Monday, May 02, 2016

Chicken Ranch report no. 67: Zindler's zany zeal pt. 1

Last week, KTRK (ABC 13) out of Houston ran a couple of stories I helped them put together (here and here) about the infamous Chicken Ranch of La Grange, Texas, which served as the inspiration for the Broadway musical and subsequent film, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. In addition to the new segments, KTRK's producers dug up old broadcasts from 1993, the 20th anniversary of the closure. I was a young reporter in Temple at the time, so this is the first I've ever seen the broadcasts. I'm going to share them here and then offer my thoughts, two decades removed.

Well, Marvin Zindler certainly is his old bombastic self, isn't he? Zindler wastes no time in bringing up the old "organized crime" accusations, which, 43 years later, still remain unproven. Here's something interesting--at around the 1:40 mark, we see some rare (if poor-quality and low-contrast) footage of the oft-forgotten Wagon Wheel brothel outside of Sealy. In all honesty, until I saw this, I had never realized the individual "cabins" had been linked together in one long chain by connecting car ports. My earliest memory of the Wagon Wheel dates to maybe 1979, noticing it on a trip to Houston or somesuch, and by then the car ports were gone and the main lobby was mostly gutted.

Enter former Texas Attorney General John Hill. Wow, talk about revisionist history. Let me be clear here--Hill had nothing to do with the closing of the Chicken Ranch. I got that directly from sources within the office of Governor Dolph Briscoe and the attorney general's office as well. In fact, Hill was deliberately kept in the dark because these efforts to close the Chicken Ranch had not been approved by the AG. Note that Hill's comments are very general and vague, offering no details specific to the Chicken Ranch itself. To me, this comes across as Hill attempting to cover for himself, not letting on that he'd lost control of his own organized crime task force for the better part of 1973. I don't know about you, but were I the Texas Attorney General, that'd be a pretty embarrassing admission, even two decades later. For the record, I do think Zindler fully believed Hill was behind the so-called "anonymous tip" that started the whole affair (which wasn't all that anonymous to begin with, as we'll soon see).

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is now listed on both and for pre-order.

Title: Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse
Author: Jayme Lynn Blaschke
Publication Date: August 1, 2016
ISBN: 978.1.46713.563.4

Ghosts of the Chicken Ranch is still available:

Now Playing: Crowded House Together Alone
Chicken Ranch Central

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