An Excerpt from
"Breaks, Brains and Balls: the Story of Joe Conforte and Nevada's fabulous Mustang Ranch"
Coming soon to a bookstore near you.
It's common knowledge that before he came to Nevada Joe Conforte had been a cab driver in Oakland and San Francisco and it was there he was introduced to the sex trade. Joe had been discharged from his third hitch in the Army in early 1950 — he was a military policeman ("not because I liked police work but because I heard it was the easiest work there was") — and was back on the street scrambling to make a living. Here he describes the dawning of awareness that set him on the path to fame and fortune.


Now it's my third day driving a cab. I'm at 12th and Broadway in Oakland, waiting to pick up a load.

A sailor gets in my cab. He says, "I want to see a girl."

"Well, I says, "Where does she live?"

He says, "No, no, no, I want to see a girl."

I didn't know what he was talking about. I didn't know that was a part of the cab driver's profession. And he got out of the cab, I didn't even take him anywhere. I thought, "Jesus Christ, I just lost a load."

Now, a day or so later, here comes a black girl. She gets in the cab, and I drive her home to Adeline Street. She gives me a card, and she says, "If you ever get anybody that wants some action, give me a call."

Now I get the other side. Now I can put two and two together. I remembered the sailor two days before. Now I've got someplace to take him.

I left the girl off at her home. A day or two later, that same sailor passes by. He's on an aircraft carrier and he wants to go back to his ship.

This time I approach him. I said, "Hey, come here, come here! I've got what you were looking for the other day! Do you have any objection to her being black?"

He says, "Well, I prefer white, but I haven't had a girl in a couple of weeks, I don't care. Let's go."

Now I call the girl. "I have a customer for you, do you want to take him?"

"Sure, bring him up."

Now I know what the hell it's all about. I drive him up there, and she says, "Come back in 40 or 50 minutes." When I come back he gets in the cab, and she on the side hands me something. Well, I don't know what it's all about, but I'm not going to refuse money. She handed me $3.

I looked at it. I'm no dummy. I know it's my commission. On the way back to the base I asked him how he liked it, how much he spent. He told me he spent $10 and I put 2 and 2 together. I'm getting my $3 out of the $10. My 30%.

And that is why at the Mustang Ranch we gave the cab drivers 30%. Because 30% was given to me when I drove a cab.

Now I'm beginning to see that this was a good deal. Vallejo was open at that time, and now I'm hustling loads of soldiers and sailors to take them to Vallejo, 30 miles from Oakland. Not only did that make a good cab fare, but I also made 30% of what they spent. My commission was more than my paycheck. So I liked it.