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Life inside the early days of the Chicken Ranch

Editor’s note: This is the seventeenth in a series of stories by historian Bob McCracken on the history of prostitution in Nevada and Nye County. A new feature in the series will come out every Friday for the next several weeks.

Chicken Ranch owner Walter Plankinton described a typical day at the Chicken Ranch in the 1985 book, “The Nye County Brothel Wars” by Jane Kasindorf.

The women got up by noon; if ready, they could go on the floor at noon and make extra money. Between noon and 1 p.m. they fixed their hair, took a bath, and ate breakfast. They had to be available for lineup at 1 p.m.

The women watched TV or played games until a customer arrived, at which time they joined the lineup. When selected, they “did their thing.” During the day when it was hot, they likely wore leotards and bodysuits. Dinner was at 6 p.m., after which they changed into evening gowns or sexy dresses. They worked through to about 3 a.m. and then retired.

Plankinton is quoted as saying, “We’ve got Chinese girls, black girls, Mexican girls, white girls, redheads, blondes, brunettes, fat ones, skinny ones—we’ve got ‘em all.”

He indicated that in the first six months of 1979 he netted about $80,000 and by the end of the year expected between $150,000 and $200,000 profit. Fines were used to regulate the women’s behavior.

Prices at the Chicken Ranch circa 1980 were $30 for 15 minutes of regular sex and $50 for a half hour. Other parties might cost $100 or more. When a customer finished his party it was over, regardless of how much time he had paid for in advance.

There was no S &M bondage and anal sex was not allowed. Sometimes women came with their husbands for a three-way party.

Plankinton said he never dated the girls in the joint. He said he dated girls in Las Vegas, where there were plenty of women. He said that in the minds of many what he called “square women,” it was a challenge to conquer a guy whom they believed had as much access to sex as he did.

Chicken Ranch Sold

Meanwhile, Russell Reade, a California schoolteacher, figured his life as a teacher was headed nowhere, and he was thus searching for an alternative career.

In 1982, Reade and a partner, Kenneth Green, purchased the Chicken Ranch for $1 million.

Reade’s investment was said to be $25,000 and he became resident manager of the establishment where 15 women worked.

He purchased the brothel after answering an ad in the Wall Street Journal that read, “High cash flow, legal in Nevada.” Upon assuming ownership, he moved quickly to defuse public concern about the establishment. Reade is quoted as saying, “I’d still be a teacher if I was getting paid what I was worth … . It’s really sad. Those kids lost what I had to offer.”

After that, he felt he had shut the door to classroom teaching forever. Yet in his new job he believed he still had a chance to do some teaching, such as instructing the girls on venereal disease.

“There’s still a little teacher in me,” he said. “I make sure they’re educated in that regard.”

Reade said that when a girl leaves the Chicken Ranch, “It’s like sending a kid through high school and into graduation. It’s like losing one of my favorite students.” (Kent Lauer, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Sept. 18, 1983)

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