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Sex, boxing, murder at the ‘Love Ranch’

The saga of Mustang Ranch owner Joe Conforte and the 1976 murder of boxer Oscar Bonavena is heading for the big screen.

Boxing promoter/film producer Lou DiBella was on the telephone from New York on Thursday, shedding more light on the film, which was mentioned here in skeletal form in Thursday’s column.

A fictionalized version of the deadly love triangle will star Academy Award-winning actors Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci, with Mirren’s husband, Taylor Hackford, directing her for the first time.

Filming will begin in January in New Mexico. Some scenes will be shot in Nevada, probably near Reno.

Fundamentally, “Love Ranch” is “a love story with great backdrops like murder, prostitution and boxing,” said DiBella, the former head of sports programming for HBO.

The script was written by New York Magazine columnist Mark Jacobson, who wrote the article that the newly released film “American Gangster,” about Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas, was based on.

“Taylor loves boxing and always wanted to direct his wife,” said DiBella.

Hackford, who won an Oscar for directing the short film “Teenage Father,” also directed “An Officer and a Gentleman” and “Ray.”

Bonavena, whose 56-9-1 record included going the distance twice against Joe Frazier and a controversial 15th technical knockout by Muhammad Ali, was killed at the Mustang Ranch in 1976.

He was being managed by Conforte’s wife, Sally, and was spending a lot of time with her at the Mustang Ranch, Nevada’s first legalized brothel.

The brothel’s bodyguard, Willard R. Brymer, was convicted in the killing. Many believed Joe Conforte put out a hit on Bonavena.

A young Spanish actor, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, will play the character based on Bonavena.

Pesci will play a character loosely based on Conforte. Mirren will play his wife.

One of Nevada’s most colorful figures, Conforte, facing tax evasion issues, fled the country in 1980 and reportedly lives in Brazil. He is in his 80s.

Local casting director Ray Favero is interviewing SAG actresses 18 to 40 Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Riviera Comedy Club for principal roles. The roles are for “ladies of the evening” in great shape, he said. Non-union applicants will be interviewed if time permits.


The dealers at Caesars Palace are abuzz after a high roller left a $250,000 tip Wednesday, which ranks up there with the legendary tipping of the late Kerry Packer. The Australian media mogul once toked a single-mom cocktail server $150,000 to buy a house. Wednesday “was a great day to be a dealer at Caesars Palace,” said my source. …

Mayor Oscar Goodman makes another guest appearance on NBC’s “Vegas” series today (10 p.m., KVBC-TV, Channel 3). The episode, shot last summer, is the second of a two-parter and involves the casino floor of the fictional Montecito being gassed by a masked crew of master thieves. The mayor’s scene is with Tom Selleck. “(Goodman) is the crew’s favorite guest star. They literally line up to hug him and say hello,” said a spy on the set.


Company American Bistro’s grand opening weekend starts today with celebrity investors Nick Lachey, Nicky Hilton and Wilmer Valderrama hosting the evening. The Luxor restaurant, another Pure Management Group venture, is next door to Pure’s new nightclub, LAX. Chef Adam Sobel‘s gourmet comfort food menu includes fried chicken and waffles, steak topped with Vidalia onion and pork schnitzel. For reservations call 262-5260.


Pamela Anderson, taking in the Parisian topless revue “Crazy Horse” at the MGM Grand on Wednesday with five friends, including her makeup artist, Karen Stephens.


“You order a Power Bar with extra cheese.” — From David Letterman‘s Top Ten Signs You Won’t Win the New York Marathon

Norm Clarke can be reached at (702) 383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find additional sightings and more online at www.normclarke.com.

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