Final structure of old Mustang Ranch flown to new home
September 12, 2004
RENO – The last piece of a risque chapter of Nevada history – the Mustang Ranch brothel – was airlifted to a new home Sunday.
Unlike other buildings from the state’s first legal bordello, the 63-foot-wide parlor where the working girls lined up for customers was too big to be moved by truck to its new location at the Wild Horse Adult Resort & Spa.
About a dozen girls cheered and champagne flowed as a double-rotored helicopter gently lowered the skeleton of the parlor into place and workers secured it to a concrete pad. Crews had to cut about 3,000 pounds of wooden braces from the building after the pilot determined it was over the chopper’s 11-ton limit.
Prostitution was illegal across Nevada when Sicilian immigrant Joe Conforte took over the 104-room ranch in 1967. It became the state’s first legal brothel in 1971, and prostitution is now legal in 12 mostly rural Nevada counties.
Mustang Ranch has been closed since the IRS seized it in 1999 after the conviction of the bordello’s manager and its parent companies in a fraud and racketeering case. Conforte fled to Brazil to avoid tax charges more than 10 years ago.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which took over the property, had planned to level the complex because the buildings were in a flood plain. But after prevailing in a series of court suits and environmental challenges, Wild Horse owner Lance Gilman bought the property and its name on eBay from the BLM for $145,000.
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Gilman estimates he has spent $1.5 million since then on site preparation and the four-mile move of the dozen sections of the pink stucco-clad buildings.
The girls’ cubicles and other rooms branch out like spokes from the hexagonally shaped parlor. Two of the spokes can’t fit on the site in front of the Wild Horse and will become a museum filled with Mustang Ranch memorabilia.
Susan Austin, the Wild Horse madam, supervised everything from the African hunting trophies in the parlor to the paint schemes in the private suites in the new brothel. She said the renovated Mustang Ranch will not include the flocked red wallpaper and chintzy furnishings of the original.
“That just wouldn’t be me,” she said.