Breaks, Brains and Balls | Hear the story of Joe Conforte, founder of Mustang Ranch |

Breaks, Brains and Balls | Hear the story of Joe Conforte, founder of Mustang Ranch

Special to the Sun

TAHOE CITY, Calif. and#8212;He’s an American success story; he’s a Mafioso-like pimp; he’s a scuzz-bag misogynist: opinions about Joe Conforte, founder of the infamous Mustang Ranch, vary wildly, depending upon your perspective.

David Toll, author of “Breaks, Brains and Balls,” Joe Conforte’s biography, will tell all about this character Thursday, Sept. 20, at 6:30 p.m. at the Gatekeeper’s Museum in Tahoe City.

“People know very little about him. People know very little about this aspect of Nevada history. This really is a history book, the kind of history they don’t teach you in schools,” said Toll.

Born in Sicily, Conforte’s life sounds like one of the “Godfather” movies. He remembers, “watching my mother in her outdoor kitchen, fanning the fire beneath the big cooking pot with a raven’s wing.” His family emigrated to the U.S. east coast when he was about 11 years old. Conforte later moved to Oakland where he drove taxi cabs. In the mid 1950s, he began to dabble as an “entrepreneur,” opening his first Nevada brothel. The world’s oldest profession was illegal at that time, and Conforte became a known quantity to authorities. In 1971, Nevada legalized prostitution, making Conforte’s Mustang Ranch a mainstream sensation.

Doors open for Thursday’s event at 6 p.m. Toll speaks at 6:30 p.m. “Breaks, Brains and Balls,” will be for sale and Toll will be signing. The event is free for NLTHS members; $10 suggested donation for non-members. For more information, call 530-583-1762 or email

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