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Magazine 021417

A HISTORIC AND LEGENDARY

A HISTORIC AND LEGENDARY INSTITUTION World Famous Historic Chicken Ranch Brothel in Nye County, Nevada, is one of the largest, most successful legal brothel in Nevada. It sits on 40 acres of prime land at the corner of Silver Street and Homestead Road outside Pahrump, in Nye County, where prostitution and brothels are legal and strictly controlled. The Ranch is less than an hour’s drive from Las Vegas…the tourist capital of the world! In fact, it is as close as a brothel can legally get to Las Vegas. The Chicken Ranch has seen a lot of history. It is the oldest continuing brothel in the United States. Its roots go all the way back to 1844 in Texas. It only became known as the Chicken Ranch in the 1930s. Before moving to Nevada in the 1970s, the Ranch served over 6 generations in Texas during a transitional period that stretched from cowboys to astronauts. Those who sought the favors of its working girls included farmers, ranchers, soldiers, politicians, businessmen and just “plain folk”. From its origins in La Grange, Texas, the Ranch has survived colorful times. For instance, during the Great Depression, a bartering system was implemented to pay for Ranch services using chickens. The name The Chicken Ranch remains today. Other interesting occasions included a publicized visit from Texas born President Lyndon B. Johnson and the infamous shut-down of the Ranch in 1973, now immortalized in the play and movie “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”, starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. The Chicken Ranch has come a long way and continues to make history today! FIRST 60 YEARS - ESTABLISHING A LEGACY (1844-1904) Prior to becoming a state, the Republic of Texas was dominated by strong leaders such as Sam Houston and a changing population as Easterners moved west and immigrants from Central Europe migrated to the new land to escape famine and persecution. It was against this background of frontierism and social change that a brothel - which was not to become known as The Chicken Ranch until the 1930s - opened its doors and beds to accommodate and serve the local farmers, ranchers and cowboys. During the Civil War, soldiers from generals to privates got a brief respite from fighting by visiting the brothel and enjoying a little rest and relaxation. Following the War, cowboys on long cattle drives found the brothel a pleasant diversion from the dust on the trail. The brothel became an integral part of the life and times of Texas’ early frontier heritage. A TALE OF TWO WOMEN (1905-1973) The modern history and the evolution of the still unnamed brothel into a famous Texas institution began in 1905 with the arrival of Ms. Faye Stewart (alias Jessie Williams and renowned as Miss Jessie) as its new owner and Madam - a description which fit her in the classic sense. Over the next 40 years, this dynamic woman - described as strong, generous and smart with a country rough-hewn charm but shrewd with a backwoods tenacity - brought the brothel into the modern era and made it a profitable business. She sowed the seeds for future success by making peace with the community - and most importantly – with law enforcement officers. By becoming a friend, ally and supporter of the Loessin brothers - who would reign as Faye County Sheriffs for the next four decades, she ensured that the illegal brothel would operate without legal interference. During her tenure as Madam, she instigated the brothel’s philanthropic policy of supporting local charities and the local business community. During the Great War (World War I), she sent cookies to local residents fighting overseas. She also began the practice of having the girls receive weekly health check-ups (which is currently a requirement for a legal brothel). Ms. Jessie also was responsible for moving the brothel from a battered downtown hotel in 1915 to its permanent location in La Grange - a sprawling white structure set among live oaks at the end of a gravel road on an 11-acre site midway between Houston and Austin. And, during her tenure as Madam, the brothel received its name “The Chicken Ranch”. During the great depression of the 1930s, money was scarce so Miss Jessie allowed the ladies to accept produce and livestock in lieu of cash. As a result, the brothel had so many Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds in its backyard that they raised poultry to supplement their income and food supply. From this chicken barter system, the legendary name evolved. In 1961, Miss Jessie died and was mourned by three generations of men whose passage from innocence she administered. Her last few years were spent in a wheelchair on the porch of the brothel. In her 56 years as Madam and owner, she brought The Chicken Ranch from an unnamed brothel to an institution which was even acknowledged in the Texas Legislature. 8

In 1952, Edna Milton joined The Chicken Ranch and worked her way up to Miss Jessie’s chief lieutenant at the time of the latter’s death. She bought the brothel from Miss Jessie’s estate and ran it with an “authoritative confidence” until its closure in 1973. In addition to putting in air conditioning, she added a few “exotic extras.” Her term as Madam - like Miss Jessie’s - was characterized by stable management and an operation that allowed no drinking, drugs or rowdiness on the premises. The end of The Chicken Ranch in La Grange came on August 1, 1973 when Fayette County Sheriff T.J. Flourney closed the brothel on the orders of Governor Dolph Briscoe. The catalyst for the closing of the popular and venerable brothel - one of Texas’ oldest business institutions - was a crusade by Marvin Zindler, a consumer affairs investigative reporter with television station KTRK-TV (13) in Houston. Zindler, the former head of the Consumer Protection Division of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, believed that The Chicken Ranch was controlled by organized crime and stayed in business through political corruption - charges that he never was able to document. However, this moral crusader - who was adept to huckstering and was described as an electronic bounty hunter with a flair for publicity - adroitly used his television show to create enough public pressure to force the Governor to act. The closing of the brothel was met with great displeasure from La Grange residents who accepted The Chicken Ranch with tolerance, if not pride. As Lester Zapalac, publisher of the La Grange Journal put it: “The citizens feel it has done no harm and a lot of good - I don’t know anybody who is against it.” Sheriff Flourney, a longtime supporter of the brothel during its 41 years as Deputy Sheriff, agreed adding: “It’s been here all my life and all my daddy’s life and never caused anybody any trouble.” After the brothel’s closing, Edna Milton married an East Texas businessman and later worked as a hostess, cashier, payroll clerk and bookkeeper. The brothel building itself was bought by a Houston lawyer and moved to Dallas where it was turned into a restaurant and night club. It closed after four months due to a faulty heating system and limited menu (only chicken dishes). Five years later, the furniture and furnishings were sold at auction by the Small Business Administration to recoup funds from a federal guaranteed loan (some of the paintings are now displayed in The Chicken Ranch in Pahrump). INTERNATIONAL FAME AND A RENAISSANCE IN NEVADA (1978-PRESENT) The year 1978 marked the revival of The Chicken Ranch in two distinct ways. First, on June 19, the theatrical production of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” opened on Broadway for the beginning of a four-year run before moving to the four corners of the world. (Edna Milton served as technical advisor and had a small part in the play.) It was eventually followed in 1982 with the popular motion picture production of the same name starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. This brought international attention to this famed Texas institution. Prior to the play and motion picture, the Rock Band ZZ Top released their Tres Hombres album in 1973 featuring the hit song La Grange... “Rumor spreadin' around, in that Texas town 'Bout that shack outside La Grange And you know what I'm talkin' about Just let me know if you wanna go To that home out on the range They gotta lotta nice girls out there” Also, in 1975, an enterprising capitalist bought the rights and established a legal licensed brothel in the town of Pahrump, NV, just outside of Las Vegas. As prostitution is illegal in Clark County, in which Las Vegas is located, 41 acres were purchased in Nye County near the Clark County border - which makes The Chicken Ranch the closest and most convenient brothel to Las Vegas. In early 1982, The Chicken Ranch changed ownership. While the brothel still maintains the quality and business-oriented approach espoused by Miss Jessie and Edna Milton, the traditional Madam role is now filled by a former biology teacher (who feels the brothel has the atmosphere of a sorority and his relationship to the ladies is not unlike a teacher has with his students) and the operation is definitely in the 20th century. Customers of The Chicken Ranch now arrive by chauffeured limousine instead of horses or model T’s as the brothel has its own free limousine service from Las Vegas. From the frontier to the space age, each of these stages made its own unique contributions to the myth and legend which has transformed The Chicken Ranch from an unnamed rural brothel to an integral part of American folklore. 2018 TO FUTURE The best adult operators in the world are now the new owners of the Chicken Ranch and will bring back to this legendary brothel the excitement, indulgence and pleasures of the past, from the sumptuous accommodations, 24-hour diner, Las Vegas style buffet, pleasure themed rooms, to live entertainment. But most of all, Solid Gold International is bringing a 5-star level of customer service to the adult hospitality industry. All this combined, will make the Chicken Ranch Resort & Brothel the destination of choice for affluent worldwide travelers, and a magnet to attract tourists from Las Vegas. 9

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