BEATTY — In the past, when Electra went home after a long day of sex at the Shady Lady Ranch, her husband, Sam, liked to hear the details of how she pleased her customers.
But now, given that a federal court has ruled that Nevada’s licensed bordellos can advertise in counties such as Clark and Washoe, where prostitution is illegal, the 41-year-old prostitute’s spouse also enjoys discussing another subject: the prospect of advertising bringing more money her way.
"I really think it’s going to help business," said the black-haired woman who sports a tattoo on her upper left arm professing her love for Sam, with whom she said she will celebrate her 11th wedding anniversary on Sept. 21. "And that’s good for us. I think we’ve already had more customers. I’ve just got to watch my eating now and keep my weight down."
Also counting on the advertising Monday was Kristel, a 38-year-old redhead who sat on a bed where she and Electra often entertain men together at the legal brothel in Nye County, about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas,
For Kristel, any extra business generated by the advertising might help her realize her dream of moving from independent contractor to business owner. "I hope to open up an interior decorating firm in Las Vegas one day," she said, slowly rubbing her an area of her chest left exposed by her blouse.
On Monday, Bobbi Davis, the owner of the Shady Lady, began to advertise in the Daily Visitor Guide. It is an entertainment publication wrapped around copies of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that are distributed only on the Strip and downtown.
Last week, Davis began advertising in CityLife, an alternative weekly paper which, like the Review-Journal, is a Stephens Media publication.
In July, U.S. District Judge James Mahan declared two state laws that banned such advertising "overly broad" and thus unconstitutional. Davis, CityLife and the weekly High Desert Advocate newspaper in West Wendover filed a lawsuit in 2006 asking that the 1979 laws be overturned.
"It made no sense to allow advertising for escort services and massage parlors and not legal brothels," said Davis as she showed off a sign that said her customers must wear condoms. She said her newfound freedom to advertise "is wonderful."
Not everyone thinks brothel advertising in the mainstream media is a plus for Clark County. Just because a court said it is legal does not mean a publication has to run it, community leaders stressed.
Pastor Mark Lansberry of Trinity United Methodist Church in Las Vegas said it "doesn’t promote a positive sense of community."
Richard Ziser, leader of Nevada Concerned Citizens and a former U.S. Senate candidate, said: "All these conventioneers are coming to Las Vegas. They have wives at home. You shouldn’t be guiding them to these kind of places."
Larry Struve, a representative of the Religious Alliance In Nevada, questioned whether Stephens Media was acting responsibly.
"People in the faith community understand the importance of free speech," Struve said. "We rely on the First Amendment for religious freedom. But if these ads are in the largest newspaper in Nevada, people will have the impression that it is approved. We want to create an image of the state as a family-friendly place. The overwhelming majority of our parishioners don’t approve of prostitution. What we are talking about here is judgment. Because ads like this appear in the largest newspaper in the state, it is going to create the impression it is approved."
Sherman Frederick, publisher of the Review-Journal, said he could not imagine brothel ads appearing in the "R-J that goes to everyday people."
While the ads might continue to appear in the visitors guide distributed in the resort corridor and in CityLife, an alternative publication, Frederick said other advertising requests would be reviewed on a "case-by-case basis."
"We don’t have a policy on it, but I seriously doubt brothels would want to advertise in the R-J or that the R-J would run them," Frederick said. "We don’t like to do things that 90 percent of the subscribers would object to."
Vince Alberta, vice president of public affairs for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitor Authority, said his agency hasn’t "taken a position" on the new advertising practice.
George Flint, owner of the Nevada Brothel Owners Association, said he doubts many brothels will do much advertising.
"We basically want to keep a low profile," he said. "We don’t want to give nervous legislators reason to try to outlaw us."
He said the Mustang Ranch and Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Northern Nevada are doing "discreet" print ads. Bob Fisher, who heads the public relations arm of the Chicken Ranch brothel in Pahrump, said mobile sign advertising could be used to drum up business from Las Vegas. "It will just have the name and number," he said. "There will be no mention of sex.
The Shady Lady ad that ran in the Review-Journal’s visitor’s guide shows a clothed man and woman in an embrace. "VIP TREATMENT AT WORKING MEN’s PRICE" reads the ad, which touts that a group of men voted the cathouse the "Best Small Brothel in Nevada." The ad also states that if a customer brings in a copy of the ad with a copy of a car rental agreement, Shady Lady will give a $50 discount for one hour or longer "parties."
An hour with a woman costs $600 at the Shady Lady. Twenty minutes goes for $300.
"We’re not a big enough brothel to offer free limousine service so that $50 discount should pay for a rental car," said Davis.
Davis, who was in the escort service and massage parlor business in Southern California before moving to Nevada 15 years ago, said she enjoys the brothel business.
"When I was doing things that were illegal before, I worried about what I was doing," the 53-year-old said, pushing a digital alarm prostitutes use to indicate that a customer’s time is up.
"I think I am really providing a service to men. We have a lot of men with wives who have cancer who still have needs. And we have men who are disabled or who aren’t good socially. We had one man here who was badly burned who said a woman would never even look at him."
She said they have had a hermaphrodite, an individual with both sets of sex organs. "We made him so comfortable that he was able to perform," she said.
Neither Electra nor Kristel would provide their real names. Electra, who hails from New England, said she worries that her grown daughter will find out what she does for a living.
"I don’t think that she reads the paper so I don’t mind if you use my picture," Electra said.
Kristel, who is from Virginia, has a relative in Pahrump who doesn’t know what she does for a living, but she, too, doubts whether a newspaper article could hurt her.
"She’s not much of a reader," she said.
Both women said years ago, after reading about the existence of legal brothels, they concluded that prostitution would be a good way to make a living.
Electra said she has made adult films and appeared naked in magazines.
"I’d like to get some plastic surgery, so I can stay in the business until I’m at least 48," she said.
Davis, who said good legal prostitutes can make more than $100,000 a year, said she thinks that once her new advertising campaign spreads the word that her brothel exists, customers will bypass the bigger brothels around Pahrump and drive the additional hour to her business, a yellow mobile home alongside an otherwise deserted stretch of U.S. Highway 95 about 30 miles north of Beatty,
"We’re much cheaper," she said. Her advertising slogan might be that customers will get more bang for their buck at the Shady Lady.
There are six live peacocks to add a little ambience among the creosote bushes out front, and inside the mobile home are three different rooms for sex. One is in a Victorian decor, another has an Asian motif, and the other, called the Green Room, is American eclectic. The rooms used for sex are separate from the rooms where the prostitutes live, Davis said. That prevents customers from stealing panties and bras as souvenirs, she said.
Customers are always asked to take complimentary showers.
"Even if they said they had one before they started driving, we like to remind them that they had a two-and-a-half-hour drive," said Electra, who said that after 10 years as a prostitute she still tries to enjoy her work, even with men who aren’t the most attractive.
"I figure if I’m going to be here, I might as well try to enjoy it," she said.
Kristel, who has worked for less than a decade as a prostitute, said she still finds it shocking that many men don’t like it when she asks them to drop their drawers.
"They seem surprised by that," she said. "But that surprises me when you think about why they came here."
Davis said she expects that by the end of the year her lobby will be full of men dropping their drawers.
"I’m a believer in advertising," she said.
It should be clear, Frederick said, why Stephens Media fought to allow advertising.
"They are legal businesses, and legal businesses have a right to advertise," he said.
But he repeatedly stressed that Review-Journal readers who have the paper delivered to the homes won’t have to worry about brothel ads. They will be aimed at visitors, who are by and large the customers of brothels.
"Our readers have little reason to fear that these ads will be in our newspapers," Frederick said. "There is no great need to get excited about legal brothel advertising."