The business model for the World Famous Mustang Ranch brothel is not all about sex, owner Lance Gilman said Thursday on Nevada Newsmakers.
Nearly half of the business done at the legal brothel in Storey County is what Gilman called “care giving.”
He described at as “the power of touch.”
“I have been criticized for this, but they are the epitome of caregivers,” Gilman said of his female sex workers. “They are a little bit of a psychologist, they are a little bit of a psychiatrist.
“I would say maybe 40 percent of the business, maybe more, we do out there, I would call care giving,” Gilman told host Sam Shad.
Gilman describes some of the customers as “damaged folks.” Their visits to the brothel are not so much about the sex. They want to talk. They want someone to listen and treat them well.
“So many of the folks who come in are carrying burdens and they are concerned about the burdens,” Gilman said. “We see a lot of older folks who, for example, are widowed or military who have been damaged.”
Bliss Life magazine recently ran a cover story about Gilman’s brothel, called, “The Power of the Human Touch.” The magazine became newsworthy after the Reno-Tahoe International Airport removed the women’s lifestyle publication from its advertising racks because of the cover story, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
“Take a look at our clientele,” Gilman said. “They have been damaged by the world. Maybe mother nature wasn’t very kind to them so they have disabilities or characteristics that are not appealing, necessarily. And I think you will find that they are the segment of society that has been ignored.
“We don’t really see them,” Gilman continued. “They are in wheel chairs. They are paraplegics. All of those come in. There are senior fathers living in a home and the families bring them in. We had one fella whose wife kept him in the basement after he made a lot of money with the Internet. But he never had touch.
“It’s about touch,” Gilman added. “Most folks just want to hear, I’m alright. I’m not deviant. No, you are going to be OK. No, you are going to find life after (tragedy). If we had time, I could tell you story after story of the folks who have left with smiles and feeling better about themselves just because they had somebody to talk to.”
Gilman shared one story:
“There was a young man who was in a fire in his van and it blew up his paint truck,” Gilman said. “And it blew him clear out of the front window. He was horribly disfigured. He had no ears. And where with dignity is he going to find relationship and touch? So our ladies would bundle him up and take him to the Circus Circus and win teddy bears and he had, with dignity, a relationship with a lady who was really caring with him. And we see that over and over again.”
Gilman, the develop/broker of the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center, got in the brothel business about 20 years ago, when he and general manager Susan Austin opened the Wild Horse Ranch brothel near the sprawling industrial center. The Wild Horse had since been combined with the Mustang brothel on the same property. Gilman boasts the property includes a gourmet restaurant that has received good reviews in local media.
The brothel gives Storey County about $500,000 in annual taxes, Gilman said.
Gilman recently produced a short video on the women who work at Mustang and admitted to getting emotional while talking about it at a recent reception. Nevada’s women working in brothels are independent contractors, negotiating with management for length of time working and shifts, according to a study at UNLV.
“I have met some of the nicest, quality people that you can imagine,” he said. “They’re wonderful girls next door. But they have to have a capability of doing the business. Not everybody can do it. It takes a special mindset to do it.”
Legal sex workers face discrimination in many forms and suffer from perceptions that should only pertain to illegal prostitution, Gilman said.
“They are the most-discriminated-against folks I have ever seen, to anybody in the world,” he said. “And so you become their champion. But they are maligned in society. They try to buy a car and they are maligned. And if anybody knows what their industry is, they are maligned. They are discriminated against. And then those of us that really understand them, respect them unconditionally.”
Gilman sees respect for legal sex workers growing at the Nevada Legislature. Assemblywoman Leslie Cohen, D-Henderson, sponsored a bill in the 2019 Legislature that mandated a committee study working conditions at Nevada’s licensed brothels.
“Leslie Cohen had a lot to do with this, out of the Legislature,” he said. “She was the only who recognized that these ladies had been forgotten, had been discriminated against and with her bill down there, now for the first time in history, the Legislature is looking at what they can do to make it better. Not for the owners and not for the business itself, but for the women of the industry.”