Breaks Brains and Balls – The Story of Nevada’s Fabulous Mustang Ranch

Breaks Brains and Balls – The Story of Nevada’s Fabulous Mustang Ranch

May 18, 2018 0 By Gillian

Breaks Brains and Balls – The Story of Nevada’s Fabulous Mustang Ranch
Breaks Brains and Balls The story of Nevada’s Fabulous Mustang Ranch, is actually the story of Joe Conforte. Conforte spent much of his life in Nevada as a gambler, political opportunist, and the owner of one of the world’s most notorious brothels.

Author David W. Toll started the project in late 1986, when Joe and the Ranch were big news in Nevada politics. The first series of two and three hour interviews produced some 75 hours of tapes. In 1991, shortly after the IRS seized and auctioned the Mustang Ranch (which the government actually ran for quite some time), Toll again interviewed Conforte. Somehow the project just didn’t seem to lend itself to a book, but eighteen years later, in June of 2009, Toll again interviewed Conforte from his home in Rio De Janeiro, and a conclusion to the project was at hand.

What was finally published is an eye-opening view of a man who gambled heavily on sports, politics, and the sexual desires of men (usually at the expense of women).

High Points

Autobiographical account by gambler and political opportunist

Written by award winning Nevada author David Toll

Provides insights to the mind of a compulsive gambler

Low Points

Conforte is a non-conformist, some would say sociopath

His view of the world and women is from 50 years ago

The narrative is long and drags at points


Breaks Brains and Balls by Joe Conforte and David W. Toll was released in 2011

471 pages with a few photos

Published by Gold Hill Publishing Co., Inc

Guide Review – ‘Breaks Brains and Balls’ by Joe Conforte and David W. Toll

Breaks Brains and Balls “the story of Nevada’s fabulous Mustang Ranch” by Joe Conforte and David W. Toll is a fascinating look at the life of Joe Conforte, owner and operator of the United States first legal bordello (1971).


The book details Conforte’s love of gambling, his almost continuous string of bets during any given football season, and his inability to pass a craps game without risking whatever money he might have on his person. At one point, after making a $50,000 political wager and winning $30,000, Conforte headed from his hotel suite in a Las Vegas casino to get his car and head home.

Unfortunately, his path to the parking garage included a walk through the casino, and a simple $100 wager turned into a $80,000 loss at the dice game. He may have honestly followed the three simple tips to managing his gambling bankroll, but his emotional bankroll may have put him in a different frame of mind than most gamblers.

Most people who break the law come up with various reasons why they do so. Conforte doesn’t. He offers no apologies, just tells what transpired through his view of the world and his “right” to do whatever it takes to get ahead, such as handing US District Court Judge Harry Claiborne a $30,000 bribe.

Love him or hate him, the story is here for the taking, and co-author Toll does a good job of making sense of the dozens of hours of taped interviews. His time in Las Vegas and Reno are chronicled, as well as his subsequent time in South America.

Toll felt compelled to produce the book as an autobiography, since so few of Joe’s contemporaries would provide interviews, but I think the project would have worked better as a biography. That view shouldn’t stop you from reading the book if you have any interest at all in Joe Conforte and his many years in Nevada.