it as the first legal brothel in the state, not to mention the country.

Today, prostitution is legal in 10 of Nevada's 17 counties and tolerated in two others. It is illegal in the counties surrounding Reno, Las Vegas and the capital, Carson City, according to state officials.

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