Monday, August 10, 2015

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Marvin Zindler's birthday

On this date in 1921, KTRK consumer affairs reporter Marvin Zindler was born.

Zindler, of course, is forever linked with the Chicken Ranch, as his series of exposés on the brothel directly led to its closure. Marvin clashed with his father (who owned the well-regarded Zindler's clothing store in Houston) growing up and went on to try his had at a host of different career options. He was a drum major (briefly) at Tarleton State, served in the Marines (again, briefly) before being discharged as 4F, was a radio reporter for defunct Houston radio station KATL, was a reporter for the defunct Houston Press, ran for mayor of Bellaire, was fired by one TV station because he was "too ugly for television" and was a Harris County deputy sheriff for year, where he worked in civil fraud and fugitive extradition before setting up the consumer fraud division.

Zindler was a fascinating character, capable of great charity but also possessing feet of clay. His journalistic ethics early on in his career were non-existent, and improved only marginally once he became a television personality. As a radio and newspaper reporter, he was guilty of a multitude of sins that would shock journalists today, going to far as to splatter ketchup on a stabbing victim before taking his picture because the victim didn't look hurt enough. Yes, he symbolized everything wrong with sensationalistic, yellow journalism. But it's almost inevitable he, or someone like him, showed up on the scene in 1950s Houston, which was about as tough a wild west city that existed in the 20th century. Preserved tapes of Zindler's old radio news program on the long-gone KATL radio station serve as a fascinating time capsule:

Had he not died of pancreatic cancer in 2007, Zindler would've been 94 today.

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