An Interview With
An Oral History produced by
Robert D. McCracken
Nye County Town History Project
Nye County Commissioners
The Nye County Town History Project (NCTHP) engages in interviewing people who can provide firsthand descriptions of the individuals, events, and places that give history its substance. The products of this research are the recordings of the interviews and their transcriptions.
In themselves, oral history interviews are not history. However, they often contain valuable primary source material, as useful in the process of historiography as the written sources to which historians have customarily turned. Verifying the accuracy of all of the statements made in the course of an interview would require more time and money than the NCTHP’s operating budget permits. The program can vouch that the statements were made, but it cannot attest that they are free of error. Accordingly, oral histories should be read with the same prudence that the reader exercises when consulting government records, newspaper accounts, diaries, and other sources of historical information.
It is the policy of the NCTHP to produce transcripts that are as close to verbatim as possible, but some alteration of the text is generally both unavoidable and desirable. When human speech is captured in print the result can be a morass of tangled syntax, false starts, and incomplete sentences, sometimes verging on incoherence. The type font contains no symbols for the physical gestures and the diverse vocal modulations that are integral parts of communication through speech. Experience shows that totally verbatim transcripts are often largely unreadable and therefore a waste of the resources expended in their production. While keeping alterations to a minimum the NCTHP will, in preparing a text:
a. generally delete false starts, redundancies and the uhs, ahs and other noises with which speech is often sprinkled;
b. occasionally compress language that would be confusing to the reader in unaltered form;
c. rarely shift a portion of a transcript to place it in its proper context;
d. enclose in [brackets] explanatory information or words that were not uttered but have been added to render the text intelligible; and
e. make every effort to correctly spell the names of all individuals and places, recognizing that an occasional word may be misspelled because no authoritative source on its correct spelling was found.
As project director, I would like to express my deep appreciation to those who participated in the Nye County Town History Project (NCTHP). It was an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to obtain oral histories from so many wonderful individuals. I was welcomed into many homes—in many cases as a stranger—and was allowed to share in the recollection of local history. In a number of cases I had the opportunity to interview Nye County residents whom I have long known and admired; these experiences were especially gratifying. I thank the residents throughout Nye County and Nevada—too numerous to mention by name—who provided assistance, information, and photographs. They helped make the successful completion of this project possible.
Appreciation goes to Chairman Joe S. Garcia, Jr., Robert N. “Bobby” Revert, and Patricia S. Mankins, the Nye County commissioners who initiated this project in 1987. Subsequently, Commissioners Richard L. Carver, Dave Hannigan, and Barbara J. Raper provided support. In this current round of interviews, Nye County Commissioners Butch Borasky, Lorinda A. Wichman, Joni Eastley, Gary Hollis, Fely Quitevis, and Dan Schinhofen provided unyielding support. Stephen T. Bradhurst, Jr., planning consultant for Nye County, gave enthusiastic support and advocacy of the program within Nye County in its first years. More recently, Darrell Lacy, Director, Nye County Nuclear Waste Repository Project Office, gave his strong support. The United States Department of Energy, through Mr. Lacy’s office, provided funds for subsequent rounds of interviews. Thanks are extended to Commissioners Eastley and Hollis and to Mr. Lacy for their input regarding the conduct of this research and for serving as a sounding board when methodological problems were worked out. These interviews would never have become a reality without the enthusiastic support of the Nye County commissioners and Mr. Lacy.
Jean Charney served as editor and administrative assistant throughout the project; her services have been indispensable. Debra Ann MacEachen, Robert B. Clark, Lynn E. Riedesel, Marcella Wilkinson, and Jean Charney transcribed a number of interviews, as did Julie Lancaster, who also helped with project coordination. Proofreading, editing, and indexing were provided at various times by Joni Eastley, Michael Haldeman, Julie Lancaster, Teri Jurgens Lefever, and Darlene Morse. Joni Eastley proofed all the manuscripts and often double-checked, as best as possible, the spelling of people’s names and the names of their children and other relatives. Jeanne Sharp Howerton provided digital services and consultation. Eva La Rue and Angela Haag of the Central Nevada Museum served as consultants throughout the project; their participation was essential. Much- deserved thanks are extended to all these persons.
All material for the NCTHP was prepared with the support of the Nye County Nuclear Waste Repository Office, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. However, any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author and the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nye County or the U.S. DOE.
—Robert D. McCracken
Historians generally consider the year 1890 as the close of the American frontier. By then, most of the western United States had been settled, ranches and farms developed, communities established, and roads and railroads constructed. The mining boomtowns, based on the lure of overnight riches from newly discovered mineral deposits, were but a memory.
Although Nevada was granted statehood in 1864, examination of any map of the state from the late 1800s shows that while most of the state was mapped and its geographical features named, a vast region—stretching from Belmont south to the Las Vegas meadows, comprising most of Nye County—remained largely unsettled and unmapped. In 1890, most of southcentral Nevada remained very much a frontier, and it continued to be so for at least another twenty years.
The spectacular mining booms at Tonopah (1900), Goldfield (1902), Rhyolite (1904), Manhattan (1905), and Round Mountain (1906) represent the last major flowering of what might be called the Old West in the United States. Consequently, southcentral Nevada, notably Nye County, remains close to the American frontier; closer, perhaps, than any other region of the American West. In a real sense, a significant part of the frontier can still be found in southcentral Nevada. It exists in the attitudes, values, lifestyles, and memories of area residents. The frontier-like character of the area also is visible in the relatively undisturbed quality of the natural environment, much of it essentially untouched by humans.
A survey of written sources on southcentral Nevada’s history reveals some material from the early 1860s through 1900. Austin had a newspaper, the Reese River Reveille, starting in 1863 and the Belmont area starting with the Silver Bend Reporter in 1867. Ione had a paper, the Nye County News, for a few years in the 1860s. More information representing the boomtown period from 1900 to about 1915 is available; from local newspapers after about 1920. The volume of available sources varies from town to town: A fair amount of literature, for instance, can be found covering Tonopah’s first two decades of existence, and the town has had a newspaper continuously from its first year, starting with the Tonopah Bonanza. Goldfield had the Goldfield News, which began in 1904. In contrast, relatively little is known about the early days of Gabbs, Round Mountain, Manhattan, Beatty, Amargosa Valley, and Pahrump. Gabbs’s only newspaper was published intermittently between 1974 and 1976. Round Mountain’s only newspaper, the Round Mountain Nugget, was published between 1906 and 1910. Manhattan had newspaper coverage for most of the years between 1906 and 1922. The Rhyolite Herald, longest surviving of Rhyolite/Bullfrog’s three newspapers, lasted from 1905 to 1912. The Beatty Bullfrog Miner was in business from 1905 to 1906. Amargosa Valley has never had a newspaper. Pahrump’s first newspaper did not appear until 1971. All these communities received only spotty coverage in the newspapers of other communities once their own newspapers folded, although Beatty was served by the Beatty Bulletin, published as part of the Goldfield News between 1947 and 1956. Consequently, most information on the history of southcentral Nevada after 1920 resides in the memories of individuals who are still living.
Aware of Nye County’s close ties to our nation’s frontier past, and recognizing that few written sources on local history are available, especially after about 1920, the Nye County Commissioners initiated the Nye County Town History Project (NCTHP) in 1987. The NCTHP represents an effort to systematically collect and preserve information on the history of Nye County. The centerpiece of the NCTHP is a large set of interviews conducted with individuals who had knowledge of local history. Each interview was recorded, transcribed, and then edited lightly to preserve the language and speech patterns of those interviewed. All oral history interviews have been printed on acid-free paper and bound and archived in Nye County libraries, Special Collections in the Lied Library at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and at other archival sites located throughout Nevada. The interviews vary in length and detail, but together they form a never-before-available composite picture of each community’s life and development. The collection of interviews for each community can be compared to a bouquet: Each flower in the bouquet is unique—some are large, others are small—yet each adds to the total image. In sum, the interviews provide a composite view of community and county history, revealing the flow of life and events for a part of Nevada that has heretofore been largely neglected by historians.
Collection of the oral histories has been accompanied by the assembling of a set of photographs depicting each community’s history. These pictures have been obtained from participants in the oral history interviews and other present and past Nye County residents. In all, more than 700 photos have been collected and carefully identified. Complete sets of the photographs have been archived along with the oral histories.
On the basis of the oral histories as well as existing written sources, histories have been prepared for the major communities in Nye County. These histories have also been archived. All oral and community histories and photographs collected under the NCTHP are available on the Internet.
The town history project is one component of a Nye County program to determine the socioeconomic impact of a federal proposal to build and operate a nuclear waste repository in southcentral Nye County. The repository, which would be located inside a mountain (Yucca Mountain), would be the nation’s first, and possibly only, permanent disposal site for high-level radioactive waste. The Nye County Board of County Commissioners initiated the NCTHP in 1987 in order to collect information on the origin, history, traditions and quality of life of Nye County communities that may be impacted by the repository. If the repository is constructed, it will remain a source of interest for a long time and future generations will likely want to know more about the people who once resided at the site. And in the event that government policy changes and a high-level nuclear waste repository is not constructed in Nye County, material compiled by the NCTHP will remain for the use and enjoyment of all.
This is Robert McCracken talking to Bobbi Davis, proprietor of the Shady Lady Brothel, at her home in Sarcobatus Flat, Nevada, May 29, 30, and 31, 2011.
RM: If you could start by telling me your name as it reads on your birth certificate.
BD: Bobbi Arlene Long.
RM: And when and where were you born?
BD: I was born in a little town in Texas that probably no longer exists. It was a small town when I was there, and it never grew much, from what I understand, after I left. There’s lots of little towns in Texas; they’re kind of like Nevada. They were here and they’re gone.
RM: What year were you born?
BD: I was born in 1954.
RM: And what did your father do for a living?
BD: He did several things. He drove a milk truck. Now, when I say milk truck, it’s not like he was a milkman—he went to the dairies and picked up the milk. It was really a big rig truck, almost. He drove those for a long time, and then he decided he didn’t want to do that anymore. For some reason California looked brighter to them and they decided to move to California where he worked in a steel mill.
RM: Oh really, at Fontana?
BD: Yes, he worked there for many, many years.
RM: Where did you live at that time?
BD: I lived mostly with my grandparents in Texas.
RM: You didn’t go to California?
BD: Well, I did. And then when I got to be a teenager, I was a typical teenager. I was kind of rebellious, and for some reason my grandparents could control me a little better than my mother and father could. So we all agreed that I could go back to Texas and go to high school there.
RM: Were they your mother’s or father’s parents?
BD: My mother’s parents. Her name was Granny. [Laughs]
RM: What town was that in?
BD: It was several different towns. He was a Southern Baptist minister so he moved quite a bit from church to church, wherever they needed him and where the pay got a little bit better and so on. But one of the places was San Antone.
RM: Did you like Texas?
BD: I loved Texas. I still do. I love the people. All my relatives are there, so when I go back it’s like going home because they’re all there. Of course, I haven’t seen some of them in years. It’s like I see how big our family really is when I go back there because they all come out. And it’s nice, but I don’t like the humidity. Nevada has spoiled me for humidity.
I went to New Orleans—that’s the other place I love. I just love it down in the French Quarter. And the last time I went, I went in September and they were having temperatures of 80-something degrees with 70-something degrees humidity. I felt like I was in a fishbowl, that I was breathing water. I have asthma, so that doesn’t help my asthma.
I lived for a short time down in Carlsbad, California, so I was on the coast and that helped, but I think it was the salt in the air because one of the treatments I get for my asthma has salt in it. I didn’t have to use anything for my asthma so I was really happy. But it was very expensive to live there and my husband wanted to retire. I wasn’t ready and I wanted to do this, and he thought I was nuts. It took me nine years to convince him.
I convinced him with a little story: A woman walks into a bar. She sits down. A man down at the end of the bar buys her a drink. She thanks him, he comes over, they talk, they leave, they go home, they have sex. Anything wrong with that? My husband said, “No.” A lady comes into a bar, she sits down. A guy down at the end buys her a drink, comes back and talks to her. They go home together, they have sex, and he leaves her $200. Is there something wrong with that?
And he goes, “Yeah.” And I go, “What?” The only difference was she got $200 that the first lady didn’t get. If you go on moral grounds, they were both wrong.
RM: And a little wrinkle of that would be he takes her out to dinner and then they have sex.
BD: Or they go to a movie, have dinner and a few more drinks, and he gives her a diamond necklace and then they have sex. So what difference is there? If you want to look at it from a moral way, it was all wrong. And I said, “The day you could give me an answer to what’s different, I’ll give the idea up.” Well, 19 years later, I’m sitting out here in Nevada and he still hasn’t got an answer.
I just put it to him that way. I said, “You know, what’s the difference?” and he couldn’t come up with a difference. And most people can’t. If they really take it from the morals, it’s the same thing. If they think it’s okay to have sex without being married, then what difference is it to have sex and get money for it?
RM: Being raised in a Baptist household during your formative teenage years, what kind of messages were you getting there?
BD: My grandfather was one of the few ministers I’ve ever met who encouraged, and I do mean encouraged, you to do your own thinking and not take even what he said for granted. Do your own investigation, look it up, and make up your own mind how you wanted to go.
I went to several churches. As I grew up, I went to a Jewish synagogue, I went to a Catholic church because I had friends who were Catholic, I went to all kinds of different churches to see what it was all about. My conclusion was they were all basically the same, just different ways of doing the same thing. They believed in the same God, they believed in the same morals, practically. They just had a different way of doing it. All this nonsense of fighting over everything is just so silly.
RM: Is there anything that stands out in your mind about your high school years?
BD: I was really quiet during my high school years. I was pretty shy. In fact, I was pretty shy most of my life until I met my best friend. Between my best friend and my husband, they kind of pulled me out of my shyness. With my best friend, it was either get over being embarrassed or just die from embarrassment because she was always pulling stuff in public. I either had to deal with it or run and hide, one of the two. I always say I owe her a lot for that because she got me to stand up and start saying things. Before, I was really timid. Now people say, “I can’t see you that way,” but I was. I grew into how I am now, and it was my friend.
I mean, she’d just say things. Valentine Day one time she got this big, huge valentine card for her husband. She was reading it, and she turned it over and it was $3 and something. It was about so big, about 15 inches. She’s looking at it and we’re walking toward the cashier. And she goes, “I don’t know. I don’t think he’s worth $3, do you?”
And I laughed and I said, “No, I don’t think he’s worth $3.”
And the lady at the cash register said, “Well, what does she know?” And she promptly said, “She probably does, the “B.” And the lady just shut up. It was [laughs] because she thought she was going to start a fight. That’s the kind of things she did. I’d be in line and she’d be shopping, and she’d just come in and cut in front of me. And they didn’t always know we were together. I said, “Get out. Are you going to allow her to cut in front of me?” That was the kind of thing that finally got me to stop being so shy because I either took it or pushed her out of the way.
RM: Did she date from your high school years?
BD: No, I didn’t meet her until I was 25, and I had met my husband at 21.
RM: What did you do after you got out of high school?
BD: Oh, just various things. I had various jobs. I worked at McDonald’s. You know, every kid works there. I worked at Del Taco. I worked at two fast foods and a restaurant, a Harold’s restaurant, and I said that was the one thing I would never do again. That’s the hardest job, and people are so rude. And people get funny about their food. (I’m the same way. I’m real particular about my food.) It was a hard job—you don’t get paid a lot and you put in a lot of long hours. You do split shifts where you come in at 1:00 and then you go home for a couple of hours, which doesn’t give you enough time to do anything. Then you’ve got to come back and start all over again and work another four or five hours or whatever.
RM: Were you waitressing?
BD: I started out as a busgirl, and I went from that. I tried it three times. That’s my rule, three times. If I don’t like it in three times. . . My very first job was at Del Taco and then I went to work at a restaurant. Then I thought, “I’ll give this food business one more chance,” and I went to work at another fast food place. I just said, “This is for the birds.” I admire people that do it; it’s just not for me.
And the bar business was tough. I owned a couple of bars at one time.
RM: Were you a bartender at first?
BD: I owned it and I tended bar. I had beer bars and sandwiches—I sold sandwiches and beer.
RM: When did you move to California?
BD: After I got out of high school, I moved back to California. I’d settled down enough that my parents and I were getting along fine. We had those rough years, and it made everybody’s life easier for me to be in Texas. Once I got out of high school, I went back to them.
RM: It was Southern California, right?
BD: Yes. I lived in a little town called Yucaipa for a while.
RM: Where is that?
BD: It’s going towards Palm Springs from San Bernardino on the 10.
RM: Did you like it there?
BD: No. [Laughs] I didn’t like it at the time because I was too young. It was an older community with older people. As I grew up and older, I would probably love it now. It was a pretty place. It was just that there was nothing to do for somebody in their 20s when everybody else was in their 60s.
RM: Had you gotten married in the interim?
BD: I got married when I was 25 to my husband, Jim—James Richard Davis. We’ve been married for 30 some-odd years.
RM: And you kept working after you got married?
BD: Yes, as a bartender. Then I had an escort service, which I just ran; I didn’t work as an escort.
RM: Where was that?
BD: That was in California.
RM: Was it your own? How did you start it, and how did you think of getting into that?
BD: Well, actually, I went to a massage parlor. They had put an ad in the paper. I learned all my lessons there.
RM: You mean massaging?
BD: Actually, I learned massage during a short stint in Kansas. I lived in Salina, Kansas for a little while when I was about 18, 19 years old. I think that was the first place I went after high school.
RM: How did you happen to go to Salina?
BD: I knew this guy that I had a crush on. He was going back to school, not in Salina, but in Kansas. I’m not sure of the name of the school; it was so long ago. Well, this guy came up to me, and he said, “Would you like to go to Kansas?”
And I said, “I’d love to go to Kansas, but I don’t have any money. I haven’t worked and I don’t have any money to go anywhere.”
He said, “Don’t worry, it’s all expenses paid.”
I thought, “There’s going to be payment somewhere down the road,” right? [Laughs] But I was hoping it would be with who I wanted to be with. Well actually, it turned out not to be that way. It really was a legit deal, it turned out. The only thing was, the guy that talked me into going didn’t tell me that once we dropped off the guy I had a crush on, the money stopped. I hadn’t worked in months so I didn’t have any money and the guy’s car blew his freeze plugs out and we couldn’t get that fixed. Luckily, the guy that we had taken there knew some people who lived in that town, and he had introduced us. So when they found out I was stuck, they helped out and I went and lived with one of them. He was a male nurse in a hospital in Salina.
I stayed there for a few months. I liked Salina; it was a nice little town. They had the best deli just down the corner from where I was working at one point—I just loved going there. Of course, in Kansas, and especially in little towns, you don’t party or cause trouble in the town you live in because everybody knows you. So we’d always go to Wichita. On our days off, we’d head to Wichita and do all of our trouble there and then come home and nobody knew anything, or at least nobody talked about it.
I had to go to Wichita to even drink because I didn’t want anybody in Salina to know—especially back then, when I was 18 or 19 years old. I got chewed out one time in Salina because as a joke I bought a black afro wig and put it on and wore it down the street. And this lady got mad at me. I said, “It’s a wig; look, it comes off.”
But I couldn’t stay in Kansas. There was something in Kansas that caused me to keep getting sore throats. When I got to Kansas I had a sore throat, and then it went away. During the springtime it was pretty much okay, but then winter came and I kept getting real severe sore throats. I kept getting sick and I couldn’t go to work. Finally I went to the doctor. I still had my tonsils and he said, “We’re going to take them out.”
I said, “Well, if we’re going to do that . . . ” I was still that much of a baby, I said, “I’m going back to California,” where I’d be with my parents, even though taking your tonsils out is not real major surgery. So I took a bus and went home. And when I got back home, it never happened again. I’ve never had trouble with them since, so I still have my tonsils.
RM: It must have been something in the environment.
BD: There was something. During that time a lot of Kansas was agricultural, and it could have been something they sprayed at certain times of the year.
RM: Or it could have been something in your house where you living.
BD: Yes, it could be. It was something there that my throat didn’t like. And when I’d catch colds, I’d catch severe colds. They would just knock me down.
RM: Now, the massage parlor in Kansas was just straight massage, right?
BD: Yes. When I went to the massage parlor in California, I answered an ad and that was a little bit more than massage. That’s when I learned all my lessons. I got to talking to other girls; I learned more about the business. I never was opposed to any of it, so it wasn’t shocking and I didn’t think, “How could you do that?” Basically, I thought it probably would be a fun way to make some money, honestly.
RM: When you say “your lessons” what do you learn?
BD: I learned about the different types of businesses, like escorting and massage parlors and so forth.
RM: What is the difference?
BD: Escorts go out on a date, and they go to dinner sometimes. It all depends on how much time the customers want. Sometimes it’s just straight to the person’s apartment.
RM: For sex?
RM: And do they pay the service or do they pay the girl?
BD: We used to do it where they paid the service and then we would pay the girls.
RM: How did the escort service get its business?
BD: We advertised. Where we were, the newspaper took the ads because with escorting, technically you’re not supposed to be having sex. That’s the excuse you get when you talk to the people in Vegas about all the escort ads. “Oh well, they’re not selling sex.” Yes they are. That’s all they sell, in effect. But they gloss it over that way. So I just ran ads, and it worked quite well.
RM: In alternative newspapers and that kind of thing?
BD: No, just in the regular newspaper. It was for hot young girls. And of course, when you put in an ad hiring girls, the guys would usually find it. They’d be looking through things and they’d know that if you’re looking for girls you must have girls, so they would call you up. It worked out for quite a while. Then they started really cracking down and I just thought I’d better split.
RM: They were arresting girls?
BD: Arresting and doing total raids and pulling everybody in. If you were innocent, you got thrown out to the side but still you went to jail for the initial thing. And I went to jail; they caught me.
RM: For overnight, or did you get sentenced?
BD: It was for 14 hours, and it was the longest 14 hours I ever spent. Then they released me and my lawyer got it dismissed.
RM: It’s not on your record, or anything?
BD: No, it was just dismissed. They didn’t have nothing on me because they were picking up everybody on a sweep type of thing. Everybody who was in a building or whatever, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, got pulled in. And they had nothing on me ever doing anything illegal because I never told the girls they were supposed to have sex.
RM: I’m still trying to understand the payment system. The client paid you up front. Was it an escort service fee, and then the girl charged him whatever she wanted?
BD: That was the way it worked sometimes, yes. It depended on the client.
RM: That’s my understanding of how it works in Vegas.
BD: The way it works in Vegas is they pay an escort service fee, which is just to get the girl to your room. And if you want anything else, then you have to negotiate that. That’s how the police get them, you see, because once a girl negotiates any kind of sex for money, then she’s broken the law.
RM: So in Vegas he pays the fee to the girls and she gives it to the service.
BD: She gives whatever she’s supposed to give to the service.
RM: And whatever she gets above that is hers, right?
RM: Was it that way with you?
BD: No, we dealt with clients that I knew. Ours was done kind of like what we do here. They would pay beforehand with the understanding, of course, that you can’t do anything illegal.
RM: Were they paying for sex up front, or just the service?
BD: They paid the full thing, but sex was never mentioned.
RM: Oh, so they may get charged $200 but this is just so this girl will go out with them.
BD: That’s Vegas. What we would do is we would charge, let’s say, $500 for everything. But it never came out of our mouth that the girl would have sex. If somebody pressured you, you would always say things like, “I choose who I have sex with and I don’t . . . .”
RM: They could turn a guy down, then?
BD: They could do so, always. But that was the thing: “I choose, I don’t get bought. You’re not paying me for sex, you’re paying me for my company.” It was always that understanding. That’s why nothing ever stuck with my girls because they always would say, “No, no, no, this is just for us to go out to dinner, to a movie, to a play, whatever you want to do. And then, anything else, that’s entirely what we decide to do.”
RM: Was the escort service in California yours?
RM: It must be quite something to establish a business like that.
BD: Well, it is, but like with anything, you start off small and you have one or two girls. Then you have three or four girls and then. . . .
RM: And how did you find your first girls?
BD: Advertised in the paper. We told the first one what we were doing, and she was a delight. The girls pick it up. They know, you know. They’ve been around and they can read between the lines, and they figure it all out.
RM: What was the most girls that you had?
BD: I probably had eight at most. We ran for a long time. Then when the arrest happened, I said, “That’s it.” Like I said, they were just going to every massage parlor and raiding them. They called us up, set up dates, raided our girls, and then called them in, even though nothing was ever said. So when it came to court the lawyers said, “But they didn’t say that. What have you got on them? You know what they did wasn’t illegal.” My bunch and I were dismissed and let go. But that was close enough to me for me to say, “You know what? I don’t want to go to jail.”
RM: Did you sell it or just abandon it?
BD: I just abandoned it, shut it down. It never opened back up after that.
RM: Were the clients regulars?
BD: Most of them. They were businessmen of the town. I don’t like to use the word, but I don’t know another word to use. They were the upper. . . .
RM: They were higher-end people? Well-to-do?
BD: Yes, we weren’t just taking people who called in and were off the street.
RM: Did they have to be referred?
BD: Sometimes they did. Sometimes I had to meet with them, and they’d come in or I would meet them like for lunch in a restaurant or something like that, and we would discuss things and I would weigh out the situation.
RM: How many clients would you have?
BD: I probably had 100 at the most.
RM: And you could go with that small of a number, plus the new ones coming in?
BD: Right. Not only that but, like I said, it wasn’t a cheap service so it wasn’t that we needed to do volume.
RM: Was there a phenomenon that guys would fall in love with the girl that he went out with a few times or something?
BD: Always. That’s the curse; I call it the curse. The guys fall in love with the girls and the girls have no intention. It causes problems because a girl has to, at some point, break it off. And of course, when she breaks it off, in a brothel or an escort service, you lose that client. He’d go, “Hey, I’ll go someplace else.” So you want the girls to do their job well, but sometimes it goes too far. We’ve had guys here and they try and stay, and finally the girls say, “Look, there’s no way. I’m not going to go out with you, ever. We’re not going to date. This is all we’re going to ever do.” And of course, when that happens, she loses that client but so do we, because he won’t come back here in case he runs into her.
RM: Do they ever cause trouble after this rejection?
BD: I have never had that happen. I’ve known girls in the business that have had that problem where the guys become stalkers but I’m very fortunate, knock on wood, that I’ve never had that. My guys just go away.
RM: And fall in love with somebody else?
BD: Find someone else to fall in love with. I always tell them that this is not the place to fall in love. On the other hand, I do know of girls and clients that have hooked up in the brothels and then later married and still are married. So it does work out, but it’s rare and so far between because so many of the girls already have boyfriends or husbands or something and they’re not going to leave that husband or that boyfriend. I guess that’s what they’re always hoping, that they’re that one out of a thousand who’s going to make the click there, and he’s going to find himself a good wife.
RM: What about the girls falling in love with their clients?
BD: It doesn’t seem to happen as much. Every girl knows the client is here for a reason. No matter how nice and sweet he is here, there’s a reason he’s here. Why is he here? Why is he coming here?
RM: What would be a range of reasons that he was here?
BD: It could be that he just doesn’t want to get in a relationship where the girl’s going to eventually want a commitment or it can be that he’s trying to find someone, which is the worst reason to come.
RM: For a bond?
BD: For a bond, yes. Or it could be that he’s just lonely, doesn’t have a lot of social skills and so forth.
RM: Are they pretty common, those guys?
BD: You know what? It’s all kinds. It really is all different types of people. Some of them, I ask myself all the time, why are they here? Why don’t they have a wife? But then I remember that some guys don’t want a wife. They want sex but they don’t want a commitment. If they go to a bar, they could have sex with a woman, but they’re going to probably wind up with, “Why didn’t you call me” the next morning or, “When will I see you again” or, “Am I ever going to see you again?” And here it’s, “I’ll see you the next time,” and that’s it. And nobody expects him to come back. If the guy comes back and sees the girl, that’s different. But you really keep it in your mind that this is it, he’s gone and you’re not going to see him again. Of course if you do see him again, sometimes it’s a bonus and sometimes it’s a pain.
RM: Right. Years ago, in ’63, I did a biography of a girl working at Bobbie Duncan’s place in Tonopah. I got the impression from her that more of the girls in those days had what would be called pimps, and I get the feeling you don’t have pimps like you used to.
BD: You don’t. A long time ago, back when Joe Conforte ran the Mustang in the early ’60s and ’70s, the girls usually had a pimp. And the house wanted them to because if the girl caused trouble, all they had to do was make a phone call and the pimp would take care of it, and the girl didn’t cause any more trouble. Or sometimes just telling her that you were going to call him straightened her out.
BD: When I first came in 19 years ago, the girls were totally mentally different from what they are now. The girls 19 years ago were not quite as intelligent, hadn’t gone as far in school, lacked a lot of social graces. If you talked to them, most of them had raised themselves—didn’t have good parenting, didn’t have a good home, and made the best of what they could do. The girls now coming in are higher educated, have a better background, don’t lack so many of the social graces, and are a whole different group. I asked a girl one time who had a B.A. and she had a business thing that she wanted to put together, and she was doing this. I asked her, “Why don’t you just do your business? You’ve got the money.”
She said, “I’m going to make as much money as I can doing this while I’ve got my body because when I get older, I can do that other business. Then I’ll live comfortably and I won’t have to struggle to make it.”
RM: So it was a rational economic decision on her part?
BD: Yes, to save as much money as she could. When she got to that point, she would go into her business. Of course, the business was going to have a down side until it got off and going, and she would have enough money to keep the house she had, her lifestyle she was living, and not struggle as much as some people did.
RM: So girls are saving their money more now and are investing it or whatever?
BD: I’d say more women now are putting their money in property and looking for a future. I’m not saying all—there are still those that are living for the day. “I’ll make it tomorrow; I can make it up tomorrow.” And the next thing they know, tomorrows are getting slimmer and slimmer.
When I first came into the business, there were girls that I called lifetime girls. They came in at an early age. In this county when I came here the age was 21, so they’d been doing it usually before that. I called them lifers, meaning they worked until they couldn’t work anymore. Then they went wherever they went, because most of them didn’t save their money. Nowadays, the average lifespan is five years, maybe a little longer, depending on the houses and depending on the girl. But most girls are staying about five years.
RM: Not in one house, but in the business?
BD: In the business.
RM: So it’s an economic bridge?
BD: It’s an economic bridge. And how good she is and how well she can do the job determines how long she stays in this business. If she gets it right, and she plays her cards right, it’s five or six years. If not maybe ten, but no more than ten.
RM: So most girls don’t stay more than ten?
BD: The majority don’t.
RM: Is there variability about when they enter the business?
BD: Well, it depends. If you talk about street prostitution, they enter at the age of 12 and 13. If you talk about coming into houses, the earliest you can get into a house nowadays is 18, and that’s up north. I think Lyon County and Storey County are the only two counties that have 18-year-olds.
RM: What is the age in Nye County?
BD: Twenty-one. It was 18 when Bobbie was running the Buckeye in Tonopah, and then they went to 21, which I think is a good age. I think 18 is way too young. I mean, there are some very mature 18-year-olds, but if you go by what doctors say, the part of your brain that makes conscious decisions about right or wrong and the consequences doesn’t fully develop until you’re 25.
RM: Oh, I agree with that, or maybe 30.
BD: Some people, never. [Laughs] But to me, a girl at 18 is just too young. I know legally you’re an adult at 18, but basically the majority of them are still kids.
RM: Do they come from prostitution in some other format to the legal brothels, or do they come straight to the legal brothels?
BD: When I first started in ’92, most of the girls had been in some form of prostitution—either street prostitution, escorting, or other forms. Nowadays, a lot more girls are coming straight into the brothel system. Some have heard about the business and decide they want to give it a try. Some are disappointed because they don’t think it’s work, they think it’s just an easy way to make money. And it is work, you know. A lot of people say, “Oh, having sex for money isn’t work.” No, you go and do it for money and make your living in it—it’s work.
RM: You’re catering to a customer.
BD: Yes, you’ve got to cater. It’s just like sales. If you don’t sell anything that day, you don’t make any money and therefore you can’t pay your electric bill. So tell me it’s not work. The girls are coming in from all different walks of life now. I had a girl who had wealthy parents.
RM: Really? What was her motive?
BD: She just wanted to try it. She had heard about it and she decided she’d do it.
RM: Do you get girls calling you saying, “I’m not experienced but I would like to learn it.”
BD: Yes, and I tell them to come in. Like I said, I used to have bars. People would come in and they’d tell me all their bar experience. The one thing I learned was that you never knew anything until you put them behind the bar. It didn’t matter what their resume said; it’s when they got behind the bar that you saw what they were like under pressure.
We had a girl that came in one of our bars one time. She had a long dress that went down to her ankles and really thick glasses on and she looked like some little old orphan from somewhere. She wanted to apply and my husband knew that you never know so he put her behind the bar, and she was one of our best bartenders. The only reason she had the glasses on was she had ripped a contact. The next time she came in, she had her contacts in. And the dresses went over big with the guys. So she did quite well.
RM: What’s the learning curve for a girl coming into a brothel who has no experience in the sex trade compared to, say, somebody who’s been working as an escort in Vegas?
BD: It’s not a real high learning curve, unless they’ve never had sex before.
RM: You wouldn’t get a virgin, or would you?
BD: We have. I usually tell them to go home. I’m terrible. Other people would love them. I know one owner who has virgin auctions and all this kind of stuff, and I’ve had girls ask to do that. I’ve said, “No. When you lose your virginity, you want to do it with someone you semi-like. You may not love them but you want to at least like them. And after that, you can make up your own mind.” If they come and they are virgins I tell them, “Go home, and come back later.” I’ve had girls that do their first party and go in the bathroom and start throwing up. And I send them home.
RM: They’re so revolted by it?
BD: They think they can do it, and when they actually have to do it, all their little hang-ups come in and then they get sick. One girl said, “Oh, I can go it; just give me another chance.”
And I said, “No. If you’re reacting to this the way you are, one of two things is going to happen, probably. One is you’ll wind up hating men altogether. Two is you’ll probably either be on drugs or alcohol—to be able do your job, you’ll have to either be drunk or loaded.” I said, “If that’s what it takes to do your job, you need another line of work.” I’ve always told girls that if you have to drink to do this job, go find another line of work.
But that’s with any job. If you’re a waitress and you’ve got to get drunk before you can be a waitress, you need a new job. If you have to enhance or get yourself in the mood to go to work like that, then you need to find something different to do.
RM: Basically you have to be kind of a psychologist, don’t you? Is that a fair statement?
BD: Yes, in a way, because there’s a lot more talking than actual sex a lot of times. You’ve got to be sensitive to those people’s needs and what they’re talking about. Sometimes they tell you about a fantasy and you don’t want to burst out laughing and embarrass the poor person. So you’ve got to learn to just talk about it like “Oh, okay,” you know. And if it’s something you can’t do, you say, “I can’t do that but I do know someone that might,” and refer them to someone else.
RM: You’re probably really good at sizing people up, aren’t you?
BD: I try to think so. It’s come over years, from being shy to being everything. I think that’s something that develops in this business if you’re in it long enough. You pick up on movements and little quirks and you start thinking, “Where have I seen this before? Oh yeah, that was the guy that did. . . . ” and you start putting it all together. I think you pay more attention to what people do and say. And the best thing you’ve got to learn that most of what they say is bull. They’ll tell you all kinds of stories.
RM: Like how? They’ll tell you they’re rich or . . . ?
BD: They’re rich or they have family that’s rich or they don’t need to work or they’ve got plenty of money, and then they pull down their pants and they’ve got underwear that look like moths have been eating on it for six months. And you know that a guy that’s got money is not going to be wearing underwear that’s so worn out, or socks that have holes in them. We’ve seen them come in with suits on and black shiny shoes and big rings and stuff, trying to look. . . .
RM: They don’t do that now so much, or they do?
BD: I don’t see it as much as I used to, but it became a bad sign. The guys started thinking, “If you go in looking like that, then they think you’ve got more money and they jack up their prices.” [Laughs] So the guys now go the opposite way and try to look like they don’t have any money. But it doesn’t matter here because we post prices.
RM: You’ve got a set price here? It’s not what the girl can get from the guy?
BD: In a small house it can happen; it’s harder in a larger house. We had two girls that got together and decided that they were going to accept nothing lower than a certain amount, I believe it was $500 for a customer for any kind of a party.
RM: Just straight sex, in other words?
BD: And $500 was their lowest amount. Well, there was a third girl that had come in, and she had done other work at other places. She was used to, “Get what you can and be happy with it.” Well, they pressured her and pressured her, and finally she left. Then they decided they would go on vacation at the same time.
I sat down while they were gone, and I said, “This is what I’m going to do.” I wrote out an agreement, because there’s nothing in the state law that says they can’t make an agreement with me. I wrote down that if you do X, Y, and Z and you do it for this amount of time, it was this amount. When the girls came back, I said, “If you want to work here, this is the new deal.” And it’s worked out very well. The guys like it. There’s, in fact, another house that does it now and they like it, too.
RM: Which place is that?
BD: It’s Inez’s up in Elko. You know, 20 minutes is this much and 40 minutes is this much, and this is what you’re going to get, X, Y, and Z.
RM: There’s a question I’ve wondered about: It seems like over the years, the price of sex at a brothel has gone up way more than the cost of, say, cars or gasoline. I remember the first brothel I went to in ’57 in New Mexico was $3. And even in the ’60s, I think it was $5 for straight sex and $7.50 for half and half.
BD: It jumped up substantially.
RM: You expect prices to rise relative to something like the increase in the cost of gasoline, but that’s not true in this case. And meanwhile, we have a sex revolution where sex is supposedly easier to get. Can you explain why the prices are so much higher?
BD: What happened was a couple of brothels decided they were going to be high end so they wouldn’t let their girls accept anything under a certain amount. Most girls need some guidance when it comes to pricing. They’ll ask for the world, and they won’t budge. They say, “Well, I negotiate.” It’s not a negotiation when you say, “It’s $1,000” and he says, “Well, I only have $600,” and you go, “Well, it’s $1,000.” So that’s partially what happened. And they started asking, and getting, these fees.
Then they got to the point that I call the goddess thing—they put themselves on pedestals and decided that it was beneath them to do things under a certain amount. Again, this is not all women in the business, but a lot of the women. And that’s where the big increase in prices came, when Dennis Hof decided to show on HBO that girls were making $1,500 an hour and $2,000 an hour.
So girls started thinking, “Well, if she can get it, I’m prettier than she is, why can’t I get it?” What’s weird, though, is, like some other things, as the economy got bad, they didn’t adjust, they just lived on fewer customers. And in some cases, they even increased their prices.
It’s because the brothels say they don’t have any control; the girls can charge what they want. Well, that’s not true. All houses used to have a minimum. They claim to have a minimum now, but the problem is that nobody does the minimum. At one time I think the minimum at the Chicken Ranch was $200. Well, you won’t find a girl there that will do a $200 anything.
RM: That’s interesting. Back to the ’60s, when I was interviewing the young woman up at Bobbie’s, a straight quickie sex was 5 bucks. I used to come out to Nevada and work in the summers to get enough money to go back to college. Working on a union job out there, I was making roughly $25 a day. That means you could get five quickies for a day’s pay. You’d be making big money to do that now.
BD: There are some places now where you can’t get a party for a week’s pay. As I said, a few of the brothels wanted to be high end, and they would tell their girls, “You can’t accept less than $600, or you can’t accept less than . . . but you can go all the way up and then come back down. But this is the least you’re going to accept.” And by doing that, the girls went hog wild.
For a while, when the money was good, when Vegas was booming and growing like crazy, there were lots of people who had that kind of money. They’d come in and think nothing about plopping down $1,500 for an hour. Now, everybody’s gotten spoiled.
The girls of older days understood the ebb and flow. The new girls don’t. “I got this, this is what I always get, I should get it now, I got it six months ago, I got it a year ago, I got it two years ago, I should still be able to get it now.” What they’re not paying attention to is “Yeah, but the gentleman that paid you that now is getting half of what he did.” His salary has been cut in half and his bills are the same and gas has gone up and this has gone up.
Also what’s happened is apparently in some places, like in your day, you were talking about the $4 or $10 bucks and a girl was going to have to do 20 guys day; now she only has to do four or five guys.
RM: So it’s easier on the girl.
BD: It’s easier on the girl; you can’t argue with them on that. Instead of doing quantity, they do fewer but they charge more.
RM: When did that transition take place?
BD: I’m trying to think. When I first got here in the ’90s, I got a girl who could get $500. But the mine in Beatty was going full strength, and the miners were the same way—$500? I get $1,200 or $2,000 in a week, so $500 is nothing.
RM: The miners were making that?
BD: I don’t know how much they were making, but they were making enough that $500 to most of them was nothing.
RM: But I don’t think they were making enough to buy five parties with a day’s pay like it was in the ‘60s.
BD: They probably weren’t doing that, but they were happy with what they were doing. Then when the mine closed, it went back to you were just picking up people off the road, and that was a different thing again. Then the parties dropped back down to 20, 30, 40 bucks. When I first came here, my first posting of my prices was $40 for a quickie. And then it went to $50 and then it went to $60 and then . . .
RM: And what is it now?
BD: It’s $200 for 40 minutes.
RM: For $5, you’d have never got 40 minutes. You’d get 10 and then the bell would ring. [Laughs]
BD: Yes, I saw an old film that they made with the original owner of the Chicken Ranch; it was some kind of a documentary. It was interesting and funny, but I remember that one of the things in the Nye County brothel wars, at least according to the book that I read—I wasn’t here during those years—was that the Chicken Ranch wound up getting $20 for a quickie and this other guy was only getting $10 and he was pissed off because he couldn’t get $20. And that was starting to cause tension between the two. There is supposed to be a menu from the old Mustang. At one point, I guess the Mustang charged $1 a minute in the daytime and $1.50 at night. Now the parties are longer.
RM: Do you ever see it going back? I’ve wondered if it was like a real estate bubble. Is there a bubble in the price of sex?
BD: I keep thinking there might be, but it never seems to pop. It just seems to, in some places, get higher and higher. Although I hear now that at some of the houses, the girls have gone down to $300 or $400, but it’s not for an hour. It’s for 20 or 30 minutes.
RM: Is sex in a legal brothel becoming a more desired commodity?
BD: I think maybe in some areas it might be. But I think in the south, we’re having a real issue now because everybody’s turning basically a blind eye to what’s happening in Vegas as far as prostitution goes. They’re allowing illegal prostitution to go rampant.
RM: Why are they doing that?
BD: Because the casinos are having a hard time. If the casinos were bringing in regular income just from gambling, then they wouldn’t be. I’m not saying the casinos are getting kickbacks from the girls, but the girls keep the guys there, and that keeps them gambling. They’ve just turned a blind eye. I had a friend at one of the casinos who knows an owner and he said to the owner, “What is this? I can look around this room” that they were in, “and I see at least 10, 15 working girls.”
And the owner just said, “As long as they don’t cause trouble, we don’t do nothing.” A few years ago, that wasn’t the case.
RM: And you think the economy is driving that?
BD: I think it’s the economy. I was one of them that tried to get legal advertising; legal brothels can’t advertise in Vegas. We got it changed for about two years so you could and then the state attorney general fought us and fought us and she got it into California. California overturned the change we had made and the Supreme Court wouldn’t hear the case so we went back to not being able to advertise in Vegas. But by not doing so, what’s happened is you allow illegal prostitution to flourish. If you went on the street in Las Vegas and asked 90-some-odd people, probably almost all of them would think that it is legal there. Because with all these billboards, girls straight to your room, and so on.
RM: Cards and everything.
BD: And all the cards, they would think that it was legal because it is so open; there are 90-some-odd pages of escort services in the phone book. But they won’t let us advertise.
RM: Because they don’t want the competition?
BD: No. Years ago, I think sometime in the ‘70s, the state was having problems with the brothels advertising so they made it a state law that you couldn’t advertise in counties where prostitution wasn’t legal. That kept us out of Reno and Las Vegas.
RM: What problems were they having?
BD: I think it was just too much, too overt. They passed a law, and they put it to a vote, and the people said, yes, they didn’t want them doing it. And Vegas was getting their convention business started, and they thought if people thought that prostitution was legal in Vegas, the wives wouldn’t let their husbands come to the conventions. So they really tried to downplay it during that time.
But it’s interesting: While I can’t even put an ad in for a housekeeper in the Review-Journal because it’s technically advertising a brothel, up in the north and around the state capital, they’re in the phone book. If you go to Reno, you can find every brothel that’s up there in the phone book and yet, we can’t do anything down here. So the law isn’t equal. The attorney general, who lives up north, fought us down here but she continuously allows it to be done up there.
Truly, the taxi cabs in Reno even have advertising. They said, “They’re advertising their bar.” Well, the bar’s connected to the brothel. I mean, you go through a door and right into the brothel, and it’s the same name, but one is Wild Horse Brothel and one is Wild Horse Tavern. We can’t even do that down here. I had a bar when I first started, so I tried advertising just the bar. As soon as they found out it was connected with us, they yanked the ads.
RM: I’ve done some interviewing with a woman who worked as a very high-end prostitute out of the Bellagio and places like that. And they knew. She said if a girl came in looking kind of cheap, they’d throw her out. But this woman knew how to dress and knew how to act and, like you said, they wanted her in there because she would get a high-end client who was paying her $1,000 a night or whatever, and she helped hold him there. And that’s what they wanted.
BD: The rumor for years—again, the rumor—was that the houses had their own girls. Now, they would deny it, but the rumor is it was girls like you just described, girls who could pick high-enders who had lots of money and knew how to keep them playing. They would get them to the room, give them a little of what they wanted, and get them back down on the floor, gambling.
RM: But she was not being paid by the house.
BD: No, she wasn’t being paid.
RM: Basically, they tolerated her because she served their needs.
BD: Yes, they knew who she was. She was on the “Not to Bother” list. She had permission, basically. They didn’t pay her, you’re right, but she was a-okay to go there. If you came in, like you said, and you didn’t look the part or you were causing trouble or you were too loud or too drunk or whatever, then you got thrown out.
Look what happened down there. They started with the topless pools, and then one of them got shut down. They had a strip joint and they went in with a casino and opened a pool in the casino’s property for topless. The next thing you know, they’re getting shut down because the strippers are coming on their off hours and hanging out by the pool to pick up clients, not to do anything else.
RM: So they don’t want gamblers in Vegas coming out here because that’s just taking them away from their tables.
BD: Yes, that’s true. The other thing that has happened was they made it illegal in ’71. Before that, they couldn’t really arrest you for prostitution in Vegas because it wasn’t illegal. There was no state law making it, at the time, illegal or legal.
RM: How about city or county laws?
BD: They did that later on. Before ’71, there was nothing. All they could get you on was trespassing or disturbing the peace, little petty things. And most of the time, they didn’t bother you if you behaved yourself. But the casinos don’t want legal prostitution. We’ve tried a couple of times to move it into Clark County and the casinos fight us because they don’t want it there because of just what you said.
RM: Yes, they’re coming over to your joint rather than staying in their joint.
BD: Right. They don’t want them leaving their casino to go have fun. Again, that’s why they overlook the illegal girls who aren’t causing trouble—because they’re keeping the gamblers in their own casinos. Now, if a girl has a habit of taking guys out of the casino, they run her off. So it’s hypocritical in how it’s being done.
RM: Is the lid on to the point where it could be blown off?
BD: What’s coming and what will probably bust everything wide open is the trafficking.
RM: You mean children and so on?
BD: Children, and women who are being brought in from other places. Vegas is probably one of the major cities that trafficking happens in, and they know it. They’re starting to get a handle on it. They inform the ICE group that comes in, and so forth.
RM: Are these girls working as escorts or are they working the streets?
BD: Both; anywhere they can get in. In Vegas—and I question this all the time and nobody seems to want to address it too much—is where did we get all these Asian massage parlors where girls don’t speak English? Where do those girls come from?
RM: And they’re more than massage parlors?
BD: More than massage parlors.
RM: I’ve wondered the same thing. As you know, City Life magazine has sex ads and the massage ads are all Asians.
BD: They’re called Asian massage parlors now—AMPs.
RM: Are they doing it cheaper or it’s just that they’ve taken it over?
BD: They just kind of took it over, and I don’t really know how it got so out of control. But the question is, why are these girls there, and why is it they can’t speak English, and how much of a green card do they have, and why don’t you ever shut them down? What’s going to bring some things down, I think, is that there’s so much trafficking from all over the world. Girls are being pulled in from all over.
RM: In many cases against their will?
BD: Against their will. Some of them are young, underage, and they’re putting them on the street so some of the laws they want to change are good. If a girl’s underage, it doesn’t go on her record—I think that’s a good one. And a lot of the girls are underage. And there’s no medical check in Vegas. Some girls do it on their own, but most girls, unless they think something’s wrong, don’t check.
And half the time they don’t use condoms. They don’t like to use condoms because if they get arrested and they have a bunch of condoms in their purse, it’s evidence of what they were doing. Obviously, you’re not just going out with your boyfriend. A lot of girls don’t take the condoms because if they do get busted, that’s just one more strike against them.
RM: Do you get girls over the years who basically come here as a refuge from the brutality and difficulty of illegal prostitution?
BD: When they used to do sweeps in Vegas and really crack down, the girls would get off the streets for a while. They’d come into the houses and hide out until it was safe for them to go back out on the street. That doesn’t happen so much anymore because basically it’s a revolving door now. You go in one door and fill out your paperwork, pay your fine, and go out the other door and you’re back.
RM: And nothing happens?
BD: Well, you go to court later, and the judge decides what to give you, but it’s usually probation, no time, a fine, and that’s it.
RM: So the judge may be functioning as a part of this system we’re talking about?
BD: I don’t know about that. What they say is you can’t arrest them all and put them in jail, and that’s true. But if you actually arrested somebody and said, “Okay, first offense, you get two weeks in the county jail; second offense, 30 days in prison,” if word gets out that now you’re going to go to jail . . . right now they know they won’t go to jail other than whatever it takes to get them bailed out and get them out the door. Then they go to court, the judge says a $500 fine or a $50 fine and six months’ probation, and the girl stays clean. If they actually started putting teeth into it and said, “Your first time you’re going to at least spend seven days in jail, or two weeks.”
They say they can’t put them in jail because they don’t have the room. But I’m telling you, I know these girls. Some of them have kids. Some of the girls that come in are what we call weekend warriors. They come in from other states and just work the weekends in Vegas.
And if she got arrested and she’s some schoolteacher in California, that’s going to really do her in. If they knew that they could be put in jail, or even if they put up things telling people that prostitution is not legal in the city and not in this county, and if the escort people had to put something in the center of each of the pages of the phone book that prostitution is not legal, you’d see a big change.
RM: If they put up signs, say billboards, coming into Vegas and at the airport saying, “Prostitution is not legal,” Vegas would have an image change, and its status as a fun place would drop. Would you agree with that?
BD: No, because prostitution just is part of it. I mean, they let you know about other things. For a long time, drinking and driving wasn’t a big thing in Clark County or in Las Vegas.
RM: Or anywhere.
BD: Or anywhere, especially in towns that wanted tourists. They wanted you to be here, and if you got drunk, if you were too bad and they couldn’t send you somewhere, they’d put you in a jail cell for overnight till you sobered up. No, I don’t think it would hurt if they just let people know. Because some people just don’t know and they break the law technically without knowing they are breaking the law. Those people would stop. Now, the others that are going to do it anyway, they’re going to do it, but they would think twice before they’d do it. The thing that’s unfair is that the girls get put in jail and get a record. The guys go scot-free. He broke the law, too.
Now, there are things like trick-rolling going on in Vegas. Girls go in and pick up a guy, the guy takes her back to a room, he hands her some money, and ten minutes later there’s a big bang on the door. They open the door and in come two big, burly guys. They grab ahold of the girl and the money, and out they go. And the guy can’t do anything because if he goes to the police, he’s committed a crime and the police will tell him that. It’s a misdemeanor, but they will file a misdemeanor against him. And the guys don’t want that so they just wind up losing the money, or getting hurt if they try to defend it.
You don’t hear about it much, but there are girls that still wind up in mattresses and air conditioning vents and black bags. Every once in a while, they’ll bring it to the surface and it calms it down a little bit, but it happens all the time. The truth of the matter is when a girl is out on her own, she is not safe. I don’t care how smart she thinks she is, how strong she thinks she is, what kind of self-defense she has taken, she’s not safe. Because you can walk in that room, look around and there’s nobody there but you and that guy, and ten minutes later ten more guys walk in. And what are you going to do? She can scream, but she may or may not be heard.
RM: The woman I was recently interviewing told me she’d worked in Vegas and been in on a bust, got beat up by the cops and any number of things. She said one time she was working in a Nye County joint and driving back to the brothel after being away for a while. She came to the county border and had an epiphany, feeling, “Oh I’m safe now; I feel different. I feel like I’m home because in a brothel here, I don’t have to worry about that kind of thing.” What is your take on that?
BD: I think she’s probably not the first one that’s ever had that experience. The first time I really realized it, a cop came to my door one night and rang my doorbell. I opened the door, and there’s a full uniformed policeman standing there. All I can see over his shoulder is my red light blinking and I’m thinking, “Oh, crap.” It took me a second to realize, “He’s not here for a raid; I have a license on the wall over here.” So I asked him what he was there for.
He said, “I patrol out here. I just wanted to introduce myself. My name is so-and-so.”
I said, “Well, if you ever need a cup of coffee or something, let me know, and we’ll do it.”
And he said, “Fine.” And that’s all it was. It was an introduction.
When we first moved here, we didn’t have real phones. We had a Riggs number and the operator had to connect all the calls like you see on “Andy Griffith” where they ring the thing.
RM: Oh, the crank phone?
BD: Yes. We didn’t have the crank, but when we picked up the phone, an operator would come on and you’d tell her what you wanted. During that time, the system was so bad that if we had a storm, it went out and we wouldn’t know it was out unless we called or something. The police would come out from Beatty and ask about a certain girl and I’d go, “She’s here; you want to talk to her?”
And they’d go, “We just wanted to check on her. Her family is looking for her and your phone wasn’t working, and they were worried.”
And I’d say, “Oh, we had that storm and our phones are probably out.” I always felt so sorry because they had to drive all the way out here from Beatty just to tell us our phone wasn’t working.
RM: But that makes you feel safer, doesn’t it, and it makes the girls feel safer.
BD: And if we go into town and a policeman walks by, we don’t cringe. In fact, we may joke with him, depending on who he is and how well we know him. That’s the way it is; it’s no big deal.
It’s the same thing—the very first girl I had, the rooms had listening devices from back a long time ago so the girls didn’t cheat the houses. I heard this girl saying, “Well, you want this, it’s going to be this much, and if you want this, it’s going to be this much, if you want this combined with this, it’s. . . .”
In my head I’m going, “Oh my God, she can’t do that! I’ll get arrested. What if he’s a cop?” And then I started laughing, and I thought, “Oh, it’s okay.” That was from years of thinking, “Oh my God, he might be a cop and you’re telling him all this stuff.” I started laughing because there’s a license on the wall that says she was doing perfectly fine.
RM: And that’s the beauty of the legal system in Nye County.
BD: Police in most systems, as far as I’ve heard, are their friends where prostitution is legal. There’s no problem between the two. If you’re illegal, then you look at that person as an enemy. You don’t look at them as somebody you could go to if something did happen.
RM: The woman I was interviewing told me that there’s always a background of anxiety. It may not be strong, but it’s always there. Is this a bust? Am I going to get beat up?
BD: Yes, you always have that question in your head. Is this something that’s going to turn into something else? But you know now if something happens, you can go to the police. It’s like one guy one time out here got smart with me. I said, “You know what’s going to happen? Nothing stops me from calling the cops.”
And he goes, “Yeah, so?”
I said, “I’ll tell you what’s going to happen, and you may think different. They’re going to come, they’re going to hear the situation, and they’re going to take you and put you in jail. You’ll sleep in the cell tonight and then they’ll release you, and you’ll be told when to appear for your court date. I’ll sleep in my nice, warm bed. When I have to go to court, I drive 30 miles into Beatty and whatever the judge says is what’s going to happen. You’re going to have to either get another plane and fly back to Beatty or whatever. So we can do this one of two ways. You can just calm down and leave, or I can go in and make the phone call.”
And he left. He was cussing all the way but he left. Girls that are illegal can’t do that.
RM: That’s right. They’re at the guy’s mercy.
BD: In fact, it can work the other way. The guy can say, “If you don’t do what I say, I’m going to call the cops and tell them that you ripped me off,” or whatever. Then she becomes at his mercy, too.
But here, it was just funny because that guy was probably so used to working with illegal systems that when I told him, “I’m not afraid of the cops,” he didn’t know how to deal with that. I’ve had two guys like that in 19 years.
RM: That’s very few, isn’t it?
BD: Yes. One guy didn’t want to wear a condom. I said, “It’s state law.” He was fussing about it. I said, “Look, I can give you your money back and the party’s over.”
And he goes, “No, I don’t want to do that, either. I’m going to go to the police about this.”
I said, “Okay,” and I told him where they were. (They were at their old place in Beatty.) I said, “When you get into Beatty and you get to the light, turn right, and go to the first street and turn left, and it’s the first block building on your right.”
Well, he left and he said, “I’m going to call them. I’ve got a cell phone.”
I said, “Their number is. . .” And I tried giving him the number. He looked at me so funny. Again, I said, “Look, this is what’s going to happen. They’ll take your report. I’ll stay here. You’ll go wherever you’re going to go. They’ll call you back for your court date. And if the judge says I owe you some money, he’ll say ‘Bobbi, give him his money,’ and I’ll give it to you. But in the meantime, nothing’s going to happen. You’re not going to get your money today. Now, I can give you your money back just because I want to, or you can be nasty and do all this other stuff and then let the judge say if I owe it to you.”
He just kind of sat there and looked at me for a while. I said, “Don’t threaten me with the cops because I didn’t do anything, or I didn’t think I did anything. I go 30 miles to Beatty and sit there for an hour and wait. And you’ve got to take a plane and fly in or drive in or whatever and do all that. If you don’t show up, I’ll go and have a nice lunch and come back home.”
Because they’re used to the illegal system, they think that they can just throw that at you and you automatically panic. When you don’t, they really don’t know how to handle it because their recourse of threatening you is gone.
RM: Yes, they’ve lost their power.
BD: Yes, and they don’t know what to do. And that’s what I like. When the new sheriff took over, he did a complete brothel inspection—he had his men go to all the brothels. There were certain things they were supposed to look for, to make sure we were following the rules, that we had the right signs up, we had the right this and that. One of the deputies that I know quite well luckily was the one that came out here. I said, “Oh, I’m glad I got you.”
And he said, “I’m glad I got you, too” because he said it was either that or another place and he really didn’t want the other place because they’d had a run-in. They were running escorts and they got caught. The officer was involved in that so he didn’t want to go in there and face that owner again. He walked around and he did all his stuff. And he said, “Can I talk to the girls?”
I said, “Sure.” And we took him back to where the girls live. He was back there and he talked to some of them there.
One was in her room and she came out. I said, “This gentleman would like to talk to you.” He was in plain clothes, although he had his badge and so on, but unless you looked, you didn’t know. She kind of looked at me because they don’t do business back in their rooms, they do it out here.
And she goes, “Okay. Did you clear it with the boss?”
And he said, “Yeah.”
She said, “Well, if you cleared it with the boss, I guess it’s okay.” So she goes back and she goes into her little spiel about how much it’s going to cost and stuff, and he lets her.
Then he goes, “I better explain something to you and tell you who I am,” and he pulled out his badge and his ID. She said she just sank on that bed. He told her, “I’m not a customer,” and then he told her what he was here for. Then it was fine.
But when she came out, she looked at me and said, “I’m going to kick your ass.” And I laughed. Because we all knew. We were laughing up front because we knew what she was doing, and she didn’t know he was a cop.
BD: It’s just a good relationship. In communities where prostitution is illegal, they’re a drain on the community for law enforcement to have to try to keep them under control. In communities where prostitution is legal, they actually benefit the community. Our fees go to pay the ambulance and some of the services in Nye County. Plus, now they had a fee increase, and it goes to the Veterans Administration.
RM: Yes, I read that.
BD: So instead of taking money out, the brothels actually put it back into the county. Plus, they do their own giving. Each house has their favorite charities or their favorite things they donate to also. So it benefits everyone. The girls are safe. The girls are clean. The girls don’t get beat up unless they get beat up by another girl; they don’t get beat up by a customer. They have security. They don’t have to worry that this guy’s going to do anything. If the police come in for any reason, they’re not being arrested. The police don’t come very often, but if they do, it’s some other matter. It’s just safe.
Like in the story of the Chicken Ranch—it said that Mona’s Place was three miles outside of town, just far enough to keep everybody friendly, meaning the houses are just far enough away that they kind of keep everybody on friendly terms—they’re not in anybody’s faces. Unless you go out the end of Homestead in Pahrump, you wouldn’t even know where they were. I’m pretty much isolated out here. Most people tell me they forget I’m out here because there’s nothing to go to out here.
RM: With the advantages you’ve described here for legalized prostitution, why is the rest of society so unaccepting and, I would say, irrational about the whole topic?
BD: It’s legal in this state, but there’s been several times that we’ve tried to get taxed. The state has no tax on us. The state actually benefits very little from us. The way they benefit is because the fees from the houses wind up going to things for the counties that the state doesn’t have to come up with money to do.
But as far as the state actually getting dollars from us, they get very little. Several times, like now, when they’re cutting back so much, the houses have actually volunteered to be taxed. And they won’t do it. One guy—I’m not sure who he was, a senator or something—pretty much said that they were afraid, by taking brothel money, that it would taint the clean funds they get from gambling and mining.
And I’m going, what the hell? So gambling’s okay but prostitution is tainted? What about liquor? Is that tainted? There’s a big ad right now in Vegas with kids saying if you raise the tax on cigarettes by so much and put it toward the schools, we would have this much money. I guess that’s not tainted, having kids talking about trying to tax cigarettes. But brothel money is considered by our legislature as being tainted.
RM: It’s because of sex, right? What is it about our American civilization that makes it like that?
BD: I think it’s the Puritan beginnings. A lot of the first people who came were religious groups that were being ostracized, like the Puritans and the Quakers. I think we have a strong basis that way. And for some reason, we still are very immature when it comes to sex. We giggle at a few things that really aren’t funny, but we still do it. Even I do it, and I’ve been in this business a long time. I think they look at sex outside of marriage as being something a little bit tainted.
And you’re right, we’re one of the few countries that takes such a strong hold on it. I mean, even Japan has a red light district. I think the only place that doesn’t is China, and give them time and they’re going to probably have one, too. Even some of the most religious, or what you consider religious, places like Rome and some of the Catholic nations have a different attitude towards it. I don’t know how we got so far from it, when there’s probably not a very few Americans that don’t do it at one time or another. It’s putting money on it that really gets it.
Americans became better about the free love thing, but women are still tainted. A guy goes out and has 20 girls in a night and he’s a good ’ole boy. A girl does that and she’s an absolute slut. I mean, it might have been her that he did it with, but she’s terrible. So there’s that stigma.
RM: Have you seen an evolution in these attitudes in the time you’ve been in both the escort and the brothel?
BD: As far as escorts, what I ran and what they have in Vegas were two different animals. I think that most of the escorts in Vegas are rip-offs.
RM: In what way?
BD: Well, they’re not giving them what they say they’re going to give. The girls come there, they’re supposed to dance, and half the time she doesn’t dance, she just hits them up for more money. It’s kind of seedy, for the most part. There may be some that aren’t that way, but the ones I see are pretty seedy operations. Even in the escort world, if you go to escort sites, you see that most places prefer girls who don’t work for an agency. They want girls that work for themselves because agencies have developed a negative image that they’re just rip-offs—bait and switch.
RM: Including Vegas?
BD: Oh, especially Vegas. Vegas has the reputation of being the worst. As far as this business, when I first came here they were talking about traditions. Over the last 20 years, there’s been a guy, George Flint, who runs the Brothel Association, which is something that sounds much more important than it really is. He’s got several of the bigger brothels involved in donating to his causes. He’s been a lobbyist for years, but he thinks 20 years behind the times.
RM: How is he thinking versus how he should be thinking in today’s terms?
BD: For one thing, when everybody was going on computers, he was telling everybody, “Be careful of what you do on this thing.” It took somebody to really show him what was already out there—what escort sites were doing versus what we were doing—for him to even know that there was such a thing going on, that there was really a revolution. I think in this time and age, we’re really probably in for the fight of our lives.
RM: Over what?
BD: Over who stays and who goes, whether the houses will stay or go. Not because anybody wants to get rid of us, per se, but because of the lack of control that Las Vegas is showing, allowing it to go crazy, allowing escorts to run openly and be interviewed in the papers. Even Playboy ran a big article about one of the most famous escorts in Vegas. Again, they have put handcuffs on the legal business and said you can’t advertise and you can’t do all these things, and yet the illegal business can do just about whatever it wants. It’s putting a strain on the legal businesses.
RM: How do you see that fight unfolding and how are you dealing with it?
BD: I’d hate to see the only state in the United States with legal prostitution, Nevada, lose what it has. As I said, I’ve been on both sides, and I really believe in legal versus illegal. It’s safer, it’s cleaner. If you’re going to have it—and you are going to have it—you might as well legalize it and tax it and use the money for other things.
I see a battle because, like I said, they’re tying the hands of a legal business and saying, “You can’t advertise, you can’t put your word out there and show people there’s a different way.”
So everybody’s just thinking, “All we can do is escorts. This is the only thing that is out there.” And it’s not.
RM: So you see legal prostitution as being eroded away by this?
BD: I can see it. When I came here, there were 27 brothels, I think, in the state, and there’s less than that now by quite a bit.
RM: There’s less in Nye County.
BD: Tonopah lost Bobbie’s Buckeye, and then Mina, and that one that’s open half the time. Then you get into Reno, because Churchill County doesn’t have them any anymore. They had the Salt Wells Villa and the Lazy B, but both of those have been gone for years. And even though the people voted two to one, which I thought was a amazing thing, to keep prostitution legal in their county when they didn’t have an open brothel, every time somebody tries to put a brothel in there, they make it so hard on them that they can’t.
I’m not saying that they’ll all go away. I’m just saying that brothels have either got to change and the state has got to go along with it or . . . If brothels stay doing business like they did 150 years ago, and some of them still try that, it’s not working. Things have changed. People have changed. Ideas have changed. I got a big flap because I got men involved.
RM: Yes, I want to talk about that at some point.
BD: I got the men involved. I’m George Flint’s enemy because of that.
RM: Really? Why?
BD: Because he’s 20 years behind the thinking. He swore up and down if I did that, when the legislators met they were going to outlaw us. Well, the legislators met and never brought it up. When I did the advertising, he fought me on that.
RM: You mean advertising in Clark County?
BD: Yes, to be able to advertise. He fought it, and said the same thing. “You do that and the legislators will meet and they’ll cut us out.” We got it, the legislators met, and they never brought us up. I think he thinks that technically we’re as fragile as we might have been years and years ago, but we’re not as fragile as I think he thinks we are. The reason is because, when Harry Reid said he wanted to shut down the brothels, he got nothing. It was dead silence, nobody said anything, and it never went anywhere.
I think for the first time he saw how much support we have because people came out in the paper saying Harry Reid was crazy and so on. So far, I’ve never gotten bad reviews about all the things that I’ve done that George Flint has fought so hard against. I mean, nobody’s ever told me from the public that I was doing anything crazy. It’s always come from that organization. I don’t belong to the organization so it doesn’t matter.
RM: What’s the name of the organization?
BD: The Nevada Brothel Association. It’s really not an association. They’re supposed to meet and they’re supposed to vote. They haven’t really met in years, and they don’t vote. Basically it’s some of the biggest brothels in the state that have banded together. They hire George Flint and he goes to the legislature and if anything comes up on the brothels he tries to limit it or whatever he can do. Like I said, he’s 20 years behind. I mean, it’s pretty sad when you have a lobbyist who can’t get a state that needs money to tax you when you want to be taxed. So how strong of a lobbyist are you?
RM: Yes, and they’re cutting back on the schools at the same time.
BD: They’re cutting back on the schools, and yet, you can’t explain to the legislature why taxing the brothels would be a good idea. That’s pretty sad. The first time it came up, they really didn’t need the money. Well, now they really need the money and they still won’t do it.
Now there are two things going on. The people that are refusing the money are stupid and the person who is supposed to be helping the brothels is not strong enough to convince these people of anything. Why are we cutting the schools to the bare bones when there is a pocket of money sitting that you could get, and that’s willing to give it to you?
RM: Where do you see prostitution in Nye County, let’s say, in 20 years, if you were looking in your crystal ball?
BD: My crystal ball is cracked. I’m really not sure. It’s going to be a struggle, I think. I think they’ll still be here for the most part, but. . . .
RM: Nye County will still have legal prostitution in 20 years?
BD: I think so, unless something really drastic goes haywire or some big, big industry comes in, and that might wipe us out because then they don’t need our money at all. The truth is you’re only as good as what your value is to the county in any business. As long as the brothels contribute, and as long as there’s a brothel, we’ll probably be here. In 20 years, I won’t. Oh, I probably will, sitting out there in the rocking chair, rocking.
RM: Sometimes I think that Nevada, and specifically Nye County, is actually the leading edge of a trend because we here are more like northern Europe, which socially is one of the most progressive parts of the world. They deal with prostitution much more reasonably over there. And that’s going to catch on in this country as we get over our Puritanism.
BD: I hope it will for the simple fact that, like I said, legal is just safer for everyone. And it’s no drain on the community; it’s an asset. I always commended Nevada for taking vices and, instead of trying to bury them, put them out there and dress them up and make money off of them.
RM: Yes, make it respectable in the community. Bobbi, let’s go back and pick up where you were running the escort service in Southern California. What did you do after you’d stopped that?
BD: Once they did the raid, I just shut it all down and abandoned it. We moved to the coast down in Carlsbad, California and I was a housewife and that kind of thing. I loved the coast. I used to love to go out and watch the dolphins. But they were sneaky, because you’d go out in the water and they’d come and bump you. The seals would do it, too. You know, you can’t see any deeper than an inch in California water. They’d come by you and bump you and it would scare you because you didn’t know what it was—you didn’t know if it was a shark testing out the waters—so you’d go scurrying out of the water. Then all of a sudden you’d see a little seal head pop up or you’d see a dolphin in a wave, and you knew they were just playing. They were wild animals but they’d play their little games. Unfortunately, their little games in the water weren’t fun for me because I didn’t know what they were.
RM: How long did you have the escort service?
BD: I had it probably for ten years off and on.
RM: Did it do pretty well?
BD: It did well. It was more word of mouth as far as the customers went. Most of our clientele had been referrals or were recommended or met me somewhere and that kind of thing.
RM: Did you enjoy the business before the raid?
BD: I enjoy everything. I enjoy this business. It was not very different than this business except now everything’s more self-contained and legal. In fact, I like this a lot better because of that. Once you are legal side and you stop worrying about the law, it’s a much more peaceful way of doing business.
RM: The woman I was telling you about who I’ve been interviewing had a really interesting way of screening people. She claimed it worked. She said if a guy acted like he was interested, she would say, “Let me see your penis.” She said a cop will not show his penis.
BD: I’ve always heard that—and asking to see it is not against the law. And if they can’t expose themselves. . . I thought if they were undercover they couldn’t drink. I found out later that’s not true, that they can drink undercover. Most of the time, it was a feeling. Over the years, I had developed a strong feeling. There are things that happen in every situation that are different but similar; they follow a pattern. And when that pattern starts varying a little bit, then you start wondering, “Why is it going this way?” When the questions change or when the guy’s not hands-on, or he’s a little standoffish . . . because there are certain things that the police do. So if you watched and listened to your gut. . . .
Like I said, I only got in trouble once and the reason I got caught was that I didn’t listen to my gut. I thought this was a bad situation. But before I could say, “You know what, I don’t think this is a good thing, I think there’s something going on that I don’t think I want to be a part of,” he flashed his badge and that was the end of that. And I said, “Oh, man.” I should have just listened to my gut. I tell girls all the time, “Even if you think you’re just being paranoid, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Even here, if the guy acts a little out of sorts, just drop him.”
RM: What would be an example of a guy breaking a pattern that would arouse your suspicions?
BD: That’s hard to say; it’s very subtle. If something is not going the way it would normally go, or if the guy’s not acting quite right. Most guys, once they’ve made the deal, start being very touchy but the cops don’t do that. They start letting you make all the movements. And then, you have people asking you for drugs, and most guys don’t do that. If the guy is into drugs, he brings his own. I never was into that so I always said, “It’s not allowed in my establishment, so take it elsewhere.”
And that was what the policeman did. He asked if I had any cocaine. I said, “I don’t do drugs and you’re not going to do them, either.” That was about the time I was thinking, “This is going somewhere I don’t want to be part of.”
Because he said, “Well, I think I have some,” and he reached in his pocket.
I was about to say, “Look, let’s call it a day and just quit,” and he flashed the badge and everything. If I’d stuck with my feelings, I’d have been fine.
RM: Your feelings are usually right?
BD: I don’t know how good they’d be anymore because I’ve been on the legal side and I didn’t have to be that cautious. But when you were on the illegal side, you really developed second senses and a sixth sense about people. These little warning flags just start popping up in your mind.
The reason they couldn’t get me on anything is I never said anything that was confounding. They got me in the sweep, but they didn’t get me saying I would do any kind of sexual service for money. My lawyer got it thrown out.
When they do these sweeps they hope to get girls that don’t have any money, who can’t get a lawyer so they just plead guilty, pay the little fine, and go on their way. When you get a lawyer like I had who, at that time, was a very expensive lawyer and was well known in the town, “This is not going to just blow over. This one’s going to be a fight.” And they didn’t have anything to fight with. They usually don’t but the girls are usually so embarrassed, so ashamed, whatever, that they just want to get it over with. And like I said earlier, the fines are usually so small and there’s no jail time—it’s usually a fine and three or four months’ probation, six months’ probation—and you’re on your own.
RM: What if they get busted while on probation?
BD: One girl that I knew that was on probation, her judge told her that if she got busted while she was on probation it would be the six months plus another six months in jail. So she would get a year.
RM: Getting back to what you said yesterday, how does society benefit from incarcerating a woman for a year? I mean, that’s expensive.
BD: They have to feed her, clothe her, give her medical, the whole thing. And in some instances, if she has children then the state has to take care of her children. So arresting these women and putting them in jail isn’t a good thing.
But if they did, if there was always jail time, there’d be fewer women doing it. The women know that they’re not going to go to jail, they’re just going to get a fine and probation, that’s nothing. If they knew that, “Not only are you going to pay this fine, but you’re going to go to jail and if you have children you’re going to wind up owing the state for taking care of your children during this time and/or you may lose your children during this time.” If they did more on the lines of that, the women would back away. And if they went after the men. . .
RM: Do you believe they should go after the men?
BD: I do think they should go after them. They’re breaking the law just like she is.
RM: Why does society single the girl out versus the man, in your view?
BD: In my view, it’s because they believe that these women are transients and that they don’t contribute to anything—they don’t have businesses, they don’t have families, they don’t have anything that society holds as being special. It’s just like a lot of mass murderers will go after a streetwalker. Why? Because she won’t be missed for a long time and nobody’s going to be looking for her.
They think the same thing about these girls—that most of them don’t have a family, although a lot of them do. Whereas they think the man has got a business, he’s got his wife, his kids. Why ruin his life? Well, why ruin her life? Just because she chose that as a way to make a living, he chose to participate but you choose not to punish him because his wife will find out. It might cause a divorce. He may lose his job. In their eyes, the girl doesn’t lose anything.
RM: And she’s probably not a voter, and the guy might vote.
BD: Yes. And she doesn’t probably pay taxes on the money she’s making, which is not always the case. A lot of the girls do pay taxes, though probably not as many as don’t pay their taxes. The ones who do pay are the smart ones because everybody that’s ever gotten in trouble in this business has been gotten through the IRS coming after them for tax evasion. That was what closed down the Mustang Ranch.
Most people don’t understand that when you go to the IRS and tell them what you do for a living, they don’t care. All they want is the money. They’re not there to judge you. If you tell them you’re an exotic dancer, they don’t care. If you tell them you’re a prostitute, actually they don’t care. They’re not going to arrest you for that, although it does leave a written record that you’ve admitted to it. The truth is, there is no federal law against prostitution. If there was a federal law against it, the state of Nevada wouldn’t be able to have it.
RM: The girl that I recently interviewed was happy to be working in a Nye County brothel and paying taxes; she was fully legitimate in that regard as well.
BD: The state doesn’t get a lot of money from that because there’s no state income tax. But we do pay federal taxes, so the feds make money. But the state makes no money, really. Everybody says, “Oh, how about all the people that come in for the brothels?” Well, most people don’t come just for the brothels. They come in for gambling, they come in for Lake Mead, they go skiing at Tahoe. So to break it down and say, “Well, this much goes to here,” and how much the brothels actually bring into the state is another question.
But like I said, the counties benefit. They get money to run their programs that the state doesn’t have to give them, so it’s easier on the state in that respect. But as far as the state actually making beaucoup money off of it, which everybody thinks they do, they don’t.
RM: But the girls are spending their money and paying sales tax.
BD: Yes, it benefits that way but there’s no direct link to the state. If there was a state license . . . there’s a state gaming license and they get so much from that. There’s just a county license, basically.
RM: Do you see a state license in the future?
BD: I would like to see something. People think I’m crazy because I say that. I’m really probably more of a libertarian at heart—I would like to see less government and less interference. But in some cases, I can see the benefits of having government intervention and this is one of them because if the state is making money off of something, it’s less likely to get rid of it. If we were paying either a state tax or a state license fee, there would probably be a less likely chance of somebody wanting to put a bill out there that would wipe us out of existence.
RM: Do you see that tax situation happening down the road?
BD: Not unless our legislators grow up. Like I said, they tax liquor, they tax cigarettes, they tax gaming, but they won’t tax the brothels because that’s tainted money. Now on a religious basis, the other things are sins also, so why is this the only one that’s tainted? It’s no more tainted than the gaming money.
BD: All they did with gaming was dress it up and make it look nice and bring it uptown. Years and years ago, gaming casinos weren’t much different than the brothels today. They were little places that kind of did their thing. Then corporations started coming in and really started changing them. Until then, they were just small places, you know.
RM: And actually, a lot of fun.
BD: And actually crooked. The roulette wheel was crooked, everything was crooked. When the mob came in, they played legitimate games because they knew that the odds were in their favor and they knew they didn’t have to steal from the individual. Now, they did skim and hide money from the federal government but they didn’t steal from you.
RM: Just as an aside, I’ve talked to a lot of old-timers who claim that Vegas was better when it was run by the mob.
BD: I’ve heard that so many times. I started going to Vegas in the ’70s and there was still a little bit of the old thing. They treated you so well. As long as you came and spent your money and had a good time and drank and didn’t cause them any trouble, you were fine.
Of course, back then everybody was on the take, too. If you wanted a good seat at a show you had to tip out a good chunk to get it. Steve Wynn kind of changed that with some of the theaters that he did; now you just buy a ticket and that’s your seat, and you can pick out where you want your seat to be. I remember those days, you handed the guy a $50 or a $100 and got a good seat.
I remember seeing Siegfried and Roy before they were famous. They were an opening act for somebody, Señor Wences, and I remember that they had this tiger. I can’t remember what casino it was in. In the showroom there was a ledge and they had tigers up on those ledges. This lady was having a fit because this one tiger was reaching down and swiping at her hand. He was that far from her but he was fully chained and he couldn’t go any farther, so there was no way he was ever going to reach her. But she was just going nuts so they moved her, and we were all laughing. They made an elephant disappear, which made me think, “Wow, how can you do that?”
RM: So you had your escort service for around ten years and then you moved.
BD: Once the raid happened, I thought I was pushing my luck because eventually they would get me, and eventually there would be jail time. I didn’t want to do a Heidi Fleiss thing, although I did pay my taxes—I always paid taxes—so I quit and we moved to the coast.
RM: How long were you there?
BD: Three or four years. My husband had changed professions. He thought he was going to quit drafting and sell cars. The car business didn’t do as well as we thought it was going to do and it was very expensive to live there. He thought maybe it was just time for him to retire. I said, “I’m not ready.” I was 40-something.
He said, “Well, what do you want to do?”
I said, “You know what I want to do.”
And he said, “If you’re going to do that, you’re going to do it where it’s legal.”
And I said, “Okay.” And we started calling around. I called Clark County first and they said it wasn’t legal there but it was legal in the next county over, which was Nye County. I also called up in Ely and Elko and Winnemucca and Lyon and got all their rules and regulations.
RM: Did you come up here for a visit first?
BD: As we were trying to figure everything out money-wise and so on I said, “Maybe there’s one for sale.” So we called the lady we were dealing with and she said there was one.
RM: This is in Nye County?
BD: Yes. She said Bobbie’s Buckeye was for sale in Tonopah, so we went up there. Well, we found out after several months that it was hung up in an escrow situation. We fought around with that for a while, and then the judge told the owners to make up their minds. So the original buyer got it.
I said, “Now we’ve got to find a place,” because we’d moved here.
RM: So you were living in Tonopah with the idea of buying the Buckeye? Do you remember how much they were asking?
BD: I think it was $150,000 or something. I asked a real estate agent, who became my friend later, if that was a good deal. And she kind of smiled and she said, “I think there’s room for improvement on that deal.” So I knew that there was wiggle room.
RM: You know, my dad built that. In fact, I helped him a little bit before I got a job out on the Test Site.
BD: Oh, how interesting. Well, when that didn’t happen, it was time to find a place that would survive. We didn’t want to go too far north because of the cold; my husband has arthritis, and the cold affects it. And I don’t like heat, so we were trying to find someplace that wasn’t too hot and too cold, kind of like Goldilocks and the soup, you know—something that was just right.
And we’d driven by this place several times and they had a sign out that said “For Sale.” What we didn’t know is what was for sale was a bus. He had a school bus and he was trying to sell it, but he said he did have property for sale—it was that piece of land out there.
RM: Out in front?
BD: Yes, and he’d already sold that piece over there. He sold another piece that he had over there to his brother. So, it was either the front piece or that one. Well, the front piece didn’t quite qualify because a brothel has to be 900 feet off the road. That would have put me way back in the very back corner and I would have eventually been right on top of the people who moved into that corner. I didn’t like the idea of having all that land and not being able do anything with it—I couldn’t add on because I couldn’t go towards the road. So we talked to him about this piece, and it was kind of a backup piece. We also talked to Fran about possibly buying her place.
RM: You met Fran, then?
BD: Yes, I met Fran a couple of times. She came here one time to visit, once we were no longer competitors (she had sold her place) and she looked around and said, “This is nice.”
I said, “Fran, I learned everything from you,” which I did.
RM: How did you learn from her?
BD: I just listened to what people would say about how Fran handled different things and I watched her a lot. I saw how she dealt with people in town and what kinds of things she volunteered to do and how she was thought of in town.
RM: She was loved, wasn’t she?
BD: Oh, very much so. She and Bobbie; Bobbie Duncan was very loved in Tonopah. They just thought the world of Bobbie. Between what I knew about Fran and about Bobbie, I kind of molded what I was going to do based on that.
RM: How many acres did you buy?
BD: I have 40 here.
RM: Do you want to say how much you paid for it?
BD: At the time, I paid $11,000, and the guy that bought the other one paid $25,000 for it.
RM: When was that?
BD: A few years ago.
RM: How did the land go into private ownership? Was it Desert Land Entry property?
BD: I’m not really sure how that happened. My understanding is they were growing stuff on it at one time. There’s a piece over here that’s 150 acres and it still has the wheels on it and has an irrigation well. Nobody’s growing anything on it now, but at one time something was being grown on it.
RM: So it was kind of a homestead, probably part of the Desert Land Entry program.
BD: Right. I do know that Nevada did a kind of homestead thing where if you lived on the land for ten years, made improvements, and grew a few things, that after the ten-year period it was your land.
People always say, “Why did you move so far out?”
And I say, “You just don’t understand the land situation. It’s my land; I can sell it. But right across that dirt road is federal land and I can’t put nothing on it. I can’t buy it; I can’t do anything with it. And then there’s 100 acres I think across the street, but next door it’s federal land.” You can’t just go out and say, “Oh, I like that piece of land and this is where I’m going.” RM: That’s right. Talk some more about Fran.
BD: From what I was told—and this is all hearsay and it’s what I’ve heard over the years—Fran started out in the business very young. She used to have a place up in Eureka, Nevada, a long time ago. Now, there’s two trains of thought. One is that she’d saved money from that place and bought the place she had here. The other is she had a gentleman who staked her and put her up in this place. It belonged to another lady before Fran; I can’t think of her name.
That brothel’s not there anymore; it had burned down. Fran and I were talking and I said, “Frannie, all of these places are burning down.”
She laughed and said, “Well, I don’t know about the others, but mine, it was really an accident.”
I said, “Why?”
She said, “It was an old trailer and it was a windy day and they had the windows open and somebody had candles going. One of the curtains blew up against a lit candle, and it just went up.” Then she built what’s there now. Actually it’s not on the exact spot; it’s up higher. If you go by Frannie’s you’ll see a single-wide out front with some trees. My understanding is it used to be down in that area there. When it burned down, she moved up higher, up on the hill.
RM: I guess the townspeople helped her rebuild.
BD: The townspeople helped. Several people went out and took a stool and sat in the ashes and picked out what they could to save some of the girls’ stuff. And when it happened, the girls were put in the townspeople’s homes until the place could be rebuilt and they could go back to work.
RM: I think there were two brothels in Beatty. One was the Red Rooster, I believe.
BD: And the other one, I think, was called The Willows. I don’t exactly know where they were.
RM: It would sort of be the south end of town, I think.
BD: Yes, but exactly where or if any of the buildings exist. . . . Somebody told me that where the motel is that used to be the Burro and now is the Desert Death Valley Inn, there used to be a horseshoe pit, and then the park’s across the street. Well, right at the other end of this horseshoe pit, there’s a building and somebody said that was one of them at one time. Now, why they closed the ones in town, I don’t know.
RM: But they were gone when you got here?
RM: And you never heard any stories about any of the people who ran them or owned them?
BD: No, I never heard much about them. I think they left long before I came. It’s funny because I don’t know when they disappeared. You know, there’s a book called The Nye County Brothel Wars and in that, they list Fran’s, Bobbie’s Buckeye, and the place that’s called Cherry Patch. The one where Nevada Joe’s is now they called the Shamrock. And the Chicken Ranch, now Sheri’s, wasn’t here. They don’t mention any others in that book, so I don’t know if those other two in town had already gone by the wayside or what.
RM: They were still here in ’57.
BD: Yes, but this was in the ’70s.
RM: Do you know the name of Fran’s place before Fran bought it?
BD: I think it was a woman’s name; I’m not really sure what it was called. But Fran was a good neighbor. The people in town liked her, and she did the right things. She still has friends in Beatty. I haven’t seen her in years; I don’t know if she’s passed away.
RM: About when did she sell her place?
BD: It was in the ’90s because when I came in ’92 she was there and I think she had it four or five years after that. Then she sold it to Mack Moore and he’s had it ever since and it’s been yoyo games there.
RM: How do you mean?
BD: He has sold it three or four times and it comes back to him. Nobody can make a go of it.
RM: Why is that?
BD: People think that you just come here and it’s a money thing, just like getting the keys to the bank. They don’t know that it’s really hard work and you’ve got to put in long hours. It’s not as easy as it looks. You think you’re just going to get some girls and they’re going to do their thing, and you’re just going to make beaucoup amounts of money. Well, it doesn’t work that way.
It took us probably six, seven years before we really were successful. I remember it was close to that because the IRS has a rule, or they used to, that if you have a business for five years and it doesn’t make much of a profit, you have to count it as a hobby. We were getting to that point; we weren’t making much of a profit. The year that we would have had to call it a hobby, we started making money. So the first five years were a little tough.
RM: So it took you five years to get on a paying basis?
BD: A steady basis, yes. I mean, we were in and out. And there were times we would close.
RM: Oh really, because of lack of business?
BD: A lack of girls. But now we haven’t closed in years.
RM: What was the lack of girls caused by?
BD: We couldn’t advertise for girls so it had to be word of mouth. It slowly happened, but word of mouth is slow.
RM: Can you advertise on the Internet now?
BD: Yes, that’s what we do now and it’s fine. When we first came out here, the Internet was just starting. It wasn’t a big thing and we didn’t have an Internet connection because we didn’t have real phones, as I mentioned. We got connected in the year 2000 when our phone system finally caught up to the rest of America. Then we had dial-up and could do the Internet. Then we found a few satellite companies. Before 2000, it was rough because we didn’t even have a phone.
RM: Can you talk about the evolution of the role of the Internet in the brothel business?
BD: The Internet has been helpful and harmful in a lot of ways. It’s helpful in that everybody knows we’re here and customers are able to see who’s working and that kind of thing. It’s helpful because they can get information. What’s non-helpful is information is passed back through the Internet. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad, and sometimes it’s an out-and-out lie and you can’t do anything about it. The downside is that somebody who’s never been here can write a report on this place and tear it to shreds.
RM: Is that a real problem?
BD: It can be; it depends. Most people don’t look at the negatives now as much as they used to because they know anybody can write a negative review and doesn’t mean they even saw that girl, it doesn’t mean they’ve even been here. But that was a tough thing.
RM: Did it take you time to get the hang of the Internet and how to make it work for your business?
BD: Yes, I’m still trying to learn more about it to work it for my benefit. It takes a lot of time, and I don’t always have the time I need to spend on it. It’s a lot of work. Girls who do very well on the Internet are girls who spend a lot of time on it.
RM: Communicating with potential clients?
BD: Potential clients and so on. You go through a lot of lemons before you get to the ones that you want. You get promises: “Oh, I’ll be there next week,” and the guy never shows up. And you can get hundreds of emails—I’ve gotten 150 or 200 in a day, sometimes.
RM: That you have to deal with?
BD: That I have to try to figure out what to do with. You look at some of them and you think they’re probably a joke, but you answer them anyway just in case the guy doesn’t know what he’s saying or doesn’t realize what he’s doing.
RM: Do you do your own Internet work or do you contract it out?
BD: I’ve started doing it myself. I bought a program and I’ve started learning to use it. I haven’t put any of my stuff on yet. I don’t want to have to mess with servers and all that kind of stuff so I have a guy that hosts it. But trying to learn and trying to get it to look like you want it to has been real fun. You put all this stuff together and you go, “Oh wow, that looks good.” And then you look at it for a few days and you go, “Oh well, that doesn’t look so good.” Then all of a sudden you don’t like any of it. So I’ll go back and redo it. I’m never satisfied, but you have to get to a point where you just say here it is, and do it.
RM: Is the Internet a big part of your business now?
BD: It’s becoming more so. When I first opened up, the clients were just whoever came in. Now we have people making appointments, sometimes weeks and months ahead of time for vacations that are coming up. It used to be that you just needed a girl’s schedule for a week or two weeks and now we have to try to pin girls down for month-long schedules. “You’re going to be here this whole month or you’re going to be here what days in this month, what days next month and possibly, if you can, even another month,” because people are asking about them.
RM: And these people actually show up? They’re legitimate?
BD: Our success rate has been real good that way. I have probably 70 or 75 percent show up.
RM: Do you have them make a deposit?
BD: No. They confirm the appointment the day that they’re supposed to be here. And if they don’t confirm it, then they may not have it when they get here. There have been a few in the past when we’ve asked for deposits. And they said, “Well, what if I don’t?”
I said, “If you don’t make it and it’s 24-hour notice, just cancel and you’ll get your deposit back. But if you don’t call us and let us know, we keep the deposit for the girl.” Because if the girls have an appointment at 1:00, they will take off around 11:30 or maybe 12:00 to really get shaped up for the appointment. Not that they’re not that way all the time, but they go all out for appointments and they stay off the floor for an hour or so before the appointment so they will be available at 1:00 when the guy comes in. And the guys don’t understand that. So she might miss a lineup while she’s waiting for you. I like it when we do get deposits. The guys don’t like to give deposits but we like it; I give it to the girl. I just get enough to cover her cost, whatever the time of the party is.
RM: Do you do it by percentage or is it a flat rate or what?
BD: It’s 50/50 most of the time. There are times, depending on the parties, where the girls can get a higher percentage. The deposit is for the money she would get out of that party. Two hours is $500, so she would get $250, so the deposit would be $250.
RM: So $500 buys a two-hour party, to do pretty much anything the guy wants?
BD: Within limits. People do that all the time. They go, “Can I do anything I want?”
I say, “You know, anything’s a big word.”
And they say, “What do you mean?”
“Are you going to cut her foot off, you going to cut her toes off, you want to cut her hair?” You know, what do you want?
They say, “Oh, I didn’t think of it like that.”
RM: Do the girls have separate limits? I mean, one girl will do this and another won’t?
BD: The girls can say no to anything they want. If there’s something they really don’t want to do, they say no. The only thing I ask of a girl is if she agreed to do something, then halfway through the party she goes, “I don’t want to do this,” I ask her to go ahead and do it this one time. Next time, you know you don’t like it so don’t offer it, but don’t offer something and then back out of it because that’s not fair. When you offer something, make sure that you can handle whatever it is.
Our place is different than most places. In most places, the girls work and live in the same room. Our girls work in working rooms, and they live in their own private rooms. There’s one other place that does it that I know of—the new place, Bikinis. I got the idea from a lady who used to own Janie’s Ranch out in Montgomery Pass and she had it set up that way. The girls lived on one side, the parlor was in the middle, and the working rooms were on the other side. So when the girls came in for a lineup, if they didn’t get picked, they’d go back to their rooms. I thought that was a good idea since it’s not practical for most girls around these areas to go home. Girls have houses in New York; they have houses a lot of places.
RM: They don’t live in Vegas or somewhere close?
BD: A lot of them live back East and in the Midwest. Some have families, like I said. They go home to their families when they’re done so they’re not going to want to rent another house in Beatty just to live in.
We did it this way so that they have privacy and they don’t have to worry about hiding things. They can keep pictures of their boyfriend or their kids out; whereas before when a client came into her room, she had to flip them all over. And before, the girls were having their panties stolen. Before they had separate rooms, we used to have two chests of drawers in each room. One was in the closet and the closet door had a lock on it; the other one was sitting in the room. The girls put their good underwear in the closet and their ratty stuff that they were getting tired of or that was stretched out or whatever in the other one. Because when they went and booked, a lot of the guys would rifle their drawers and take underwear. That way, they lost underwear they didn’t care about. Now they don’t have to do that at all because their stuff is kept totally in their own rooms and no customers are allowed in that area. And it’s a full house. They have their own kitchen and share a bath with one other girl.
RM: Typically, how many girls do you have?
BD: We try to keep from four to five. We usually have three to four, so we’re usually one shorter than I’d like. We have six rooms back there.
RM: Do they do pretty well here?
BD: Veronica has been here three years. Sadie bumps in and out; she’s been coming here for years now. Before that, I had a girl who stayed three or four years. Angel’s been here 16 months or so. They pretty much stay, so yes, they’re doing pretty well.
RM: And you said they live in other parts of the country.
BD: They live all over. I have girls who live in Utah and California. I had a girl for a long time who lived in New York, and she flew in. Usually when she came, she stayed for a month at least, and then she’d fly home.
RM: What’s the typical on-off schedule?
BD: When I first started in the business, it was usually three weeks on, one week off. Over the years, as it got harder and harder to get some girls, and as houses changed, the requirements started changing. When they’re here, I like them to work a solid two weeks and then they can go and do what they want for the rest of the time.
The other thing that’s changed is that the girls used to basically be in lock-down situations and they couldn’t go home. Once they were at the ranch, they stayed there 24/7 until their time was up, and then they left. But a lot of places now, the girls work a shift and go home.
RM: Oh, into the local community.
BD: Yes, where they can get lost. Reno’s big enough that they’re able to get lost. Carson City is the same thing because they wind up in Reno. So those girls work shifts and go home. But a lot of places still have the old system where you work your time and you stay there.
RM: And that’s pretty much your system?
BD: Well, in my system they can leave any time, actually. I like them to stay two weeks, but we also have 24-hour leaves, where they can take 24 or 48, whatever they need. They can say, “I just need 48 hours out of here to go shopping or go get my nails done, just something.” And that works, too.
RM: Do they ever cheat on you, like meet a guy in Vegas?
BD: When I first started the business, there were a lot more girls that did that—they would tell the guys when they were in town.
RM: And then they don’t have to split the money with the house.
BD: Yes, that kind of thing. If I find out a girl’s doing that, she’s getting fired immediately. I don’t find it as much as I used to but there are still a few girls who do it. There are still a few girls up north that I know put escort ads in all the time, which is really dumb because they can get caught. My girls most of the time don’t do that because I go through all the escort sites and if I see a girl’s picture somewhere, I’m going to call her on it. I just print it out and hand it to her and say, “Now, pack your bags.”
To me, even though I know they don’t see it the same way, when they’re not working here, they’re doing something illegal. It’s the same with any job—nobody wants you to work in their company and do illegal things on the side because it comes back to the company in the end. So I tell them, “It’s illegal. You want to do it, then you better make sure I don’t find out because if I do, I’ll fire you.”
If the girl’s making a lot of money, there have been a few houses that have turned a blind eye and don’t say nothing. I think that is another thing that’s degrading the legal system. If you’re allowing that to happen, the question comes up in other people’s minds: if they’re doing illegal work, why do we have a legal system? The whole idea is to keep the girls working in the legal system and not have illegal girls working. If you turn a blind eye, you’re basically, I think, undermining the system.
RM: Do you have problems with the girls getting along with each other and fighting and so on? Is that a part of your challenge?
BD: When my husband graduated college, he was going to be a teacher. They let you practice teach and after he did that, he didn’t want to teach anymore. He told somebody the other day that he never thought that he’d be 70 years old out in the middle of the desert controlling a kindergarten.
RM: That’s great. [Laughs]
BD: And they do. They fight over the silliest things.
RM: Is it constant or just little flare-ups?
BD: Sometimes it goes on for a while and then it settles down, and then it goes on and on and on. You can usually trace it back to one person who’s the instigator. You put up with it as long as you want and then you send them home.
RM: What do they fight over?
BD: The silliest things. As I told you, the girls used to live and work in the same room and I had my little apartment-type unit in the back. I came into the kitchen one morning and there were two girls with knives in their hands standing on either side of the butcher block daring each other to cross it. When I found out what was going on, it was because their food was touching in the refrigerator. One girl was germophobic and didn’t want the other girl’s food to touch hers, even though her food was wrapped not only in butcher wrap but she had wrapped it in Saran wrap on top of that. They were fighting about it and I said, “You know what, you’re both fired.” If you’re going to pull knives on each other. . . That was the old style of girls we used to get. The newer girls don’t do that.
RM: Do they get along better nowadays?
BD: They’re still the same, but no knives. They fight over things like somebody plays their music too loud or somebody got up five minutes early from quiet time and started using the exercise bikes and making noise or somebody turned the washer on too soon or this one’s hot and this one’s cold. It’s all little things.
RM: Do they fight over dirty hustling in the lineups and things like that?
BD: No, because we don’t have that. I tell them what they can do in the lineup, and if I catch them doing anything other than that, I talk to them. If they continue to do so, I send them on their way. But most girls know what they can and can’t wear and how they have to behave. Most houses won’t let the girls talk to a customer if he asks a question. Once they’re in a lineup, the girls are not supposed to say anything because that’s considered dirty hustling. All they can do is introduce themselves and that’s it.
Well here, if a guy
asks a girl a question, I’ll say, “Go ahead and answer it. It looks stupid for
you just to stand there, and he’s like, ‘Well, what’s wrong with her?’” It’s
not dirty hustling because if he asks you a question, you can answer him. You
can’t stand there and hold a conversation but if he asks you something like,
“How’s your day?” you can answer.
RM: It’s amazing to me how you built this out here on the desert. Obviously, you had to check the legalities of it. How did you go about doing that?
BD: I met a lady here when I moved to Tonopah who was a real estate agent in Tonopah, Trish Rippie, and she helped me with a lot of things. She helped us look for land and spent a lot of time with us. She told me some things. There was a lady who used to live in Tonopah who ran the convention center, Kathy Hill. She and her husband helped a lot in filling me in on some of the Nye County history.
I was lucky. When I came here, everybody said, “You need to read this book” about the Nye County brothels. It had been out of print for a while but the library in Tonopah had it. I got it out of there and read it. What was interesting is that some of the people who were in the book were still in Tonopah so I got to ask them questions first hand and talk to them about how things really were, what really went on, because now it’s so far gone.
RM: You mean the way it was in the old days?
BD: Yes. I talked to Minnie Perchetti, who grew up in Tonopah, and she told about how Tonopah had a swimming pool at one time and as a girl they used to go by the brothels on Patrick Street. They were told never to go up to the doors, but the ladies in the houses would throw change out the windows. She said that’s how she got her swimming money every day—they’d walk by the houses and the girls would throw money out for them. So that was interesting. Here’s a lady who’s 70 years old, probably, talking about how things were when she was a little girl and how people felt about them.
RM: So you had surveyed the scene with the various counties where prostitution was legal and you and your husband made a decision to do it in Nye County. Is that right?
BD: It kind of came out that way—things got eliminated. In Lincoln County and Storey County you could only buy one that existed because there was no free land to build one. Well, you could probably find some land in Storey, but Storey’s the smallest county in Nevada, and it’s all in hills and so forth. And the counties intertwine so much there, it was hard to find a piece of land that I could afford where I could have done that. So that kind of eliminated them, plus the cold.
In Winnemucca it was the cold, and again, you had to again buy something that was existing. You couldn’t build anything new. I did go out to Pershing County because I heard that it was legal out there but they said it was no longer legal—the last two houses closed and they decided not to have them anymore. I never went to Elko—again, the cold.
I went to Ely. I liked it there but again, you were going to pretty much have to buy something that was already there. Then I found out how cold it was in the wintertime and I didn’t want to be up there in the cold. I found out more about the town—that it’s on the loneliest highway in the state so there wasn’t going to be much highway traffic, and where were you going to get traffic from? That kind of concerned me.
But we also went, like I said, to Lyon County and found out that you couldn’t do anything in Lyon County unless you bought an existing place; same with Storey County, same with a few of the other counties—you had to buy what was already there. I never went to Wells so I just kind of came back around, and we wound up back in Nye County.
So we were working around different counties. And some were friendly and some weren’t as friendly. We want up to Churchill. Actually, I kind of liked Fallon, I thought it was a neat little town. There seemed to be enough people to pull from just in the town itself. But they weren’t real conducive or friendly about it.
RM: Was there an existing brothel in the valley there?
BD: At that time, Salt Wells was the only one up and running. The Lazy B was just opening it again. But they didn’t give you the sense that they really wanted you there. We came back to Nye County and I thought, “At least we have a good highway here with a lot of traffic; we could pull traffic off the highway, possibly.” And there was a good mine going on in Beatty then. I said, “We should have something to start with.” And we did okay.
At the time, I could have gone to Amargosa but I’d have had to find a piece of land over there. It was warmer, and I didn’t want to go where it was too hot. Also, I didn’t want to be in anybody’s back yard. I knew it was legal here but I really didn’t know for a while what people’s real thoughts on it were. Even though it may be legal, that doesn’t mean they necessarily like it. I kind of figured who’d care if I was out here, you know. Nobody was around. Eight people lived out here at the time.
RM: In Sarcobatus, you mean?
BD: Yes. There were some characters, I can’t remember their names, that were transient who did work for everybody. Then there were Bill and Julie Lucas; I bought their place recently. He passed away and she was moving to Texas. They worked in the mines all their lives. We didn’t know them real well, but we always felt that if we needed them for anything, we could have used them. Same thing with this couple over here. They basically worked in the mines. Most everybody that was out here worked in mines or with the government. The guy that had that house out there worked for Death Valley—his wife worked for the museum and he worked for Scotty’s Castle.
And there was Creech. I never got to know him; he died. There was a little guy, Chet, who was legally blind. Chet was driving around and he kept having accidents so his family moved him into town. He had a bar and he had sold it to this lady. We were standing maybe 20, 30 feet away from her. He said, “Yeah, I sold it.” And he’s looking around, and he says, “I think I sold it to her.”
I’m sitting there thinking, “How bad are his eyes?” Then we found out he was legally blind. We introduced ourselves and when we got done, we got in our car. He got in the truck in front of us and was going to drive. I said, “Let’s get out of here quick before he gets his car started because I don’t want to be on the road with that man.” [Laughs] Chet was a funny old guy. He lived out here for a long time. He had some beautiful horses. He couldn’t see the cars when he came onto the road. He got hit two or three times. Luckily, nobody was seriously hurt. But they couldn’t get him to stop driving. He didn’t have a license, but he still drove. I said, “Welcome to Nevada.”
RM: Who had the market down on the west side of the highway two or three miles from you?
BD: That was Vickie Wellborn. Actually, it belonged to her dad. She tried to make it a little store for us, but it was mostly for camping—you could pick up camping supplies and stuff like that. She had a little restaurant in it for a little while and it didn’t go over. She just kind of lived out here and raised poodles for a while.
RM: And now it’s been abandoned, right?
BD: No, somebody lives there. There’s a little trailer out there and they only live in the little trailer, they don’t live in the big house. From what we gather, it’s a mother and father and I think four kids.
And then we had Charley and his little band of thieves. Charley looked like Moses. He had this big long white beard and he’d stand out there and we’d say, “Moses is here or Noah, we’re not sure. Maybe we’re going to flood.” But he passed away and then Vickie passed away, and her father’s passed away. The lady that lives in Creech’s old place raises horses. Her name’s Vanessa.
RM: How did you go about learning what the laws were regarding legal prostitution?
BD: When I found out what counties it was legal in, it was a simple matter to call up the county clerk and get the rules and regulations. They were all printed out along with the application. There was a list of rules that you had to follow and what the fees were and that kind of thing. It was fairly easy.
RM: Did you work with a lawyer when you were setting it up?
BD: No, it was pretty easy but it took forever because they like to make you do a few little dances, you know. They want to investigate you and the investigation takes forever because they only have one investigator. And there were a couple of murders that happened, and he had to work on those, so my investigation, of course, was on the back burner. It took a while. To be honest, I think they purposely dragged their feet a little.
RM: Is it to see if you were serious or to discourage you?
BD: I don’t really know why. I think it was to kind of discourage us a little bit and make sure we were going to stick it out. I think maybe it was that we were outsiders. It still may be that way but I’ve been here so long I don’t see it anymore. But especially back then, it was a little clannish. The good old boys were still running things. I think they tried sometimes to see just how far they could push you before you pushed back. But once the papers were signed and everything was okay, then it was like we’d lived here forever. There was no problem.
RM: And you told me that initially you focused on Tonopah with the thought of buying Bobbie Duncan’s place.
BD: That was our first stab.
RM: How long did that drag on?
BD: That took several months; it was most of the summer and the judge, Judge Davis, had to get involved. One person was trying to sell it to us and she had a lawyer and the lawyer was fighting with the other girl.
RM: You mean there were multiple owners?
BD: No, when Bobbie died, a woman named Barbara was the executor of her estate and Barbara had done an open escrow deal with this other lady, Chi Chi Fazzari. Well, a year later, they hadn’t settled and we came along and Barbara saw another sale. What she didn’t understand, I guess, was that in order to sell it to us she had to close that escrow somehow and get it reopened. Well, the other lady didn’t want to; she wanted the property. So they went through a legal battle.
Judge Davis said, “Go out in the hall and settle this, and come back in and tell me what you decided.” So they went out and did their thing and she decided to sell it to Chi Chi. She used to own a place on Catalina called Chi Chi’s and she was an entertainer. She had beautiful costumes and stuff and all these pictures of all the stars she’d been with. One of the pieces of property she owned is in downtown San Francisco and Bank of America sits on it. So she had some money.
Anyway, they decided that she was entitled to the property and that’s when we got thrown into looking for a place. The sad thing was that she had waited too long and any grandfather clause that would have been established for Bobbie’s property was gone. They had changed the rules years ago about how far off the road a brothel has to be and her place didn’t qualify. The only place her place would have qualified would have been if they cut a side of the hill off up above her and put it way up there. That wasn’t a possibility. She tried some things but when she found out they weren’t going to let her do it, she gave up. I haven’t seen her in a few years. She used to stop by now and then.
RM: So now it just sits there and it’s deteriorating?
BD: It’s sitting there falling down and nobody’s going to do anything with it. I am really surprised that it hasn’t caught fire because the high school kids go in there all the time and party. When Barbara was trying to show it to me there was no electricity, but we had flashlights and you could see where they had burned candles and so on. With candles, you know something’s going to happen. I hope it doesn’t because I wish something could be done with the place.
RM: I’ve thought it could be a bed and breakfast.
BD: We thought of that, too.
RM: You know, sleep in a room in a former brothel. And it was pretty famous.
BD: Yes, it was. Bobbie’s was well known. Joe Richards used to have what he called the Brothel Museum and basically it was articles and different stories on different brothels.
RM: Is that in Pahrump?
BD: His Brothel Museum is now at Cherry Patch, which is right behind Nevada Joe’s. It’s basically laminated old articles of different places with some names and pictures of girls. There’s a story there about how on one of Bobbie’s birthdays, the town bought her a ticket to go to Disneyland. Nobody knew if she ever cashed that ticket in because she got sick shortly after that and passed away. I guess another neat lady was the lady that owned the Cottontail—Beverly Harrell. I guess when she was running it, it was lines out the door. Howard, her husband, took it over and he didn’t do so well.
RM: Did she build that from scratch?
BD: I heard there used to be a little gas station or convenience store there and she added onto that. Well, that place burned down; in fact, if you look at the property, you’ll see a big pile of burned stuff. They pushed it all back and built the one that’s there now. I guess she had had it really hopping.
And it was sad. They had been separated for some years but I guess their names were still on some of the paperwork so when her husband sold it, she had to come back and sign some papers. Part of the reason she left was she had a severe heart condition and the altitude wasn’t good for her. But she came back anyway, she signed the papers, and she had a heart attack and passed away. I believe she’s buried in Tonopah. I was told she had been living down in Mexico and had, not a brothel, but a bar and restaurant of some kind.
RM: Were you here when she died?
BD: Yes, I was. It was around the late ’90s, early 2000s. I’m trying to remember how long Howard’s been gone from there.
RM: I was trying to remember how long it has been closed.
BD: It’s been closed a long time. It used to have a sign saying it had been running since 1967. It was just one of those cases of Howard was getting tired, he was getting old. He wanted to retire and the guy who came in and bought it, bought it with a bad partner. The partner’s wife used to work for me. She was a druggie and she started pulling in drugs. Then the cops came, and they were talking about how the cops were there all the time. I’m thinking, ‘That is so weird because Howard never had the cops there.” The whole time Howard was here, he never had the police there unless he invited them for some reason.
Then I found out what she was doing. And the man had bought it with this guy called Carmella, who looked like somebody right out of the mob. This guy was so scared and his wife screwed it up so bad that whatever money he invested he just said, “It’s yours, we’re out of here, we’re just going to leave.” He sold it to another guy, who was a crook. That guy was trying to run both it and then a place, Mona’s, up in Elko, and he was trying to get both of them going. He hired a guy that was working down here at Angel’s. I don’t think the guy at Angel’s was working for Mack, I think he was working for one of the owners who had bought Angel’s from Mack Moore. He brought him and a girl down here.
And it was just the same situation all over again. She was into drugs and she was bringing drugs in there. And finally, worse came to worse and Moe and his moll stole all the money and took all the liquor they could and left.
What was sad was they came in, emptied the safe, and took as much liquor from behind the bar as they could put in the car and left the girls there. Now, there used to be a bus system out there, but there hasn’t been a bus system in years. If you don’t have a car, you’re not leaving. And the girls didn’t have cars. It wasn’t 20 minutes after they left that the electric company was nailing up a notice that the electricity was going off until a $1500 electric bill was paid. And the phone didn’t work. They didn’t even have water except bottled water because the well wouldn’t work because there was no electricity. He just left them there. They had to wait to get somebody to go back into Goldfield to tell them what was going on.
RM: That’s awful. What was his name, again?
BD: I don’t know what his real name was; he went by Moe Green, which is actually an old mob name. His boss was trying to buy Mona’s place and was going to run both of them. Well, he couldn’t get either one of them doing anything and we find out years later that the guy that Carmella had sold it to was a crook, too. He was running for some public office but they found out that he had beat up somebody and had a bunch of assault charges against him. They said up in Elko that they weren’t going to give him a license so the deal with Mona’s fell apart.
I don’t know how long after that Carmella died. Carmella’s wife ran the Cottontail and they sold it to a lady that bought Lida. She was selling land and didn’t want a brothel as you came in there, so she just shut it down. It’s been closed.
RM: When they close these brothels, does that hurt the business of the other brothels or does it make it better?
BD: It depends on what the brothel was doing.
RM: Let’s say the Cottontail and Bobbie’s.
BD: The Cottontail didn’t hurt me one way or the other because it wasn’t being run well. If they’re running well, it’s actually a good thing. It’s just like the Strip. The more activity that’s going, the more people come into the area because there’s more going on. It hurts me when one closes because there’s one less place to come to.
One of the most successful places up in Lyon County is Kit Kat Lane, where there are three brothels in a cul-de-sac. You can go to one and if you don’t see anybody, you can go to the next or go wherever you figure you saw the girl you liked the best. So technically, the more that we’re combined, it would actually be good. Everybody says, “Oh, no, no, no.” But it works well in a group because if it didn’t, the Strip wouldn’t have evolved the way it did.
RM: Now, what did you do after you bought this property?
BD: After it got down to the nitty-gritty and we wound up here, we just started putting the place together. Basically Jim came out with a five-gallon bucket and turned it upside down and stuck it in the ground and said, “This is where the well’s going to be.”
RM: Did he witch it?
BD: No, he didn’t witch it; luckily it turned out to be a good place to have a well.
RM: How deep did you have to go?
BD: We have to go down 100 because they encase the first 50 feet but there’s standing water here at eight feet. When we put our septic tank in, they dug it as deep as they had to. Then the guy said, “Just for kicks and giggles, let’s dig it a little bit more and see what happens.” And they had standing water. If we had to go down another foot or so, we would have probably have had some trouble with our septic system.
RM: Why wasn’t there more agricultural development in the valley if water’s that close?
BD: While it’s not bad to drink and cook in and do your laundry in and bathe in and all that, it’s not really conducive to plants. It has a lot of salt and alkali in it and too much alkali keeps plants from absorbing iron. You have to find the right plants that can really fit into it, which I always find amazing because if you go back 20,000 years or so all kinds of things were growing on the Nevada desert. It was a savannah and there were trees and everything. But over the years, because of lack of rain and not having much moisture on the surface, it changed. It’s interesting because out here, when it does rain, the alkali bubbles at the top and it looks like it snowed.
RM: And then it goes away?
BD: Yes, it eventually blows away. But if you went out there and wet your finger, it tastes like Alka-Seltzer. Plus there’s a lot of clay out there, caliche. And those things just aren’t good for growing things.
RM: It’s not as conducive as, say, some areas in Amargosa?
BD: Amargosa seems to be a little bit better for it. And as you come this way, we’re actually uphill. People don’t realize it but from the time you leave Vegas, you start climbing higher.
RM: What’s the elevation here?
BD: Right under 4,000 feet.
RM: I had no idea it was that high. So you come up 700 feet from Beatty? How interesting.
BD: Yes. So that makes a difference. Plus we have all kinds of wind and the wind blows everything off.
RM: I’d like to ask you more about the time when you were living in Tonopah and the deal with Bobbie’s fell through. You and your husband are pioneers in a very real and significant sense. I mean, you came into a valley that was scarcely occupied and built a business from scratch.
BD: We had a lot of confidence because, like I said, the Cottontail had been there since 1967 and Fran’s had been there all those years. I didn’t know as much about the Cherry Patch then as I do now.
RM: Is that still there?
BD: It’s still there. It’s where Nevada Joe’s is at Lathrop Wells. So they had been doing well, and then Ron’s and Crystal had done okay at that time. I was thinking, “If they can do okay, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to.” But like any business, it took time. You don’t just open your doors and become a millionaire overnight.
RM: After the deal with Bobbie’s fell through, what did you do?
BD: We started looking for another place.
RM: And did you focus on Nye County?
BD: By that time, I think we did. We went up to Ely and talked to them and like I said, I was probably going to have to buy something that was there.
As I said, the first five years were rough. But once people found out we were here and what girls were here and so forth, we started having a better time with it.
RM: How did you go about constructing out here in a pretty remote area?
BD: Basically, we brought in pre-fab everything. When we moved here Vegas was building so much that you couldn’t get anybody to come out here to do anything. At that time Pahrump really didn’t have any good builders. Later they did develop a good group of builders but in the beginning, they weren’t. It was either put it up yourself or get something that was a pre-fab type of thing, which in a way is kind of nice because it gets you on your feet quicker—it’s basic pay-and-plug. You plug it in and it goes. So that worked. And over the years, we customized it to be our own thing.
RM: What did you start with when you got here?
BD: We had raw desert land. There was nothing here but sagebrush and a road that came into the place. There were no trees, no grass—in fact, it looked just like that piece across the road over there. We had a guy come in and he cleared it off and made us a pad for this place and that place. And so little by little we added and changed and put things in and took things out. We did the work and just plugged along until we got to where we were.
RM: Have you added pre-fabs over the years?
BD: Yes. When we first started this section here, there was a . . .
RM: Oh, it’s a double-wide.
BD: Yes, and there was another one over there that Jim was using and we were using one of the bedrooms for our bedroom. Basically, it was a workshop. When this one started, I moved over here. But those were the only two buildings and then we added this building.
RM: On the east side?
BD: Yes, we added a building because we had a housekeeper who I adored. I wanted to keep her here and she didn’t have a home. She was living with her daughters in town. She could live with them for a while, but she really needed a home. So we said, “Why don’t you come out and work? Then, when you want a little time with your daughters, you can go into town, spend time, and then when you come back out, you can just have this. This would be your place, on this side.”
And she said, “Okay.” Well, her daughter’s husband wound up in prison. So she said, “It’s going to take me until he gets out because I’m helping take care of the kids.”
And I said, “That’s okay. It’s here when you’re ready.” There was an office right here and I was going to take this bedroom and give her the very back part, which had its own living area, its own bathroom, and we would share a kitchen.
But it never came to be because while he was in prison, she started having severe pains in her stomach. By the time they found out she had cancer, it was inoperable. She came out a couple more times just to visit and then she passed away. It was sad because I’d really grown close to her; she was a sweet lady. Her one daughter was just wild and she had another daughter, Dede, who was a little bit more down to earth. They were good kids. Her name was Lollie; actually, her name was Laura Annette and I don’t remember her last name.
I got to hear stories from her because she had worked during the days when a lot of the casinos were still mob-connected. When that movie Casino came out, they were sitting there, and she and her brother were watching it with their mother, who also worked in the casinos. They were laughing and making jokes and the mother goes, “Oh, it was never like that.”
And they were going, “Yeah, it was. There was a lot of that going on, Mom.” And they went through the whole thing with segregation in Vegas (because she was black). There were certain things she couldn’t do.
Her brother told me there used to be a house in Ash Meadows. He went out there with a bunch of his friends one time and the lady came out and said, “You can’t come in.”
RM: Because he was black?
BD: Because he was black. And I said, “What do you mean?”
He said, “Bobbi, that’s just the way it was. We couldn’t go in. We had to find a house that would accept us.”
I said, “Well, that’s just plain ass mean.”
RM: Do you know anything about the place in Ash Meadows? My dad used to talk about it but I was never there.
BD: From what I heard about Ash Meadows, it was more of a little motel with a swimming pool and girls available. It wasn’t easy to get in because the road was really bad so most people flew in and landed on a dirt strip. The girls would be out there swimming in the pool with you and whatever. It was kind of a free-for-all out there but it didn’t last.
By the time I came, Ash Meadows had been made into a state park. The guy who had it tried to sell me the buildings, but I couldn’t get them down here. He thought it would be neat if we had the buildings. When it quit, it had to be close to the ’50s or early ’60s because the furniture that was still left there was of that era.
There were so many places. June Green was Miltenberger’s sister and Jimmy Miltenberger owned Sheri’s when it was over in Lincoln County, when they had houses over in Lincoln County. Jimmy and his wife got divorced and she went out on Highway 373, I think, right by the rest stop—anyway, she went out on that highway toward Death Valley and Amargosa. She had a place there and she called it Sheri’s Crystal Palace, from what I understand. Well, one day some people went in and there was blood everywhere. They were all panicking and they couldn’t find her boyfriend and all this. And, of course, all the money’s gone and the place is torn up. But it was all set up. They tested the blood and it wasn’t human, it was animal blood. They kept following him and they found him. But I guess she got her heart broken and she didn’t open back up.
When Lincoln decided to get rid of the brothels, Sheri’s moved over to Nye County. I guess they had a little trouble in the beginning because Nye County really didn’t want them there.
RM: Now, where were they?
BD: The Crystal Palace? The highway like you were going to Longstreet’s.
RM: About where on that highway, do you know?
BD: About midway. That was before they made you be so far off the road, so she was pretty close to the road. For a long time, you could see a place off to your right. It was a big white thing, just a front. It had two of what I call graveyard trees, those tall cypress. I can’t swear to it, but from what I understand, that’s where it was.
RM: Are the trees gone now?
BD: The trees should be there, but the building’s gone. People tore it down.
RM: And that was known as Sheri’s?
BD: Sheri’s Crystal Palace. When it was in Lincoln County it was called Sheri’s. Well, Jimmy and his wife broke up and divorced and she moved to Nye County and opened Sheri’s Crystal Palace. Then when they got rid of the ones in Lincoln, he moved over with his sister, June Green, and opened the Sheri’s that’s out on Homestead now.
RM: How long was the one going toward Death Valley Junction there?
BD: That I don’t know. It wasn’t open very long, from what I understand. She had it going there good for a while, and then she got hooked up with this boyfriend and he ran it into the ground.
RM: Do you know anything about the origin of the brothel in Ash Meadows?
BD: It had to have been in the ’40s and the ’50s because of the décor. When they shut that building down and they were going to sell it, all the décor and furniture was basically from that the ’50s and ’60s maybe a little ’40s. I imagine they shut down in the ’50s and ’60s.
That one’s kind of a mystery because it kind of got away from everybody. Most of the other brothels, people have come in and redone so they pick up their history. But nobody rebuilt Sheri’s Crystal Palace and when Ash Meadows was gone, it was gone. Nobody writes histories about these places so once they’re gone, they’re kind of gone. That would make it tough to try to find out anything on them.
RM: Yes, it’s hard. And it’s hard searching the newspapers because they didn’t write histories of them, they wrote about somebody being stabbed in a brothel or something like that.
BD: Yes, or so-and-so ran the brothels for so many years and then got killed when his wife found him in bed with one of the girls or something like that. But as to how they came about and why they came about, they just kind of sprung up.
You know, the Chicken Ranch got burned down. That was basically because the guy who owned the Shamrock, Billy Martin, could only get $10 and the guy at the Chicken Ranch was getting $20. Billy Martin basically owned the sheriff’s deputy in Amargosa at the time. Nobody ever fully proved who did what that caused it to get burned down. A girl almost died because she couldn’t get out. He was in Pahrump and he moved out to where he is now. It was a pretty big mess because the rumor was that the sheriff’s office was going to get a call and they were to ignore it and the whole bit. When they got the call, they were to go to the other end of town and let it happen. Of course Billy Martin’s ending was that somebody knocked on his kitchen door one day and he went and opened it and somebody shot him in the face.
RM: Is the Shamrock the one in Lathrop Wells?
BD: Lathrop Wells is Joe’s place now.
RM: Getting back to your brothel, you moved in pre-fabs, and how long was it from when you made the decision to locate here to when you opened, would you say?
BD: Once we had everything, I always say it took a year and a half. My husband says it only took about six months or eight months, but it seemed like a year and a half to me.
RM: Did you have a grand opening?
BD: Yes, we did. We had a lot of people from Tonopah. In fact, you might talk to them. They took a video of it—they actually came out with a camera crew from the museum there, the Central Nevada Museum.
RM: I’ll have to ask them about that.
BD: We had a good turnout. I was really surprised.
RM: How many people turned out?
BD: Probably 30.
RM: Really? How did you publicize it?
BD: I didn’t, really. I just told everybody we were going to do it and the local papers took it up. Basically, I told my friends in Tonopah we were going to open and we would like for them to come. One lady was happy because her parents were going to be visiting, and she thought it would be something good for them to experience. So she brought them and they were just thrilled. We had a party with a bunch of good friends getting together and having fun and celebrating a long journey because it was a long journey. They make you jump through all the little hoops: “Well, this report didn’t come back,” or “This one hasn’t come back.” “The sheriff’s report’s not complete,” so we couldn’t do it till his report was done.
RM: Was it pretty frustrating?
BD: Very, because you can’t do it but once a month. It’s only on the first Tuesday of every month that they approve licenses and all that kind of thing. If we didn’t get it one month, there was another month of waiting. But we finally did and the sheriff came out and did his inspection and all.
RM: What was he looking for, I wonder?
BD: We don’t know why, but he came in and his only comment was that it looked too nice to be a brothel.
RM: Well, that’s a good compliment.
BD: He was used to the other places that were a little run down. Once the ice was broken, we were on good terms. He turned out to be okay for us. I guess we’ve never had any problems—we just came here and did our work.
BD: How I ever stayed in this business is the clincher. I used to do the worst thing any girl could do. I hitchhiked a lot; I hitchhiked all through L.A. when I was 17 and nothing ever happened. The closest thing that happened was this guy invited me to go to dinner with him. I said, “Okay.” I was hungry. We went to dinner, and he wanted to go back to his place. I figured it’s going to be time to pay the piper.
He said, “I want you to stay in here for a minute and just relax, drink your wine.” Of course, I shouldn’t be having wine, I was only 17. But I thought okay. Then he called me and I went down this hall, and it was kind of dark.
I thought, “What the heck is going on?” When I got into this room, it was full of candles, all lit, and he was lying in a full tux in a coffin. I screamed bloody murder and took off running. [Laughs] I never saw him again.
RM: What an experience.
BD: I just tore out. I grabbed my purse on the way out the door and ran as far as I could. I had no idea what he was going to do, and I didn’t want to stick around to find out. I guess it was some kind of role-playing, but he should have at least given me a clue. That just scared the poop out of me. I had two incidents like that.
One was this guy invited me to a party and I went. It was the late ’60s, early ’70s, and there were drugs everywhere and you were just to go ahead and help yourself. I was kind of walking around and this guy came over and introduced himself.
He said, “I want you to meet somebody.” I walked over and he said, “This is the owner. He’s the one that’s putting this party on.” We started talking, and after a while he goes, “Will you come with me? I want to show you something.” I went with him, and he had a full-flung dungeon downstairs. He had the cross thing on the wall and a spinning thing and chains on the wall, and he had whips of every color and shape. I’m sitting there going, “Oh God, what have I done now?”
He said, “I don’t want to hurt you.”
And I said, “Well, that’s nice.”
He said, “What I want you to do is tie me up and spank me and do a few other things. You think you can handle that?”
I said, “You know, I think I could.”
And he said, “Okay.” So I tied him up like he said to be tied up. And once I was sure he was nice and secure, I split. I ran out of that room, out of that house, and never saw that guy again, either. I used to tell people, “As far as I know, he’s still hanging there. I don’t know if anybody ever found him.”
And they’d say, “Why did you do that?”
I said, “Well, that was new to me, and nobody explained what that was, and that’s kind of scary. They don’t make it look good. It’s dimly lit and kind of ominous anyway.”
RM: Do you get spankers here?
BD: We don’t get too many. Most of it’s pure what I call vanilla—pretty much vanilla sex; not too many strange requests. We get one every once in a while, and we cater to it if we can. If we can’t, I might know someplace he can go, and I tell him to go there. That’s the one thing I will do that other brothels won’t—if somebody came here and saw all the girls we had at a lineup and nothing appealed to them, I would send them down to Angel’s. I used to ask them which way they were going because I had the Cottontail down here and I had Angel’s up there. If they were going that way, I’d send them to Angel’s, and if they went that way I’d say, “Well, the Cottontail’s over there.”
Most places don’t do that. I’ve always said that most owners can’t see beyond their nose—they can’t see the future of this business. They’re just so stuck in traditions. That was one of the first things I was hearing: “It’s tradition.” Everything that I’ve done in the last few years, from trying to get the advertising laws changed to bringing men in and all that stuff, George Flint of the brothel association would say, “You’re going to get our heads chopped off, you know. You’re going to end the brothel business.” And every time, nothing happened. But that’s the way he likes to work with people—he likes to keep you in fear so you’re constantly scared that if you do anything, you’re going to suffer.
RM: Is that how he helps maintain his power or his position?
BD: Exactly. He’s got a lot of the owners convinced that he knows more about the business than any of them and he knows what the legislators are thinking. The owners are afraid to step outside that because they’re afraid that the legislature is going to chop their heads off. I said, “You know what? You can’t live like that, in fear that every time you say anything or every time you disagree, you’re going to have to worry that they’re going to cut your head off.”
RM: I know I’ve asked you this before, but do you see the brothel laws becoming gradually more liberal in this country, more like northern Europe, or are we going to maintain our old Puritan ways?
BD: I think it will change over a period of time, but it’s going to take a few more people to step out of this time warp that they’re in. They’re going to have to look past their noses. The brothels have to look and say, “If I do this, what can happen?” And most of them don’t. For most of them, it’s just what’s happening in that brothel and that’s it. They don’t take on any political issues and they don’t get lawyers or lobbyists to help them take them on. If they don’t do that, I think eventually they’ll die out. One guy said, “Well, we’ve been doing this 100 years like this.”
And I said, “You can’t run a business 100 years ago in today’s society. If you do that, you’re going to fail because the people’s needs have changed.” You have to find out what the people’s attitudes are on the subject and tread around those.
To just automatically say, “No, we can’t do that and this is going to happen,” you don’t know until you try.
RM: As we said before, Harry Reid’s idea of making prostitution illegal in Nevada sure fell flat because not a soul in the legislature picked up on it.
BD: First of all, he brought it up at a time when the state needs money. If they shut all the brothels down, they’ve got to come up with money for all these programs that the brothels are supporting.
Most legislators and most governors and most people in Nevada have always thought it was a county issue. In other words, let the counties handle it the way that they want to handle it. The rumor was that Harry Reid got mad because at his last election he only carried one rural county and he’d pissed off the others so this was his punishment. He was going to retaliate by making prostitution illegal, and it didn’t work. The other thing I heard was that his son was in some kind of lawsuit with a brothel and they lost, and that pissed him off. But I don’t know why; it came out of the blue.
RM: Have you seen an evolution in public attitudes toward legalized prostitution in your years here?
BD: When I first came here, it was okay. There have been three or four tries to get it on the ballot to end prostitution in Nye County and they never could get enough signatures. The closest they ever came was convincing some commissioners to vote it down, but the commissioners said that it was the people that voted it in and it should be the people that vote it out. I haven’t seen any real zealots go after the brothels anymore. They were there for a while, but not any more. Of course, we had a commissioner at the time who was kind of poking them and doing her thing, too—Candice Trummell.
What I don’t understand is: okay, you don’t like something. Why do you feel you have the right to say that other people can’t do it? If you don’t want to do it, then don’t do it, but why do you think you have the right to tell another grownup that they can’t? I’ve never understood their righteous ardor, that they can tell another grownup you can’t do something.
RM: Would you want to talk a little bit about what Candice Trummell was doing?
BD: I don’t know a whole lot about it but she was trying to get us shut down every chance she got. That came partially because of her beliefs; her father’s Ron the Baptist . . . the Trummell. So her beliefs were involved.
At the time, Joe Richards was roasting her father almost weekly in the paper and she wanted to get rid of him. And if the only way she could do it was to wipe everybody out, that was the thing. It’s another one of those things that I don’t understand—if you don’t want prostitution, you don’t want to deal with it, then don’t. Just leave it where it is and don’t go there.
RM: You can’t stamp it out anyway. It dates back thousands of years.
BD: Yes. She said at a meeting that she did not feel that if they got rid of prostitution in Nye County they would be inundated with illegal girls working. I’m sitting there thinking, “Well you’re probably right, not the first five years. But as Pahrump grows, that Highway 160 strip down there where they’re putting all the casinos and hotels is going to be ideal for them. And what would you rather do? Would you rather explain that house over there to your kid or when you brought a kid home from school at 3:00 in the afternoon and you took him to school the next morning and the same lady’s standing on the corner, would you rather explain why she’s standing there than explain what that house is over there?”
It’s just dumb. She got hooked up with a lady called Melissa Farley. I have no evidence for this but it’s my opinion that Melissa Farley just hates men. She considers almost every form of sex rape. People admire her, they say, but I don’t. She said some things in her book, and I really wish these people hadn’t taken it to heart.
RM: Which book is this?
BD: She wrote a book, Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections. She used the brothels and she lied about so many things in there that it wasn’t even funny. She said that she went in one place and the girls were being fed through a slot in the door like a jail. But she never would tell you which brothels these were. The question came up, “Once you left, why didn’t you bring law enforcement in to correct this instead of just leaving the ladies in this condition?” And she never could answer that.
RM: Do you believe all of the reports that say there’s a lot of white slave traffic in Las Vegas?
BD: I believe there’s more than there used to be but I don’t know if it’s as bad as they say it is. I know there is some going on, and even some is bad. But back in the 1900s, prostitution was rampant in New York and Philadelphia and they had all these brothels creep up. And they did the same thing. They said, “It’s white slavery. These girls don’t want to be there.” So they started going though cleaning the places out. And in the end, they found three girls that had actually said they were there against their will. When asked why they were there, they usually talked about the economics—“I could either be a maid cleaning bathrooms for 50 cents a week or I could do this and make $25 in a day, or more.” So it kind of fizzled out then.
This is just my opinion, but I think the Mann Act was put into position to keep black men from taking white women across state lines, even though the women might be willing to go. The reason I say that is one of the times it was used, it was used against a boxer who did just that.
But nowadays, like I was saying the other day, there are too many Asian women here, too many foreign women in these businesses that speak absolutely no English. I don’t think they should be here. I don’t even think they know what they’re doing; I think they’ve been coerced into it. There should be more investigation into seeing if these women really are being forced into this. I’m fine if this is what you want to do, but this has got to be what you want to do.
RM: This is a little bit off topic, but my brother Mike and I had an idea that very soon, the world is going to be ready for a kind of a Disneyland-type brothel. Don’t even think about going there if you don’t have at least 5,000 bucks in your pocket. You spend a day or two or whatever and have a total fantasy experience with the women and have good food and so on. Do you see that possibly on the horizon?
BD: I don’t know if I see it in the United States, but I know there are already countries where that’s taking place. They’re called sex vacations. You spend X amount of dollars and it includes your hostess, your room, your meals, and all the amenities. Whether it happens in the United States, I don’t know. I think most people in the United States would find it disgusting.
RM: The girl that I interviewed who had a lot of experience in Vegas would talk about Saudi Arabians who will fly in with a small party of fellows and stay at a suite at Caesar’s or somewhere and spend thousands. The guy will take her downstairs and buy her a chinchilla coat and that kind of thing. What if you had a place where people with that kind of money could come?
BD: When I first came here, there was a guy . . . I think he should have come up with a better name and he would have had a better chance. His name was Captain Stookey [sp]. He had several strip clubs down in San Diego. What he wanted to do here—and he’d already bought the land, from what I understood—was to build a big geometric dome and have 150 to 250 women working there. The county blew their stack.
RM: Oh my gosh, this was Nye County? When was that?
BD: Around 19 years ago because we came in about the same time. And he didn’t get it off the ground. That’s why Amargosa kind of changed. When I first moved here, you could go to Amargosa and probably put a brothel together—just talk to the townspeople, the town board, and they’d probably let you do it. But when this Captain Stookey came in, they already had Joe over there. And they were so embarrassed that they had agreed to that, that they just kind of said, “Well, we just have one,” and so Joe already had it. I mean, Captain Stookey was going to bring in helicopters. Like you said, it wasn’t just to come in for an hour or two, it was coming in for days at a time and everything was catered to.
But Nye County kind of freaked out. We were told the best thing to do if you wanted to build one in this county was to start off with one to five girls and then do more after that. But coming in with a big plan . . . I mean, he had it all; he had the geometric dome built. He had a regular demonstration to show them. One thing was funny—he had a film, a VCR, and he was showing how it was going to be landscaped, how the girls were going to be, what the building was going to be like, how all this stuff was going to be just terrific with helicopters and so forth, and right in the middle a test pattern came up and it went straight into porn. He had apparently taped over some porn.
RM: Oh my God, so he blew it!
BD: Here he is with the county commissioners, and they’re having an absolute fit.
RM: And this was 19 years ago? Did it wind up in the papers? I wonder if it’s something we can research in the papers.
BD: It probably is somewhere in one of the papers. Yes, it was funny. Everybody was laughing about it. So Nye County was out and he was looking for other counties, like Esmeralda. But Esmeralda has terrible water so you have a water problem. And then he would whine. So he never wound up doing it. And come to find out, he was a big crook anyway.
RM: Maybe he couldn’t deliver if he did get a license.
BD: He lost some money.
RM: Could you talk about the evolution of your business here from the early years to the later years?
BD: It slowly changed. We started with what we knew and with what everybody told us was tradition. When we saw traditions that weren’t working, we started throwing things out. I never was one to follow tradition much so I would come up with the ideas and just do them. Sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn’t.
RM: What are some examples of some ideas that worked versus those that didn’t?
BD: It was just little things. The best thing I did was separating the girls and giving them space so they weren’t living in the same space they had to work in all the time. We did have a bar and I got rid of it because the girls were drinking. The guys weren’t drinking because they had to get back up on the road. They didn’t want to be drunk on the road so they’d just buy the girls drinks. The girls would drink, and by 9:00 they were so drunk they couldn’t participate anymore. And you get belligerent girls when you tell them they can’t have any more. The final thing was I told a girl she was fired because she was doing drugs in the room with a customer. She came out and she said, “I can’t work like this.”
I said, “Go ahead and pack your stuff up then, and we’ll have Jim take you into town.”
“Well, I have a friend waiting.”
I said, “I don’t think your friend’s waiting.” She looked out, and he wasn’t there. When she went, she went into another girl’s room and just started beating the tar out of her. I got in there and she wound up biting a hole in my leg, practically. When we got through with the doctor and so forth, she went to jail. We came back to recoup, the other girl and I, and I told Jim, “Take the bar out now. Just take it out. I don’t want to have that happen any more.”
RM: But can’t they drink in their room?
BD: No. If I find alcohol, they’re out. I found one girl who was trying to trick me one time. She wanted to go with me when I got my gas, and while I did the gas she would pick up a few things at the store but she didn’t want me to go in the store with her. What she didn’t know is I knew the lady in the store. I called her up on my cell phone and I said, “What’s she buying?”
And she said, “She bought a bottle of booze.”
So when we came back, I said, “I know you bought a bottle of booze. You forget I’ve got friends in town. They’re going to tell me what I need to know. All I’ve got to do is ask.”
She said, “I’m sorry.”
And I said, “Well, don’t do it. You know you can’t drink.”
RM: Did you fire her?
BD: Yes, I did. That was her last bottle. She had to go. I was tired.
RM: For a girl that spent a lot of time in L.A., what was it like coming to this entirely different world?
BD: I thought I’d come to a new planet, honestly and truly. When I first moved here, before we brought this section in, we just had that other section over there. It had a big plate-glass window in it and we had the TV in front of it. I’d watch TV and there’d be all those dust devils that would pop up. I’d be watching Martian movies and seeing all these dust devils. I said, “I just totally moved off of the planet. I’m not on Earth anymore. I must have somehow skipped,” because it really did seem alien for a long time.
RM: Did you, at times, regret coming to this part of the world?
BD: No, I kind of liked it here. I guess it was because I liked the Nevada philosophy—live and let live and if you don’t hurt anybody, just don’t bother them. I came from cities where everybody was in your business, and I liked this better. That was another reason for living out here; I know how little towns can be—people know what you’re up to. Out here, nobody really knows. They just guess. And sometimes it’s funnier than what really happens.
RM: Where did you get the name “Shady Lady?”
BD: There’s an old, old song about a lady that lived on . . . how did it go? “The naughty lady of Shady Lane . . .”
RM: How delightful—I remember that song.
BD: We had gone through several names. I would have probably taken the Silver Slipper if I had known the Silver Slipper was no longer in existence. Somebody said, “You can take the Silver Queen.”
I said, “No, because Tonopah has the Silver Queen. So we were trying to come up with something and that name . . . I don’t remember if it popped into Jim’s head or my head. Then we did the Petticoat Junction things—like the lane out there is Petticoat Lane. And we started using things that were similar, like petticoats and that kind of thing. It just worked out. We’re having a good time now. There are days when you could have probably bought it for a quarter—give me a quarter and help me pack and I would have been gone.
RM: Has the recession impacted you much?
BD: The recession impacts everybody, especially places like us, because it’s discretionary income. If you don’t have extra income, the extras go away. You’re thinking about whether you’re going to eat and pay your gas and keep your car and keep your job going.
But it didn’t hurt us as badly as I thought it was going to. I think that’s partially because of our pricing, also partially because we usually offer deals every month. Besides our regular pricing, if you go on the Internet you’ll sometimes find deals. Some of the other brothels started bringing in deals, and we started laughing. They said, “What are you laughing at?”
I said, “How can you get half off of something you don’t know what the price is?” They were having half-off parties and I’m going, “But what’s the price?” If one of the girls says, “It’s $500,” is it really half off? Was she charging $1,000 or is she still just charging you $500?
We treat our customers honestly. If there’s any discrepancy, we don’t kick them out and say, “Well, that’s your luck.” We try to settle it. I’ve given people money back. I’ve said, “Okay, you’re not happy, here you go.” And it’s worked out fine for us.
I think another thing that some of the brothel businesses are having problems with is they don’t treat them like a store. A guy comes in and says he’s not having a good time. They go, “Oh, well that’s your tough luck” and they send him on his way. You’ve got to treat it more like a business than a lot of places do. I don’t understand why they don’t understand that—they still try to get away with things they got away with 20 and 25 years ago and it doesn’t work anymore. If some guy bitches, they don’t refund him or anything. Or they don’t do anything to make it better—they don’t give them another girl or try to resolve it, they just kick him out.
There was a place down south where he thought there was a sucker born every minute, so he didn’t care. And he treated his customers very poorly. Well, he’s paying for it now really hard.
RM: Do your girls try to build the clientele, like get a guy to keep coming back?
BD: Some girls do and some don’t.
RM: In support of the idea of legalized prostitution, do you want to say a little bit about the disease aspect?
BD: Since they’ve been testing for HIV, I believe in 1983 or ’84, the houses have not had any cases of HIV. The venereal numbers are low to none in the houses.
RM: In contrast to probably a lot of activity in Vegas.
BD: In contrast to when you go out on the street, Vanessa made it anywhere from 20 to 30 percent all the way to 50 percent of girls on the street being HIV positive. That’s a lot of girls. So that speaks well for the houses. The girls are checked. You can’t even come into a house until you’re checked and your test results come back. If anything comes back on your test result, unless it’s something that can be cleared up through medication, you’re not going to work there. If you come in with HIV, you’re done. So where else are they going to go but on the street?
RM: And through the scrupulous use of condoms, diseases like gonorrhea and syphilis and probably herpes are controlled.
BD: They’re more under control. What happens sometimes with girls, though, is they’re real good in the houses but when they go home to their boyfriends, they don’t use condoms. If their boyfriend’s been playing around, which happens, when a girl comes back, she has to be tested. If she’s got something, she can’t work until it’s either cleared up or, if it’s something that can’t be cleared up, then she’s done.
RM: When you started here 19 years ago, was condom use required?
RM: I remember years ago, going back to the ’50s, they didn’t use them.
BD: I think when HIV broke out and people started hearing about it, they started being mandatory. It’s done well for the women. It’s just a cleaner business all the way around. When you have rules and regulations . . . people say they want to decriminalize it. Well, Nevada was at one point basically decriminalized before they made it illegal. There was no crime involved if you did it but there was far more corruption. There were far more things like that going on until they started making it legal because then, the owners had to pass an FBI check.
RM: So that got the criminals out of it.
BD: Yes, they got the bad guys out. And like I said, the other thing is if the girls can’t work in the houses, where are they going to go? They’re going to go on the streets and the escort services. I’m always saying that the state can’t protect people by saying it’s not legal when these girls are running around giving whatever they give—the gift that keeps on giving.
RM: One thing I wanted to ask you about was your try with a male prostitute. What was your thinking in trying that, and how did it work out?
BD: It got so blown out of proportion that it was a ride and a half I wasn’t prepared for. We had couples that would come in, a guy and his wife, and he’d want to add a lady to the party, so they would rent a girl. Well, sometimes they wanted to add a man and a girl and we couldn’t do it because of the way the law was written. Basically all I did was change it because the way it was written, it discriminated against males. Even though the state defined prostitutes as being male or female, there was no way for men to have the tests that they were requiring because it was a cervix test, and men don’t have cervixes. So they had to come up with a new test for the men, and that was basically it.
It was never meant to turn into a huge brothel, it was meant for me to be able to offer another service if I wanted to, or if a girl wanted to come in and just see a guy. It turned into a three-ring circus. I kind of blame that on the sheriff at the time because when I wrote a commissioner it went out as an advisory thing and the sheriff came out at the next meeting and said that somebody wanted to open a male brothel. And that wasn’t what it was. It was just to be able to add men to the mix if we wanted to.
RM: That’s interesting. How long did you have the fellow here?
BD: We’ve had several here over different periods of time. But that guy was here for a while. He was a nice guy but we let him go because he wasn’t quite the brightest bulb. Part of it was my fault—I didn’t prepare him for the media. I let him come and go, and the media just got him and tore him up and he didn’t know that if they asked him a question he didn’t have to answer it. And sometimes, it didn’t come off well.
RM: Had male prostitution ever been tried in Nevada before that you know of?
BD: According to Mr. George Flint, somebody years ago tried to do it and it failed. But if they had tried it years ago, they would have been breaking state law because of the test. I vaguely remember that the Mustang was going to try it when I was younger. That’s how Mustang II came into being—he had a Mustang I and a Mustang II. But when it didn’t work, he just turned it into girls. But oh, that was a mess. You can look up all that and find out all kinds of stuff I was called.
RM: Yes, I kind of followed it out of the corner of my eye in the paper.
BD: And all because I wanted to add men.
RM: Yes, just add another dimension for the heterosexuals really.
BD: Yes and they just tore it apart.
RM: What a shame. Well, thanks for spending this time with me and telling me so many interesting things.
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