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June 18, 2004

ARCHIVE: Mustang Ranch


Ralph Lynn cuts a gas pipe on one of the legs of the Mustang Ranch so that the building can be moved to it's new location.

Ralph Lynn cuts a gas pipe on one of the legs of the Mustang Ranch so that the building can be moved to it's new location. (Ky Plaskon)

Nevada is still the only state where prostitution is legal. Yet a number of brothels have been up for sale recently - the Chicken Ranch in Nye County and the Mustang Ranch in Storey County. Famed as the first legal house of prostitution, the Mustang Ranch was hacked into pieces last weekend - a deliberate act by its new owner to start spreading the Mustang name nationwide.

SOUND: Birds Chirping and trucks.

PLASKON: The Mustang Ranch made Nevada's legalized prostitution world famous over the years it operated from 1967 to 1999 and is notorious for its history of murder and the illegal activity of its operators that forced its closure. Since then the Mustang Ranch is only frequented by the grunting sound of trash trucks headed to a nearby landfill and the moaning wind. It's eight rows of rooms that radiate 120 feet like spider legs from an octagon-shaped center, are silent, despite the screaming hot pink paint. Ralph Lynn is cutting off each leg.


PLASKON: After cutting it up, he's towing the building's carcass away, avoiding its destruction at the hands of federal authorities that planned to level it. 5 miles up the road in Story County the legs will be pieced back together to join new neighbors of a more respectable history: A clothing distributor, dog food producer, power plant and the ritzy 30-thousand square foot 5 million dollar Wild Horse Saloon and Spa. It offers a taste of what's to come for the Mustang Ranch.

SOUND: Inside saloon

PLASKON: In the dark Wild Horse Saloon scantily clad prostitutes pose in front of the door to the brothel. It's marked by a neon sign: "The Green Door." It can't say anything more than that because it's illegal to advertise a brothel in the state making it tricky to market what is a legitimate business. Getting the word out that for-hire-sex is legal here is the goal of Wild Horse brothel owner and long-time salesman Lance Gillman.

GILLMAN: I pretty much sold everything in my lifetime. Hell, I was an Avon guy at one time in Hawaii. Ha, ha, ha. So I have always been in sales and promotion and when this opportunity presented itself Susan and I are selling, we are entrepreneurial sales.

PLASKON: While the Wild Horse is cleaner, professional and newer, the Mustang Ranch has something the Wild Horse doesn't: Notoriety. So Gillman and his self-described Madam Susan Austin, a general manager and former prostitute, posted the winning bid on e-bay for the Mustang Ranch at 145 thousand dollars. They are paying a half million to move the building and 2 million to re-build it. Gillman hopes to then build the Mustang Ranch brand name nation-wide. He'll start with a museum of prostitution and spread the name from there.

GILLMAN: Today I don't think it is the product you sell as much as it is all the souvenirs that people like to buy. Cups and saucers and t-shirts and clothing line. There will be a line of mustang cosmetics. The name is internationally known and we will market every conceivable type and there will be a national chain of gentlemen's clubs.

PLASKON: But first they will spruce up the pink spider-like brothel and make it more like the contemporary Wild Horse. It will more than double the size of his current business, but he's not afraid of saturating the sex market with too many rooms in an industry where he says one room alone can pull in 60 thousand dollars in 9 hours. Gillman says Storey County welcomes the industry. One brothel alone accounts for 20 percent of the tax base. But another key to legitimizing the industry to the general public is changing the rhetoric according to Madam Susan Austin.

AUSTIN: I don't believe in the word prostitute. I call my ladies care givers or I call them working girls I feel that is much more applicable to what they do. A lot of gentlemen who come in this facility would not know the touch of a woman if they didn't come here and visit my ladies.

PLASKON: As much as they are working to professionalize prostitution, tradition is strong with superstitions. Prostitutes leave lucky coins on the floor of their rooms saying 'money on the floor brings men with money through the door'.

AUSTIN: If business is slow, the newest girl in the house has to go out and urinate on the gate. Ha, ha, ha. That is one of them, that brings business through the door. It is kinda like a male dog marking his territory. Sending the scent. Ha, ha, ha.

PLASKON: But Gillman and Austin are confident that once the Mustang Ranch is moved here in its entirety and opened in the fall, it won't need those lucky charms.

Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR

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