Another classic Nevada oddity is this abandoned brothel, just off U.S. 95 at the Lida Junction. It’s been shuttered for probably at least 10 years, but at the time of my visits (2014 and 2015) the interior was still in decent shape, and made for a GREAT photo shoot location.
Although this location is super remote (about 2.5 hours northwest of Vegas), it’s fenced-in private property, and technically trespassing to go in here… so be careful. The place is also full of broken glass and mouse/rat shit, so Hantavirus and Tetanus are real concerns. But you know me….I still got naked to make Art!
Come to find out, this was the old Cottontail Ranch brothel…notable as being opened and run by the fabulously colorful Miss Beverly Harrell, madame (and aspiring politician) extraordinaire. Originally a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn, Ms. Harrell started her career as an aspiring Hollywood starlet…then descended into pimping, and eventually ended up at this desolate location while on the lam from the Hollywood cops. She opened up the Cottontail Ranch brothel on land leased from the BLM in 1967, and the place was an immediate success.
Ms. Harrell was basically Dolly Parton’s character from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas…only real. She built the brothel out of mobile home trailers linked by a “catwalk” (haha), and catered not only to customers from the nearby mining towns, but to high-rollers from Vegas and further destinations as well, thanks to an adjacent airplane landing strip.
In fact, one of her most famous customers was none other than Howard Hughes, who used to fly up from Vegas to spend time with a special gal by the name of Sunny. Allegedly, after one of his visits with Sunny, Hughes’s pilot took off without him, and he was left laying face-down in the desert on a backroad between the brothel and Vegas…where he was discovered by an off-roading Mormon named Melvin Dummar. Dummar gave Hughes a ride back into Vegas, and the story goes that Hughes never forgot that act of kindness….so much so that that nine years later, he ended up leaving Dummer 1/16th of his $2.5 billion estate!!
Whether or not you believe Dummar’s claims of having picked up a destitute Hughes in the desert outside a lonely brothel (and they are highly disputed, pending confirmation from the long-gone and much-sought-after Sunny)…….what IS known to be true is that Ms. Harrell’s BLM lease was soon after revoked, once word leaked to the press that the government was acting as landlord to a whorehouse. OUTRAGE!!!
Now, Ms. Harrell had leased the land legally, with an option to buy after 5 years — and she wasn’t about to let the gov’ment take advantage of her without a fight!! She wasn’t just Dolly Parton’s character in The Best Little Whorehouse — she was also Cliven motherfucking Bundy, 50 years before he ever raised his hackles! She fought the BLM tooth and nail, but they wouldn’t give.
So, she decided to fight them on their own turf — by running for the Nevada State Assembly, in 1974! “It takes the madam of an honest bordello to show them how to run an honest system,” she said. This boss bitch ran her own campaign, complete with her own bumper stickers, posters and stickers, and refused to accept any donation over $25 — yet still (allegedly) managed win to based on the popular vote. Alas for her, she lost in a hotly-contested runoff….and she ended up living out her years managing this lonely roadside brothel., just outside the BLM boundary.
Ms. Beverly Harrell died in 1996, and was buried in the equally fantastic Goldfield Cemetery, just 15 minutes up the 95…in the same graveyard as the legendary pioneer who died from eating library paste (it says so on on his gravestone…for reals). So if you’re driving up U.S. 95, you can not only stop and visit the ruins of her old empire…you can also pay respects at the grave of this bad-ass groundbreaking powerhouse.
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I have to laugh about this. About 30 years ago, my sister & mother traveled this highway from Portland, OR to Phoenix, AZ, so my sister could see her boyfriend (she was in college so mom went with… LOL!). The car overheated right in front of this place and they went in here to get water for the radiator. My mother about wigged out because the madam kept trying to talk to my sister about “employment opportunities.” My mother told me all about it later, and my sister was so naive that to this day I don’t think she realizes what those “opportunities” really were!
OMG that’s amazing!!! Hahahahaha….I love it 🙂
I really enjoy your writing and absolutely love all of the scenery. 😉
This brothel used to be the Cottontail Ranch, operated by the infamous Madame Beverly Harrell, who ran for the Nevada Assembly back in 1974 (The year I moved to central Nevada) and who supposedly won the popular vote, but apparently was cheated out of her seat by the good ole boy establishment.
One of the movie channels (I believe that it was HBO) actually did a biography on Beverly and the brothel several years ago.
It included skydivers parachuting into the brothel, which like several Nevada brothels at the time, actually used to have an airplane landing strip. It might even be on YouTube somewhere, if your interested in trying to find it.
WOW!! That’s really interesting…I’ll have to do some research into Ms. Harrell 🙂 Thanks for the info! I sincerely appreciate it!
Mike, it did, in fact, have a dirt landing strip. When the Goldfield Hotel was being restored around 1990, the plan was to have the airstrip serve as the official airport for visitors. The hotel, alas, never opened. The brothel had a lonely phone booth out front by the highway, the only phone for miles which was important back in the pre cell-phone days. I used it a few times.
I would have loved to have seen that phone booth!
I just read Cottontail Ranch is for sale. Owner: Miss Lanny D. Love…
Yeah, the Lida Ranch is for sale…a huge parcel of land with the old brothel on it! I should buy it and reopen it…….
Ran across your videos somehow and then your website and you are amazing. I love your research and articles on the locations of your shoots. What maybe 20 years ago I was listening to Art Bell’s Coast to Coast Late Night Radio Show and I think he had Melvin on, but I don’t recall them mentioned how Howard came to be out in the desert. You are telling the “rest of the story”. Art lives in Pahrump and had a fantastic show for many years.
P.S. You look great!
Thank you! Yeah I used to listen to Art Bell a bit here and there…never heard the one with Melvin, though! I read that in a book and thought it was fascinating!!!
So this building, is it the original brothel? I keep reading about her moving due to the fight with the blm after the election. We poked around inside of it and it was so cool. Just trying to find more answers. And actual photos of it while in operation. Loved your video!
Pretty sure that’s the second Incarnation… Her original brothel was on BLM land and it closed when they cancelled her lease. So she reopened just outside BLM boundaries, which I’m pretty sure is what remains today
I actually visited Cottontail Ranch as a customer. The first time, there were only a few girls available and none of them were particularly attractive, but one was rather cute so I chose her. Nothing memorable. After our date, I went back to the parlor to chat for a while with the girl I just “dated”. Well, madame Harrell seemed to be the type of person to control a conversation between customers and girls, so I was really only able to talk to her instead of my date. Apparently, in such a remote location, customers would fly in with their private plane or jet and land on the two mile long runway. It seems like the hour long flight from LA, or San Francisco was worthwhile as it was more discreet than hiring a local call girl in the city. The major attraction seemed to be the ability to satisfy any customer’s most exotic fantasy. Who know what fantasy it was, but the House was able to supply any costume or prop to live out a fantasy. Typically, people pay much more money for fantasies than they would for a simple “date”. Fantasy, um, maybe dress like Superman and date Wonder Woman? I could only imagine. Madame Harrell told me she travels to Las Vegas to personally recruit girls.
The second time I visited, there were only two girls available and neither of them seemed either attractive or in any way interesting to date, so I turned around and left (and usually I am very easy to please, but I just had to pass). These two visits were in the mid to late 1980’s.
WOW!! So interesting…thanks for sharing your memories!
I just ran across you cuz I love the event abandoned videos. And yours are by far the best the commentary everything about it plus you’re very easy on the eyes keep up the good work enjoy your work very much. Richard
Thank you so much! Glad you are enjoying:-) More coming soon. Stay tuned!
You are so cool! I checked out the brothel Sept 16. I had no clue on its history. Looking up info. Came across your site. Wow! I mean WOW! You go to amazing places. I know, I have been to many of the places. Love wheeling in the desert!!! Thanks! I Noticed no area 51 adventures?
Right on, man! Glad you’re enjoying…Area 51 coming soon
I’m sure my passing of the Cottontail Ranch over the last 30+ yrs would total close to / or over 100 . . . making a turn at that point traveling between my Vegas and Crowley residences. Wonderful facts on the area I was unaware of . . . Just recently came across your 2017 Burning Man youtube posting . . . ever since I’ve been fascinated by ALL the intriguing and diverse content you have across the Internet. Keep exploring / all who wander are not lost! RICK
Thank you, glad you enjoyed! I have been in your area for the past few days… Camped at little hot Creek hot spring last night, headed home today and will pass the Cottontail Ranch 🙂
I watch your vids everyday,being retired has its bennys. I live in nc,in a town of less then
500, as you can see not much to do around here lol. your vids lighten up my day.thanks
Yay!! I’m so glad you are enjoying… There’s a lot of interesting stuff to see out here for sure 🙂
Your vids are one of my YouTube faves! Fascinating to watch the places you explore.And you are cute!
Yay, right on! Glad you are enjoying 🙂
Maybe I’m reading this wrong, but The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was based on the Chicken Ranch near La Grange, between Austin and Houston. Edna Milton was the last (and only the second) madam at that establishment, which was closed in 1973 due to political pressure from a peeping-tom television reporter. The Larry L. King Playboy article became a successful Broadway play before it was a movie; Miss Edna co-operated with the play, but hated the movie. The brothel also inspired ZZ Top’s first major hit single, La Grange.
Miss Jessie Williams, the original owner, died at the age of 80. Miss Edna married and moved to Phoenix, where she died in 2012 at age 84. Might running a Texas bordello lead to a long life?
Here’s a short tour of what’s left of the building from about 5 years ago:
Oh wow, how cool!! Yeah…I think they named the Chicken Ranch here after the one in Texas What a legacy!!
Apparently, the Chicken Ranch also served a sitting President:
Hahaha…I believe it!!
Hi, WH. I Really enjoy your Videos. I saw a PBS show. Called ( Living in the big Empty )living In Nevada’s great Basin. Google it …..I think you might enjoy it. Keep up the good work. Jim
Oh wow, that documentary does sound interesting! I’ll have to check it out…thanks for the heads up!! Glad you are enjoying my videos
Thanks for this article! In the summer of 1971, my father and I were exploring old ghost towns in Nevada. I would’ve been 16.
We camped at a place we always called Pigeon Springs, and we met an old tramp there named Jim. We gave him some of the fried chicken my mother had prepared for us, then we agreed to give him a ride to Goldfield. He was a very interesting fellow, full of great stories.
As we drove past the Cottontail Ranch, old Jim said to me “You stay away from there, it’s a bad place. A bad place.”
I was a naive teenager, and at that time I had no idea what the Cottontail Ranch even was. But I’ve remember his warning now for nearly fifty years. And I’ll always regret that I didn’t go there and find out for myself!
Oh wow, what a fun story! I think I know where you were when you say Pigeon Spring… I made a video there once. It has the ruins of an old stamp Mill… Neat place! And thank you for sharing your memories about Jim… I love meeting characters like that in the backcountry!
I fucked alot at the cottontail. ….and almost ever other whorehouse in the state.
I lived in the Cottontail Ranch in the summer of 1988. My mother was the Madame during that time. She’s didn’t run the place but it was her job to take care of the girls. I had to live there with my mother until she was able to secure housing for me elsewhere. The hall off the bars side was the living area for the girls. No customers went back there. My room was the first on the right. My mother would cook meals and take care of basic needs including a weekly trip to the clinic for a check up. The hall on the left side of the lounge was where all the dirty business occurred. What is funny is that the carpet and the wallpaper were exactly the same as in your video in 1988. Obviously no renovations and upgrades had occurred. At the time I was there only 2 girls were working that I was aware of. An Asian woman and a tall beautiful brunette named Ally of whom I was smitten with. When I first saw her, she sat down on the couch I was sitting on eating a bowl of cereal. She then asked my mother if her black négligée was ok? I responded before my mother could and said it was just fine. I was 12 years old at the time.
Thanks for posting that video. It brought back some memories. I hope to get there someday.
A nude AND abandoned stuff? Two of my most favorite things!
It’s your lucky day!
Good Day, this article you wrote was really interesting. Never drove in that state while I was posted in Arizona or California. If I knew of this place I would have visited since I enjoy all types of history. This is surely a history of an inspiring individual who took life on her own terms.
Thanks for posting this so others could be enlighten this particular piece of American history.
Glad you enjoyed it! Her story needs to be told!
You should call yourself ….. WONDER PUSSY , your freaking hot
I’m not even gonna lie , if I was in the desert alone with you I’d take my dick out & start jerking off in front of you & hope that you would talk dirty to me & dominate me
the first thing I notice on a woman is her face , I love beautiful faces & yours is gorgeous . I’m reminded of a poem every time I see your face , a poem I read years ago . You seem like a really cool laid back chic & fun to hang out with , when I watch your vids & you say ” anyhoo ” it makes me smile . anyway I just wanted to say hi & hope your having a great day . feel free to contact me by e-mail if you ever wanted to make a new friend & just chat every now & then o.k. , I’d love a chance to get to know you if I could . Take care sarah .
Thanks for the kind words! I appreciate your taking the time to write them!
Here’s an old article ( 2005 ) about howard Hughes & his personal pilot at the time bob/robert deiro , along with a photograph of a painting which might be hughes favorite prostitute sunny ? Read story here > http://www.ksl.com/article/128025
Now that is a really interesting article! Pretty much confirms everything that I’ve read… I wonder what happened to Sunny! And it’s funny, I used to shop at this weird consignment store owned by Count Deiro, haha…it was like a giant Warehouse full of all kinds of weird knick knacks and furniture from old casinos. I don’t think it’s around anymore though
Wow!!now I feel like I need to go back up and make another video about all of this, now that I have so much more information. I also did a video on the Ash Meadows brothel… The one where Sunny first worked.
I’ll check out the ash meadows brothel video
one of the last known interviews with melvin dummar , the only person named in howard Hughes will that never received anything from hughes estate >www.nevadamagazine.com/issue/november-december-2018/7922/
Always wondered what had happened to that old ranch. Heard so many stories! Thank you for this post.
I just read the autobiography of the madam who worked there for many years.. fascinating stuff!
I am fascinated with the Howard Hughes connection …. I keep thinking how amazing it would be if there was a way to speak with his girlfriend, Sunny. Could she still be around …. somewhere …. someplace?? Is there anyone else who may have known her … ? The ultimate would be if Sunny would grant an exclusive interview with Wonderhussy …. and tell all .. .. ..
It’s funny you mention it, because I am planning to make a whole video just about the Howard Hughes story! I know someone who has Howard Hughes’s original commissioned oil painting of Sunny, but he won’t let me use it in my video unfortunately…. I would love it if she would talk to me!!
Hi … doing a video on Howard Hughes sounds really great!
I discovered that Bob Diero (Howard’s pilot) unfortunately passed away in 2019 … but as I understand, he had been taking Howard up to the Ash Meadows Brothel first where Sunny was working before she started to work at Cottontail …. of course, Ash Meadows had an airstrip just like Cottontail did …. I think the Ash Meadows building is on private land with an active mining operation as part of the property … have you ever considered filming the Ash Meadows Brothel site? Do you think you might be able to charm them into a tour? (several cases of their favorite beer may help … a lot). That old, abandoned brothel must be in fairly good shape since it hasn’t really had any public access for a very long time …..
If we could just get the real last name for “Sunny”, our search would be so much easier … I wonder if she may have originally been from Pahrump …. and maybe even had graduated from Pahrump Valley High School? Hmmmm .. .. .. !
Have you ever seen the oil painting of Sunny? I think there is a photo of it here at this site … an old KSL TV article shows it as well as a few other interesting pics .. .. .. also mentioned in this article, is the name of the caretaker of the Cottontail Ranch after it had closed ( a guy named Jeff ) …. I get the feeling that Jeff had actually known Sunny … could Jeff still be around … and even in Las Vegas now? ( I think, yes )
Yes I did shoot a video at the Ash Meadows brothel, it was called “as normal as Rice Krispies”or something like that…which was a quote from the madam.
Anyway yes, I read that Robert Deiro died, and the person I know who has the painting got it from him I think. That’s it in the link you posted, but if I want to use it in my video I think I have to have his permission and he wouldn’t give it.
I think the same person did a lot of research into trying to find Sunny…. But never got anywhere. If she is even still alive, it would be amazing to track her down! More reason to post my video ASAP…. Someone might know something and email me!
Got an idea : do you have a friend who is a really good artist? Have them paint a new portrait of Sunny from that photo for your use ….. ? 😉
Hi Wonderhussy ….. Just found a video on Howard Hughes made by a Doctor who gives some interesting insight …. and details .. .. .. ( it’s short )
Cottontail burn to the ground Sept 5, 2022 at around 8-9 in the morning. Have a few pics when I got there after Fire was already got there. Cause was unknown. It has since been all cleaned up of the ruins. All that was left were some of the tubs and the trailer frames. Went back out there later in my shift at night and walked around. Was still hot and had to bury a tire that re caught fire.
It was bound to happen sooner or later! I’m just sorry I never got to see it in its heyday. Thanks for the report!