In as little as three weeks, the Shady Lady Ranch brothel plans to launch a live-action sociology experiment that could open a whole new market for the state's legal bordellos or destroy the industry altogether.
So go the predictions for what might be the biggest change to hit the brothel business since the credit-card reader: male prostitutes.
By as early as mid-January, Shady Lady owner Bobbi Davis plans to hire two men to start servicing women at her cathouse 150 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
The idea is making headlines around the world and causing a minor stir within Nevada's legal sex trade, a mostly insular business where publicity is often feared for the backlash it could bring.
Among those watching from the sidelines with a mix of curiosity and concern is Bob Fisher, longtime public relations man for the Chicken Ranch brothel south of Pahrump.
Fisher said he doesn't know of any brothels that plan to follow the Shady Lady's lead. If anything, he said, the business as a whole probably would be better off if Davis didn't go through with her plans.
"I think the overriding thing here is, why rock the boat?" Fisher said.
Brothel industry lobbyist George Flint fully expects the new business venture to fail. After all, he said, it has never worked before.
According to Flint, infamous brothel owner Joe Conforte quietly offered men to female clients more than a decade before he and his wife were brought up on tax evasion charges and he eventually fled to Brazil.
Flint said the Confortes conducted their experiment in the 1960s in the Lake Tahoe area, "away from their operation at the Mustang Ranch."
"It proved to be a complete failure," he said.
Another Nevada brothel owner whom Flint refused to identify secretly put a man on the payroll about a year and a half ago. That trial run was abandoned after about three months, he said.
Both test cases encountered the same problems, according to Flint: There wasn't much interest in such services to begin with, and the few women who did show up wanted to be romanced for hours before getting down to business.
"Women won't come in for a quickie. They're not jackrabbits like men are," Flint said. "There is just nothing about it, fiscally or any other way, that makes any kind of sense."
And there are fates worse than failure, Flint warned. The Shady Lady's man-sized gamble could prompt state lawmakers or county officials to consider outlawing brothels altogether. Flint said he already has heard rumors to that effect in Carson City.
Davis can't even get an encouraging word out of former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, who moved to Pahrump four years ago with her own grand plans for a spalike "stud farm" catering to women.
"It's not going to work," Fleiss said of the Shady Lady's plan. "Why would you drive out there when you can go on craigslist? You have to drive forever. No woman wants to get laid that bad."
But at least one person thinks the skeptics could be in for a surprise.
Barb Brents, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has studied Nevada's legal brothel industry for more than a decade. She just co-authored a book on the subject, published earlier this month, called "The State of Sex: Tourism, Sex and Sin in the New American Heartland."
"I think it's a large untapped market, and I think it's about time they let women purchase sex in a safe environment where they can purchase quality," Brents said.
It will take some careful marketing, though.
"It will be tricky for these men to make enough money. They will have to tap into some moneyed clientele and find a way to get them out there," Brents said. "But by virtue of being the only ones providing this service, they should have an advantage at least for a while."
Davis already has taken the idea further than anyone before her. Earlier this month, she persuaded the Nevada State Health Division to write men into state codes that used to define licensed prostitutes as women, complete with requirements for weekly testing of "cervical specimens."
Next up for Davis is a meeting with the Nye County Commission, tentatively set for Jan. 5. Depending on how that meeting goes, Davis said she could have two men in her lineup of five sex workers by the following week.
It remains unclear whether Davis even needs the county's blessing. Nye's brothel ordinance avoids any gender-specific references that might block the use of male sex workers, and none of its licensing rules appears to require prior approval before a change like this is made.
Davis said it doesn't really matter whether she is required to meet with county officials.
"They sign our license every three months," said Davis, who has owned the small brothel with her husband for the past 17 years. "They say we need to do it, so we're going to do it."
Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo could not point to a specific part of the brothel ordinance that would prevent Davis from hiring men.
As far as he is concerned, this is a public health issue, not a moral one. The county's job is to make sure the practice is conducted in a way that protects customers and courtesans alike, he said.
"This is a highly privileged license. And remember, this is something entirely new," said DeMeo, who is on the county board that regulates brothels. "We need to know what's going on so we're not stumbling around in the dark on this thing."
He said whatever the county ends up doing is likely to influence what happens in the eight other rural counties that license brothels. Prostitution is illegal elsewhere in Nevada, including the population centers of Clark and Washoe counties.
"I kind of wish another county had to deal with this first, but it fell at the feet of Nye County and we're going to deal with it as appropriately as we can."
Nye County Commission Chairwoman Joni Eastley said she doesn't object to what Davis has planned, as long as it is done legally and with the proper safeguards in place.
So far, Eastley said, she hasn't "heard one word" about the issue from any of her constituents.
Controversy could change that.
Some predict the introduction of male prostitutes will inevitably lead to brothels catering largely to gay men, an idea Flint said "unnerves people" in a way more traditional cathouses do not.
Offering men for men is not part of Davis' plans right now, but she won't rule it out entirely.
While her new business model is aimed at female customers, Davis said she can't really discriminate.
Then again, she also can't offer a service that her employees refuse to provide.
"You can't make someone have sex with someone else just for the heck of it," Davis said.
In other words, the working men themselves will decide whether to accept male customers.
Davis said she won't even pose the question during the job interview. "I'm going to take a 'don't ask, don't tell' (approach)."
Chicken Ranch spokesman Fisher said a brothel catering to gay men might draw closeted customers for whom privacy and discretion are key.
"Maybe there's a bigger market that way," he said. "That's an interesting question."
Fleiss is more bullish on the idea, saying, "If it's gay, that's the only way it would work."
There is nothing on the books to prevent it.
"There are already same-sex contracts being executed in these brothels," DeMeo said. They just happen to involve women instead of men.
"Contrary to what (people's) feelings are, it's a legal activity," he said.
Davis said people keep telling her that a brothel for gay men would be a gold mine, but she doesn't really buy it.
"I have a lot of gay friends. I know how the gay scene works," she said. "There's too much free (sex) going on" for people to want to pay for it.
Davis insists she isn't trying to make trouble for anyone. She just wants to drum up some business in a bad economy.
So far, her plans have generated a lot of publicity, even more than the Shady Lady got when Davis gave out gasoline cards to customers last year or fought to overturn a state ban on brothel advertising in 2007.
"It's got headlines all over the freaking world," said Flint, who already has been interviewed about the Shady Lady by two different news programs in Britain. "I don't think if (Gov.) Jim Gibbons disappeared into a deep dark hole it would get this kind of press."
Davis said she has no idea whether her new business model will succeed. Everyone else is offering predictions, but she isn't.
"This is all uncharted territory," she said. "I may fall flat on my face. If I do, I'll just get up and dust myself off and go on to the next thing."
Contact reporter Henry Brean at email@example.com or 702-383-0350.